Joseph A Altsheler – Civil War 02 – Guns Of Shiloh. Chapter 10, 11, 12
CHAPTER X. BEFORE DONELSON
Dick was the first in Colonel Winchester’s troop to see the white flag floating over Fort Henry and he uttered a shout of joy.
“Look! look!” he cried, “the fleet has taken the fort!”
“So it has,” said Colonel Winchester, “and the army is not here. Now I wonder what General Grant will say when he learns that Foote has done the work before he could come.”
But Dick believed that General Grant would find no fault, that he would approve instead. The feeling was already spreading among the soldiers that this man, whose name was recently so new among them, cared only for results. He was not one to fight over precedence and to feel petty jealousies.
The smoke of battle was beginning to clear away. Officers were landing from the boats to receive the surrender of the fort, and Colonel Winchester and his troops galloped rapidly back toward the army, which they soon met, toiling through swamps and even through shallow overflow toward the Tennessee. The men had been hearing for more than an hour the steady booming of the cannon, and every face was eager.
Colonel Winchester rode straight toward a short, thickset figure on a stout bay horse near the head of one of the columns. This man, like all the others, was plastered with mud, but Colonel Winchester gave him a salute of deep respect.
“What does the cessation of firing mean, Colonel?” asked General Grant.
“It means that Fort Henry has surrendered to the fleet. The Southern force, which was drawn up outside, retreated southward, but the fort, its guns and immediate defenders, are ours.”
Dick saw the faintest smile of satisfaction pass over the face of the General, who said:
“Commodore Foote has done well. Ride back and tell him that the army is coming up as fast as the nature of the ground will allow.”
In a short time the army was in the fort which had been taken so gallantly by the navy, and Grant, his generals, and Commodore Foote, were in anxious consultation. Most of the troops were soon camped on the height, where the Southern force had stood, and there was great exultation, but Dick, who had now seen so much, knew that the high officers considered this only a beginning.
Across the narrow stretch of land on the parallel river, the Cumberland, stood the great fort of Donelson. Henry was a small affair compared with it. It was likely that men who had been stationed at Henry had retreated there, and other formidable forces were marching to the same place. The Confederate commander, Johnston, after the destruction of his eastern wing at Mill Spring by Thomas, was drawing in his forces and concentrating. The news of the loss of Fort Henry would cause him to hasten his operations. He was rapidly falling back from his position at Bowling Green in Kentucky. Buckner, with his division, was about to march from that place to join the garrison in Donelson, and Floyd, with another division, would soon be on the way to the same point. Floyd had been the United States Secretary of War before secession, and the Union men hated him. It was said that the great partisan leader, Forrest, with his cavalry, was also at the fort.
Much of this news was brought in by farmers, Union sympathizers, and Dick and his comrades, as they sat before the fires at the close of the short winter day, understood the situation almost as well as the generals.
“Donelson is ninety per cent and Henry only ten per cent,” said Warner. “So long as the Johnnies hold Donelson on the Cumberland, they can build another fort anywhere they please along the Tennessee, and stop our fleet. This general of ours has a good notion of the value of time and a swift blow, and, although I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, I predict that he will attack Donelson at once by both land and water.”
“How can he attack it by water?” asked Pennington. “The distance between them is not great, but our ships can’t steam overland from the Tennessee to the Cumberland.”