Unconditional Surrender

by Daniel Russ on May 12, 2019

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Reading “Grant” by Ron Chernow and wanted to share this quote with you.

February 15th, 1862. The Battle at Fort Donelson was the opening salvo in a campaign to clear the Confederate Army out of Middle and Western Tennessee, thereby creating a rout for the North into the heart ion the Confederacy. Brigadier General Simon Bolivar Buckner was aWest Point graduate and he and Grant had formed a close friendship prior to ending up at odds in the Civil War.

Buckner was forced to sue for terms while the other generals retreated and headed back South to start again.

“In the early hours of February 16, under a flag of truce, a Confederate emissary delivered Buckner’s letter to General Smith, who took it to the farmhouse where Grant lay on a mattress on the floor. Smith handed him the letter, saying, “There’s something for you to read General.” Buckner requested a formal armistice with commissioners appointed to negotiate terms of surrender. “What answer shall I send to this, General?” Grant inquired of Smith, who answered categorically: “No terms to the damned Rebels!” 30 With that, Grant sat down at the kitchen table and composed a classic statement in American military history. In lapidary prose, he wrote: “Sir; Yours of this date proposing Armistice, and appointment of commissioners, to settle terms of capitulation is just received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.” 31 When finished, Rawlins said, Grant raised his eyes to his old West Point instructor, gave him the letter, and said drily, “General, I guess this will do.” Smith agreed. “It could not be better.””

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