This Day (Fight or Flight Edition)

Published:February 15, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

On this day in 1862, Union general Ulysses S. Grant was busy laying siege to Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in Tennessee when Confederate troops under John B. Floyd attempted to escape. Floyd was a former Virginia governor, son of a governor, and a former United States secretary of war who, while in office, was accused of helping prepare the South for war. He was not keen on being captured, in other words. So in the icy wind and rain of February 15, he and his men made a run for it. Fierce fighting left almost a thousand combined dead on both sides and Floyd’s troops still trapped. Historians have since charged Floyd with indecision and even a lack of involvement, both in planning and in leading the fighting. And when it came time to surrender, he fled.

The battles at Fort Henry and Donelson, meanwhile, are being overlooked during this sesquicentennial season, according to the historian Brooks D. Simpson. He offers a number of images and videos to help make up the difference. What I like about the one above is that, unlike in a lot of them, it actually looks cold! (More thoughts on Civil War images and weather can be found here.)

IMAGE: General Grant Looking Over the Battlefield at Fort Donelson (ca. 1880) by Paul Philippoteaux