The Fort Donelson investigation.
As the public are informed, the special committee to whom was referred this matter have made a report to the House
, declining at present to announce the conclusion of the committee, owing to the mass of testimony yet to be accumulated; but submitting that already obtained, and asking it to be printed for the use of members.
In addition to this report, two of the committee, Messrs. Foote
, asked leave to present a minority report, expressing an opinion upon some of the subjects involved in the investigation; but consent not having been obtained, it was not presented.
Some portions of it, however, have been published, and it is deemed proper to publish the following extracts touching the same points from a report prepared in response thereto by another member of the committee, Mr. Barkatale
, of Mississippi
The reception of the latter was not asked by its author after the refusal of the House
, under the rules, to receive the former:
The undersigned solemnly protests against the conclusions enumerated in that report in relation to the conduct of Generals Floyd
, in the matter of the surrender of Fort Donelson
He protests that it is not the province of the committee, and that it was no part of the intention of the House
, to interfere with the constitutional prerogatives of the President
, who deemed the suspension of those officers to be proper, until an investigation of their conduct could be instituted.
Scrupulous to do no injustice, the undersigned declines to express any definite opinion in relation to the acts of those Generals
on the occasion referred to, until full information upon the subject shall have been received.
It is due to candor, however, to say that with the lights now before the committee, the undersigned has net been able to arrive at the conclusion stated in the report heretofore mentioned, that all the inquiries propounded by the War Department, have been ‘ "satisfactorily answered by those Generals
"’ It is a painful fact that, while that report expresses an identical opinion upon the conduct of both of those officers, their official reports conflict with and contradict each other in essential and important particulars.
Both cannot be right
In the reports of one of these officers, (Gen. Floyd
,) It is stated that in the council of war he exacted as a condition of the surrender that he would take away his own brigade, by cutting through the lines of the enemy, or otherwise.
The undersigned cannot conceive why a single brigade was thought to be equal to such an undertaking, when it was not deemed attainable by the entire force under his command.
The undersigned deems it due to the State of Mississippi
, and to the gallant men of the Twentieth Mississippi regiment, to declare that, until some more ‘ "satisfactory"’ evidence is produced to justify the abandonment of that regiment to captivity by the General
whose formes it had followed, while the other regiments of his command, raised in his own neighborhood, were afforded facility for escaping on the only steamboats at the Fort
, he can join in no such report as the signers of the one in question have deemed it their duty to submit.
In his supplemental report, Gen. Floyd
has stated that ‘"no one of the regiments"’ composing his command, ‘"was wholly saved or wholly left; "’ but it is within the knowledge of the committee that the 20th Mississippi regiment is an exception to the remark — not exceeding six members of that regiment having escaped with Gen Floyd
The ‘"three hundred"’ members of the regiment reported by him to have been ‘"saved,"’ it so happens, were, for the most part, absent from the fort when the battle was fought, at home, or in hospitals, on furlough, sick leave, &c. Of the entire number (about 500.) who were in the battle, none comparatively were ‘"saved"’ in the boats which took away the main portions of the other regiments, composing Gen. Floyd
A few escaped by land after the departure of the boats, without molestation by the enemy.
The undersigned submits that it required the exercise of more than ordinary ingenuity to construe, as the signers of the above-named report have done, the unofficial letter of the lamented Gen. A. S. Johnston
, dated March 18th, as an expression of his approval of the surrender of Fort Donelson
In a spirit of magnanimity, he speaks in general terms of his confidence ‘"in the gallantry, energy, and devotion to the cause of the Confederacy
"’ of Generals Floyd
; but he refrains from any expression implying his approval of their conduct in that affair.
On the contrary, he declared that "events (subsequent to the fall of Fort Donelson
) show that the investment was not as completes as their information from their scouts led them to believe. "
It was upon information thus pronounced to be erroneous by the General
in command of the department that the fatal surrender was made, consigning to captivity the gallant a my, who, according to testimony taken by the committee, were able and eager to cut their way, if need be, out of the lines of the enemy.
In the same unofficial letter of Gen. Johnston
, he uses the following language, which certainly forbids the construction placed upon the words incorporated in the report to which this is a response.
"When the force was detached, (for the defence of Donelson
) I was in hopes that such dispositions would have been made as would have enabled the forces to defend the fort, or withdraw without sacrificing the army.
On the 14th, I ordered Gen. Floyd
, by telegram, "if he lost the fort, to get his forces back to Nashville."
Whether Gen. Johnston
found in the circumstances attending the affair at Donelson
a sufficient reason for the failure of the General
in command to execute this order, is not stated in his letter.
He preferred to await the opportunity of obtaining all the facts, and to weigh them impartially, before expressing an opinion.
The undersigned imputes no improper motives to the authors of the report; but his own teres of duty impels him to protest against their conclusions being approved by this House
under circumstances so extraordinary as those which he has detailed.