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150 Years Ago: Friday, February 14, 1862


At Fort Donelson, Tennessee, the soldiers on both sides wake up to three inches of snow. The temperature is below freezing, and the men find their guns and wagons frozen to the ground. It’s vastly different conditions from just a few days before, when they were dealing with endless rain and flooding.

Though the Confederate soldiers are ready as ever to put up a fight to save the fort, Confederate military leaders have known from the beginning that there would likely be no other outcome but to lose Donelson and retreat to Nashville or Memphis. But they could not just hand over Donelson and surrender to the rebel Union forces like they did at Fort Henry. This morning C.S.A. Brigadier General Gideon Pillow readies his soldiers to attempt a breakout, but he postpones the attempt when one of his aides is killed by a sniper. From that attack Pillow incorrectly concludes that their movements have been detected and delays any attempts to escape for today.

Though U.S. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant’s ground forces have already put the squeeze around Donelson, the final piece of the puzzle arrives in the early afternoon hours: U.S. Commodore Andrew Foote’s flotilla of six ironclads and an additional 10,000 reinforcements brought via transport ships. The additional troops are immediately used to reinforce Brigadier General John A. McClernand’s right flank. The ironclads are met with fierce fire from the fort; the enemy lands more than 150 shots and kill a number of Union soldiers. But at the end of the day the Union still maintains the advantage on water and land.

In St. Louis, Missouri, U.S. Brigadier General William Tecumseh Sherman is put in command of the District of Cairo, Department of the Missouri. He is given orders to transfer immediately to Paducah, Kentucky and take command of that post. Once Sherman arrives he is to immediately assist in expediting operations up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.

Major General Henry Halleck is not completely behind what Grant is trying to accomplish, but in Washington City Major General George B. McClellan supports the move to take Donelson. Because of McClellan, it pushes Halleck to support Grant in ways he doesn’t entirely agree with, such as providing reinforcements or using Sherman to assist in operations. Also resisting support of Grant is Brigadier General Don Carlos Buell, who has been operating in Union-friendly eastern Tennessee. Though there have been many requests for reinforcements from Buell, he does not agree with the strategy and refuses to provide assistance.

Residents in Bowling Green, Kentucky must deal with a change in control over their city; Union troops commanded by Brigadier General Ormsby M. Mitchel arrive to occupy the city that was evacuated yesterday by the Confederates.

Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston sends correspondence to Secretary of War Judah Benjamin, confirming that he’s received orders to move four regiments to Knoxville, Tennessee. He also notifies Benjamin that he’s concerned over their ability to reenforce the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, as the recent furlough system that is being utilized to get men to re-enlist has reduced their force by almost a third.

By order of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton issues Executive Order No. 1, in which general amnesty and pardons will be given for all political prisoners who consent to a loyalty oath. It also gives Stanton the authority to refuse the amnesty/pardon for any individual deemed as a spy or potentially harmful to U.S. citizens.

From her plantation in North Carolina, Catherine Edmondston writes an entry in her diary at the close of Valentine’s Day:

The mail tonight brought Mr Edmondston a Commission as Lieut Col of Cavalry in the service of the Confederate States! Ah! me, I ought to be happier than I am but the prospect of long and uncertain separation eclipses for the present the glory & honour of serving his country.  After all I am but an “Earthen vessel,” but Courage!  I will be a vessel made to honour!  Courage! I will be worthy of my blood, of my husband.  Yes, I am glad, glad that he can serve that land to which we owe so much, our home, our native-land.  The Cotton creeps slowly away.  I go out & count the bales & do numberless sums in addition & subtraction, calculating how long ere it be all gone!

Susan came down today & made a strong appeal to Kate Miller to go up with her.  The Misses Smith being gone, she feels lonely, but Kate was staunch & steadily refused to leave me.  Then came the resort to me, backed by a message from Father that he had sent the carriage and expected me, but I declined & to Sue’s chagrin wrote and gave my reasons, in which McCullamore fully sustained me.

Young Selden of Norfolk, nephew of my friend Mrs Henry Selden, had his head blown entirely off by a shell at Roanoke Island! What sorrow for his family!

How differently has this Valentine’s Day been passed from the last! Then I was peacefully planting fruit trees at Hascosea. Today, in the face of a stern reality am I packing up my household goods to remove them from the enemy. Ah, this water and these roads!

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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.

Discussion

2 thoughts on “150 Years Ago: Friday, February 14, 1862

  1. the other posts are all good let me add Antietam Battlefield in Pennsylvania just west of Gettysburg, where more men died in three days than anywhere else, ever, on the American ntnoicent, and Fredricksburg Virginia but A #1 has to be Gettysburg .listen with the right ears and try to hear, in that sleepy little farmtown in an area not much changed from 1863, as half a million men met and fought and died .I am a descendent of a Union Colonel, who three years before the war had been a professor at a small college in Maine; on July 3 1863 he and 250 Maine farmers and fishermen held a hill on the Union left; fired off all their ammunition then fixed bayonets and charged downhill to turn back the Confederate assault ..my son and I have looked down that hill and tried to imagine what great granduncle Joshua saw and did that day; we have stood behind the Union line looking across the flat open coverless field Pickett charged across and marveled, without truly being able to understand, at the raw courage that took a few Confederates actually to the Union lines ..if anywhere in America is haunted, Gettysburg is the place

    Like

    Posted by Vicky | 08/26/2012, 12:59 pm
    • the other posts are all good let me add Antietam Battlefield in Pennsylvania just west of Gettysburg, where more men died in three days than anywhere else, ever, on the American nntiocent, and Fredricksburg Virginia but A #1 has to be Gettysburg .listen with the right ears and try to hear, in that sleepy little farmtown in an area not much changed from 1863, as half a million men met and fought and died .I am a descendent of a Union Colonel, who three years before the war had been a professor at a small college in Maine; on July 3 1863 he and 250 Maine farmers and fishermen held a hill on the Union left; fired off all their ammunition then fixed bayonets and charged downhill to turn back the Confederate assault ..my son and I have looked down that hill and tried to imagine what great granduncle Joshua saw and did that day; we have stood behind the Union line looking across the flat open coverless field Pickett charged across and marveled, without truly being able to understand, at the raw courage that took a few Confederates actually to the Union lines ..if anywhere in America is haunted, Gettysburg is the place

      Like

      Posted by Jose | 11/26/2013, 11:16 am

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