A Civil War Biography

Daniel Smith Donelson

Donelson, a nephew of Andrew Jackson and the younger brother of Andrew Jackson Donelson who was Andrew Jackson's personal secretary, was born 23 June 1801 in Sumner County, Tennessee. He graduated fifth in the West Point class of 1825 and was assigned as a 2nd lieutenant in the 3rd US Artillery. He resigned on 22 January 1826 to become a planter. He served in the Tennessee militia as a brigade major then a brigadier general from 1827 until 1834 when he moved to Florida. He returned to Tennessee two years later.

He served a term in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1841 until 1843. He would again serve in the state house of representatives from 1855 until 1861. He was speaker of the house when the war started.

When Tennessee seceded he offered his services and was made adjutant general of the Provisional Army of Tennessee on 9 May 1861. To protect the Cumberland River he selected the sites for Forts Henry and Donelson, the latter named in his honor. On 9 July 1861 he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate army and sent to command the 3rd brigade in the Army of Northwestern Virginia commanded by William W. Loring. Robert E. Lee commanded the Department of Northwestern Virginia.

Donelson along with his brigade was sent to Charleston, South Carolina on 16 December 1861. In the spring of 1862 he was sent to join Braxton Bragg's Army of the Mississippi and was assigned command of the 1st brigade in the 2nd division of I Corps. At Murfreesboro he commanded the 1st brigade in Benjamin F. Cheatham's 1st division in Leonidas Polk's Corps and was part of the charge that broke the right wing of the Federal army. On 17 January 1863 Donelson was given command of the Department of East Tennessee. He remained in command of the department until he died 17 April 1863 near Knoxville at Montvale Springs, Tennessee. Five days later on 22 April 1863 Donelson was promoted to major general to rank from 17 January. The authorities in Richmond were not yet aware of Donelson's death.

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