T. M. Eddy
The Cumberland and Tennessee
The reconnaissance made under orders of General Grant convinced him that the rebel line along the Tennessee and Cumbland could be broken, those rivers opened, the evacuation of Columbus compelled, Nashville captured, and the enemy forced to make his base elsewhere tan on those water lines. Preparations were made for a grand movement which was delayed a short time, awaiting the completion of some gunboats.
Meanwhile other stirring events were transpiring. Brigadier General Pope had charge of Central Missouri, and on the 18th of December, 1861, fought a spirted and successful engagement at Millford, Mo., which resulted, according to Major general Halleck's report, in taking "thirteen hundred prisoners including three Colonels, and seventeen captains, one thousand stand of arms, one thousand horses, sixty five wagons and a large quantity of baggage, tents and supplies." General Prentiss had command in North Missouri, and a portion of his force had, on December 28th a hotly contested fight with the enemy at Mount Zion, Boon county, dispersing and driving them. On the 8th of January, 1862, Major Torrence of the 1st Iowa Cavalry attacked and defeated a rebel force at Silver Creek, Missouri.
Columbus, Kentucky, is situated upon the Mississippi River, about twenty miles below Cairo. It was seized by General Polk, September 4th, and so fortified as to be termed the "Rebel Gibraltar." Naturally strong for defense, it was made almost impregnable by massive works and heavy guns. Of course it closed the Mississippi to navigation as effectually as though its waters had become solid rock. Its possession was indispensable to the Union armies, but it was to be taken by those tactics which since became so unpleasant at Chattanooga and Atlanta. The capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson was to uncover its rear, and compel its abandonment by the forces of General Polk. The gunboat fleet was being pressed to completion during the months of November, December and January, and though reconnaissance were made toward Columbus, some by water, and one in force by land, causing the Confederates to concentrate their forces for the defenses of their Gibraltar.
General Grant had Matured his plan for the campaign of the Tennessee and Cumberland, and it is to be remembered that his troops occupied the ports of Paducah and Smithfield at the mouth of those rivers. He issued the following order for brigading them:
"Head-Quarters, District of Cairo,
"Cairo, February 1, 1862.
General Order Number. 5
"For temporary government, the forces of this military district will be divided and commanded as follows, to wit:
"The First Brigade will consist of the Eighth, Eighteenth, Twenty-seventh, Twenty-ninth, Thirtieth, and Thirty-first regiments of Illinois Volunteers, Schwartz's and Dresser's batteries, and Stewart's, Dollin's, O'Harnett';s, and Carmichael's cavalry. Colonel R. J. Oglesby, senior colonel of the brigade, commanding.
"The Second Brigade will consist of the Eleventh, Twentieth, Forty-fifth, and Forty-eight Infantry, Fourth Illinois Cavalry, Taylor's and McAllister's Artillery. (The latter with four siege-guns.) Colonel W. H. L. Wallace commanding.
"The First and Second Brigades will constitute the First Division of the District of Cairo, and will be commanded by Brigadier-General John A. McClernand.
"The Third Brigade will consist of the Eighth Wisconsin, Forty-ninth Illinois, Twenty-fifth Indiana, four companies of artillery, and such troops as are yet to arrive. Brigadier-General E. A. Pain commanding.
"The Fourth Brigade will be composed of the Tenth Iowa Infantry; Houtaling's battery of Light Artillery, four companies of the Seventh and two companies of the First Illinois Cavalry. Colonel Morgan commanding.
"General E. A. Paine is assigned to the command of Cairo and Mound City, and Colonel Morgan to the command of Bird's Point.
"By order of U.S.Grant,Brig.-Gen. Commanding
"John A. Rawlins, A.A.-G."
Order of Divisions
This order was published, and no pains taken to prevent its falling into the hands of the rebels, but it was not published that there were divisions organizing under Generals C F. Smith and Lew. Wallace at Paducah and Smithland. Preparations were made for a combined land and naval attack upon Fort Henry, situated on the Tennessee River, near the Kentucky and Tennessee line. It stands on low ground, above high-water mark, just below a bend in the river, and at the head of a straight stretch of about two miles and commands the river for about that distance. It was a bastioned earth-work enclosing about two acres. I t mounted seventeen guns including one ten-inch Colombia, throwing a round shot of one hundred and twenty-eight pounds weight, one breech-loading rifle gun, carrying a sixty-pound elongated shot, twelve thirty-two pounders, one twenty-four pounder, rifled, and two twelve-pounder siege guns, Most of the guns were pivoted, and capable of being played in any direction. It was encompassed by a deep moat, and strongly garrisoned and deemed capable of resisting any assailing force, however formidable.
Late on Saturday night, February 1st, the gunboats St. Louis, Cincinnati, Carondolet, Essex, Tyler and Lexington, left Cairo and proceeded to the mouth of the Tennessee at Paducah, when they were joined by the Conestoga. The fleet was commanded by Commodore, Later Rear-Admiral, A. H. Foote, as gallant a seaman as ever trod the quarter-deck or sailed the deep. Strictly temperate, a God-fearing and God-Loving man, he could be trusted with the lives of men and the honor of the flag anywhere. In 1856 he punished a gross insult offered our flag by the Chinese, by attacking and chastising with three hundred seamen and twenty-two guns, and five thousand men. English and French naval officers expressed the warmest admiration for his gallantry. In preparing his Western fleet, his labors had been immense, and at last he took it into the conflict but partially prepared.
The land forces were conveyed from Cairo to Paducah on transports, and from them the whole fleet sailed up the Tennessee, swollen and muddy toward the fort. After suitable reconnaissance, the squadron was moved about four miles below the for, where the troops landed and encamped for the night. A violent thunder storm burst upon them; the heavens were aglow with lighting and the rain fell in torrents, thoroughly soaking the clay so as to render the nest morning's march laborious and difficult. The General commanding ordered the first division, General McClerand's, including the first and second brigades, to take a position on the roads from Fort Henry to Donelson and Dover, to prevent the reinforcement of the fort or the escape of its garrison, and to be in readiness to "charge and take Fort Henry by storm on the receipt of orders." The Second division, commanded by General C. F. Smith, was to cross the river and move up the western shore, and occupy a hill overlooking the fort, which the enemy had begun to fortify, and then to send a portion of his force across the river and reinforce General McClernand. The gunboats were to shell the fort and drive the enemy from the guns. The Commodore urged the land forces to start in advance of the gunboats, and when he ascertained they would not, said pleasantly, but prophetically. "I will take the fort before you get there."
The two divisions set out as ordered. The first made every exertion to get up into position to intercept the retreat of the garrison, but the Tennessee mud was too deep. Over slippery hills and through tenacious swamps, the Illinois boy pressed eagerly forward, marching to the music of Foote"s deep-mouthed artillery and the reply of the heavy guns from Fort Henry. Suddenly all was still, and the questions ran along the lines, "What does it mean? Is Foote beaten?" They were to learn that the majority of the boasting garrison had fled from their camp and that the remainder had surrendered. In addition to mud, McClernand was obstructed by outer lines of defense, made by felling the timber for several rods in breadth, until the piled trunks and mingled branches made a barrier truly difficult to scale.
The gunboats moved up slowly, firing moderately, until within one mile of the fort, when they opened fire in earnest. The deep thunder of the guns, and the shrieking of the hurtling shells, were echoed by the high hills through which the Tennessee makes its way. The iron hail struck the defenses and fell within them. The artillery of the for replied, and while most of the balls rattled harmlessly against the mailed side of the vessels, one 24-pound shot pierced the Essex, penetrated the starboard boiler, and disabled it. Volley after volley was fired, more and more deadly became the iron hail, until flesh and blood could endure it no longer, and in on hour and twelve minutes a white flag was raised, which was hidden by the smoke. In a few moments, however, the Commodore discovered that the rebel flag was down and that firing from the for had ceased.
Captain Phelps, of the Conestoga, with a party, went on shore in a boat and was met by Gen. Tighlman, who surrendered the fort and camp, with about sixty prisoners. The General was taken in the gig to the Commodore's ship and asked what terms would be granted.
"Unconditional surrender," Said the old Hero. "Well, sir, if I must surrender, it gives me pleasure to surrender to so brave and officer as you." "You do perfectly right to surrender, but I should not have surrendered to you on any condition," was the reply of the Commodore. "Why so? I do not understand you," said the General. "Because I was fully determined to capture the fort or go to the bottom."
Brave veteran, whose brilliant services were to last only long enough to cover the Western gun-boat fleet with imperishable glory, the answer was worthy his lion-hearted courage and supreme conscientiousness. One of the reporters who was at Cairo, relates the following incident: "On the Sabbath before the expedition sailed, the Commodore attended, as usual, worship in the Presbyterian Church. The minster did not make his appearance, and the audience became restless. The Commodore ascended the pulpit, read a portion of scripture, and offered a fervent prayer. He then delivered a brief address* from the text, 'Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God; believe also in me.' He specially urged his fellow soldiers to constancy in duty and strong trust in the Redeemer. No wonder he was calm in peril and faithful in duty."
The completeness of the victory was marred only by the escape of the rebel force from the camp, which hastily retreated before the force under Gen. McClernand came up. The country hailed it, however, with gladness, and saw in it the new power which was henceforth to assert itself in war and to affect so profoundly the question of foreign intervention-ir-armored ships.
The gunboats under Captain Phelps ascended the river and destroyed the bridge of the Ohio and Mississippi railroad, connecting Bowling Green, Memphis and Columbus, and steamed beyond it to Florence, Ala. Two rebel boats were chased so closely that they were blown up and abandoned by their owners; two steamers loaded with iron, for rebel use, were captured, and three were burned at Florence.
It was understood that Fort Donelson was next to be attacked, and the country waited in breathless suspense. General Grant ordered all available troops in his district to be sent to his command. On the 11 of February, reinforcements left Cairo under orders to join him on the Kentucky strip lying between the Cumberland and Tennessee. The right wing of Buell';s army, under Gen. Crittenden, took steamers at Calhoun, on Green River, descended it to the Ohio, down the Ohio and up the Cumberland, where a juncture with Grant was effected. Troops were also sent from St. Louis and Cincinnati, until Grant found himself at the head of a large army, composed of the elite of Western troops. Illinois was well represented; It had present:
Cavalry regiments: Second Illinois, Colonel .S Noble; Third Illinois, Colonel E. A. Carr; Fourth Illinois Cavalry under Colonel. T. Lyle Dickey; and the Seventh Illinois Colonel William. P. Kellogg.
Infantry regiments: 7th, Colonel. Jno. Cook, acting Brigadier-Lieutenant Colonel Andrew J. Babcock, commanding; 8th, Colonel. Richard J. Oglesby, acting Brigadier-Lieut. Colonel Frank L. Rhodes, commanding; 9th Colonel. Augustus Mersey; 10th Colonel. James B. Morgan; 11th, Col. Thomas E. G. Ransom; 12th Colonel. C. C. Marsh; 22nd, Colonel Nap. B. Buford; 28th, Colonel. Armory K. Johnson; 29th, Colonel. James S Reardon; 30th, Colonel. Phil. B. Fouke (absent)-Lieut. Colonel. E. S. Dennis, commanding; 31st, Colonel. John a. Logan; 32nd, Colonel. John Logan; 41st, Colonel. Isaac C Pugh; 45th, Colonel. John E. Smith; 46th, Colonel. John A. Davis; 48th, Colonel. L. N. Haynie; 49th, Colonel. W. R. Morrison (wounded)-Lieut-Colonel. Thos. G. Allen, commanding; 50th, Colonel. Moses M. Bane; 52nd, Lieut-Colonel. John S. Wilcox; 55th, Colonel. David Stuart; 57th, Colonel. S.D. Baldwin.
Artillery Batteries: Schwartz's Dresser's, Taylor's, McAllister's, Richardson's, Willard's, Buell's in all there were 34 guns.
