Doc. 60.-capture of Fort Donelson.
Report of Colonel J. M. Simonton.
Jackson, Mississippi, September 24, 1862.General: I have the honor to submit a report of the action and casualties of the brigade I commanded at the battle of Fort Donelson, on the fifteenth of February, 1862. I have been prevented from doing so sooner from the discourtesy of the Federal authorities either to allow me to make it to a superior officer in captivity with me (but in a different prison), or in any other way; and I now make this report to you direct, because I do not know the whereabouts of the proper division commanders, and from a desire to do justice to the gallant officers and men under my command upon the bloody field; also that the government may know who not only bravely met the invading foe, but shed their blood in the defence of the most holy cause for which freemen ever fought; and that their families, in after times, may reap the benefits of their noble deeds and costly sacrifices. On Saturday, February fifteenth, 1862, about one o'clock A. M., I received a verbal order from Brigadier-General Pillow to take command of the brigade, commanded up to that by Colonel Davidson, of the Third Mississippi (and properly the brigade of Brigadier-General Clark of Mississippi,) composed of the following regiments, viz., Third Mississippi, Colonel Davidson, Lieutenant-Colonel Wells commanding; First Mississippi, Colonel Simonton, Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton commanding; Seventh Texas, Colonel Gregg commanding; Eighth Kentucky, Colonel Burnett, Lieutenant-Colonel Lyons commanding; Forty-second Tennessee, Colonel Quarles commanding. The last regiment named, however, was detached previous to going into the action, and from which I have received no report. In obedience to orders, the brigade was formed in column under the crest of the hill in the rear of and to the left of the rifle-pits occupied by our army, and in rear of the brigade commanded by Colonel Baldwin of the Fourteenth Mississippi, in which position we remained until five o'clock A. M. The enemy were in position behind the crests of a number of small hills in front, and to the right of our rifle-pits, and encircling our entire left wing. At the hour above mentioned Colonel Baldwin received orders to move in the direction of the enemy and attack them on the right. I was ordered to follow with my command, which order I obeyed, but, owing to the ground and timber, we were compelled to march by the flank, and had not moved more than four hundred yards when the head of the column was fired upon. I immediately sent an order to Lieutenant-Colonel Wells to face his right wing to the right, and wheel it to the right, so that I might occupy a position on Colonel Baldwin's right (the one General Pillow had directed), but by some misunderstanding of the order, or its being miscarried, Lieutenant-Colonel Wells charged his front forward on first company, breaking my line at the left of his regiment. I then ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Lyon, of the Eighth Kentucky, to file right, and move by the flank, at double time, which the gallant officer obeyed, under a heavy fire of the enemy's musketry. Before they had completed the movement many of his noble men had bravely fallen, but they held the position determinedly, and immediately I ordered Colonel Gregg of the Seventh Texas and Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, of the First Mississippi, to move their respective regiments, at double-quick, in rear and beyond the Eighth Kentucky, which movement those officers executed with as much coolness, and their commands in as good order, as if they had been on review. I at the same time despatched an order to Lieutenant-Colonel Wells to occupy the position on the left of the Eighth Kentucky. (I make this explanation to show how the regiments changed position in going into action, and that justice may be done to all, as near as possible.) This threw me in line of battle in the following order: Seventh Texas on the right, first Mississippi regiment second, Eighth Kentucky third, and Third Mississippi on the left, and in front of the left of General McClernand's division of the Federal army. During this entire time the  enemy kept up a continuous volley of musketry, with, however, but little effect — most of the balls passing over us. I now ordered the entire command to advance and occupy the crest of the hill, which was executed with a coolness and steadiness that would have done honor to soldiers of a hundred battles. That heroic band of less than fifteen hundred in number, marched up the hill, loading and firing as they moved, gaining inch by inch on an enemy at least four times their number. For one long hour this point was hotly contested by the enemy, and many gallant officers and brave men fell in the faithful discharge of their duty; among whom was the lamented and daring Lieutenant-Colonel Clough of the Seventh Texas, together with a number of company officers, whose names are mentioned in the list of killed and wounded. At this moment I was informed by an Adjutant that the command was running short of ammunition. I immediately despatched an aid, Captain Ryan, to General Pillow for reinforcements, and at the same time ordered Colonel Gregg to move his regiment further to the right to prevent a flank movement I discovered the enemy were attempting to make, and the remainder of my command to charge the enemy's lines, which movements were executed with a spirit and determination that insured success. The enemy's lines gave way, and the rattle of musketry was drowned by the shouts of victory that rose along the lines of men conscious of superiority and right. The enemy, however, again rallied and formed in line of battle a few hundred yards in rear of their first position and in rear of four pieces of artillery (of Swartz's battery). The line of my brigade, in the charge over the hills and in passing through the enemy's camp, having become somewhat broken, I ordered the commandant to halt and rectify their alignment, which was quickly done; and being now informed by Captain Ryan that the Fifty-sixth Virginia regiment was on my left, I again ordered an advance, which was promptly obeyed by all; and soon the enemy was again driven from his position, and four pieces of Swartz's battery in our possession. The enemy continued to fall back, contesting the crest of every hill, until we had driven them over one and a half miles, and had possession of the ground occupied by the left of McClernand's and Wallace's division of the Federal army. The enemy had disappeared behind the crests of a range of hills about half a mile in our front, and in the direction of their transports. At this point I was ordered to halt my command and await further orders. In the meantime the brigade was furnished with ammunition (chiefly gathered from the slain of the enemy), the lines rectified, and the command brought to a rest; in which position we remained for a considerable time, until orders came for us to march inside the rifle-pits, which order was obeyed without the fire of a gun or even a sight of the foe, unless he was wounded or a prisoner. I had not fully occupied my position in the rifle-pits when an order came to me to move at double-quick to the right of our line. The men were again ordered into line, and moved in the direction indicated, but before arriving at the specified point another order was received to return. Thus ended the battle of February fifteenth, 1862, so far as the brigade I commanded participated. The number killed and wounded in each regiment, as per Adjutants' reports is as follows:
General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General, C. S. A.:
General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector-General, C. S. A.:
|men and officers.||killed.||wounded.|
|Third Mississippi regiment||546||5||46|
|Eighth Kentucky regiment||312||27||72|
|Seventh Texas regiment||305||20||39|
|First Mississippi regiment||331||16||61|
John M. Simonton, Colonel First Mississippi regiment, commanding brigade.