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Despite the mammoth Federal success at Fort Donelson, the war did not come to an end (though some acted as if it had.) General U.S. Grant looked to push the next objective, which appeared to be Nashville. And he requested guidance from St. Louis.

In meantime, Clarksville (about fifty miles up the Cumberland River, in the direction of Nashville) was deemed a suitable target: a reconnaissance conducted by  U.S. Navy gunboats Conestoga and Cairo on February 18th discovered that Confederate Clarksville was practically a ghost town; the Rebels and most of the citizens had fled. So, General C.F. Smith was dispatched with a suitable force pulled from his Second Division and occupied Clarksville on about February 23rd. Early the next day, U.S. Grant, in company with Surgeon Brinton, , BGen McClernand, Captain Taylor (of Taylor's Battery), Colonel Lauman and Colonel WHL Wallace, departed Fort Donelson aboard steamer W.H.B. for an inspection of Union-occupied Clarksville.

But, it does not appear that an inspection took place at Clarksville that day: General Grant caught wind that General William Nelson's Division (which was known to have been promised to assist Grant at Fort Donelson) had arrived at Paducah; reported to General Sherman; and departed Paducah aboard a small fleet on February 23rd, bound for the Cumberland River. The seven steamers, under gunboat escort, continued to the ordered destination of Clarksville (arrival recorded as 8 a.m. February 24th) and General Nelson met with General Smith. At about noon (in accordance with orders relayed from General Grant to General Nelson) General Nelson returned to his steamer, Diana, and in company with six other steamers (led by USS Carondelet) the force proceeded up the Cumberland (with U.S. Grant aboard steamer W.H.B, in company with USS Cairo, well in advance of the fleet.)

Bull Nelson arrived at the "open city" of Nashville on February 25th, stepped ashore... and became the first Federal General Officer to enter Nashville following Rebel occupation; (General Buell was just across the river at Edgefield: today's East Nashville); and U.S. Grant appears to have waited aboard the W.H.B., at least, for a little while. Nelson made contact with Buell; and Grant escorted his party from Fort Donelson into Union-occupied Nashville for two days of what can best be described as relaxation and diversion. On February 27th, U.S. Grant met with Don Carlos Buell aboard the W.H.B. and exchanged pleasantries; and then Grant and his party departed Nashville, and arrived back at Fort Donelson late on 28 FEB 1862.




References:  OR 7 pages 661, 662- 3, 668, 670- 1, 674.

OR (Navy) vol.22, pages 315, 587, 616, 617, 625.

Memoirs of U.S. Grant page 318.

Adam Badeau's Military Career of U.S. Grant, pages 58 - 9.

Diary of Jacob Ammen for dates February 23, 24 and 25 (found in OR 7 page 659 - 660.

Hoppin's Life of Andrew Hull Foote, pages 230 - 236.

Memoirs of Surgeon John Brinton, page 139.

Life of General WHL Wallace, pages 166 (Letter of 20 FEB 1862) and page 171 (Letter of 28 FEB 1862).




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"There is a screw loose in that command."

It is not for me to judge to whom Henry Halleck was referring when he wrote the above pointed comment on February 24th 1862; but, little could General Halleck have suspected that Ulysses Grant, that very day, was in process of finalizing plans to make his way to Nashville, "to meet with General Buell."

Taking advantage of a welcome, unexpected sighting of General William Nelson's transports steaming up the Cumberland, General Grant made use of the opportunity to: 1) direct that convoy to Clarksville, the limit of its current orders; 2) to "return" the redundant Bull Nelson to Buell at Nashville. Ulysses Grant merely went along -- with an entourage -- "to watch and enjoy the show." [By reviewing the exchange of telegrams from 16 - 27 February 1862, to be found in OR 7 pages 626 - 648 and 661 - 671, a sense of the level of confusion then evident, IRT the "safe, yet expeditious" occupation of Nashville is revealed... and it is prostrating.]

In answer, U.S. Grant took matters into his own hands. Nelson's fleet, under escort of USS Carondelet, arrived at Nashville in the morning of Tuesday, February 25th. Bull Nelson immediately stepped ashore, becoming the first Federal General Officer to return to Union-occupied Nashville... stealing the glory by three hours from D.C. Buell, who had organized a formal hand-over with the Mayor, to take place at 11 a.m. Meanwhile, Grant (aboard the powerful towboat, W.H.B.), escorted to Nashville by USS Cairo, appears to have waited until the following day, Wednesday, to begin venturing out and sight-seeing. Previewing scenes of three years later (when President Lincoln made his visit to an abandoned Richmond) Grant's party strolled the streets; stopped in to visit with Mrs. Polk (widow of former-President Polk); and visited hospitals in search of Union POWs captured at Fort Donelson. Then, having given General Buell time enough to hear the rumors "of another general in town," U.S. Grant dropped by on Thursday to visit with Buell, but found him out. Later, General Buell appeared -- with his own entourage -- at Grant's boat, the W.H.B. and the meeting was held. Afterwards, Grant left Nashville, and arrived back at Fort Donelson late on Friday, February 28th.

Remarkably, letters were written during this time away by Grant and his party; but none indicate on the letterhead anyplace other than "Fort Donelson." In addition, General Grant took a newsman along: Franc Bangs Wilkie, of the Chicago Tribune. Wilkie also did not reveal the trip to Nashville, until long after the event... which seems to indicate the loyalty generated, and power of persuasion inherent to General U.S. Grant.

Always more to the story...



References:  OR 7 (pages as sited)

http://www.artcirclelibrary.info/Reference/civilwar/1862-02.pdf  artcirclelibrary for March 1862 (see pages 67 - 73)

Forts Henry and Donelson, by B. F. Cooling (1987) pages 246 - 7.

Pen and Powder, by Franc Bangs Wilkie (1888) pages 133 - 141.

Letters of WHL Wallace, dates of 20 Feb and 28 Feb 1862.




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Grant's Greatest Strength

From study of U.S. Grant's military history in the West during the Civil War, what becomes apparent is the General's aggression, drive and determination to take the fight to the enemy. Belmont -- initially flagged as a "demonstration in vicinity of Fort Columbus" -- was converted by Grant into a highly successful raid. Fort Henry was such an obvious target that newspaper reporters, all during the month of January, were conjecturing when that Confederate fort would be attacked. And Fort Donelson was merely the logical next step, after the capture of Fort Henry.

Following the capture of Fort Donelson, the logical next step was "occupation of Nashville"  (a major source of supply for the Rebel Army.) But, General Grant saw unedifying vacillation on the part of his Federal counterparts (Buell and Halleck, in particular), and took measures into his own hands to press for Nashville's occupation. First, Grant suggested to Major General Halleck that Nashville be taken. Then, finding no obvious plan in work, Grant suggested he could take Nashville. Finally, Grant determined that Nashville's occupation was needlessly being delayed; and took measures to "fix that problem"

  • U.S. Grant told Halleck that he was going to Nashville (and added the proviso, "Unless you specifically prohibit my going.")
  • He looked for an opportunity... and found it: the arrival of Nelson's Division, sent to assist in capture of Fort Donelson (and now, technically, Nelson's Division was a part of Grant's Army)
  • Nelson's Division, in convoy aboard seven transports steaming up the Cumberland River, was deemed by Grant as superfluous; and labelled by Grant as "no longer needed." Therefore, General Grant thought it best to "return to sender" Nelson's force, by re-directing the flotilla a little further up the Cumberland, with new destination: Nashville.

When Brigadier General William Nelson stepped ashore on February 25th he was the first Union general officer to enter the former Confederate capital of Tennessee. He technically belonged to Grant, who was in process of "returning him to the Army of the Ohio." (Which is why there is confusion to this day IRT who occupied Nashville?)

To sum up, General Grant's greatest strength was his ability to "see opportunity, and exploit opportunity." (Drive, determination, aggression, persistence... were merely character traits used as tools by Grant to develop opportunity.)

My take on U.S. Grant



Reference: Badeau's Military History of U.S. Grant (1867) pages 56 -61.


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