The New York Times
"Fort Henry was thought to be almost a Gibraltar, but its strength is weakness when compared to that of Donelson. Along Dover, the Cumberland river runs nearly North. A half-mile or so below it makes a short bend to the west for some hundred yards and then turns again and pursues its natural corse due north. In this bend, on the left bank of the river, and commanding it to the north, are two water-batteries, side by side, and nearly down to the water's edge.
"The main battery has nine guns, all looking straight down the river. The left-hand gun is a 10-inch Columbiad, the rest are 32-pounders. The other battery has three guns the middle one a formidable rifled 64-Columbiad, the others 64-pound howitzers. All these guns are protected by breast-works of immense thickness, the tops of which are composed of coffee sacks filled with earth. Back of these batteries the shore rises with a pretty steep ascent, until it forms a hill whose top is pretty nearly or quite one hundred feet above the water. On the top of this hill is Fort Donelson, and irregular work, which encloses about one hundred acres. The only guns in the fort are four light siege guns, a 12-pound howitzer, two 24-pound guns, and on 64-pound howitzer. West of the fort, in the direction occupied by General Grant, and south, toward General McClernand's position, the country is a succession of hills. For several hundred yards around the fort the timber has a all been cut down, so as to afford a fair sweep for the Confederate guns. Surrounding the whole fort and town, and distant from the former about a mile, is a trench for rifle-men, which runs completely around from the river bank, above Dover, almost to a point near the river some distance below the water batteries. Directly west of the fort and within the rifle pit, are formidable abattis, which would render an advance from that direction almost an impossibility."
Within these works were some 20,000 of the fighting men of the Southwest from Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky, commanded by Floyd, Pillow, Buckner, and Bushrod R. Johnson. Floyd, who had proved himself a thief and a perjurer, was here to prove himself a poltroon.
On the 12th of February, General Grant began his march from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson, twelve miles, and at noon his troops were in the rear of the rebel batteries. Selecting a position about two miles from the outworks, they extended their lines in a semi-circle, enclosing the fort. This of course brought him into contact with rebel pickets and they moved forward with almost a constant skirmish.
Through Wednesday and Thursday the two divisions awaited the coming of the gunboats and transports with the troops to form the third division, and on Friday, the 14th they arrived. There were now three divisions, commanded by Generals McClernand, C. F. Smith and Lew. Wallace. The Carondelet arrived on Thursday, and at once engaged the water batteries, receiving one shot through a port-hole, wounding eight men, and throwing one hundred and two shells into the enemy's works. The next day Commodore Foote moved his seven gunboats within range, the four iron-clad leading, the wooden ones following. Gradually they brought on the contest. They showered shell as hail-stones are sifted from the clouds. They came within one hundred and fifty yards of the water batteries and were silencing them, and here, as at Fort Henry, it seemed the navy was destined to the honor of the capture, when a shot disabled the Louisville, by destroying its steering apparatus. Another shot disabled the flag-ship St. Louis, and both boats rolled in drifting helplessness. The fleet, almost victorious, was compelled to draw off. The Commodore, or Admiral as we may now term him, was struck in the foot and wounded, and from that wound he never fully recovered.
Senator Grimes, Of Iowa
In his speech to the U. S. Senate
"Though wounded himself, and his gunboats crippled, yet with the glory of the gallant combat on his brow, he indulged in no repinings, for his personal misfortunes or laudation of his successes; but like a true hero, he thought only of his men. In a letter written the morning after the battle, to a friend, he said: and I quote: "While I hope ever to rely on Him who controls all things, and to say from the heart, Not unto us but unto thee, O Lord, belongs the Glory, yet I feel sadly at the result of our attack upon Fort Donelson. To see the brave officers and men, who say they will go wherever I will lead them, fall by my side, makes me feel sad to lead them almost to certain death.'"
