| American History Stories, Volume IV|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of the great conflict from the time Lincoln became president and the southern states seceded, through the battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, until the close of the war. Includes poems, songs, and illustrations commemorating the events. Ages 8-12 |
TAKING OF DONELSON
Let us take a run over into Kentucky and Tennessee,
and see what is going on there.
Columbus, at the western end of the Confederate lines,
and Bowling Green at the eastern end, together with two
strong forts, Donelson and Henry, made for the Confederates
a centre that seemed almost too strong to be taken.
The Confederates delighted to speak of this as their "Gibraltar,"
that is their stronghold.
But Grant, you all know who Grant was—was not to be
frightened even by this. "It looked risky," he used to say;
"but if we can get hold of these forts and these cities and
 break up this Confederate stronghold, think what a gain it will be!"
GEN. U. S. GRANT
When Grant had his plans
all arranged, he gave them to
his chief, and waited
eagerly for permission
to go on. After a long
delay, permission came.
Fort Henry, being the weakest point, was to be attacked first.
"You, Commodore Foote, will take your men down the Tennessee River in
gun-boats, and will pepper the fort from that point. When
Fort Henry is settled, then comes Donelson."
Foote did pepper Fort Henry well; and in just one hour
and five minutes the fort surrendered.
Six days later, Grant turned toward Fort Donelson.
Spreading his forces out in a sort of half circle, he thus
approached the fort. Grant made up his mind that the way
to get hold of this fort would be to lay siege to it, rather
than to try to bring about a battle.
But the Confederate officers knew only too well that they
could not hold out against a siege, and so thought it best to
give battle at once. The very next morning they came out
and fell upon the right wing of Grant's army. Grant
him-  self was down the river when the attack began; up he
galloped to the scene of battle in a "double quick" run you
may be sure.
"They have come out prepared to fight for several days,
General," said one of the soldiers.
"Why do you think so?" asked Grant.
"Because they have their haversacks filled with rations,"
was the reply.
"Get me one of those haversacks," said Grant quickly.
One was brought. Grant examined it carefully, and saw
that it was rationed for three days.
"This means retreat, retreat, boys," cried Grant.
"Soldiers don't fill their haversacks like this unless they are
planning to run away. Now then, one more sharp attack, and
we'll finish the fight!"
The men, cheered by Grant's hopefulness, fell upon the
enemy hot and heavy. With one grand push, the whole line
made the attack. The fight grew hotter and hotter. Over
the snow-covered ground everywhere ran streams of blood.
Everywhere lay the dead and wounded. Darkness came on
at last, thank God, and this awful slaughter was at an end.
The enemy were driven within their own lines. "One more
hour of fighting," said Grant, "and the fort will be ours."
Inside the fort two of the generals were packing up to get
away before daylight. When morning dawned, General
Buckner sent out to ask Grant on what terms he would be
willing to accept their surrender.
 "Unconditional surrender," said Grant, "are my only
terms." By that he meant that they should surrender
wholly, give up themselves and all they had, or he would
fight them again and make them surrender.
General Buckner had little to say. He knew only too
well that there was nothing to be done but surrender.
Grant's army marched in and took the fort.
On the same day the commander at Bowling Green saw
fit to get his forces out of the way; and a few days later the
commander at Columbus did the same. They knew very
well that with both forts lost, the cities, too, would have to
go. Even in the capital of the State, the governor packed
his valuable papers and ran as if from a fire.
The great Confederate stronghold had fallen into the
hands of Union troops. Great was the rejoicing in the
Northern States. "Unconditional surrender!" came to be
the "by-word" in every city and town; and Grant came to
be called "Unconditional Surrender Grant."
This must be what his initials "U. S." mean, the people
said in their joy. And to this day, no soldier hears of
U. S. Grant without thinking of "Unconditional Surrender."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics