On This Day – End of the Battle of Donelson in the American Civil War


Fought from February 11-16 in 1862, in the Western Theatre of the American Civil War, on this day approximately 14,000 Confederate soldiers surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Fort Donelson, Tennessee. The battle followed the capture of Fort Henry on February 6 as Grant moved his army twelve miles overland to Fort Donelson on February 12 and 13, and conducted several small probing attacks.

On February 15, with their fort surrounded, the Confederates, commanded by Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, launched a surprise attack against Grant’s army, attempting to open a route 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 and opening the way for a retreat, Floyd lost his nerve and ordered his men back to the fort.

On the following morning, Floyd and his second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, panicked and relinquished command to Brig. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner, who agreed to accept the unconditional surrender terms offered by Grant.

The battle resulted in more than 800 deaths with more than 12,000 men captured or missing, and the site of the battle has been preserved as Fort Donelson National Battlefield.