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150 Years Ago: Thursday, February 13, 1862


Though U.S. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant has ordered that no attacks are to be carried out against the Confederate defenses at Fort Donelson, there are a few small probing attacks that occur under the direction of Brigadier General John McClernand. These attacks result in no real gain and light casualties. Though everyone is eager to take the fort, they must wait for the repaired gunboats to arrive from Cairo, Illinois. Grant knows that a coordinated attack by water and land is necessary for a victory.

Though the weather has mostly been wet during the Fort Henry & Donelson campaign, tonight a snow storm arrives with strong winds that bring temperatures down to 10 degrees. Because they are close to enemy lines and active sharpshooters, the soldiers on both sides cannot light campfires for warmth or cooking. Many men are miserable, having arrived without coats or blankets.

At the end of the day, Confederate Brigadier General Simon Buckner sends a dispatch to his superiors on the state of Donelson:

“The day has almost passed. We still hold our own. We have repulsed the enemy, driven back his gunboats, and whipped him by land and water. He still lies around, and will probably attack us again tomorrow. Our loss is not very great. That of the enemy must be heavy. We had lively fighting and heavy cannonading all around our line all day. We repulsed the enemy everywhere, and are satisfied that we injured his gunboats materially, as he retired twice. Our lines were entrenched all around.”

Bowling Green, Kentucky is also preparing for a Union attack. The town is currently occupied by the Confederacy, but troops led by U.S. Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchel are determined to push the Confederates out. The Confederate government considers Kentucky to be a part of their alliance, but officially Kentucky has not seceded from the Union. Both the Union and Confederate Presidents – Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, respectively – were born in Kentucky and have an attachment to the State. Neither want to see it go to the enemy and both will dedicate forces to keep it within their power.

Frederick Douglass, 1856
Source: Library of Congress

At the Cooper Institute in New York City, former slave and current leader of the abolitionist movement Frederick Douglass gives a speech to a packed auditorium. The police presence is great, though it’s luckily not necessary. Douglass gives a great performance, flawlessly making important points combined with humor throughout. At one point, Douglass states:

“There is nothing in the behavior of the colored race in the United States in this crisis, that should prevent him from being proud of being a colored citizen of the United States. They have traitors of all other nations in Fort Lafayette as cold as (recently arrested Charles P.) Stone, but they have no black man charged with disloyalty during this war. Yet, black men were good enough to fight by the side of Washington and Jackson, and are not good enough to fight beside McClellan and Halleck.”

Douglass concludes his speech by making an elaborate argument in support of the capacity of the black race for self government. He states:

“If the slave can take care of his master and mistress, he can take care of himself.”

After spending the last few weeks repairing and rebuilding roads in Cumberland Ford in Kentucky, Private John F. McClelland with Company B, Ohio 16th Volunteer Infantry writes a letter to his wife Rachel, sent along with a Valentine for his two daughters in Millersburg, Ohio. His regiment was mustered in for three years of service on December 2, 1861.

Rachel – I send Lucy & Allie a Valentine. I want them to keep it till I get home.

I was standing in ranks when the Major came up to me & says he you have got quite a belly. I showed him how much I had fallen away. I tole him that I thought my wife would like me better when I went home. Major laughed and says he yes small belly and long absence will make her like you better. Well Rachel I suppose you think I am growing foolish. I write to you just as though I was talking to you. Nothing more at present.

J. McClelland

Is the boy who can carry himself straight any how. Thats So.

(Letter transcribed as written)

About thecivilwarproject

Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.

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