The General Commanding now determined to invest Fort Donelson and reduce it by regular siege, or await the repair and co-operation of the gunboats, and accordingly made a change in the disposition of his men. But on the morning of the 15th, a sortie was made by the garrison, falling upon his extreme right in overpowering numbers, causing the Union troops to give way, and capturing two batteries. Reinforcements were brought up, and a terrible and bloody struggle followed resulting in recapturing the lost guns, with three exceptions. Reinforcements swarmed out of the fort, and again the wearied besiegers gave way, while their foe came on with wildest yells, flanking the Union forces, seeming to have victory within their grasp. Other loyal troops came up, but in the confusion friends fired on each other, and still they were pressed back.
The reports were handed to General Grant at his head-quarters, and, comparing them he is said to have remarked to one of his staff, "Good: we have them now exactly where we want them." He ordered General C. F. Smith to make an assault on the left of the line, and carry it, no matter at what sacrifice, and made dispositions on the right to recover the lost ground and gain a position in front from which his men could not be forced.
General Smith led his men to the charge. They moved in grim silence, with no roll of fire-arms, and carried the position at the point of the bayonet, and the Stars and Stripes waved from the works, and though the smoke of the battle gleamed the triumphant stars of the Republic!
On the right General Wallace was pressing forward to regain what had been lost earlier in the day, and as the column advanced word was brought that General Smith was within the entrenchments! The announcement was greeted with a ringing cheer, and up the hill went those men, with the Zouave regiments, 8th Missouri and 11th Indiana in advance. No earthly power could stay them. The sullen, angry, beaten foemen were driven within their works; the day went down with our men in better position than before. Success had been won at fearful cost, but it was won. That night Floyd, true to his antecedents, stole away-the most worthless theft he ever made. He whiningly insisted that, in view of his relations to the Federal government, it would not do for him to be captured, and he surrendered the command to Pillow. This hero decided to accompany his compatriot, and turned over his authority to Buckner, who, with Bushrod Johnson, refused to desert his men. The two seniors, with a few chosen troops, made their way to a steamer and escaped.
Our brave men, with stiffening wounds, slept on their arms meaning, when daylight came, to enter the fort, but daylight found a flag of truce floating from the works. The following correspondence passed between the commanders:
General Buckner to General Grant
"Head-Quarters, Fort Donelson"
"February 16, 1862
"Sir: - In consideration of all the circumstances governing the present situation of affairs at this station, I propose to the commanding officer of the Federal forces the appointment of commissioners to agree upon terms of capitulation of the forces and fort under my command, and in that view suggest and armistice until twelve o'clock to-day,
"I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"S. B Buckner, Brigadier General C. S. A.
"To Brigadier-General Grant, commanding the United States forces near Fort Donelson.
To the bearer of this dispatch General Buckner gave the following orders:
"Head-Quarters, Fort Donelson,
"February 16, 1862.
:Major Cashy will take or send by an officer, to the nearest picket of the enemy the accompanying communication to General Grant, and request information of the point where future communication may reach him; also inform him that my headquarters will bee, for the present, in Dover.
"S. B. Buckner, Brigadier-General
"Have the white flag hoisted on Fort Donelson"
"Not on the battery"
"S. B. Buckner, Brigadier-General
Brigadier-General Grant Reply
The answer of General Grant was made at once, and has passed into immortality with the memorable saying of brave and patriotic men.
"Head-Quarters, Army in the Field
"Camp near Donelson, Feb. 16, 1862
"To General S. B. Buckner, Confederate Army:
"Yours of this dat, proposing an armistice and appointment of commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just received. No terms, other than an unconditional and immediate surrender, can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.
"I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"U. S. Grant, Brigadier-General U. S. A., Commanding."
General Buckner was not pleased, but he saw no escape. The Federal troops were not to be dislodged from their positions, and a few hours must bring the carnage of a resistless storming assault. He therefore wrote as follows:
"Head-Quarters, Dover, Tennessee,
"February 16, 1862
"To Brigadier General U. S. Grant, U. S. A.:
"Sir: The distribution of the forces under my command, incident to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming force under you command, compel me, notwithstanding the brilliant success of the Confederate arms yesterday, to accept the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.
