Part 4 out of 16

sentiment, but wanted to preserve an armed neutrality between
the North and the South, and the governor really seemed to think
the State had a perfect right to maintain a neutral position. The
rebels already occupied two towns in the State, Columbus and
Hickman, on the Mississippi; and at the very moment the National
troops were entering Paducah from the Ohio front, General Lloyd
Tilghman--a Confederate--with his staff and a small detachment
of men, were getting out in the other direction, while, as I
have already said, nearly four thousand Confederate troops were
on Kentucky soil on their way to take possession of the town.
But, in the estimation of the governor and of those who thought
with him, this did not justify the National authorities in
invading the soil of Kentucky. I informed the legislature of
the State of what I was doing, and my action was approved by the
majority of that body. On my return to Cairo I found authority
from department headquarters for me to take Paducah "if I felt
strong enough," but very soon after I was reprimanded from the
same quarters for my correspondence with the legislature and
warned against a repetition of the offence.

Soon after I took command at Cairo, General Fremont entered into
arrangements for the exchange of the prisoners captured at Camp
Jackson in the month of May. I received orders to pass them
through my lines to Columbus as they presented themselves with
proper credentials. Quite a number of these prisoners I had
been personally acquainted with before the war. Such of them as
I had so known were received at my headquarters as old
acquaintances, and ordinary routine business was not disturbed
by their presence. On one occasion when several were present in
my office my intention to visit Cape Girardeau the next day, to
inspect the troops at that point, was mentioned. Something
transpired which postponed my trip; but a steamer employed by
the government was passing a point some twenty or more miles
above Cairo, the next day, when a section of rebel artillery
with proper escort brought her to. A major, one of those who
had been at my headquarters the day before, came at once aboard
and after some search made a direct demand for my delivery. It
was hard to persuade him that I was not there. This officer was
Major Barrett, of St. Louis. I had been acquainted with his
family before the war.



From the occupation of Paducah up to the early part of November
nothing important occurred with the troops under my command. I
was reinforced from time to time and the men were drilled and
disciplined preparatory for the service which was sure to
come. By the 1st of November I had not fewer than 20,000 men,
most of them under good drill and ready to meet any equal body
of men who, like themselves, had not yet been in an
engagement. They were growing impatient at lying idle so long,
almost in hearing of the guns of the enemy they had volunteered
to fight against. I asked on one or two occasions to be allowed
to move against Columbus. It could have been taken soon after
the occupation of Paducah; but before November it was so
strongly fortified that it would have required a large force and
a long siege to capture it.

In the latter part of October General Fremont took the field in
person and moved from Jefferson City against General Sterling
Price, who was then in the State of Missouri with a considerable
command. About the first of November I was directed from
department headquarters to make a demonstration on both sides of
the Mississippi River with the view of detaining the rebels at
Columbus within their lines. Before my troops could be got off,
I was notified from the same quarter that there were some 3,000
of the enemy on the St. Francis River about fifty miles west, or
south-west, from Cairo, and was ordered to send another force
against them. I dispatched Colonel Oglesby at once with troops
sufficient to compete with the reported number of the enemy. On
the 5th word came from the same source that the rebels were about
to detach a large force from Columbus to be moved by boats down
the Mississippi and up the White River, in Arkansas, in order to
reinforce Price, and I was directed to prevent this movement if
possible. I accordingly sent a regiment from Bird's Point under
Colonel W. H. L. Wallace to overtake and reinforce Oglesby, with
orders to march to New Madrid, a point some distance below
Columbus, on the Missouri side. At the same time I directed
General C. F. Smith to move all the troops he could spare from
Paducah directly against Columbus, halting them, however, a few
miles from the town to await further orders from me. Then I
gathered up all the troops at Cairo and Fort Holt, except
suitable guards, and moved them down the river on steamers
convoyed by two gunboats, accompanying them myself. My force
consisted of a little over 3,000 men and embraced five regiments
of infantry, two guns and two companies of cavalry. We dropped
down the river on the 6th to within about six miles of Columbus,
debarked a few men on the Kentucky side and established pickets
to connect with the troops from Paducah.

I had no orders which contemplated an attack by the National
troops, nor did I intend anything of the kind when I started out
from Cairo; but after we started I saw that the officers and men
were elated at the prospect of at last having the opportunity of
doing what they had volunteered to do--fight the enemies of their
country. I did not see how I could maintain discipline, or
retain the confidence of my command, if we should return to
Cairo without an effort to do something. Columbus, besides
being strongly fortified, contained a garrison much more
numerous than the force I had with me. It would not do,
therefore, to attack that point. About two o'clock on the
morning of the 7th, I learned that the enemy was crossing troops
from Columbus to the west bank to be dispatched, presumably,
after Oglesby. I knew there was a small camp of Confederates at
Belmont, immediately opposite Columbus, and I speedily resolved
to push down the river, land on the Missouri side, capture
Belmont, break up the camp and return. Accordingly, the pickets
above Columbus were drawn in at once, and about daylight the
boats moved out from shore. In an hour we were debarking on the
west bank of the Mississippi, just out of range of the batteries
at Columbus.

The ground on the west shore of the river, opposite Columbus, is
low and in places marshy and cut up with sloughs. The soil is
rich and the timber large and heavy. There were some small
clearings between Belmont and the point where we landed, but
most of the country was covered with the native forests. We
landed in front of a cornfield. When the debarkation commenced,
I took a regiment down the river to post it as a guard against
surprise. At that time I had no staff officer who could be
trusted with that duty. In the woods, at a short distance below
the clearing, I found a depression, dry at the time, but which at
high water became a slough or bayou. I placed the men in the
hollow, gave them their instructions and ordered them to remain
there until they were properly relieved. These troops, with the
gunboats, were to protect our transports.

Up to this time the enemy had evidently failed to divine our
intentions. From Columbus they could, of course, see our
gunboats and transports loaded with troops. But the force from
Paducah was threatening them from the land side, and it was
hardly to be expected that if Columbus was our object we would
separate our troops by a wide river. They doubtless thought we
meant to draw a large force from the east bank, then embark
ourselves, land on the east bank and make a sudden assault on
Columbus before their divided command could be united.

About eight o'clock we started from the point of debarkation,
marching by the flank. After moving in this way for a mile or a
mile and a half, I halted where there was marshy ground covered
with a heavy growth of timber in our front, and deployed a large
part of my force as skirmishers. By this time the enemy
discovered that we were moving upon Belmont and sent out troops
to meet us. Soon after we had started in line, his skirmishers
were encountered and fighting commenced. This continued,
growing fiercer and fiercer, for about four hours, the enemy
being forced back gradually until he was driven into his camp.
Early in this engagement my horse was shot under me, but I got
another from one of my staff and kept well up with the advance
until the river was reached.

The officers and men engaged at Belmont were then under fire for
the first time. Veterans could not have behaved better than they
did up to the moment of reaching the rebel camp. At this point
they became demoralized from their victory and failed to reap
its full reward. The enemy had been followed so closely that
when he reached the clear ground on which his camp was pitched
he beat a hasty retreat over the river bank, which protected him
from our shots and from view. This precipitate retreat at the
last moment enabled the National forces to pick their way
without hinderance through the abatis--the only artificial
defence the enemy had. The moment the camp was reached our men
laid down their arms and commenced rummaging the tents to pick
up trophies. Some of the higher officers were little better
than the privates. They galloped about from one cluster of men
to another and at every halt delivered a short eulogy upon the
Union cause and the achievements of the command.

All this time the troops we had been engaged with for four
hours, lay crouched under cover of the river bank, ready to come
up and surrender if summoned to do so; but finding that they were
not pursued, they worked their way up the river and came up on
the bank between us and our transports. I saw at the same time
two steamers coming from the Columbus side towards the west
shore, above us, black--or gray--with soldiers from boiler-deck
to roof. Some of my men were engaged in firing from captured
guns at empty steamers down the river, out of range, cheering at
every shot. I tried to get them to turn their guns upon the
loaded steamers above and not so far away. My efforts were in
vain. At last I directed my staff officers to set fire to the
camps. This drew the fire of the enemy's guns located on the
heights of Columbus. They had abstained from firing before,
probably because they were afraid of hitting their own men; or
they may have supposed, until the camp was on fire, that it was
still in the possession of their friends. About this time, too,
the men we had driven over the bank were seen in line up the
river between us and our transports. The alarm "surrounded" was
given. The guns of the enemy and the report of being surrounded,
brought officers and men completely under control. At first some
of the officers seemed to think that to be surrounded was to be
placed in a hopeless position, where there was nothing to do but
surrender. But when I announced that we had cut our way in and
could cut our way out just as well, it seemed a new revelation
to officers and soldiers. They formed line rapidly and we
started back to our boats, with the men deployed as skirmishers
as they had been on entering camp. The enemy was soon
encountered, but his resistance this time was feeble. Again the
Confederates sought shelter under the river banks. We could not
stop, however, to pick them up, because the troops we had seen
crossing the river had debarked by this time and were nearer our
transports than we were. It would be prudent to get them behind
us; but we were not again molested on our way to the boats.

