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[141] action. Three regiments, the Forty-sixth Illinois, Col. Davis; Fifty-seventh Illinois, Col. Baldwin; and the Fifty-eighth Illinois, Col. Lynch, believed to be a portion of the last-mentioned brigade, came up on Saturday during the action, and were attached to Col. Thayer's command.

The position of the Third division was in the centre of the line of attack, Gen. McClernand being on the right, and General Smith on the left. My orders, received from Gen. Grant, were to hold my position and prevent the enemy from escaping in that direction — in other words, to remain there and repel any sally from the Fort. Under the orders, I had no authority to take the offensive.

The line established for my command was on the cone of a high ridge, thickly wooded to the front and rear, and traversed by a road which made the way of communication from the right to the left of our army. The right of my division, when posted, was within good supporting distance from Gen. McClernand, and not more than five hundred yards from the enemy's outworks; indeed, my whole line was within easy cannon-shot from them.

The evening of the fourteenth (Friday) was quiet, broken at intervals by guns from the rebels. At night, pickets were sent to the front along the line, which was retired somewhat behind the ridge, to enable the men in safety to build fires for their bivouacs. They lay down as best they could on beds of ice and snow, strong cold wind making their condition still more disagreeable.

The morning of the fifteenth my division formed line early, called up by the sound of battle raging on the extreme right, supposed, at first, to be Gen. McClernand attacking. The firing was very heavy and continuous, being musketry and artillery mixed. About eight o'clock came a message from Gen. McClernand, asking assistance. It was hurried to headquarters, but Gen. Grant was, at that time, on board one of the gunboats, arranging, as was understood, an attack from the river-side. Before it was heard from, a second message reached me from Gen. McClernand, stating, substantially, that the enemy had turned his flank, and were endangering his whole command. Upon this, Col. Cruft was instantly orded to move his brigade on to the right, and report to Gen. McClernand. Imperfectly directed by a guide, the Colonel's command was carried to the extreme right of the engaged lines, where it was attacked by a largely superior force, and, after the retreat or retirement of the division he was sent to support, for a time bore the brunt of the battle. After a varied struggle, charging and receiving charges, the enemy quit him, when he fell back in position nearer to support, his ranks in good order and unbroken, except where soldiers of other regiments plunged through them in hurried retreat. In this way, a portion of Col. Shackelford's regiment, (Twenty-fifth Kentucky,) and about twenty of the Thirty-first Indiana, with their commanding officers, became separated from their colors.

Soon fugitives from the battle came crowding up the hill, in rear of my own line, bringing unmistakable signs of disaster. Captain Rawlins was conversing with me at the time, when a mounted officer galloped down the road, shouting: “We are cut to pieces!” The effect was very perceptible. To prevent a panic among the regiments of my Third brigade, I ordered Colonel Thayer to move on by the right flank. He promptly obeyed. Going in advance of the movements myself I met portions of regiments of Gen. McClernand's division coming back in excellent order, conducted by their brigade commanders, Cols. Wallace, Oglesby and McArthur, and all calling for more ammunition, want of which was the cause of their misfortune. Col. Wallace, whose coolness under the circumstances was astonishing, informed me that the enemy were following, and would shortly attack. The crisis was come; there was no time to await orders; my Third brigade had to be thrust between our retiring forces and the advancing foe. Accordingly I conducted Col. Thayer's command up the road where the ridge dips toward the rebel works; directed the Colonel to form a new line of battle at a right angle with the old one; sent for company A, Chicago light artillery, and despatched a messenger to inform Gen. Smith of the state of affairs, and ask him for assistance. The head of Col. Thayer's column filed right, double-quick. Lieut. Wood, commanding the artillery company sent for, galloped up with a portion of his battery, and posted his pieces so as to sweep approach by the road in front; a line of reserve was also formed at convenient distance in the rear of the first line, consisting of the Seventy sixth Ohio and Forty-sixth and Fifty-seventh Illinois.

The new front thus formed covered the retiring regiments, helpless from lack of ammunition, but which coolly halted not far off, some of them actually within reach of the enemy's musketry, to refill their cartridge-boxes. And, as formed, my new front consisted of Wood's battery across the road; on the right of the battery, the First Nebraska and Fifty-eighth Illinois; left of the battery, a detached company of the Thirty-second Illinois, Capt. Davison, and the Fifty-eighth Ohio, its left obliquely retired.

Scarcely had this formation been made when the enemy attacked, coming up the road, and through the shrubs and trees on both sides of it, and making the battery and the First Nebraska the principal points of attack. They met this storm, no man flinching, and their fire was terrible. To say they did well, is not enough — their conduct was splendid. They alone repelled the charge. Col. Cruft, as was afterward ascertained, from his position saw the enemy retire to their works pell — mell, and in confusion. Too much praise cannot be given Lieut. Wood and his company, and Lieut.-Col. McCord and his sturdy regiment. That was the last sally from Fort Donelson.

This assault on my position was unquestionably a bold attempt to follow up the success


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