previous next

[162] abandoned responsibility by transferring the command to a junior officer.

In a former communication to Congress, I presented the propriety of a suspension of judgment in relation to the disaster at Fort Donelson, until official reports could be received. I regret that the information now furnished is so defective. In the mean time, hopeful that satisfactory explanation may be made, I have directed, upon the exhibition of the case as presented by the two senior Generals, that they should be relieved from command, to await further orders whenever a reliable judgment can be rendered on the merits of the case.

Report of John B. Floyd.

Camp near Murfrersboro, February 27, 1862.
General A. S. Johnston:
sir: Your order of the twelfth of this month, transmitted to me by telegraph from Bowling Green to Cumberland City, reached me the same evening. It directed me to repair at once, with what force I could command, to the support of the garrison at Fort Donelson. I immediately prepared for my departure, and effected it in time to reach Fort Donelson the next morning, thirteenth, before daylight. Measures had been already taken by Brig.-General Pillow, then in command, to render our resistance to the attack of the enemy as effective as possible. He had, with activity and industry, pushed forward the defensive works toward completion. These defences consisted in an earthwork in Fort Donelson, in which were mounted guns of different calibre, to the number of thirteen; a field-work, intended for the infantry supports, and constructed immediately behind the battery and upon the summit of the hill in rear. Sweeping away from this field-work eastward, to the extent of nearly two miles in the windings, was a line of intrenchments, defended on the outside at some points with abattis. These intrenchments were occupied by the troops already there, and by the addition of those which came upon the field with me. The position of the “Fort,” which was established by the Tennessee authorities, was by no means commanding, nor was the least military significance attached to the position. The intrenchments, afterwards hastily made in many places, were injudiciously constructed, because of the distance they were placed from the brow of the hill, subjecting the men to a heavy fire from the enemy's sharpshooters opposite, as they advanced to or retired from the intrenchments. Soon after my arrival, the entrenchments were fully occupied from one end to the other; and just as the sun rose, the cannonade from one of the enemy's gunboats announced the opening of the conflict, which was destined to continue for three days and nights. In a very short time the fire became general along our whole lines, and the enemy, who had already planted batteries at several points around the whole circuit of our intrenchments, as shown by a diagram herewith sent, opened a general and active fire from all arms upon our trenches, which continued until darkness put an end to the conflict. They charged with uncommon spirit at several points along on the line, but most particularly at a point undefended by intrenchments, down a hollow which separated the right wing, under Brigadier-General Buckner, from the right of the centre, commanded by Col. Himan. This charge was prosecuted with uncommon vigor, but was met with a determined spirit of resistance — a cool, deliberate courage — both by the troops of Brigadier-General Buckner and Col. Himan, which drove the enemy, discomfited and cut to pieces, back upon the position he had assumed in the morning. Too high praise cannot be bestowed upon the battery of Captain Porter for their participation in the rout of the enemy in this assault. My position was immediately in front of the point of attack, and I was thus enabled to witness more distinctly the incidents of it.

The enemy continued their fire upon different parts of our intrenchments throughout the night, which deprived our men of every opportunity of sleep. We lay that night upon our arms in the trenches. We confidently expected, at the dawn of day, a more vigorous attack than ever; but in this we were entirely mistaken. The day advanced, and no preparation seemed to be making for a general onset. But an extremely annoying fire was kept up from the enemy's sharpshooters throughout the whole length of the intrenchments, from their long-range rifles. Whilst this mode of attack was not attended with any considerable loss, it, nevertheless, confined the men to their trenches and prevented their taking their usual rest. So stood the affairs of the field until three o'clock P. M., when the fleet of gunboats, in full force, advanced upon the Fort and opened fire. They advanced in the shape of a crescent, and kept up a constant and incessant fire for one hour and a half, which was replied to with uncommon spirit and vigor by the Fort. Once the boats reached a point within a few hundred yards of the Fort, at which time it was that three of their boats sustained serious injuries from our batteries, and were compelled to fall back. The line was broken, and the enemy discomfited on the water, giving up the fight entirely, which he never afterwards renewed. I was satisfied, from the incidents of the last two days, that the enemy did not intend again to give us battle in our trenches. They had been fairly repulsed, with very heavy slaughter, upon every effort to storm our position, and it was fair to infer that they would not again renew the unavailing attempt at our dislodgment, when certain means to effect the same end without loss, were perfectly at their command. We were aware of the fact that extremely heavy reenforcements had been continually arriving, day and night, for three days and nights, and I had no doubt, whatever, that their whole available force on the Western waters could, and would, be concentrated here, if it was deemed necessary to reduce our position. I had already seen the impossibility of holding out for any length of time with our inadequate number and indefensible position. There was no place within our intrenchments

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Himan (2)
E. C. Buckner (2)
David D. Porter (1)
J. Pillow (1)
Albert Sidney Johnston (1)
John B. Floyd (1)
Jefferson Davis (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
February 27th, 1862 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: