Fort Donelson, Tennessee, guarding the Cumberland River, became the site of the first major Confederate defeat in the Civil War. Victory at Donelson started Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant on his road to Appomattox and the White House. His cool judgment under pressure saved the day after the Confederates threatened to break his troop lines, yet errors by his opponents handed him a victory that he did not fully earn on his own.
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took over about 15,000 prisoners, 48 artillery pieces, and other war material the South could not afford to lose. The Confederates fell back from Kentucky and from much of middle Tennessee, abandoning Nashville. Grant won fame and promotion, while both Floyd and Pillow lost command. Robert E. Lee’s later successes in Virginia obscured the significance of Fort Donelson as the first step toward the Confederate loss of the west, which spelled doom for the new nation.