Daniel Smith Donelson

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Daniel Smith Donelson
Born (1801-06-23)June 23, 1801
Sumner County, Tennessee
Died April 17, 1863(1863-04-17) (aged 61)
Knoxville, Tennessee
Place of burial Presbyterian Cemetery Hendersonville, Tennessee
Allegiance  United States of America
 Tennessee State Militia
 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 brigadier general rank insignia.svg 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 soldier. 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. He was the nephew of America's seventh president, Andrew Jackson.

Early life[edit]

Donelson was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, one of the three sons of Samuel and Mary "Polly" Smith Donelson. Donelson's father died when Donelson was about five. When his mother remarried, Donelson moved to The Hermitage, the home of his aunt, Rachel Donelson Jackson, and her husband, future President of the United States Andrew Jackson. Rachel and Andrew Jackson adopted Donelson and his two brothers. His older brother, Andrew Jackson Donelson, was the private secretary to Jackson during his presidency and a vice presidential candidate in his own right. Donelson's paternal grandfather was Colonel John Donelson, a frontiersman and founder of Nashville, Tennessee, and his maternal grandfather, Colonel Daniel Smith, was 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 a 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 until 1836. 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 in 1841–1843, but returned 12 years later, in 1855, serving in 1855–1861 and this time rising to the office of Speaker for 1859-1861.

Personal life[edit]

Hazel Path in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

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] They resided at Hazel Path in Hendersonville, Tennessee.[3]

Civil War[edit]

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Donelson volunteered again 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. He was then transferred briefly to South Carolina to help defend Charleston and the inner coastal region. Afterwards he eventually rose 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 its knowledge of his death, which had occurred a week earlier. He died of chronic diarrhea at the mineral water resort Montvale Springs, near Knoxville, Tennessee. He was buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Hendersonville, Tennessee.[4]

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. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Inventory--Nomination Form: Hazel Path". National Park Service. Retrieved August 19, 2016. 
  4. ^ Eicher, p. 212.