How did Franklin area residents react to the fall of Fort Donelson?

Sallie Florence McEwen

Sallie Florence McEwen (1846-1867), daughter of John B. McEwen and Cynthia B. Graham McEwen, married Rev. W.L. Rosser in 1866 and they had one daughter, Florence Atkerson of Creek Side.

Fort Donelson fell into Union hands on February 16, 1862 as the entire fort surrendered to U.S. Grant, resulting in over 12,000 Confederate soldiers becoming prisoners of war.  Not only did this give the Union unfettered access along the Cumberland River, but it’s capture resulted in the capitulation of Nashville to the Union army without a shot being fired. Nashville was the second-largest city in the lower South, only New Orleans was larger.

The news of the fall of Fort Donelson must have stunned and terrified the local residents of Franklin and Williamson County, as this diary excerpt from Sallie Florence McEwen indicates.  The news must have traveled quickly that day as McEwen wrote this entry on Sunday the 16th, the day of the actual surrender.

“Fort Donelson has fallen. We are defeated. A great number of prisoners have been taken, among them a great number of our acquaintances. There is great panic in Nashville, the people are fleeing from there is in great numbers.”

Sunday, February 16, 1862 – The Journal of Sallie Florence McEwen. A Franklin, Tennessee resident.
Source (McEwen quote and image): Williamson County & the Civil War: As Seen Through the Female Experience. 2008.

Adelicia “Addie” McEwen German (1848-1942) was Sallie’s younger sister. She married Dr. Daniel B. German in 1869. She wrote the following related to Fort Donelson.

Addie McEwen German

“Our first sight of the Yankees was in February 1862 when Fort Donelson fell. It was on Sunday morning and we had gone to Sunday School. had finished with our lessons and were coming out of church, when unusual commotion in  the street attracted our attention. On looking down towards the Squre, it seemed as if the whole of Heavens had dropped down, so blue were the streets with the blue coated Yankees and the Starry Ground to be with them, they were so gay with gold stars and lace; the Southern Army men in full retreat, just ahead of them . . . One poor fellow, who had fired cannons at Fort Donelson three days, was intatters and barefooted. Tears ran constantly down his cheeks, and he couldn’t shut his mouth, so pitiful was he, that he was clothes from his head to his feet and bountifully fed. He expressed himself as feeling like the “prodigal son” returned.”

Source:  Williamson County & the Civil War: As Seen Through the Female Experience. Rick Warwick, 2010: 15.

3 thoughts on “How did Franklin area residents react to the fall of Fort Donelson?

  1. Craig Was Sallie Florence McEwen’s maiden name Florence or is that her middle name because for 22 years I was Sallie Florence. The ones from Kentucky and wondering if she was one of them. Sallie

  2. No I see it was her middle name. Cannot remove it but just was shocked to see my old name when I looked at the computor. Sallie

  3. My grandpa’s grandpa name is duncan king 49th tenn infantry his father was with the 3rd I believe his name is thomas king he was wounded in the head at fort donelson and him and duncan were paroled by gen grant to take his father home so he could die at home somewhere in benton cty? Duncan was maried 1863 to mary elizabeth childress and I found duncan kings grave finally! At nashville arkansas cause of death unknown! Sons & grandsons moved to van buren,ar the king oprea house, duncans son my great grandpa william ”billy ”jacksn king is buried in van buren,ar my grandpa irby jay king was from spiro,ok my grandma was a choktaw last name moore her great grandmother was lost off trail of tears at old fort smith arkansas she was adopted by a martha & betsy moore my grandmothers name is cordelia moore the lost little girls name was letha! I’m retired from cival war reenactment here in california and currently performing david crockett all over the country, my other half is portuguese lewis & silva dairymen & mariners maybe served on css shanendoah who surrendered in england after war if you or someone can help me further on any of this history please explain detail what happened to my kin folk during that battle what did they go through 49th tenn infantry co I & 3rd tenn

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