From the beginning of the fighting our wounded had been carried
to the houses at the rear, near the place of debarkation. I now
set the troops to bringing their wounded to the boats. After
this had gone on for some little time I rode down the road,
without even a staff officer, to visit the guard I had stationed
over the approach to our transports. I knew the enemy had
crossed over from Columbus in considerable numbers and might be
expected to attack us as we were embarking. This guard would be
encountered first and, as they were in a natural intrenchment,
would be able to hold the enemy for a considerable time. My
surprise was great to find there was not a single man in the
trench. Riding back to the boat I found the officer who had
commanded the guard and learned that he had withdrawn his force
when the main body fell back. At first I ordered the guard to
return, but finding that it would take some time to get the men
together and march them back to their position, I countermanded
the order. Then fearing that the enemy we had seen crossing the
river below might be coming upon us unawares, I rode out in the
field to our front, still entirely alone, to observe whether the
enemy was passing. The field was grown up with corn so tall and
thick as to cut off the view of even a person on horseback,
except directly along the rows. Even in that direction, owing
to the overhanging blades of corn, the view was not extensive. I
had not gone more than a few hundred yards when I saw a body of
troops marching past me not fifty yards away. I looked at them
for a moment and then turned my horse towards the river and
started back, first in a walk, and when I thought myself
concealed from the view of the enemy, as fast as my horse could
carry me. When at the river bank I still had to ride a few
hundred yards to the point where the nearest transport lay.

The cornfield in front of our transports terminated at the edge
of a dense forest. Before I got back the enemy had entered this
forest and had opened a brisk fire upon the boats. Our men, with
the exception of details that had gone to the front after the
wounded, were now either aboard the transports or very near
them. Those who were not aboard soon got there, and the boats
pushed off. I was the only man of the National army between the
rebels and our transports. The captain of a boat that had just
pushed out but had not started, recognized me and ordered the
engineer not to start the engine; he then had a plank run out
for me. My horse seemed to take in the situation. There was no
path down the bank and every one acquainted with the Mississippi
River knows that its banks, in a natural state, do not vary at
any great angle from the perpendicular. My horse put his fore
feet over the bank without hesitation or urging, and with his
hind feet well under him, slid down the bank and trotted aboard
the boat, twelve or fifteen feet away, over a single gang
plank. I dismounted and went at once to the upper deck.

The Mississippi River was low on the 7th of November, 1861, so
that the banks were higher than the heads of men standing on the
upper decks of the steamers. The rebels were some distance back
from the river, so that their fire was high and did us but
little harm. Our smoke-stack was riddled with bullets, but
there were only three men wounded on the boats, two of whom were
soldiers. When I first went on deck I entered the captain's room
adjoining the pilot-house, and threw myself on a sofa. I did not
keep that position a moment, but rose to go out on the deck to
observe what was going on. I had scarcely left when a musket
ball entered the room, struck the head of the sofa, passed
through it and lodged in the foot.

When the enemy opened fire on the transports our gunboats
returned it with vigor. They were well out in the stream and
some distance down, so that they had to give but very little
elevation to their guns to clear the banks of the river. Their
position very nearly enfiladed the line of the enemy while he
was marching through the cornfield. The execution was very
great, as we could see at the time and as I afterwards learned
more positively. We were very soon out of range and went
peacefully on our way to Cairo, every man feeling that Belmont
was a great victory and that he had contributed his share to it.

Our loss at Belmont was 485 in killed, wounded and missing.
About 125 of our wounded fell into the hands of the enemy. We
returned with 175 prisoners and two guns, and spiked four other
pieces. The loss of the enemy, as officially reported, was 642
men, killed, wounded and missing. We had engaged about 2,500
men, exclusive of the guard left with the transports. The enemy
had about 7,000; but this includes the troops brought over from
Columbus who were not engaged in the first defence of Belmont.

The two objects for which the battle of Belmont was fought were
fully accomplished. The enemy gave up all idea of detaching
troops from Columbus. His losses were very heavy for that
period of the war. Columbus was beset by people looking for
their wounded or dead kin, to take them home for medical
treatment or burial. I learned later, when I had moved further
south, that Belmont had caused more mourning than almost any
other battle up to that time. The National troops acquired a
confidence in themselves at Belmont that did not desert them
through the war.

The day after the battle I met some officers from General Polk's
command, arranged for permission to bury our dead at Belmont and
also commenced negotiations for the exchange of prisoners. When
our men went to bury their dead, before they were allowed to land
they were conducted below the point where the enemy had engaged
our transports. Some of the officers expressed a desire to see
the field; but the request was refused with the statement that
we had no dead there.

While on the truce-boat I mentioned to an officer, whom I had
known both at West Point and in the Mexican war, that I was in
the cornfield near their troops when they passed; that I had
been on horseback and had worn a soldier's overcoat at the
time. This officer was on General Polk's staff. He said both
he and the general had seen me and that Polk had said to his
men, "There is a Yankee; you may try your marksmanship on him if
you wish," but nobody fired at me.

Belmont was severely criticised in the North as a wholly
unnecessary battle, barren of results, or the possibility of
them from the beginning. If it had not been fought, Colonel
Oglesby would probably have been captured or destroyed with his
three thousand men. Then I should have been culpable indeed.



While at Cairo I had frequent opportunities of meeting the rebel
officers of the Columbus garrison. They seemed to be very fond
of coming up on steamers under flags of truce. On two or three
occasions I went down in like manner. When one of their boats
was seen coming up carrying a white flag, a gun would be fired
from the lower battery at Fort Holt, throwing a shot across the
bow as a signal to come no farther. I would then take a steamer
and, with my staff and occasionally a few other officers, go down
to receive the party. There were several officers among them
whom I had known before, both at West Point and in Mexico.
Seeing these officers who had been educated for the profession
of arms, both at school and in actual war, which is a far more
efficient training, impressed me with the great advantage the
South possessed over the North at the beginning of the
rebellion. They had from thirty to forty per cent. of the
educated soldiers of the Nation. They had no standing army and,
consequently, these trained soldiers had to find employment with
the troops from their own States. In this way what there was of
military education and training was distributed throughout their
whole army. The whole loaf was leavened.

The North had a great number of educated and trained soldiers,
but the bulk of them were still in the army and were retained,
generally with their old commands and rank, until the war had
lasted many months. In the Army of the Potomac there was what
was known as the "regular brigade," in which, from the
commanding officer down to the youngest second lieutenant, every
one was educated to his profession. So, too, with many of the
batteries; all the officers, generally four in number to each,
were men educated for their profession. Some of these went into
battle at the beginning under division commanders who were
entirely without military training. This state of affairs gave
me an idea which I expressed while at Cairo; that the government
ought to disband the regular army, with the exception of the
staff corps, and notify the disbanded officers that they would
receive no compensation while the war lasted except as
volunteers. The register should be kept up, but the names of
all officers who were not in the volunteer service at the close,
should be stricken from it.

On the 9th of November, two days after the battle of Belmont,
Major-General H. W. Halleck superseded General Fremont in
command of the Department of the Missouri. The limits of his
command took in Arkansas and west Kentucky east to the
Cumberland River. From the battle of Belmont until early in
February, 1862, the troops under my command did little except
prepare for the long struggle which proved to be before them.

The enemy at this time occupied a line running from the
Mississippi River at Columbus to Bowling Green and Mill Springs,
Kentucky. Each of these positions was strongly fortified, as
were also points on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers near the
Tennessee state line. The works on the Tennessee were called
Fort Heiman and Fort Henry, and that on the Cumberland was Fort
Donelson. At these points the two rivers approached within
eleven miles of each other. The lines of rifle pits at each
place extended back from the water at least two miles, so that
the garrisons were in reality only seven miles apart. These
positions were of immense importance to the enemy; and of course
correspondingly important for us to possess ourselves of. With
Fort Henry in our hands we had a navigable stream open to us up
to Muscle Shoals, in Alabama. The Memphis and Charleston
Railroad strikes the Tennessee at Eastport, Mississippi, and
follows close to the banks of the river up to the shoals. This
road, of vast importance to the enemy, would cease to be of use
to them for through traffic the moment Fort Henry became ours.
Fort Donelson was the gate to Nashville--a place of great
military and political importance--and to a rich country
extending far east in Kentucky. These two points in our
possession the enemy would necessarily be thrown back to the
Memphis and Charleston road, or to the boundary of the cotton
states, and, as before stated, that road would be lost to them
for through communication.

The designation of my command had been changed after Halleck's
arrival, from the District of South-east Missouri to the
District of Cairo, and the small district commanded by General
C. F. Smith, embracing the mouths of the Tennessee and
Cumberland rivers, had been added to my jurisdiction. Early in
January, 1862, I was directed by General McClellan, through my
department commander, to make a reconnoissance in favor of
Brigadier-General Don Carlos Buell, who commanded the Department
of the Ohio, with headquarters at Louisville, and who was
confronting General S. B. Buckner with a larger Confederate
force at Bowling Green. It was supposed that Buell was about to
make some move against the enemy, and my demonstration was
intended to prevent the sending of troops from Columbus, Fort
Henry or Donelson to Buckner. I at once ordered General Smith
to send a force up the west bank of the Tennessee to threaten
forts Heiman and Henry; McClernand at the same time with a force
of 6,000 men was sent out into west Kentucky, threatening
Columbus with one column and the Tennessee River with another. I
went with McClernand's command. The weather was very bad; snow
and rain fell; the roads, never good in that section, were
intolerable. We were out more than a week splashing through the
mud, snow and rain, the men suffering very much. The object of
the expedition was accomplished. The enemy did not send
reinforcements to Bowling Green, and General George H. Thomas
fought and won the battle of Mill Springs before we returned.

