This Week in the American Civil War – Feb. 12-18, 1862

Information courtesy of Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

Wednesday February 12, 1862

     By evening the lines had been firmly drawn at Fort Donelson, Tenn., on the Cumberland River. Brigadier General Ulysses Grant’s army was ranged in a semicircle upon hills near the fort and town of Dover, awaiting the help of the gunboat attack, led by U.S. Navy Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote. Confederates could still bring in men from across the river to the east, but a mild form of siege had begun.

Federal naval forces captured Edenton, N.C., as they expanded their operations from Roanoke Island. There was skirmishing at Moorefield, Va., and Springfield, Mo., where Confederates pulled farther southwest.

Thursday February 13, 1862

At Fort Donelson the fighting began. On the Federal left Brigadier General Charles F. Smith launched an attack and on the right Brigadier General John A. McClernand’s troops saw action. Confederate Brigadier General John B. Floyd arrived with more troops and took over Confederate command from Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow. More troops came in for Grant. The gunboat Carondelet bombarded the fort in the morning. The fair and mild weather suddenly changed in the afternoon to a sleety rain, with 10 degrees above zero temperatures that night.

At Fort Heiman, on the Tennessee River, there was a brief skirmish. At Bowling Green, Ky., being evacuated by the Confederates, fire destroyed a number of buildings. Springfield, Mo., was occupied by Federal troops once more. In North Carolina, a Federal expedition left North River for the Albemarle Canal.

The West Virginia Constitutional Convention, meeting in Wheeling, Va., adopted a provision that no slave or free person of color should come into the state for permanent residence.

Friday February 14, 1862

Confederate Brigadier General John B. Floyd held a council of his generals at the Dover Hotel at 1 a.m. to craft plans to break out of the Union siege. Four ironclads and two wooden gunboats continued their barrage against Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in Tennessee. Grant’s expectations that the Federal squadron would be able to repeat the Feb. 6, 1862 victory at Fort Henry were dashed because the gunboats were forced to withdraw downstream after heavy bombardment and fearsome damage. The cold weather continued and the two discouraged armies still faced each other at nightfall. Minnesota involvement: Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry were on patrol duty in the vicinity of Fort Donelson on this date.

General Ulysses Grant was assigned by the War Department to command the District of West Tennessee and William Tecumseh Sherman was given command of the District of Cairo. In other fighting there was skirmishing near Cumberland Gap, Ky. and Crane Creek, Mo. President Lincoln granted amnesty to all political prisoners who would take an oath not to aid the rebellion.

Saturday February 15, 1862


On the morning of February 15, the Confederates launched a dawn assault by Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow against the Union division commanded by Brigadier General John A. McClernand, on the right flank of the Union line. During the day-long attack, Grant’s Federal forces suffered 2,691 casualties including 507 killed and 1,976 wounded with 208 missing. Confederate casualties were 327 killed, 1,127 wounded for a total of 1,424 men lost. By nightfall, all of the Confederate troops had been driven back to their original positions. Minnesota involvement: Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry were on patrol duty in the vicinity of Fort Donelson on this date.

U.S. Brigadier General John M. Schofield assumed command of the District of St. Louis.

Sunday February 16, 1862

Confederate Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow turned over command of Fort Donelson, Tenn., to Brigadier General Simon B. Buckner, who accepted the terms of surrender from Federal Brigadier General Ulysses Grant after failing to break the Federal siege. Grant replied to Buckner’s request for truce with a message that read, “Yours of this date proposing Armistice, and appointment of Commissioners, to settle terms of Capitulation is just received. No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.” Buckner surrendered more than 12,000 of his troops, most of whom were sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago, Ill. The surrender earned Grant the nickname, “Unconditional Surrender.” Confederate Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest escaped capture at Fort Donelson by leading his 700-men cavalry to Nashville. Minnesota involvement: Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry were on patrol duty in the vicinity of Fort Donelson on this date.

On the Cumberland River, the gunboat St. Louis destroyed the Tennessee ironworks. Skirmishing occurred at Pott’s Hill, Arkansas on Sugar Creek.

Monday February 17, 1862

News of the surrender at Fort Donelson was received in the Union and Confederate states. In Washington, Ulysses Grant was promoted to Major General of Volunteers. In Richmond, the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States formally adjourned.

Tuesday February 18, 1862

The First Congress of the Confederate States of America convened in Richmond, Va. It officially replaced the Provisional Congress from which it was previously operating under. Skirmishes occurred between Union and Confederate forces at Independence, Mo.; Bentonville, Ark.; and Mount Vernon, Mo.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of February 12-18, 1862

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – In camp at Edward’s Ferry near Leesburg, Va.

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On the march from Mill Springs to Louisville, Ky.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry –  At Shepherdsville, Lebanon Junction and Belmont, Ky., guarding Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On garrison duty at Fort Snelling, Minn., Fort Ridgely, Minn., and Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – On patrol duty during siege against  Fort Donelson, Tenn.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On garrison duty at St. Louis, Mo.

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Training at Colonel Hiram Berdan’s “Camp of Instruction”

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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