Buckner is an old English name. Variations of the name have been spelled, Buckner, Buck, Bucke, Bockenor, Bokemore, Buckener and Bucca-(Anglo-Saxon) It is not related to the German Buchner, or Bucher. The name originates from the border region of Oxford and Berkshire counties in central southern England. It is associated with a pastoral lifestyle, as a Buckner was a title, a forester or hunter would be given, for one who hunts or provides Venison.
During the time of Edward II, Edward III and the young Richard II roughly in a period stretching from 1320 to 1386 there are four recorded instances of the Buckner surname with slighty different spellings. Three are wills and one is a deed for a plot of land in Warwickshire, and a writ to have one John Bokemore appear as a member of Parliament. (During the time of Edward II sometimes people were forced to act as a member of Parliament to pass legislation through the house of commons.)
The Buckner family remained in their rural English countryside homes until the 16th Century. Several things happened in the historical timeline which caused English migrations elsewhere. Ireland had come fully under British dominance, and land once occupied by the native Irish citizenry, was consolidated into large tracts in what would be later called 'Plantations.' These plantations attracted a great number of English Protestant farmers and tradesman, with opportunities to own the land they were working, and the secondary effect was to keep the rebellious Irish seeded with loyal subjects in their villages. The second event was in 1620's the Puritan Colony of Massachusetts had survived its first winters and had begun to sell raw goods and materials back to England. This proved to the English crown, colonies in North America could be supported.
In 1655 The Royal Navy attacked and captured the former Spanish port of Port Royal. This opened up a base of operations for British expansion in the West Indies where previously the French, Dutch and Spanish had held dominance. English settlers flooded to Jamaica for the opportunities to raise Sugar Indigo and Rum.
There are four Buckner family lines in America. One landed in Massachusetts in the early 1600's. The second line came from Ireland in the 1650's with the spelling of Bucknor, landing in South Carolina. Lastly the third line of descent landed in New York from Jamaica roughly in 1700, just a few years behind the Massachusetts branch. It is tenuous to imagine any of the three lines actually being related, but the Bucknor and the fourth family line which landed in the Jame River region of Virginia; are of the same family, who can trace their origins back to Oxfordshire.
The Virginia line of the James River settlements moved westward with the westward expansion of the United States, settling once again into a border region, this time Illinois and Kentucky. One of its more notable members was Simon Bolivar Buckner. He was a past graduate of the Military Academy of West Point, a veteran of the Mexican-American war, and close personal friends with his classmate Ulysses S. Grant. He briefly taught infantry tactics upon graduating from West Point. He left to serve in the war. After he returned Buckner picked up his teaching duties only to leave shortly thereafter having religious issues with compulsory chapel service at the Academy. He served in the US Army rising to the rank of Captain. He retired and went into the real estate business with his father-in-law in Illinois.
Buckner was from Kentucky. At the outbreak of the war he had been the Inspector General of all Kentucky State Militia troops. When Kentucky's neutrality was broken by Abraham Lincoln, Buckner enlisted in the Confederate Army. He was made a Brigadier General. General Simon Bolivar Buckner has the dubious distinction of being the first Confederate General to surrender an army to Union forces. The General who compelled his surrender was none other than his friend US Grant.
The doomed defense of Fort Donelson, had its issues from the very beginning. There were four Generals in charge of defense, Buckner, Floyd, Pillow and Johnson. Floyd was a politician and not a soldier, who incidentally was in overall command. After Floyd allowed the fort to be surrounded by Union forces under Grant, he made a sally-meaning they attacked the union forces by leaving the fort.
The initial attack was successful but there was not enough of a follow up by the other Generals. Buckner volunteered to fight a delaying action so the other generals could escape captivity. The following day after the failed sally, Buckner sent a note asking for surrender terms.
Grant replied with his famous demands, "No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works."
The war may have divided the nation but not the two friends. In the decades that followed General, later Governor of Kentucky Buckner was a pallbearer at his friends funeral and created a trust fund for the Widow of US Grant as the former President of the United States died penniless. Buckner's trust kept Mrs. Grant in comfort till the end of her life.
Royalty, and other persons of note associated with the surname Buckner:
Edward II, Edward III, Richard II, William of Orange, George III. Adams family, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin. Admiral of the Red, William Buckner of Sussex.
Places associated with the surname of Buckner:
Oxford, Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Antrim, Belfast, Londonderry, County Down. Massachusetts, Sussex County Massachusetts, Rappahannok and James River, Richmond, Virginia, USMA West Point, Ft. Donelson, Louisville, Kentucky.