As a result of this expedition General Smith reported that he
thought it practicable to capture Fort Heiman. This fort stood
on high ground, completely commanding Fort Henry on the opposite
side of the river, and its possession by us, with the aid of our
gunboats, would insure the capture of Fort Henry. This report
of Smith's confirmed views I had previously held, that the true
line of operations for us was up the Tennessee and Cumberland
rivers. With us there, the enemy would be compelled to fall
back on the east and west entirely out of the State of
Kentucky. On the 6th of January, before receiving orders for
this expedition, I had asked permission of the general
commanding the department to go to see him at St. Louis. My
object was to lay this plan of campaign before him. Now that my
views had been confirmed by so able a general as Smith, I renewed
my request to go to St. Louis on what I deemed important military
business. The leave was granted, but not graciously. I had
known General Halleck but very slightly in the old army, not
having met him either at West Point or during the Mexican war. I
was received with so little cordiality that I perhaps stated the
object of my visit with less clearness than I might have done,
and I had not uttered many sentences before I was cut short as
if my plan was preposterous. I returned to Cairo very much

Flag-officer Foote commanded the little fleet of gunboats then
in the neighborhood of Cairo and, though in another branch of
the service, was subject to the command of General Halleck. He
and I consulted freely upon military matters and he agreed with
me perfectly as to the feasibility of the campaign up the
Tennessee. Notwithstanding the rebuff I had received from my
immediate chief, I therefore, on the 28th of January, renewed
the suggestion by telegraph that "if permitted, I could take and
hold Fort Henry on the Tennessee." This time I was backed by
Flag-officer Foote, who sent a similar dispatch. On the 29th I
wrote fully in support of the proposition. On the 1st of
February I received full instructions from department
headquarters to move upon Fort Henry. On the 2d the expedition

In February, 1862, there were quite a good many steamers laid up
at Cairo for want of employment, the Mississippi River being
closed against navigation below that point. There were also
many men in the town whose occupation had been following the
river in various capacities, from captain down to deck hand But
there were not enough of either boats or men to move at one time
the 17,000 men I proposed to take with me up the Tennessee. I
loaded the boats with more than half the force, however, and
sent General McClernand in command. I followed with one of the
later boats and found McClernand had stopped, very properly,
nine miles below Fort Henry. Seven gunboats under Flag-officer
Foote had accompanied the advance. The transports we had with
us had to return to Paducah to bring up a division from there,
with General C. F. Smith in command.

Before sending the boats back I wanted to get the troops as near
to the enemy as I could without coming within range of their
guns. There was a stream emptying into the Tennessee on the
east side, apparently at about long range distance below the
fort. On account of the narrow water-shed separating the
Tennessee and Cumberland rivers at that point, the stream must
be insignificant at ordinary stages, but when we were there, in
February, it was a torrent. It would facilitate the investment
of Fort Henry materially if the troops could be landed south of
that stream. To test whether this could be done I boarded the
gunboat Essex and requested Captain Wm. Porter commanding it, to
approach the fort to draw its fire. After we had gone some
distance past the mouth of the stream we drew the fire of the
fort, which fell much short of us. In consequence I had made up
my mind to return and bring the troops to the upper side of the
creek, when the enemy opened upon us with a rifled gun that sent
shot far beyond us and beyond the stream. One shot passed very
near where Captain Porter and I were standing, struck the deck
near the stern, penetrated and passed through the cabin and so
out into the river. We immediately turned back, and the troops
were debarked below the mouth of the creek.

When the landing was completed I returned with the transports to
Paducah to hasten up the balance of the troops. I got back on
the 5th with the advance the remainder following as rapidly as
the steamers could carry them. At ten o'clock at night, on the
5th, the whole command was not yet up. Being anxious to
commence operations as soon as possible before the enemy could
reinforce heavily, I issued my orders for an advance at 11 A.M.
on the 6th. I felt sure that all the troops would be up by that

Fort Henry occupies a bend in the river which gave the guns in
the water battery a direct fire down the stream. The camp
outside the fort was intrenched, with rifle pits and outworks
two miles back on the road to Donelson and Dover. The garrison
of the fort and camp was about 2,800, with strong reinforcements
from Donelson halted some miles out. There were seventeen heavy
guns in the fort. The river was very high, the banks being
overflowed except where the bluffs come to the water's edge. A
portion of the ground on which Fort Henry stood was two feet
deep in water. Below, the water extended into the woods several
hundred yards back from the bank on the east side. On the west
bank Fort Heiman stood on high ground, completely commanding
Fort Henry. The distance from Fort Henry to Donelson is but
eleven miles. The two positions were so important to the enemy,
AS HE SAW HIS INTEREST, that it was natural to suppose that
reinforcements would come from every quarter from which they
could be got. Prompt action on our part was imperative.

