Daniel Smith Donelson

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Daniel Smith Donelson
Born (1801-06-23)June 23, 1801
Sumner County, Tennessee, USA
Died April 17, 1863(1863-04-17) (aged 61)
Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Place of burial Presbyterian Cemetery Hendersonville, Tennessee
Allegiance United States United States of America,
Tennessee State Militia
Confederate States of America Confederate States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
 Confederate States Army
Years of service 1825–1826 (USA)
1827–1834 (Tennessee)
1861–1863 (CSA)
Rank Union army 2nd lt rank insignia.jpg Second Lieutenant (USA)
Union army brig gen rank insignia.jpg Brigadier General (Tennessee)
Confederate States of America General.png Major General (CSA)

American Civil War

Daniel Smith Donelson (June 23, 1801 – April 17, 1863) was a Tennessee politician, and nephew of President Andrew Jackson. The historic river-port of Fort Donelson was named for him as a Brigadier in the Tennessee militia, early in the American Civil War, in which he went on to serve as a Confederate general, notably at Perryville and Stones River.

Early life[edit]

Donelson was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, one of the three sons of Samuel and Mary "Polly" Smith Donelson. His older brother was Andrew Jackson Donelson, named after their uncle, President Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson Donelson was the private secretary to Jackson during his presidency and a vice presidential candidate in his own right. Donelson's grandfather was Colonel Daniel Smith, a Revolutionary War officer, an early leader in middle Tennessee and one of Tennessee's first U. S. Senators.

In 1821, Donelson entered West Point, and graduated in 1825, becoming an United States Army officer. He resigned his commission only half a year later, on January 22, 1826, to become a planter in Sumner County. He was also a member of the militia in Tennessee, starting as a brigade major in 1827 and being promoted to brigadier general in 1829.

In 1834, Donelson resigned his commission in the Tennessee militia and moved to Florida, again working as a planter. His stay there was brief, however, and he moved back to Tennessee two years later, still a planter. In 1841, Donelson became a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. He left after one two-year term, but returned twelve years later, in 1855, this time rising to the office of Speaker.


Donelson and his wife Margaret had 10 children born between 1834 and 1854: Mary, Sarah, Emily, Rebecca, Samuel, Martha, James, Susan, John B., and Daniel.[1][2]

Civil War[edit]

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Donelson volunteered for the Tennessee militia, leaving behind both of his careers as a planter and as Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives. He was returned to his previous rank of brigadier general in the militia and that May approved the locations of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, the latter named in his honor. (Fort Henry would turn out to be a disastrous choice, being almost flooded and easily captured by Grant). After Tennessee joined the Confederacy, he became a brigadier general in the Confederate Army on July 9, 1861. In the following two years, Donelson was active in several campaigns, leading the initial assault at the Battle of Perryville, fighting at the Battle of Stones River, and eventually rising to command of the Department of East Tennessee.

Donelson was promoted to major general on March 5, 1863 (to rank from January 17); his confirmation by the confederate senate on April 22 happened prior to knowledge of his death, which had occurred a week earlier. He died of chronic diarrhea in Montvale Springs, near Knoxville, Tennessee. He was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Hendersonville, Tennessee.[3]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: Seventh Census of the United States, 1850; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M432, 1009 rolls); Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  2. ^ Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: 1860 U.S. census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.
  3. ^ Eicher, p. 212.