Sunday, February 17, 2008

ON THIS DAY: Monday, Feb. 17, 1862

Back to the Paperwork

All great battles are followed by…paperwork.

At Fort Donelson, it is a day for mopping up after the Confederate surrender, and communiqués go out in all directions.

Brig. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, commander of the newly created “District of West Tennessee” (which his successful Forts Henry and Donelson campaign made possible) spends much of the day pumpingout orders. One of the first is a statement of hearty congratulations to his troops. Several dispatches concern the handling of his15,000 prisoners, which Grant believes represent “the largest capture …ever made on this continent.” He also requests supplies, especially blankets and overcoats to replace those his men lost on the battlefield or unwisely discarded during their march from Fort Henry. There is an order concerning the disposition of captured horses, mules, and other enemy property. (Commanders are to collect and guard all property until it is taken away by the proper officers, the weaponry to go to Grant’s ordnance officer, the horses, mules, and other stuff to the quartermasters). Guards are posted in all directions to prevent the escape of prisoners or a surprise attack by Confederates.

Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck, Grant’s superior, sends no congratulations, but his chief of staff, Brig. Gen. George W. Cullum lauds Grant for “your brilliant leadership. I, in common with the whole country, warmly congratulate you on this remarkable achievement.”

The fleeing Confederate commanders, John B. Floyd and Gideon J. Pillow, arrived in Nashville, where some citizens, fearing a Union attack, prepare to flee, while others demand Confederate supplies stored in the city be opened to them.

In Washington, Grant is proposed for promotion to major general.

The North celebrates, the South worries. As they will again and again, some Northern newspapers rashly announce “The End is in Sight.” But the end will not come for three more years.

ELSEWHERE IN THE CIVIL WAR: Brig. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman writes “Dearest Ellen” from Paducah, while on his way to assume Grant’s former command, the District of Cairo. Only recently so doubtful about his ability to command, Sherman appears to be entering the combat zone without reservation.

IT’S COMING SOONER THAN YOU THINK: April 12, 2011—less than 3½ years from now!—will be the 150th anniversary of the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, April 12 was the day Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

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