Fort Donelson National Battlefield

Unconditional Surrender of Fort Donelson created jubilation throughout the North and silence in Dixie. It was the North's first major victory of the Civil War, opening the way into the very heart of the Confederacy.

Days earlier Grant's plan to capture Forts Henry and Heiman on the Tennessee River succeeded. Upon taking possession of the forts the Union army stepped out briskly as Grant focuses his sights on Fort Donelson.

February 14th, 1862 dawned cold and quiet. Early in the afternoon a furious roar broke the stillness. Foote's Union gunboats arrived at Fort Donelson and began exchanging "iron valentines" with the Confederate heavy artillery. The gunboats suffered such damage that the decks became slippery with blood. The strong artillery bombardment from the Cumberland River bluff crippled the ironclads forcing them to retreat.

At daybreak the following morning, on a snow covered battleground, Southern forces launched a vigorous attack but failed to escape the clutches of Grants army. On February 16th General Buckner felt compelled to accept Grants ultimatum, "No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted." The gate was open for a Union invasion into the Confederate Heartland.

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