previous next

[169] command of the enemy around to our right wing, and in front of Gen. Buckner's position in the intrenchments, and when his command reached his position, he found the enemy rapidly advancing to take possession of this portion of his work. He had a stubborn conflict, lasting one and a half hours, to regain it, and the enemy actually got possession of the extreme right of his position, and he held it so firmly that he could not dislodge him. The position thus gained by the enemy was a most commanding one, being immediately on the rear of our river-battery and field-work for its protection. From it he could readily turn the intrenched work occupied by Gen. Buckner, and attack him in reverse, or advance under cover of an intervening ridge directly upon our battery and field-work. While he held this position, it was manifest we could not hold the main work or battery. Such was the condition of the armies at nightfall, after nine hours of severe conflict, on the fifteenth instant, in which our loss was severe, and leaving not less than five thousand of the enemy dead and wounded on the field. We left on the field nearly all his wounded, because we could not remove them. We left his dead unburied, because we could not bury them.

Such conflict and courage has perhaps never before occurred upon this continent. We took about three hundred prisoners and large numbers of arms. We had fought this battle to open the way for our army and relieve us from investment, which would necessarily reduce us and the position by famine. We had occupied the whole day to accomplish our object, and before we could prepare to leave after taking in the wounded and the dead, the enemy had thrown around us again in the night an immense force of fresh troops, and reoccupied his original position in the line of investment, thus again cutting off our retreat.

We had only about twelve thousand troops, all told. Of these a large proportion we lost in the three battles. The command had been in the trenches night and day for five days, exposed to the snow, sleet, mud, and ice-water, without shelter and without adequate covering, and without sleep.

In this condition the general officers held a consultation to determine what we should do. Gen. Buckner gave it as his decided opinion that he could not hold his position one half hour against an assault of the enemy, and said the enemy would attack him next morning at daylight. The proposition was then made by the undersigned to again fight our way through the enemy's line, and cut our way out. Gen. Buckner said his command was so worn out and cut to pieces and demoralized that he could not make another fight; that it would cost the command three quarters of its present number to cut its way through, and it was wrong to sacrifice three quarters of a command to save a quarter; that no officer had a right to cause such a sacrifice. Gen. Floyd and Maj. Gilmer I understood to concur in this opinion.

I then expressed the opinion that we could hold out another day, and in that time we could get steamboats and set the command over the river, and probably save a large portion of it. To this Gen. Buckner replied that the enemy would certainly attack him at daylight, and that he could not hold his position half an hour.

The alternative of these propositions was a surrender of their position and command. Gen. Floyd said that he would neither surrender the command, nor would he surrender himself a prisoner. I had taken the same position. Gen. Buckner said he was satisfied nothing else could be done, and that, therefore, he would surrender if placed in command. Gen. Floyd said he would turn over the command to him if he could be allowed to withdraw his command. To this Gen. Buckner consented. Thereupon General Floyd turned the command over to me. I passed it instantly to Gen. Buckner, saying I would neither surrender the command nor myself a prisoner. I directed Col. Forrest to cut his way out. Under these circumstances Gen. Buckner accepted the command, and sent a flag of truce to the enemy for an armistice of six hours to negotiate for terms of capitulation. Before this flag and communication were delivered, I retired from the garrison.

Before closing my report of the operations of the army of Donelson, I must, in justice to the officers and forces under my immediate command, say that harder fighting or more gallant conduct in officers and men, I have never witnessed. In the absence of official reports of brigade and regimental commanders, (of which I am deprived by the circumstances detailed in this report,) I may not be able to do justice to the different corps. I will say, however, that the forces under my immediate command bore themselves most gallantly throughout the long and bloody conflict.

I speak with special commendation of the brigades commanded by Cols. Baldwin, Wharton, McCausland, Simonton, and Drake, and Capts. Maney and Green, who fought their guns under the constant and annoying fire of the enemy's sharp-shooters,and the concentrated fire from his field-batteries, from which both commands suffered severely. Capt. Maney himself was wounded, and had several lieutenants and many of his company killed and wounded; so did Captains Porter and Graves. If I should hereafter receive the reports of regimental and brigade commanders, giving me detailed information of the conduct and bearing of officers and men, I will make a supplemental report. The absence of official reports deprives me of the means of giving lists of the killed and wounded of the different commands; I am satisfied that in such a series of conflicts, our loss was heavy. I know the enemy's was from passing over the battle-field with Gen. Floyd in the evening immediately after the battle. His loss in killed and wounded was terrible, exceeding anything I have ever seen on a battle-field. Our force on the field did not exceed ten thousand men, while, from what I saw of the enemy's force, and from information derived from prisoners, we are sure he had from thirty thousand to forty thousand on the field. I must acknowledge

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)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

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.
E. C. Buckner (9)
John B. Floyd (5)
Maney (2)
Wharton (1)
Simonton (1)
David D. Porter (1)
McCausland (1)
Joe Green (1)
G. W. Graves (1)
Gilmer (1)
French Forrest (1)
A. Drake (1)
Oliver Donelson (1)
J. S. Baldwin (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.
15th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: