Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 16 - Tennessee Civil War Notes

16, Fall of Fort Donelson

Because the Fall of Fort Donelson falls into the category of a large battle it will not be covered here in any great documentary detail. There are secondary works enough to provide analysis and narration for this event, and to do so here would not only be presumptuous and would add but little to understanding the event.

However, the following letter from Jefferson C. Davis, apparently to General A.S. Johnston, seems to find the Confederate President trying to distance himself from the defeat at Fort Donelson and the occupation of Nashville.

RICHMOND, VA., March 12, 1862.

[To Gen. A. SIDNEY JOHNSTON?] [sic]

MY DEAR GEN.:...I avail myself to write you an unofficial letter. We have suffered great anxiety because of recent events in Kentucky and Tennessee, and I have been not a little disturbed by the repetition of reflection upon yourself. I expected you to have made a full report of events precedent and consequent to the fall of Fort Donelson.

* * * * 

In the mean time...You have been held responsible for the fall of Donelson and the capture of Nashville. 'Tis charged that no effort made to save the stores at Nashville and that the panic of the people was caused by the army. Such representations, with the sad foreboding naturally belonging to them, have been painful to me and injurious to us both; but, worse than this, they have undermined public confidence and damaged our cause.

A full development of the truth is necessary for future success. I respect the generosity which has kept you silent, but would impress upon you that the subject is not personal but public in its nature; that you I might be content to suffer, but neither of us can willingly permit detriment to the country.

As soon as circumstances will permit it is my purpose to visit the field of your present operations; not that I should expect to give you any aid in the discharge of your duties as a commander, but with the hope that my position would enable me to effect something in bringing men to your standard.

With a sufficient force, the audacity which the enemy exhibits would no doubt give you the opportunity to cut some of his lines of communication, to break up his plan of campaign, and, defeating some of his columns, to drive him from the soil as well of Tennessee as of Kentucky. We are deficient in arms, wanting in discipline, and inferior in numbers. Private arms must supply the first want; time and the presence of an enemy, with diligence on the part commanders, will remove the second, and public confidence will overcome the third. Gen. Bragg brings you disciplined troops... I suppose the Tennessee or Mississippi River will be the object of the enemy's next campaign, and I trust you will be able to concentrate a force which will defeat either attempt.

The fleet which you will soon have on the Mississippi River, if the enemy's gunboats ascend the Tennessee, may enable you to strike an effective blow at Cairo; but to one so well informed and vigilant I will not assume to offer suggestions as to when and how the ends you seek may be obtained.

With the confidence and regard of many years, I am, very truly, your friend,


OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, p. 258.

   16, Governor Harris' proclamtion to the members of the General Assembly of Tennessee relative to the advance of Federal forces and changing venue of state Confederate government

EXECUTIVE DEPARATMENT, Nashville, Tenn., February 16, 1861

The Members of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee will assemble at Memphis, Tennessee, o­n Thursday next, the 20th instant, for the dispatch and transaction of such business as may be submitted to them.

House Journal, p. 423.

     February 16-25, 1862, the "Great Panic" in Nashville, evacuation by Confederates and occupation by Union forces.

Governor Isham G. Harris orders to Colonel Henry Claiborne of the 88th Tennessee Infantry: [a.k.a. Nashville Home Guards]:

"You will call out the entire force under your command and apply to the military storekeeper at the capitol for arms. When armed, call upon the ordinance [sic] officer at Nashville for ammunition and accouterments, and hold your command subject to the orders of General Johnston.

Impress upon your soldiery that the Revolution of '76 was won by the Tennesseans  rifle and that we fight in defense of our homes and all that we hold dear."

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, p. 887.

[Shortly thereafter Harris left Nashville, apparently declining to stay and fight for all they held dear, the home guard thereafter was put to work removing the military wares in the city.] 

PADUCAH, February 21, 1862.


From information gleaned in Clarksville we believe the panic in Nashville is very great, and that the City will be surrendered without a fight if a force proceeds at o­nce against it. Gen. Johnston is reported to be gathering his scattered forces at Columbia.


OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, pp. 648-649.

Perhaps the best narrative o­n the activities during the Confederate evacuation of Nashville is the report of Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, C. S. Army:

KNOXVILLE, TENN., March 22, 1862.


* * * * 

I arrived at Nashville o­n a steamboat, together with a portion of the command rescued from Fort Donelson, consisting of parts if the various regiments from Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee, at 7 o'clock o­n the morning of the 17th of February. Immediately o­n coming within view of the landing at the City I beheld a sight which is worthy of notice. The rabble o­n the wharf were in possession of boats loaded with Government bacon, and were pitching it from these boats to the shore, and carrying what did not fall into the water by hand and carts away to various places in the City. The persons engaged in this reprehensible conduct avowed that the meat had been given to them by the City council. As soon as practicable I reported to Gen. Johnston for duty, and o­n the same day I was placed in command of the City, and immediately took steps to arrest the panic that pervaded all classes and to restore order and quiet. o­ne regiment, the First Missouri, Lieut.-Col. Rich, together with a portion of Col. Forrest's and Capt. Morgan's cavalry, were added to my command, and these were principally occupied in guarding public warehouses and the streets of the City. The o­nly other force which I could use for the purposes above mentioned were the fragments of regiments that I had brought with me, and all of which were well-night totally exhausted from the exertions and fatigues to which they had been subjected o­n the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 16th days of February.

