« PreviousContinue »
and stateɛmen, and as such, I pray you consider this proposition, and, at the least, commend it to the consideration of your States and people. As you would perpetuate popular government for the best people in the world, I beseech you that you do in no wise omit this. Our common country is in great peril, demanding the loftiest views and boldest action to bring a speedy relief. Once relieved, its form of government is saved to the world; its beloved history and cherished memories are vindicated, and its happy future fully assured and rendered inconceivably grand. To you, more than to any others, the privilege is given to assure that happiness, and swell that grandeur, and to link your own names therewith forever.
Twenty of the Senators and Representatives thus addressed replied in respectful, but decidedly unfavorable, terms. Nine only made friendly and approving responses.
Military Events.-Inaction on the Potomac.-Western Campaigns.— Capture of New Orleans.
THE summary of political events in the preceding chapter has somewhat outrun the course of military operations. Gen. McClellan, as General-in-chief of the entire army, had nominally assumed control alike over Gen. Halleck, commanding in the Department of the West, over Gen. Burnside and Gen. T. W. Sherman in North and South Carolina, and over the vast Army of the Potomac. During the two months succeeding the retirement of Lieut. Gen. Scott, every day's delay, while calm skies and dry roads invited to action, adied new weight to the impatience of the people. But at length wintry weather put an end to all immediate hope of action. Opinions as to the General-in-chief were divided. Ready excuses on the part of those immediately about him as to still needed preparations, and lavish promises as to results when the time of action should come, with frequent intimations of an early movement, satisfied many who would otherwise have been despondent. To the President himself, Gen. McClellan, while reticent as to details, preserved an air of earnest determination, and held out the prospect of effective action at no remote day. An engagement near Dranesville, Md., under Gen. Ord, favorable to our arms, yet animportant in results, had, on the 20th of December, awakened only to disappoint an expiring hope of some decisive action before another season. Some occasional col· lisions between detachments of the opposing armies were all that occurred in the Eastern Departments after the successful landing of the Southern expedition until the opening of spring.
The contrast between this inaction in the East, and the energetic and decisive movements in the West during the same period, was marked. Neither this fact, nor the customary mode of
stating the plan of the General-in-chief-which was one of simultaneous movement on all sides-would seem consistent with the supposition that affairs in the West were under any real control of the nominal military head at Washington. His actual relation to these events will in due time appear.
Early in January, Col. Garfield again cleared the castern border of Kentucky of Rebels, defeating an invading force under Humphrey Marshall, at Middle Creek, near Prestonburg, on the 10th. Gen. George B. Crittenden, at the head of another Rebel force, about 12,000 strong, had issued his proclamation to the people of Kentucky on the 6th, from his headquarters at Mill Spring, a point near the south bank of the Tennessee river, where that stream, making a wide sweep, bends farthest northward into the State. It was in this vicinity that a brilliant victory was gained on the 19th of January, by our forces under command of Gen. George H. Thomas. This achievement, utterly routing the rebel force, with severe loss, including that of Gen. Zollicoffer, killed, and penetrating the extended line of the Rebels opposed to Gen. Buell, was hailed as the promise of more stirring days. On the occasion of receiving this news, the Secretary of War issued the following order:
WAR DEPARTMENT, January 22, 1862.
The President, Commander-in-chief of the Army and Navy, has received information of a brilliant victory achieved by the United States forces over a large body of armed traitors and rebels at Mill Spring, in the State of Kentucky.
He returns thanks to the gallant officers and soldiers who won that victory, and when the official reports shall be received, the military skill and personal valor displayed in battle will be acknowledged and rewarded in a fitting manner.
The courage that encountered and vanquished the greatly superior numbers of the Rebel force, pursued and attacked them in their intrenchments, and paused not until the enemy was completely routed, merits and receives commendation.
The purpose of this war is to attack, pursue and destroy a rebellious enemy, and to deliver the country from danger menaced by traitors. Alacrity, daring, courageous spirit and patriotic zeal, on all occasions and under every circumstance, are expected from the Army of the United States.
In the prompt and spirited movements and daring battle of Mill Spring, the nation will realize its hopes, and the people of the United States will rejoice to honor every soldier and officer who proves his courage by charging with the bayonet and storming intrenchments, or in the blaze of the enemy's fire.
By order of the President.
These words of cheer, following acts so successful, reassured despondent hearts, and turned all eyes toward new scenes of hope.
The Rebel line from Columbus, on the Mississippi, to Bowling Green, on Green river, as will be seen from a map of that region, was penetrated by the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, running in a northerly and nearly parallel direction, about ten miles apart, from the boundary between Kentucky and Tennessee, into the Ohio river, cutting off a triangle comprising seven or eight counties in the south-western part of the former State. To secure their line against the gunboats, which were now making their appearance on the Western rivers, the Rebels had constructed a fort near the State line, on the Tennessee, in the immediate vicinity of Panther Island, called Fort Henry. At a point nearly on the same parallel, on the Cumberland, eastward, near Dover, in Tennessee, was another work named Fort Donelson. These points are about ninety miles distant from the mouths of the respective rivers.
Gen. Grant, almost simultaneously with the movement on Mill Spring, had planned an attack on Fort Henry, with a coöperating gunboat fleet under Com. Foote. This movement was authorized by Gen. Halleck, there being signs of intended reënforcements to the rebel left. Although the roads were in very bad condition, and movements of infantry and artillery were difficult, the high water in the Tennessee was specially favorable for the execution of that portion of the movement under the charge of Com. Foote.
On the 6th of February, the gunboats Essex, Carondelet, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Conestoga, Tyler and Lexington, advanced to the attack on Fort Henry, opening a rapid and
heavy fire, replied to by the guns of the fort. After an hour and a quarter the latter were silenced, the fort was surrendered, and Gen. Tilghman, with his staff and sixty men, gave them. selves up as prisoners. The remainder of the garrison escaped, the force sent forward by Grant, under Gen. McClernand, owing to the state of the roads or other causes, not having arrived in season to participate in the action. This engagement first thoroughly tested the gunboats, and proved their great value.
Gen. Grant lost no time in dispatching about 15,000 men from Fort Henry, to invest Fort Donelson. The gunboats, meanwhile, had returned to the mouth of the Tennessee, and made their way up the Cumberland, together with sixteen transports loaded with fresh troops, arriving on the 14th. The three divisions engaged were under the command of Gens. C. F. Smith, McClernand, and Lewis Wallace. The infantry and batteries having taken position, the gunboats opened fire on the fort at about two o'clock on that day, with less decisive effect than at Fort Henry. The St. Louis became seriously disabled, and Gen. Grant, making a complete investment of the fort, and strengthening his position, was designing to wait for the gunboats to renew the attack. On the following morning, however, the enemy within the fort, lately heavily reënforced, attacked our extreme right, under McClernand, which rested on Dover, and brought on a general and severe engagement, which had apparently almost resulted in a disastrous repulse of our forces. The right was seasonably reënforced, and after a hardly contested fight, lasting until dark, in which both sides suffered heavily, the Rebels were driven back within their fortifications. Early on the morning of the 16th, a white flag was raised by the Rebel Gen. Buckner, asking an armistice for the purpose of agreeing upon terms of capitulation. In reply, Gen. Grant sent the following memorable note:
HEADQUARTERS ON THE FIELD, FORT DONELSON,
To GEN. S. B. BUCKNER-Sir: Yours of this date, proposing an armistice and the appointment of commissioners to