So much for the battle of Fort Donelson, and the much-vexed question--“Has Nashville fallen?” Incomplete as the above account necessarily is, from the limited opportunity afforded the narrator for seeing the general movements upon an extended battle-field, it will not be devoid of interest, and may possibly shed fresh light upon the sad reverse we have experienced.
Richmond dispatch account.
Augusta, Ga., Feb. 22, 1862.I have just obtained the following particulars of the fight at Fort Donelson from an eye-witness and participant, which will doubtless be welcome to the readers of the Dispatch as the first news from a Southern source. Fort Donelson is on the Cumberland River, two miles from the town of Dover. The surrounding country is a succession of hills, heavily timbered in places, but for the most part covered with small trees and brushwood. This had been levelled to allow the play of artillery, but, as was subsequently found, seriously interfered with the movements of the troops. In front of the Fort, at a distance of half a mile or thereabouts, were our lines of intrenchments, and beyond, still further, the lines of the enemy. Our troops numbered about eighteen thousand, and were under the command of Gens. Floyd, Pillow, Buckner, and Bushrod R. Johnson. Most of the regiments were from Tennessee and Mississippi, but Virginia, Alabama, Texas, and Arkansas also contributed their quota, and swelled the dimensions of the army to the number I have named. Active hostilities commenced as early as Tuesday morning, but were confined to the out-posts and pickets. A battalion of Mississippi cavalry, under command of Col. Forrest, that day encountered a strong skirmishing party of Unionists, but finally succeeded in repulsing them with considerable loss. At night the fires of the Union camps were plainly visible, and at dusk long lines of troops could be discerned moving into position. On Wednesday morning our artillery opened fire upon the enemy, and both armies prepared for serious work; but nothing in the shape of infantry encounters interrupted the cannonading, which continued during the day. Thursday witnessed a repetition of the events of Wednesday. There was some fighting between the infantry and sharpshooters of both armies that were engaged in picking off those who exposed themselves to this species of certain death. The gunboats on this day came up the river and opened a vigorous fire on Fort Donelson; but after a severe exchanging of shots for several hours, fell back disabled. Friday the cannonading was more terrible than at any time during the week. Again the gunboats renewed their attack, and again they were compelled to retire, this time thoroughly hors du combat. The infantry also engaged, and the blaze of musketry was visible along our entire lines. During the fight a desperate charge was made by two Illinois regiments upon the Second Kentucky and Tenth Tennessee, but they were met almost hand to hand, and sent back howling to their intrenchments, leaving a frightful proportion of their number dead and mangled upon the field. The day closed without any practical advantage to either party. We held our own and the enemy maintained their position. The loss was less than one hundred on our side, principally from shell, and that of the Unionists severe. Saturday was the rubicon of Fort Donelson. The enemy had received strong reenforcements during the week, and now they numbered, according to their own estimates, fifty thousand men. Snow lay on the ground to the depth of three inches, and a cold, blinding sleet poured incessantly in the faces of our soldiers. Still, with all these odds, they faltered not. Early in the day the order came from headquarters to make a vigorous attack on the right flank of the Union army, which, thirty-five thousand strong, was posted on the opposite hills, under command of Gen. Grant. Not more than ten thousand of our men engaged in this movement, but such was the impetuosity of their advance that the enemy fled in confusion from their intrenchments. Charge after charge was made by our regiments, and the ground was covered with the slain. Three hundred prisoners, including several officers belonging to an Illinois regiment, four batteries, and three thousand five hundred stand of arms, were captured. The former are now in a confederate prison. The two latter may have been retaken, but this is not yet known. Everywhere in the earlier part of the day, our flag was victorious. The Union commander, finding that his right had been turned, and that the day would be lost but for some decisive effort, concentrated his troops in the afternoon on our right, and making a sudden plunge, after a long and desperate struggle, redeemed the morning's loss by capturing a portion of our intrenchments. The dead lay piled up in heaps, their gore trickling in red lines along the snow in every direction. Still our troops fought on, contesting inch by inch the ground they were compelled to vacate. At nightfall the firing ceased, and at twelve o'clock Pillow telegraphed to Nashville: “The day is ours; we have repulsed the enemy with great loss to them, and with considerable loss to ourselves. We want reenforcenmnts.” Reenforcements were not forthcoming, however, and Sunday morning found the Union army strengthened by thirty thousand fresh men, encompassing the place and completely surrounding our forces. The fight was renewed at five o'clock A. M.; but it being useless to contend against such odds, the Fort and army capitulated to the enemy on their own terms. Floyd, Pillow, and Buckner fought like heroes. They were everywhere, animating their men, constantly under fire, and encouraging them by their example and presence. As the regiments moved on to the charge, Floyd would rise in his stirrups and shout: “Be steady, boys, and aim low-fear not, the day will be ours.” The total number of our killed and wounded is