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Unconditional Surrender

May 8, 2019

Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner was very disappointed with the terms offered by the Union General.  When everyone was on the same side back in 1854, Buckner had paid Captain Grant’s hotel bill until money arrived from home.  Now General Grant was returning the favor by asking for unconditional surrender!  The war had raged for ten months, and the Confederates had won some stunning victories.  Buckner would now suffer the humiliation of being the first Confederate General to surrender an entire army to the Union.

He had hoped for better terms, but Grant informed him: “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted.”  In case Buckner had any second thoughts, Grant added: “I propose to move immediately upon your works.”

Buckner replied: “The distribution of the forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under your command, compels me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the Confederate armies yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.”

Thus ended the Battle of Fort Donelson.  Grant would not let an old friendship get in the way of the nation’s business, but he did connect with Buckner on a personal level.  As Buckner was about to depart for a Union prison, Grant confidentially said to him: “Buckner, you are, I know, separated from your people, and perhaps you need funds; my purse is at your disposal.”  Buckner thanked Grant for the kind offer, but refused his assistance.

When Grant died twenty-three years later, former Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner was one of his pall bearers.

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