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 Buckner replied: “The distribution of the forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under your command, compel me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the Confederate arms yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.” The fall of Fort Donelson was the heaviest blow that had yet fallen on the Confederacy. It opened the whole of West Tennessee to Federal occupation, and it developed the crisis which had long existed in the West. Gen. A. S. Johnston had previously ordered the evacuation of Bowling Green; and the movement was executed while the battle was being fought at Donelson. Gen. Johnston awaited the result of the battle opposite Nashville. At dawn of the 16th of February he received the news of a defeat. Orders were at once issued to push the army forward across the river as soon as possible. The city papers or extras of that morning published despatches announcing a “glorious victory.” The city was wild with joy. About the time the people were assembling at the churches, it was announced by later extras that “Donelson had fallen.” The revulsion was great. Governor Harris had been informed of the fact early in the morning, and had proceeded to Gen. Johnston's Headquarters to advise with him as to the best course to adopt under the altered circumstances. The General said that Nashville was utterly indefensible; that the army would pass right through the city; that any attempt to defend it with the means at his command would result in disaster to the army, and the destruction of the city; that the first and highest duty of the governor was to the public trusts in his hands, and he thought, to discharge them properly, he should at once remove the archives and public records to some safer place, and call the Legislature together elsewhere than at Nashville. Gen. Johnston retreated with his army towards Murfreesboroa, leaving behind him a scene of panic and dismay. The confusion at Nashville did not reach its height until a humane attempt was made to distribute among the poor a portion of the public stores which could not be removed. The lowest passions seemed to have been aroused in a large mass of men and women, and the city appeared as if it was in the hands of a mob. A detachment of Forrest's cavalry endeavoured to enforce order. Houses were closed, carriages and wagons were concealed, to prevent the mob from taking possession of them. Horses were being seized everywhere. After every other means failed, Forrest charged the mob, before he could get it so dispersed as to get wagons to the doors of the departments, to load up the stores for transportation. The loss of public stores by depredations was not less than a million of dollars. “In my judgment,” said Col. Forrest, “if the quartermaster and commissary had remained at their posts, and worked diligently with the means at their command, the government stores might all have ”
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