The plan was for the troops and gunboats to start at the same
moment. The troops were to invest the garrison and the gunboats
to attack the fort at close quarters. General Smith was to land
a brigade of his division on the west bank during the night of
the 5th and get it in rear of Heiman.

At the hour designated the troops and gunboats started. General
Smith found Fort Heiman had been evacuated before his men
arrived. The gunboats soon engaged the water batteries at very
close quarters, but the troops which were to invest Fort Henry
were delayed for want of roads, as well as by the dense forest
and the high water in what would in dry weather have been
unimportant beds of streams. This delay made no difference in
the result. On our first appearance Tilghman had sent his
entire command, with the exception of about one hundred men left
to man the guns in the fort, to the outworks on the road to Dover
and Donelson, so as to have them out of range of the guns of our
navy; and before any attack on the 6th he had ordered them to
retreat on Donelson. He stated in his subsequent report that
the defence was intended solely to give his troops time to make
their escape.

Tilghman was captured with his staff and ninety men, as well as
the armament of the fort, the ammunition and whatever stores
were there. Our cavalry pursued the retreating column towards
Donelson and picked up two guns and a few stragglers; but the
enemy had so much the start, that the pursuing force did not get
in sight of any except the stragglers.

All the gunboats engaged were hit many times. The damage,
however, beyond what could be repaired by a small expenditure of
money, was slight, except to the Essex. A shell penetrated the
boiler of that vessel and exploded it, killing and wounding
forty-eight men, nineteen of whom were soldiers who had been
detailed to act with the navy. On several occasions during the
war such details were made when the complement of men with the
navy was insufficient for the duty before them. After the fall
of Fort Henry Captain Phelps, commanding the iron-clad
Carondelet, at my request ascended the Tennessee River and
thoroughly destroyed the bridge of the Memphis and Ohio Railroad.



I informed the department commander of our success at Fort Henry
and that on the 8th I would take Fort Donelson. But the rain
continued to fall so heavily that the roads became impassable
for artillery and wagon trains. Then, too, it would not have
been prudent to proceed without the gunboats. At least it would
have been leaving behind a valuable part of our available force.

On the 7th, the day after the fall of Fort Henry, I took my
staff and the cavalry--a part of one regiment--and made a
reconnoissance to within about a mile of the outer line of works
at Donelson. I had known General Pillow in Mexico, and judged
that with any force, no matter how small, I could march up to
within gunshot of any intrenchments he was given to hold. I
said this to the officers of my staff at the time. I knew that
Floyd was in command, but he was no soldier, and I judged that
he would yield to Pillow's pretensions. I met, as I expected,
no opposition in making the reconnoissance and, besides learning
the topography of the country on the way and around Fort
Donelson, found that there were two roads available for
marching; one leading to the village of Dover, the other to

Fort Donelson is two miles north, or down the river, from
Dover. The fort, as it stood in 1861, embraced about one
hundred acres of land. On the east it fronted the Cumberland;
to the north it faced Hickman's creek, a small stream which at
that time was deep and wide because of the back-water from the
river; on the south was another small stream, or rather a
ravine, opening into the Cumberland. This also was filled with
back-water from the river. The fort stood on high ground, some
of it as much as a hundred feet above the Cumberland. Strong
protection to the heavy guns in the water batteries had been
obtained by cutting away places for them in the bluff. To the
west there was a line of rifle pits some two miles back from the
river at the farthest point. This line ran generally along the
crest of high ground, but in one place crossed a ravine which
opens into the river between the village and the fort. The
ground inside and outside of this intrenched line was very
broken and generally wooded. The trees outside of the
rifle-pits had been cut down for a considerable way out, and had
been felled so that their tops lay outwards from the
intrenchments. The limbs had been trimmed and pointed, and thus
formed an abatis in front of the greater part of the line.
Outside of this intrenched line, and extending about half the
entire length of it, is a ravine running north and south and
opening into Hickman creek at a point north of the fort. The
entire side of this ravine next to the works was one long abatis.

