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The distribution of the forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under your command, compel me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the Confederate arms yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose… Buckner’s response to Grant

Photograph shows a full-length portrait of Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner.

Photograph shows a full-length portrait of Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner.

Civil War literature is littered with accounts of battles from Sumter to Appomattox that were all somehow the crucial and deciding battle of the armed portion of that long and bloody conflict. Gott’s case is as well made as any but finally, like all such studies, it describes a single symptom better than the disease. It could well be argued that slavery suffered a fatal blow with the adoption of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 – before even the Constitution was formalized – and that all of the debates, oratory and posturing through 1865 we just so much smoke that gave cover to the true business of the United States – EXPANSION!

Capture of Fort Henry by U.S. gun boats under the command of Flag Officer Foote, February 6th 1862. Print shows four Union ironclads in the foreground, identified as the "St. Louis", "Carondelet", "Cincinnati", and the "Essex", bombarding Confederate Fort Henry in the background; also shows two Confederate steamboats, one identified as a Hospital Steamer - being shelled regardless of her status.

Capture of Fort Henry by U.S. gun boats under the command of Flag Officer Foote, February 6th 1862. Print shows four Union ironclads in the foreground, identified as the “St. Louis”, “Carondelet”, “Cincinnati”, and the “Essex”, bombarding Confederate Fort Henry in the background; also shows two Confederate steamboats, one identified as a Hospital Steamer – being shelled regardless of her status.

Certainly the contest of 1861-65 resulted in the victory of the forces of Expansion because they were able to use the tools necessary for that policy – transportation (especially rail and river) and manufacturing – to impose a military victory on an opponent that they had always had the advantage of geographical encirclement on. The far more devastating victory was the final displacement of a social order that had lasted from Runnymeade to Sumter in which the worst excesses of tyranny were held in check by the preservation of principles that had their origins in vox Dei rather than vox populi.

Andrew Hull Foote in military uniform, full-length portrait, facing front.

Andrew Hull Foote in military uniform, full-length portrait, facing front.

The consolation of the South is that despite its military victory the north has never achieved a complete cultural or intellectual victory. In spite of the strident, often hysterical, voices of the BIG government for more EXPANSION forces, the pale battalions of the Southern dead still march silently forward proclaiming that it is ONE man joining with his neighbors to protect the rights of EVERY man that makes a difference. Gott’s book is a wonderful study of the fog of war and a worthy entry in the lessons learned category it is not a final answer.

Battle of Fort Donelson--Capture of Generals S.B. Buckner and his army, February 16th 1862

Battle of Fort Donelson–Capture of Generals S.B. Buckner and his army, February 16th 1862

Where the South lost the war : an analysis of the Fort Henry-Fort Donelson campaign, February 1862  Kendall D. Gott  Mechanicsburg, PA : Stackpole Books, c 2003  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvii, 346 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 319-331) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Major-General Ulysses S. Grant, U.S.A., the hero of Fort Donelson [Half-lgth., standing,

Major-General Ulysses S. Grant, U.S.A., the hero of Fort Donelson [Half-lgth., standing,


With the collapse of the Confederate defenses at Forts Henry and Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, the entire Tennessee Valley was open to Union invasion and control. These Northern victories set up the 1864 Atlanta Campaign that cut the Confederacy in two. Had Confederate planning and leadership been better, no one can say what difference it might have made to the Civil War in the West and the outcome of the war itself.

Print shows soldiers searching by torch-light through a wooded area for wounded soldiers after an assault on Schwartz's battery during the union siege of Fort Donelson, Tennessee.

Print shows soldiers searching by torch-light through a wooded area for wounded soldiers after an assault on Schwartz’s battery during the union siege of Fort Donelson, Tennessee.

Gott blends his experiences as a combat veteran with those of a military historian to provide a gripping narration of day-to-day operations. His penetrating analyses of the leaders, their command decisions, and their strengths and weaknesses combine to give the readers a masterful account of the campaign.

Civil War Altar of Remembrance, Fort Donelson, Dover Tennessee

Civil War Altar of Remembrance, Fort Donelson, Dover Tennessee

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