" I am, sir, you very obedient servant,
"S. B. Buckner, Brigadier General. C. S. A."
It was a magnificent victory. It gave the Union army nearly 15,000 prisoners of war; it gave it one hundred and forty-six guns, some of the largest caliber; it gave it a fort of almost fabulous strength; it broke the line of rebel defense; compelled the evacuation of Columbus and placed Nashville at the mercy of Federal bayonets. General Grant and Commodore Foote desired immediately to "move upon its works," but General Halleck refused permission. As the telegraph flashed the news of the surrender the country was wild with excitement. Bells rang, bonfires blazed; strong men embraced each other on the streets and wept and shouted.
Mr. Stranton, Secretary of War, Said
"We may well rejoice at the recent victories, for they teach us that battles are to be now, and by us, in the same and only manner that they were ever won by any people, or in any age, since the days of Joshua, by boldly pursuing and striking the foe. What, by the blessing of Providence, I conceive to be the true organization of victory and military combination, to end this war, was declared in a few words by General Grant to General Buckner, 'I propose to move immediately on your works.'"
There were critics who "smelt the battle from afar,' and piled condemnation on its chief, or "damned him with faint praise," but their criticisms little harmed the General who presented 15,00 prisoners of war and a hundred and forty-six cannon as the defense of his strategy.
The following are a few among the many incidents recited of the battle.
On Saturday, a desperate charge was made on one of the guns of Taylor's battery, served, among others, by Lieut. Heartt, of Chicago , and it was temporarily captured. Lieut. Heartt seized a rope and sprang in among the captors and made it fast to the piece and all hands laid hold and drew off their "speaking trumpet" in triumph.
Another of the battery, who had received a wound in the leg, walk-in more than a mile to the hospital, had the ball extracted, and desired to go back, but was, of course, refused by the surgeon. "Come," said the artillerist, "put on some of your glue and let me go back."
One of McAllister's howitzer battery met a rebel cannoneer, and said to him, "Halloo! Where was your battery stationed?" The rebel pointed out the situation. "What! Over there," said howitzer; "then you must have been the fellows who were popping us so yesterday. Did you see any little 24-pound shells over you way?" "Well, I guess we did, and plenty of them," and the two stood within the captured works and discussed the comparative merits of six-pound shot and twenty-four pound shell, from a professional stand-point.
A youth from John A. Logan's Regiment (31st) received a musket-shot wound in the right thigh, passing through the intervening flesh and lodging in the left thigh. He went to the rear, and asked a surgeon to dress his wound at once, and say nothing about it to others, for he was going right back into the fight. The Doctor remonstrated, but the boy told him he had fired twenty-two rounds after receiving his wound, and could fire as many more after it was dressed. It was dressed and he went back, and disposed of his ammunition to the best advantage, and after two or three days came again to have his wound looked after, and continued in duty.
Young Bullard, of the 8th was shot in the breast by a minnie ball, bleeding internally as well as externally. He was carried to a hospital. When he knew he must die in a few hours he clung to life, but said to the lady who cared for him, "If I could only see my mother-I could only see my mother-before I die, I would be better satisfied." Said she, "You die in a good cause-you die for your country." "Yes," said the brave boy as the gleam of glory lighted up his wan face; "Yes, I am proud to die for my country."
A new Englander, reading the three following dispatches, wrote the accompanying lines:
"McClernand's division, composed of Oglesby''s, Wallace's and McArthur's brigades suffered terribly. They were composed of the Eighth, Ninth, Eleventh, Eighteenth, Twentieth, Twenty-first Illinois regiments occupied a portion above the fort."
"The four Illinois regiments held their ground full three hours. Nearly one-third had been killed and wounded. Yet the balance stood firm."
General Grants Report
"Head-Quarters, Army in the Field
"Fort Donelson, February 16, 1862
"General G. W. Culium,. Chief of Staff, Department of Missouri:
"General: I am pleased to announce to you the unconditional surrender, this morning, of Fort Donelson, with twelve to fifteen thousand prisoners, at least forty pieces of artillery, and a large amount of stores, horses, mules, and other public property.