General Halleck commenced his efforts in all quarters to get
reinforcements to forward to me immediately on my departure from
Cairo. General Hunter sent men freely from Kansas, and a large
division under General Nelson, from Buell's army, was also
dispatched. Orders went out from the War Department to
consolidate fragments of companies that were being recruited in
the Western States so as to make full companies, and to
consolidate companies into regiments. General Halleck did not
approve or disapprove of my going to Fort Donelson. He said
nothing whatever to me on the subject. He informed Buell on the
7th that I would march against Fort Donelson the next day; but on
the 10th he directed me to fortify Fort Henry strongly,
particularly to the land side, saying that he forwarded me
intrenching tools for that purpose. I received this dispatch in
front of Fort Donelson.

I was very impatient to get to Fort Donelson because I knew the
importance of the place to the enemy and supposed he would
reinforce it rapidly. I felt that 15,000 men on the 8th would
be more effective than 50,000 a month later. I asked
Flag-officer Foote, therefore, to order his gunboats still about
Cairo to proceed up the Cumberland River and not to wait for
those gone to Eastport and Florence; but the others got back in
time and we started on the 12th. I had moved McClernand out a
few miles the night before so as to leave the road as free as

Just as we were about to start the first reinforcement reached
me on transports. It was a brigade composed of six full
regiments commanded by Colonel Thayer, of Nebraska. As the
gunboats were going around to Donelson by the Tennessee, Ohio
and Cumberland rivers, I directed Thayer to turn about and go
under their convoy.

I started from Fort Henry with 15,000 men, including eight
batteries and part of a regiment of cavalry, and, meeting with
no obstruction to detain us, the advance arrived in front of the
enemy by noon. That afternoon and the next day were spent in
taking up ground to make the investment as complete as
possible. General Smith had been directed to leave a portion of
his division behind to guard forts Henry and Heiman. He left
General Lew. Wallace with 2,500 men. With the remainder of his
division he occupied our left, extending to Hickman creek.
McClernand was on the right and covered the roads running south
and south-west from Dover. His right extended to the back-water
up the ravine opening into the Cumberland south of the village.
The troops were not intrenched, but the nature of the ground was
such that they were just as well protected from the fire of the
enemy as if rifle-pits had been thrown up. Our line was
generally along the crest of ridges. The artillery was
protected by being sunk in the ground. The men who were not
serving the guns were perfectly covered from fire on taking
position a little back from the crest. The greatest suffering
was from want of shelter. It was midwinter and during the siege
we had rain and snow, thawing and freezing alternately. It would
not do to allow camp-fires except far down the hill out of sight
of the enemy, and it would not do to allow many of the troops to
remain there at the same time. In the march over from Fort Henry
numbers of the men had thrown away their blankets and
overcoats. There was therefore much discomfort and absolute

During the 12th and 13th, and until the arrival of Wallace and
Thayer on the 14th, the National forces, composed of but 15,000
men, without intrenchments, confronted an intrenched army of
21,000, without conflict further than what was brought on by
ourselves. Only one gunboat had arrived. There was a little
skirmishing each day, brought on by the movement of our troops
in securing commanding positions; but there was no actual
fighting during this time except once, on the 13th, in front of
McClernand's command. That general had undertaken to capture a
battery of the enemy which was annoying his men. Without orders
or authority he sent three regiments to make the assault. The
battery was in the main line of the enemy, which was defended by
his whole army present. Of course the assault was a failure, and
of course the loss on our side was great for the number of men
engaged. In this assault Colonel William Morrison fell badly
wounded. Up to this time the surgeons with the army had no
difficulty in finding room in the houses near our line for all
the sick and wounded; but now hospitals were overcrowded. Owing,
however, to the energy and skill of the surgeons the suffering
was not so great as it might have been. The hospital
arrangements at Fort Donelson were as complete as it was
possible to make them, considering the inclemency of the weather
and the lack of tents, in a sparsely settled country where the
houses were generally of but one or two rooms.

On the return of Captain Walke to Fort Henry on the 10th, I had
requested him to take the vessels that had accompanied him on
his expedition up the Tennessee, and get possession of the
Cumberland as far up towards Donelson as possible. He started
without delay, taking, however, only his own gunboat, the
Carondelet, towed by the steamer Alps. Captain Walke arrived a
few miles below Donelson on the 12th, a little after noon. About
the time the advance of troops reached a point within gunshot of
the fort on the land side, he engaged the water batteries at
long range. On the 13th I informed him of my arrival the day
before and of the establishment of most of our batteries,
requesting him at the same time to attack again that day so that
I might take advantage of any diversion. The attack was made and
many shots fell within the fort, creating some consternation, as
we now know. The investment on the land side was made as
complete as the number of troops engaged would admit of.