I immediately stopped the indiscriminate distribution of public stores by placing guards over them, and, having thus secured them from the gaps of the populace, I commenced the work of saving the stores that were in the City. Day and night the work was continued, being o­nly temporarily stopped at times for the purpose of feeding the teams that were at work transporting articles of Government property from the wharves and store-houses to the railroad depot. My men worked incessantly with commendable perseverance and energy under my immediate supervision. Owing to the exhausted condition of the men thus engaged, it became absolutely necessary to force the able-bodied men who were strolling about the City unoccupied to assist in the labor before me....During the interval between the morning of the 17th and the evening of the 20th of February trains were loaded and dispatched as fact as they arrived. Much more could have been saved had there been more system and regularity in the disposition of the transportation by rail. Several trains were occupied in carrying off sick and wounded soldiers. The weather was exceedingly inclement during the entire time occupied as above mentioned, and there was an excessively heavy rain o­n the 19th of February.

As the moment for destroying the bridges had been left to my discretion up to a certain period, I allowed them to stand until a large amount of transportation, a large number of cattle, and some troops had been brought from the north side of the river. At 10 o'clock o­n the evening of the 19th the destruction of the suspension bridge was commenced; the wood work was burned and the cables o­n the south side were cut. At 3 o'clock o­n the morning of the 20th the railroad bridge was destroyed....

During the period embraced by this report Col. Forrest and Capt. Morgan, with their cavalry, rendered signal and efficient service in dispersing the mobs which gathered in the vicinity of the warehouses containing Government property, and which often had to be scattered at the point of the saber. I had succeeded in collecting a large amount of stores of various kinds at the depot, but as I had control of the transportation by rail, and hence obliged to await the action of others, much that would have been valuable to the Government was necessarily left at the depot. Among the articles saved were all the cannon, caisson, and battery wagons of which we had any knowledge.

At 4 o'clock p. m. o­n the 20th February I started with my staff for Murfreesborough, which point I reached o­n the morning of the 21st, where I reported to Gen. Johnston in person.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

JOHN B. FLOYD, Brig.-Gen.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, pp. 427-429.

The following letter, written by a young lady in Nashville with Union proclivities, describes her joy at the Union victory at Fort Donelson, the re-introduciton of the United States flag in Nashville, and the chaos in the city as the great panic took place, and the occupation of the city by Federal forces.

"Rejoice with me dear grandma! The glorious Star-spangled Banner of the United States is again floating above us! O, how we have hoped for, longed for, prayed for this joyous day! I am wild, crazed almost, with delight. I am still fearful that I shall awake, and find our deliverance, our freedom, is all a dream. I cannot believe that it is a positive fact, it has come upon us so unexpectedly, this successful move of the Union army. Grandma, I cannot write connectedly at all.....So great is my ecstasy, I cannot sit still - I cannot keep my eyes o­n the paper - indeed, I cannot do anything but sing, whistle, or hum 'Yankee Doodle,' 'Hail Columbia,' 'The Star Spangled Banner,' and feast my eyes o­n those victorious colors.

....The morning that Fort Donelson surrendered, there seemed to be such an intense feeling of bitterness here against the Union men! The papers (how little did they imagine that that [sic] would be their last issue!) came out o­n that Sunday morning with maledictions and threats the most inhuman against them, saying that if such a fiendish villain remained in our midst, he must and should be dealt with instantly as a traitor of the deepest dye.

We have had so much to bear since I wrote you! My father and brother have been taunted, sneered and hissed at, threatened by everyone, until endurance was becoming impossible. But nothing [sic] (I am so [sic] proud to say it, and thank God for it), nothing could make them play the hypocrite. They believed the Federal cause was just and right, and they would, in spite of our prayers and tears, express their opinion openly, and denounce secession boldly. We have been warned since Zollicoffer's death, that there was imminent danger here for them; and the hatred towards Union men was becoming so intense that both ma [sic] and I have been in an agony of suspense.

For my idolized brother I have felt more keenly than for than anyone else....Being drafted, he procured a substitute; and though displaying so much moral courage, he has been hissed at as a coward ever since, until he would vow to escape and join the Federal army, and several times endeavored to do so; but pa, [sic] discovering his plans, prevented him from it....The cloud was lowering over us, growing darker and darker day by day, and I thought the silver lining never would appear; but it is here! [sic]....

Can you wonder that, in the state of feeling I was in that Sunday morning, dear grandma [sic], when Tom knocked at the door, and called out to me that Fort Donelson was surrendered and the Federal army would soon be in Nashville, I became perfectly frantic with joy?

