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By Jack Hurst, Joe Barrett

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Grant’s 15,000 infantrymen advanced twelve miles overland from Fort Henry to encircle the part of Donelson not bounded by the Cumberland River. Forrest and his 1,000 or so troopers mounted the sole opposition outside the fort. In five hours of hard skirmishing, they brought half of Grant’s army to a temporary standstill. But when Forrest warned that Grant was attempting to surround the fort and only more infantry could prevent it, Buckner ordered Forrest back inside the trenches. On the struggle’s icy fourth day, the Confederates charged out of the left end of their entrenchments.

The Henry-Donelson captures made Halleck preeminent in the West. Yet, no sooner had he distinguished himself at Henry and Donelson than Grant staggered, stabbed in the back. Mysterious foes in his own ranks, armed with his reputation as a drunkard, toppled him. On March 5, Halleck relieved him of his duties, and Grant appeared headed back to the oblivion from which he had sprung. Then suddenly, on March 13, Halleck changed his mind. Turning unaccountably kind, Halleck stepped forward to seem to save Donelson’s disgraced victor.

No terms except immediate and unconditional surrender can be accepted,” Grant replied to Buckner’s note. ” With Smith occupying one end of his trenches and his Confederates in disarray, Buckner surrendered. Grant, with Smith’s indispensable assistance, had saved himself. Despite the errors they concealed, the Henry-Donelson victories stymied Halleck’s intention to fire this man whom history would come to regard as most responsible for winning the war. Few men looked less likely to save the Union.

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