"I left Fort Henry on the 12th instant, with a force of about fifteen thousand men, divided into two divisions, under the command of generals McClernand and Smith. Six regiments were sent around by water the day before, convoyed by a gunboat, or rather started on day later than one of the gunboats, with instructions not to pass it.
"The troops made the march in good order, the head of the column arriving within two miles of the fort at twelve O'clock am. At this point the enemy's pickets were met and driven in.
"The fortifications of the enemy were from this point gradually approached and surrounded, with occasional skirmishing on the line. The following day, owing to the non-arrival of the gunboats and reinforcements sent by water, no attack was made; but the investment was extended on the flanks of the enemy, and drawn closer to his works, with skirmishing all day. The evening of the 13th, the gunboats and reinforcements arrived. On the 14th, a gallant attack was made by Flag-Officer Foote upon the enemy's works with his fleet. The engagement lasted probably one hour and a half, and bid fair to result favorably to the cause of the Union, when two unlucky shots disabled two of the armored gunboats, so that they were carried back by the current. The remaining two were very much disabled also, having received a number of heavy shots about the pilot-house and other parts of the vessels. After these mishaps, I concluded to make the investment of Fort Donelson as perfect as possible, and partially fortify and await repairs to the gunboats.
This plan was frustrated, however, by the enemy making a most rigorous attack upon our right wing, commanded by General J. A. McClernand, with a portion of the force under General Lew. Wallace. The enemy were repelled after a closely contested battle of several hours, in which our loss was heavy. The officers, and particularly field officers, suffered out of proportion. I have not the means yet of determining our loss even approximately, but it cannot fall far short of one thousand two hundred killed, wounded, and missing.
"About the close of this action the ammunition in the cartridge boxes gave out, which, with the loss of many of the field officers, produced great confusion in the ranks. Seeing that the enemy did not take advantage of this fact, I ordered a charge upon the left enemy's right with the division under General C. F. Smith, which was most brilliantly executed, and gave to our arms full assurance of victory. The battle lasted until dark, giving us possession of part of their entrenchments. An attack was ordered upon their other flank, after the charge of General Smith was commenced, by other flank, after the charge of General Smith was commenced, by the divisions under Generals McClernand and Wallace, which, notwithstanding the hours of exposure to a heavy fire in the forepart of the day, was gallantly made, and the enemy further repulsed. At the points thus gained, night having come on, all the troops encamped for the night, feeling that a complete victory would crown their labors at an early hour in the morning. This morning, at an early hour, General S. B. Buckner sent a message to our camp under a flag of truce, proposing an armistice, & etc. A copy of the correspondence which ensued is herewith accompanied.
"I cannot mention individuals who specially distinguished themselves, but leave that to division and brigade officers, whose reports will be forwarded as soon as received. To division commanders, however, Generals McClernand, Smith, and Wallace, I must do the justice to say that each of them was with his command in the midst of danger, and was always ready to execute all orders, no matter what the exposure to himself.
"At the hour the attack was made on General McClernand's command, I was absent, having received a note from Flag-Officer Foote, requesting me to go and see him, he being unable to call.
"My personal staff-Colonel J. D. Webster, Chief of Staff; Colonel J. Riggin, Jr., Volunteer Aid; Captain J. A. Rawlins, A. A. General; Captains C. B. Lagow and W. S. Hillyer, Aids, and Lieutenant-Colonel V. B. McPherson, Chief Engineer-all are deserving of personal mention for their gallantry and services.
"For full details and reports and particulars, reference is made to the reports of the Engineer, Medical Director and commanders of brigades and divisions, to follow.
"I am, General, very respectfully,
"Your obedient Servant,"U.S. Grant, Brigadier-General
It is proper to answer the question?
what part had Illinois troops in this glory?
