February 16, 1862. Fort Donelson, Tennessee.
Confederate troops under the command of General Gideon Pillow controlled Fort Donelson, a vital outpost near the Kentucky border. When Union troops laid siege to the fort on February 11, 1862, the Confederates had the advantage in numbers and in position. (Because generally speaking, the guys inside the fort are better off than the ones knocking on the door. That’s a keen historical insight you can use in days to come.)
After a two-day standoff, General Pillow decided to launch an all-out attack on the Union position. He attacked on February 15, but in shifting Confederate troops to alternate positions where the Union forces were weak, Pillow left his own right wing vulnerable – a fact Ulysses S. Grant noted and exploited.
When the Pillow fight ended on the morning of February 16, the Union had won and the Confederates requested terms of surrender.
Grant’s response? “No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.”
The Confederates threw in the pillow, the Union took the fort, and “Unconditional Surrender Grant” acquired a nickname that would follow him for the rest of the war.
So…what happened with you today?