A gentleman who left Nashville
shortly after the battle at Fort Donelson
, communicates to the Mobile Tribune
an interesting account of the evacuation and surrender of the city, a portion of which we append:
The fight at Fort Donelson
on the 13th, 14th and 15th of February, was of intense concern to us, and each day's work down there wound up with the statement that the fight would be renewed to-morrow.
The fears that the fall of Fort Henry
were calculated to inspire, had been well nigh dispelled by the way Fort Donelson
was holding out. It was better located, and stronger in men and guns.
had said — let come what might, he never would surrender the place, and Nashville
felt that we could not afford to lose that battle.--Saturday's work was glorious.
Our citizens shouted over it. Many were saying, ‘"I never liked Pillow
, but forgive him now — he is the man for the occasion." ’ A sober, modest citizen, an old line Whig and ex-Governor, was heard to say Saturday afternoon, on being asked how the fight went on: ‘"First- rate — Pillow
is giving them h--11, and rubbing it in."’
The dispatches closed on Saturday as they had for three successive days before-- ‘"the enemy are expecting large reinforcements,"’ but we slept soundly and expected to have great news on the morrow.
About 9 o'clock Sunday morning I rode out into the country seven or eight miles, and leaving the turnpike, dined with a friend in one of the quiet and luxurious farmer homes of Middle Tennessee
Returning leisurely, I struck the pike about 4 P. M., and as everybody I had met in the morning had asked me the latest news from the city, I asked the first man I met. Any news?
Prepared to hear only of victory.
What's the last you've heard?"’
‘"Last night's dispatches."’
The last out and plenty of it. Fort Donelson
has fallen and Nashville
They say the white flag is waving now on the Capitol
and the gunboats will be up before sundown."’
I thought he was hoaxing me, but quickened my pace.
The next man confirmed it all and more.
I saw there were literally a cloud of witnesses, pouring along the turn pike leading to Franklin
Convalescent soldiers, quitting the hospitals, were waddling along with their scanty baggage.
Travelers, in groups and squads, had left the hotels, carrying carpet bags
and satchels, and saddle-bags in hand.
The family of the owner of the omnibus line were rolling out in those vehicles.
Double and one-horse carriages were full of living freight.
Carts and four-horse wagons.
On reaching the tell gate, on the top of the hill over-looking Nashville
, I strained my eyes to see the white flag on the Capitol
The tall flag-staff was naked.
There was no flag of any sort on it.
Passing down Broad street by the Nashville
road, the first man I saw was Governor Harris
, about to leave on a special train, with the Legislature and archives of the State
The town was in commotion.
Over the wire bridge that spans the Cumberland
, General Johnston
's army were passing, taking the direction of the Murfreesboro' turnpike
The train of wagons and soldiers reached out of sight, and did not get over that night.
The sight of a withdrawing or retreating army is very disheartening.
My residence is in Edgefield
, a little village separated from Nashville
by the Cumberland river
For several days General Johnston
's headquarters had been established on that side of the river, and near me.--The lady with whom he and his staff took their meals is my neighbor and friend, and tells me that the General
opened the news to her at table in these words:
, I take you to be a person of firmness, and trust your neighbors are. Don't be alarmed.
Last night my last dispatch, up to 12 o'clock, was favorable, and I lay down expecting a great victory to day, but this morning, at 4 o'clock, I was waked by a courier, with the news that our forces at Fort Donelson
were surrounded and must-surrender.--They are not made of steel.
Our soldiers have fought bravely as ever soldiers did; but they cannot hold out day after day against fresh forces and such odds.
I cannot make men. Stay at home.
Tell all your friends from me to stay at home.
I cannot make a fight before Nashville
, and for the good of the city shall retire.
I know General Buell
He is a gentleman, and will not suffer any violence to peaceable citizens, or disturb private property."
It might have been well if the General
had issued a proclamation.
He and staff crossed the bridge that night at 11 o'clock. General Breckinridge
followed, and your correspondent followed soon after.
The question has often been asked, ‘"Why didn't the people of Nashville
make a stand?
What! give up their city without striking a blow?"’
The people were astonished and indignant at the way they were handed over to the enemy's mercy and occupation.
But what could they do?
and armed and drilled soldiers give up and retire, what can unarmed and undisciplined citizens do before a foe advancing by land and water?
‘"Throw brickbats at them,"’ said one.
Indeed! That would be well enough if the enemy would deal in the same missiles.
The bones of General Jackson
, the defender of New Orleans, must have turned in his grave, at the Hermitage, a few miles away, at such a surrender.
A few months before, on urgent call, every man who had a rifle or double-barrel gun had brought it forward and given it up for army service.
Not fifty serviceable guns could our citizens have mustered.
No, not even pikes, though they had just enrolled themselves and resolved to have them made, and if Gen. Johnston
made a stand before the city they were resolved to stand with him. Such of them as were not willing to be surrendered to the uncovenanted mercies of Lincolndom, with the prospect of having the oath tendered them or the bastille, followed the retiring army.
After taking my family as far as Decatur
, I returned to Nashville
The stores were closed and bolted; the streets deserted, save by a guard here and there, and a press gang taking up every man they could find and sending him to load government pork into barges, upon which it was being taken up the river and put out of the enemy's way. Had a stand been made before the city, or even a feint of a stand, no doubt all the government stores could have been removed safely.
As it is, vast amounts have been thrown away, vested, given out, both from the quartermaster and commissary's departments.
At one time the doors were thrown open to whose ever would, under the impression that they had better let the poor have these provisions than the enemy, who was expected instantly.
A friend said he saw quantities of meat lying on the roadside, where persons, having overloaded their carts, had thrown it out. Barrels of flour, sacks of coffee, tierces of lard and meat were rolled into private houses and back
yards, with hundreds of boxes of candles, bolts of cloth, &c. Afterwards this order was countermanded, as the enemy was not exactly
at the door, and a guard placed over the stores and an effort made to get them off by railroad and boat.
carriages, hacks and carts were stopped in the street and pressed into service; and some of my friends had to get their baggage to the station in wheelbarrows.
Advantage was taken of the confusion and dismay of the hour for private injustice and irresponsible oppression.--The selfishness developed in such a crisis is humiliating.
* * * * * *
The opinion prevails there that Nashville
will be burnt, first or last — if not when we leave it, then when we drive the enemy out of it. For Tennessean are resolved that the enemy shall not rest on their soil.
and staff left Thursday morning, and it was understood that Capt. John H. Morgan
, with his company, would retire slowly, as the enemy in force entered.
The Louisiana Cavalry, Col. Scott
, were near Franklin
, on their way to the vicinity of Nashville
, where they will act as scouts and hold the enemy closely in bounds.
As far out as Brentwood
, and Columbia
, some people are leaving their homes and sending off their slaves.
Others, deeply-committed Southerners, stand and risk the consequences.
They look for inconveniences and heavy losses, staying or going
In reply to the question often asked whether any Union element has been developed by these events; there was always some of this element in Nashville
, but in very inconsiderable proportion to the population.
show their hands and heads now; it is hoped they will.
We have friends enough left to watch them; and when the tide of war rolls back, the country will finally be purged of them, for they will have to leave with the Lincoln
The great mass of Tennesseeans, especially Middle and West, are sound to the core, and thoroughly aroused for the first time.
They chafe under the humiliation and disgrace of the surrender of their capital.
Those that can will move their families out of the reach of immediate harm, and return to face the foe on a hundred fields.
The great battles of this war are to be fought in the West
This is but the beginning.
The people realize now what is at stake, and they will measure out wealth and blood without stint.