Andrew H. Foote

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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!

150 Years Ago: Tuesday, February 11, 1862

Fort Lafayette (New York)
Source: Library of Congress

Former U.S. Brigadier General Charles P. Stone arrives at Fort Lafayette today. His journey from Washington City was a bit comical; when he switched trains in Philadelphia another ticket had to be purchased and there was confusion among those guarding him as to who should pay. To put an end to the disagreement Stone pays for his own ticket. Once he arrives to the prison he is immediately put into solitary confinement. He is allowed to hire a private attorney as he awaits to be given the charges against him; he still has no idea what he is being held for.

Back on February 6, U.S. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant had anticipated that his men would take Fort Donelson by the 8th. It’s five days later and Grant’s ground troops and the naval squadron have not yet departed for Donelson. Due to weeks of heavy rains, rising flood waters have now completely submerged Fort Henry. This meant that troops had to spend time first carrying supplies away from the rising flood waters before they could prepare for their next move. Now the ground troops face horrible road conditions on the twelve mile march to Donelson and Union Commander Andrew Foote’s naval squadron is not yet back from repairs in Cairo, Illinois that were needed after the Fort Henry attack.

Grant understands that the longer he waits to attack, the more time the Confederates will have to provide reinforcements to Donelson. This morning he holds a council of war; all generals except for Brigadier General John McClernand (who has some reservations) support his plans for his attack on Donelson. From the Headquarters District in Cairo, U.S. Assistant Adjutant-General, Captain John A. Rawlins writes and delivers orders from Grant to the commanders involved that they will start for Donelson tomorrow, along with preliminary instructions as to the routes and order of the Divisions.

From Clarksville, Tennessee, C.S.A. Brigadier General Simon Buckner sends a brief, private dispatch:

“Fort Donelson is safe, and can not be taken.”

150 Years Ago: Thursday, February 6, 1862

U.S. Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant’s plan to take Fort Henry, Tennessee are to be a joint naval and land effort. Due to the heavy rains, Grant’s troops are dealing with deep mud and overflowing streams along their path and their presence is delayed. Union Commander Andrew Foote tells his fellow gunboat captains that “It must be victory or death.” Even though Grant’s soldiers have not arrived, the gunboats and the ironclad U.S.S. Essex open fire on the fort at the designated time of 12:30pm.

Battle of Fort Henry (By Currier & Ives)

Inside the fort, Confederate Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman instructs his men to return fire. He had sent more than 3,000 of his troops towards Fort Donelson over the last 48 hours. Approximately 100 men remain to fight; the goal is not to hold the fort, but to buy as much time for the others to get as far away as possible from the enemy. With most of the fort and artillery under high river water, they do the best with what they have. They land hits on every one of the Yankee’s gunboats, though the damage is minimal. It’s not enough. By 1:30pm, Tilghman raises the white flag of surrender. He estimates his losses at 15 killed and 20 wounded.

Foote accepts the surrender and captures the Confederates as prisoners of war. The Union had fared very well with the exception of one deadly hit. A Confederate shell had slammed through the boiler of the Essex and exploded it, wounding and killing 48 men.

Grant and his men arrive at the fort with the naval victory complete. Troops quickly secure the fort. Grant sends the Essex and two gunboats back to Cairo, Illinois for repairs and to pick up reinforcements. Grant calculates that the ships can be back and ready for battle on the 8th against his next target: Fort Donelson. He can’t afford to wait, as he knows Confederate reinforcements are heading there. Donelson will not fall as easy as Fort Henry.

In Washington City, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln isn’t the only one with sick children. He receives a hastily written letter from his Secretary of State, William Seward:

I have just received word from Mrs. Seward that informs me that my only daughter and youngest child is very ill and requesting we to go to Philadelphia. I will let you know as soon as I can when I shall be able to return.

Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes and his fellow Union soldiers continue to go about their typical daily routine. Rhodes had been detached from the 2nd Rhode Island volunteers in November to work as one of four clerks in the headquarters of their Division currently commanded by General Erasmus D. Keyes. He is at his desk at the Pennsylvania Avenue and 19th Street headquarters by 9am, ready to receive the daily reports from his Division which consists of 13 infantry regiments, 1 cavalry regiment and 3 batteries. He spends six hours consolidating the reports and sends them over to General George B. McClellan’s headquarters by 3pm. He goes out to dinner with the other military personnel and heads back to headquarters where he shares a room with three other clerks. His living conditions are better than a typical soldier since he’s indoors, has his own bed and even has good bedding from when the building was a girls school. He takes out his diary and writes:

“Mud and rain and no prospects of a move. It is reported that the Senate expelled Senator Bright of Indiana for the crime of treason. All Copperheads (note: anti-war democrats) should be punished, for they are too cowardly to fight us in front, so they stop us in the rear. Orders have been issued that all passes must be approved by the Division Commander. This makes extra work for the clerks.”

Elisha has heard correctly; Democrat Jesse D. Bright was expelled yesterday for disloyalty to the Union after 16 years in the Senate. Last year an arms smuggler named Thomas Lincoln (no relation to President Abraham Lincoln) had been caught with a letter in his possession that was from Bright to Provisional Confederate President Jefferson Davis, dated March 1, 1861. It introduced Thomas to Davis and stated his purpose: “He visits your capital mainly to dispose of what he regards a great improvement in fire-arms.” Bright’s defense was that the letter was written before the official start of the Civil War and that he didn’t even remember specifically writing the letter. It was a weak attempt; when Bright wrote that letter there was a Confederate government in place and they were racing to gather as many arms as possible in preparation for an attack. Bright had never been quiet about being against the war and for Confederate independence; now deceased Democrat Senator Stephen A. Douglas had even been infuriated by his disloyalty. Bright was expelled by a vote of 32 to 14 and now this news quickly spread through town. He is the fourteenth Senator to ever be expelled from Congress, but he is currently (2/6/12) the last.

Confederate Congressman Alexander Boteler arrives in Winchester, Virginia to meet with Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson at the request of his friend Governor John Letcher. Jackson had sent a letter of resignation over a week ago due to a strong disagreement with Secretary of War Judah Benjamin on strategy and troop movements in the crucial Virginia Valley where he was stationed.

Boteler knows he is dealing with a strong willed individual with even stronger convictions. Over dinner and dessert, Boteler appeals to Jackson to reconsider. Jackson admits he is willing to rethink his resignation, but he wants to manage his own campaigns instead of some guy sitting at a desk hundreds of miles away.

He appeals to Jackson using his love of Virginia, though it comes out as accusing Jackson of abandoning them. Jackson is furious. He stands, exclaiming that he has sacrificed his family life for the horrors of war. He then composes himself and states that he will still serve the state of Virginia, “even if it be as a private in the ranks.” He then sighs. “If the Valley is lost, Virginia is lost.”

At the end of the evening Jackson writes a letter to the Governor authorizing him to withdraw the resignation. He can’t abandon the Southern cause, but he also makes it known that he still feels he was in the right:

“If the Secretary persists in the ruinous policy complained of, I feel that no officer can serve his country better than by making his strongest possible protest against it, which, in my opinion, is done by tendering his resignation, rather than be a willful instrument in prosecuting the war upon a ruinous principle.”

150 Years Ago: Sunday, February 2, 1862

Working with gunboats under Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote, early this morning Brigadier-General Ulysses S. Grant begins his advance towards Fort Henry, Tennessee with almost a dozen steamers, 15,000 troops and necessary supplies.

Less than five miles east of Manassas in Centreville, Virginia, General Joseph E. Johnston writes to General Samuel Cooper, the Adjutant General and Inspector General, on his concerns regarding lack of arms and absent leaders. One of his regiments had twenty-three men recently return from the hospital and all are without arms. On January 27, the Confederate Congress had approved recruitment for up to 125 companies (35-40 men in each) to serve for twelve months; Johnston wonders how they are to provide arms to these new recruits if they can’t even provide ones for the men currently enlisted? He also reminds Cooper that he has a division and five brigades that are without their generals, along with a great number of colonels and other field-officers who are sick or injured. With the absence of leadership being strongly felt, he suggests that Colonel A.P. Hill and five others are more than qualified to be promoted to brigadier-generals.

At the northern tip of Virginia lies the city of Winchester, where General Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson attends services at Kent Street Presbyterian Church with his wife Anna and the Graham family, with whom they were staying with for the winter. On this stormy day, Jackson is calm and introspective, and spends much of his time praying for guidance. Three days ago Jackson had resigned from the Confederate Army, writing Secretary of War J.P. Benjamin:

“With such interference in my command I cannot expect to be of much service in the field; and accordingly respectfully request to be ordered to report for duty to the Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington; as has been done in the case of other Professors. Should this application not be granted, I respectfully request that the President will accept my resignation from the Army.”

Benjamin has not yet responded to Jackson’s request. But word of the letter has spread across the state, stunning soldiers and citizens. No one can even begin to imagine fighting a war against the Yankees without their Stonewall.

Poet and abolitionist Ralph Waldo Emerson is introduced to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln by Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. Two days ago Emerson gave a public lecture at the Smithsonian on the topic of slavery, stating “The South calls slavery an institution… I call it destitution. Emancipation is the demand of civilization.” He had voted for Lincoln in 1860, but was frustrated that Lincoln was more interested in preserving the Union than eliminating the institution of slavery. Lincoln is familiar with Emerson’s work and had even seen him lecture in the past. Whatever is said between the two of them this day does soften Emerson’s opinion of Lincoln.

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