Battle of Fort Donelson: Summary

Summary

The capture of the fort by Union forces opened the Cumberland River as an avenue for the invasion of the South. Fort Donelson protected the crucial Cumberland River and, indirectly, the manufacturing city of Nashville and Confederate control of Middle Tennessee.

The success elevated Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant from an obscure and largely unproven leader to the rank of major general.

Union executed several small probing attacks on February 12 and 13, 1862.

On February 14, 1862 U.S. Navy (Union) gunboats attempted to reduce the fort with naval gunfire, but were forced to withdraw after sustaining heavy damage from Donelson's water batteries.

On February 15, 1862 with their fort surrounded, the Confederates, commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, launched a surprise attack against Grant's army, attempting to open an avenue of escape. Grant, who was away from the battlefield at the start of the attack, arrived to rally his men and counterattack. Despite achieving a partial success, Floyd lost his nerve and recalled his men to their entrenchments.

On the morning of February 16, 1862 the Confederates agreed to unconditional surrender terms from Grant.

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