Fort Donelson stood on a bluff overlooking the Cumberland River in Tennessee. It was flanked by the Hickman and Indian Creeks, and its Confederate defenders had constructed lines of earthwork fortifications to protect both the Fort and the neighbouring town of Dover. Union General Grant arrived on the scene fresh from the capture of Fort Henry, 12 miles (20 km) away. After an overnight snowstorm, bombardment began on 14 February, following an abortive naval assault by Union gunboats. Swiftly recognizing defence was untenable, Confederate General Pillow ordered a counterattack against the Union right flank, seeking to forge an escape route. Although the Union lines buckled, the attempt failed through Pillow’s vacillation, and Grant then ordered an all-out assault from General Smith. Pillow realized all was lost; small parties of Confederates managed to escape overland to the south, or by boat. On 16 February, Grant accepted the remaining garrison’s surrender: 12,000 troops plus their artillery and munitions.
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