The Fort Donelson battle.
statement of an eye-witness.
[special Correspondence of the Dispatch.]
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.
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 entrenchments, and beyond, still further, the lines of the enemy.
Our troops numbered about eighteen thousand, and were under the command of Generals Floyd
, and Bushrod R. Johnson
Most of the regiments were from Tennessee
, but Virginia
, and Arkansas
, also contributed their quota, and swelled the dimensions of the army to the size I have named.
Active hostilities commenced as early as Tuesday morning, but were confined to the outposts and pickets.
A battalion of Mississippi
cavalry, under command of Colonel Forrest
, that day encountered a strong skirmishing party of Federals, but finally succeeded in repulsing them with considerable loss.
At night, the fires of the Federal
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 sharp shooters 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 entrenchments, 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 Federals
Saturday was the Rubicon of Fort Donelson
The enemy had received strong reinforcements 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 Federal
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 entrenchments.
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 thirty-five hundred stand of arms, were captured.
The former are now in a Confederate prison.--The two latter may have been retaken, but this fact is not yet known.
Everywhere, in the earlier part of the day, our flag was victorious.
The Federal 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 his morning's loss by capturing a portion of our entrenchments.
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 reinforcements."’ Reinforcements were not forthcoming, however, and Sunday morning found the Federal
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.
, 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 estimated at from twenty-five hundred to three thousand.
That of the Federals
at from four to six thousand.
We had four field batteries and several regiments of cavalry, all of which have doubtless fallen into the hands of the enemy.
The former were commanded by Captains Porter
, and --.
To distinguish friend from foe, our men had a white band tied around the arm, and in the regiments there was carried by the side of the Confederate
flag a banner of blue with a white globe in the centre.
As rapidly as possible the wounded were removed to the town of Dover
, above alluded to, and from thence by steamers to Nashville
The care bestowed upon them was excellent, there being an abundance of both physicians and refreshments.
The enemy are represented to have fought nobly, far better than the Northern
soldiers have ever fought before; but most, if not all of them, were from the West
, sturdy farmers and backwoodsmen, and, like ourselves, accustomed to the use of arms.
The safety of Floyd
, with a portion of their command, is beyond doubt.
is also supposed to have escaped, as a dispatch is said to have been received by his wife in Atlanta, Ga.
, within the past four days, stating that he was well.
Albert Sidney Johnston
was not in the fight.
Had reinforcements been sent forward, so that eight or ten thousand fresh men could have stood the brunt of the battle on Saturday afternoon, instead of our jaded soldiers, Fort Donelson
would not have fallen; but the lack of this effective strength enabled the enemy to completely hem our little army in, and extend their lines in crescent shape from river bank to river bank around us.
The news of the surrender reached Nashville, Tenn.
, by telegraph, on Sunday morning about church time, while many of the citizens were on their way to their accustomed places of worship.
Instantly, of course, every other consideration gave place to the thought of personal safety.
Every means of transportation at hand was employed to remove furniture and valuables; the depots were thronged with men, women and children, anxious to leave the city; train after train was put in motion; Government stores were thrown open to all who chose to carry them away, and negroes, Irish laborers, and even genteel looking persons, could be seen ‘"toting"’ off their pile of hog, clothing, or other property belonging to the army, though, by order of the military authorities, much of this was recovered on the ensuing day. In a single word, the city was crazy with a panic.
is said to have rode through the streets, at the top of his speed, on horseback, crying out that the papers in the Capitol
must be removed; and, subsequently, with the Legislature, which had at once assembled, left the city in a special train for Memphis
Still there were some in the city who manifested a determination to make a stand and apply the torch to every house before it should be surrendered.
This state of affairs lasted, without much modification until Monday evening, when the excitement began to subside.
All the rolling stock of the railroads converging in Nashville
was brought into requisition, and the machinery in the Armory
, guns, and much valuable provisions.
&c., were removed.
Seven trains, loaded with women and children inside and crowded with frightened men on the top, left the city in one day.
As soon as it was supposed that the enemy were advancing — in fact, early Sunday morning--a meeting of prominent citizens was held and a committee of gentlemen, consisting of Ex-Governor E. S. Brown
, Hon. Andrew Ewing
, and Hon. Edwin Ewing
, decided that the surrender should be made only on condition that private persons and property should be respected; but these terms had not, at the latest advices, been submitted to the Federal
informed the citizens that he should be compelled to evacuate the place on account of his inability to defend it with the force at his command, and Gen. Pillow
subsequently made a speech to the public, in which he informed them that the army would fall back and endeavor to retrieve their losses from another point.
On Sunday, the army evacuating Bowling Green
passed through Nashville
, on route for Murfreesboro
', or some other locality in that vicinity — a heterogeneous mixture of artillery, cavalry, infantry, ambulances, wagons, and negroes, all worn down with their long forced march of eighty miles.
The city is said to have been very unsound, and McClernand
himself confessed that he was in daily receipt of information concerning the movements of our troops.
and other inflammable compounds have since been found concealed ready for use, and it is also stated that a batch of Union flags were discovered; but whether or not these were the remains of some former celebration, is unknown.
By this time there is little doubt that the Federals
are in possession of the city, but from positive intelligence received here it is certain that it was not occupied on Wednesday last.
Meanwhile, the Government
officers and citizens have been active in removing the most valuable articles that could be transported, and the Yankees
have undoubtedly found a very inconsiderable share of the booty they expected.
I forgot to add, in its proper place a cove, that the names of our killed and wounded are not yet known; but from several sources I have made the following brief list
Fourteenth Mississippi Regiment.
, Monroe county, Miss.
, Serg't Jno. Clark
, Serg't John Montgomery
, R. M. Bell
, J. G. Watt
, George James
In Company C, of the last-named regiment seventeen were killed and wounded Col. Baldwin
, of the same, had his horse shot under him, and during the day acted as a Brigadier General
Such is a history of the battle of Fort Donelson
, already memorable as the fiercest yet on the record of the Southern Confederacy, and an attempt at a description of affairs in and around Nashville
, it is necessarily meagre, because one pair of eyes, in a wounded body, could not see all that transpired upon an extensive battle-field; and perhaps it is worse than meagre, because your correspondent has not had time, before the closing of the mail, to dress the facts in that garb which might possibly enhance the interest of the narration.
If so, pardonner moi.