In giving in part the answer, there is no disposition to undervalue the heroic achievements of the men of sister States, but simply to speak of Illinois troops from the specific character of this work
The First Brigade of the First Division was commanded by Colonel W. H. L. Wallace, a gentleman, a brave soldier, a noble leader. It was composed of Lieutenant-Colonel Ransom's (the 11th), Colonel Marsh's (20th), Colonel Jno. E. Smith's (45th), Colonel Haynie's (48), and Colonel T Lyle Dickey's 4th Illinois Cavalry with Captain Taylor's and McAllister's batteries. Colonel Haynie was detached with the 17th and 49th, 3rd Brigade, on the 13th, to make an assault on the enemy's middle redoubt, Colonel Haynie, as senior, leading. They marched straight at their works, delivering their fire as coolly as on parade ground. Headley, who criticizes the order, say: "They mounted with the coolness of veterans the steep embankments, poured in a terrible fire of musketry, still the brave Illinoisans steadily advanced. But at this critical juncture it was found that the line was not long enough to envelop the works, and the 45th was ordered to their support. While these movements were carried out, the enemy threw forward strong reinforcements of men and field artillery, which swept the advancing line with murderous effect But onward pressed those undaunted regiments, leaving their dead and wounded strewing the slope, till they came to the foot of the works where a fringe of long poles and brushwood presented a tangled wall of jagged points, through which no troops under heaven could force their way in such fire. Braver officers never led men to death, but they found they had been sent to accomplish an impossible task and gave the reluctant order to fall back. Colonel Morrison commanding the 49th was wounded, and many brave officers fell in this attempt, which is certainly open to criticism," Again and again was this brigade, in whole or in part in the deadly fray, and nobly was up borne the dignity and glory of the State, It reported a loss of 123 killed, 461 wounded and 103 missing.
The first brigade, 1st division, was commanded by Colonel Richard J. Oglesby, and included the 8th Illinois., Lieutenant-Colonel Rhoades; the 18th, Colonel Lawler, the 29th, Colonel Reardon the 30th, Lieutenant Colonel Dennis 31st, Colonel John A Logan with Swart's and Dresser's batteries, Stewart's, Dollin's, O'Harnett's and Carmichael's cavalry. The 49th was with the third brigade. On Friday these regiments endured a fearful assault and waged terrific battle. The 45th and 12th met the plunging charge of not less than three thousand men. After a time they withdrew, the 8th and 9th coming to their relief.
The Louisville Journal narrates this incident
"A private in the 9th Illinois was shot in the army. He went back a short distance to the hospital, had the wound dressed, and returned to his place. Soon a bullet struck his thigh and prostrated him, passing through the fleshy part. His comrades offered to take him to the hospital. 'No,' said he, 'I think I can get along alone.' With his musket for a crutch and the air around him filled with the whistling of bullets, he hobbled to find the surgeon. After his wound was dressed, and he received some refreshment, he said, 'I feel pretty well. I think I will go and join my comrades again. He was soon actively engaged as a skirmisher. As he was stooping to take aim a shot entered his neck, and passed lengthwise through his body, while at the same instant four or five balls struck his head, and he fell lifeless. The name of such a hero should have been preserved." Oglesby led his brigade wherever there were blows to be given or perils to be braved.
Say Mr. Stevenson
"Indiana's Roll of Honor"
"Upon Oglesby's division of this General McClernand's division was first hurled the rebel thunder. Under fire from several batteries, an immense mass of infantry charged upon our lines. Sudden as was the attack, the gallant troops of Illinois were ready to meet it. Into the enemy's teeth they poured a steady and deadly fire. Fresh masses of the enemy advanced, but Taylor's battery, and two of McAllister's guns met them with a storm of grape and shell, and the brigade charging, actually drove four times their number back to their entrenchments. The struggle was hand to hand. The bayonets, the Bowie knife, the but-end of the musket were freely used. McArthur's guns carried itself nobly. In Colonel Cook's brigade, the 7th and 50th participated in General Smith's division. Scarcely a regiment, company or battery from the State failed to distinguish itself, and if there was failure it was from want of opportunity."
Other details will be given in the sketches of officers and regiments, but if Illinois' troops had only participated in the single battle of Donelson only, the record of the State had been made forever glorious.
Typed and edited by:
Ronald R. Wallace