I ran screaming over the house, knocking down chairs and tables, clapping my hands, and shouting for the 'Union' until the children were terrified, and ma and pa thought I was delirious! I rushed to the parlor and thundered 'Yankee Doodle' o­n the piano in such a manner as I had never done before. I caught little Johnny up in my army, and held him over the porch railing upstairs until he hurrahed for the Star-spangled Banner, Seward, Lincoln, and McClellan! The little fellow though his sister was going to kill him, she looked so wild, and would not come near me again for several days.

Just in midst of these rejoicings, intelligence came that Johnston's army from Bowling Green had evacuated the place, and was even then passing o­n the turnpike to Nashville. Could it be possible? Yes, indeed! There they were retreating most valiantly. Grandma, you never saw such a frightened set of men! They could not get over the river fast enough! I never bade the Southern army 'God-speed' but that o­nce, and then I did it with my whole heart. May their present advance be as successful even to the Gulf of Mexico itself.

If you could have seen Breckinridge! the meanest, the most downfallen looking specimen of humanity imaginable. The army did not stop in Nashville o­ne day [sic], but went o­n as swiftly as possible. The citizens here were mortified and exasperated to the quick by this surrender. Floyd remained n Nashville a few days after his brave escape from Fort Donelson. After the army had gone, and the city had sent commissioners to surrender, he had both bridges destroyed, though he could give no reason for it, and though it was against the prayers and protestations of the citizens. He is a wicked wretch. Is it wrong to wish that he may soon meet the fate he deserves?

It was not a week until after [Ft.] Donelson's fall that the Federals came in. We, whose all depended upon their speedy arrival, had begun to think that they were not coming, after all, and our freedom was not yet at hand; but o­n a Sunday afternoon, my brother came in, the picture of happiness, with the intelligence that Buell would be here in a few days; that he had ridden up and met his advanced guard; and that now at last we could rejoice. Buell came in at night. The troops were in perfect discipline, and completely amazed the poor duped people here by their orderly behavior. For the people believed that the soldiers would not stop till they had murdered the women and eaten the children; but when it was seen that they took nothing without pay, the people were rejoiced to sell, for money of any kind has long been a marvelous sight here.

But, O, grandma, I have not told you what did me  more good than anything else -- the panic  here o­n the 16th [of February]. Away flew the citizens without stopping for anything! The brave city regiments [i.e., home guards] who o­n the 15th took their stand o­n the square with Andrew Ewing at their head, and vowed to die there, fighting even against myriads of the 'barbarians,' should they ever reach Nashville, heard at twelve o'clock o­n the 16th of the surrender of Donelson, and at eight o'clock in the evening of that same day, not o­ne of the gallant determined braves was to be found within miles of Nashville. Didn't I clap my hands and shriek for joy when it was told o­n Monday that not o­ne editor remained in our city! that their wicked threats had been published for the last time here?

This town is almost deserted, so many families have left their homes, and fled, panic-stricken, away. It is so distressing to think of the sufferings they have brought upon themselves so needlessly. The Federals have interfered with no o­ne whatever, and have behave much better than the rebel army. The Governor and Legislature left the very day Donelson surrendered. May they never return!

Grandma, you will think me a heartless girl to write thus, and I know it is wrong, but you would excuse me if you knew what we had to contend with. I speak the truth when I say that, notwithstanding our former social position and popularity here, there is not now o­ne family of all our friends who would cross our threshold, or bid us welcome to theirs. My noble uncle is always an exception. He and pa have stood firmly together, enduring the tempest, and nothing now should ever divide us. Mr. _____, too, has never faltered in his allegiance. When the death of his o­nly son [a Confederate soldier] was told to him, his exclamation was, 'Would to God he had died in a nobler cause!' 

But I tremble when I think of the possibility of a reverse -- that the Confederates should ever get back here. The our [sic] doom is spoken -- either flight -- beggary -- or remaining, death.

O that the United States troops would push o­nward rapidly, and make an end to the rebellion while the Confederates are quaking with fear and dismay. Give them no time to rally.

Now that the railroad and telegraph will soon be opened, we will be again in a civilized country; and surely we have cause to rejoice, for we have been living in utter darkness a long, weary time. If you could see my father it would do you good. He looks happy again! The gloomy, sad brow of two weeks ago is o­nce more smothered with content! Three cheers for the sight of the old banner!"

Anecdotes, pp. 267-268.

16, Cattle foraging and capture of Dunc Cooper, guerrilla chief in Lewis County

PULASKI, TENN., February 16, 1864.

Lieut.-Col. BOWERS, Assistant Adjutant-Gen., Nashville:

Railroad is finished and in running order. Trains can safely run to this place. One of my mounted squads, while out obtaining cattle in Lewis County, captured the noted guerrilla chief Dunc Cooper and 10 of his men. He was on his way [so he says] to burn bridges on the railroad.

G. M. DODGE, Brig.-Gen.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 32, pt. II, p. 404.

James B. Jones, Jr.
Public Historian
Tennessee Historical Commission
2941 Lebanon Road
Nashville, TN  37214
(615)-532-1550  x115
(615)-532-1549  FAX

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