During the night of the 13th Flag-officer Foote arrived with the
iron-clads St. Louis, Louisville and Pittsburg and the wooden
gunboats Tyler and Conestoga, convoying Thayer's brigade. On
the morning of the 14th Thayer was landed. Wallace, whom I had
ordered over from Fort Henry, also arrived about the same
time. Up to this time he had been commanding a brigade
belonging to the division of General C. F. Smith. These troops
were now restored to the division they belonged to, and General
Lew. Wallace was assigned to the command of a division composed
of the brigade of Colonel Thayer and other reinforcements that
arrived the same day. This new division was assigned to the
centre, giving the two flanking divisions an opportunity to
close up and form a stronger line.

The plan was for the troops to hold the enemy within his lines,
while the gunboats should attack the water batteries at close
quarters and silence his guns if possible. Some of the gunboats
were to run the batteries, get above the fort and above the
village of Dover. I had ordered a reconnoissance made with the
view of getting troops to the river above Dover in case they
should be needed there. That position attained by the gunboats
it would have been but a question of time--and a very short
time, too--when the garrison would have been compelled to

By three in the afternoon of the 14th Flag-officer Foote was
ready, and advanced upon the water batteries with his entire
fleet. After coming in range of the batteries of the enemy the
advance was slow, but a constant fire was delivered from every
gun that could be brought to bear upon the fort. I occupied a
position on shore from which I could see the advancing navy. The
leading boat got within a very short distance of the water
battery, not further off I think than two hundred yards, and I
soon saw one and then another of them dropping down the river,
visibly disabled. Then the whole fleet followed and the
engagement closed for the day. The gunboat which Flag-officer
Foote was on, besides having been hit about sixty times, several
of the shots passing through near the waterline, had a shot enter
the pilot-house which killed the pilot, carried away the wheel
and wounded the flag-officer himself. The tiller-ropes of
another vessel were carried away and she, too, dropped
helplessly back. Two others had their pilot-houses so injured
that they scarcely formed a protection to the men at the wheel.

The enemy had evidently been much demoralized by the assault,
but they were jubilant when they saw the disabled vessels
dropping down the river entirely out of the control of the men
on board. Of course I only witnessed the falling back of our
gunboats and felt sad enough at the time over the repulse.
Subsequent reports, now published, show that the enemy
telegraphed a great victory to Richmond. The sun went down on
the night of the 14th of February, 1862, leaving the army
confronting Fort Donelson anything but comforted over the
prospects. The weather had turned intensely cold; the men were
without tents and could not keep up fires where most of them had
to stay, and, as previously stated, many had thrown away their
overcoats and blankets. Two of the strongest of our gunboats
had been disabled, presumably beyond the possibility of
rendering any present assistance. I retired this night not
knowing but that I would have to intrench my position, and bring
up tents for the men or build huts under the cover of the hills.

On the morning of the 15th, before it was yet broad day, a
messenger from Flag-officer Foote handed me a note, expressing a
desire to see me on the flag-ship and saying that he had been
injured the day before so much that he could not come himself to
me. I at once made my preparations for starting. I directed my
adjutant-general to notify each of the division commanders of my
absence and instruct them to do nothing to bring on an engagement
until they received further orders, but to hold their
positions. From the heavy rains that had fallen for days and
weeks preceding and from the constant use of the roads between
the troops and the landing four to seven miles below, these
roads had become cut up so as to be hardly passable. The
intense cold of the night of the 14th-15th had frozen the ground
solid. This made travel on horseback even slower than through
the mud; but I went as fast as the roads would allow.

When I reached the fleet I found the flag-ship was anchored out
in the stream. A small boat, however, awaited my arrival and I
was soon on board with the flag-officer. He explained to me in
short the condition in which he was left by the engagement of
the evening before, and suggested that I should intrench while
he returned to Mound City with his disabled boats, expressing at
the time the belief that he could have the necessary repairs made
and be back in ten days. I saw the absolute necessity of his
gunboats going into hospital and did not know but I should be
forced to the alternative of going through a siege. But the
enemy relieved me from this necessity.

When I left the National line to visit Flag-officer Foote I had
no idea that there would be any engagement on land unless I
brought it on myself. The conditions for battle were much more
favorable to us than they had been for the first two days of the
investment. From the 12th to the 14th we had but 15,000 men of
all arms and no gunboats. Now we had been reinforced by a fleet
of six naval vessels, a large division of troops under General L.
Wallace and 2,500 men brought over from Fort Henry belonging to
the division of C. F. Smith. The enemy, however, had taken the
initiative. Just as I landed I met Captain Hillyer of my staff,
white with fear, not for his personal safety, but for the safety
of the National troops. He said the enemy had come out of his
lines in full force and attacked and scattered McClernand's
division, which was in full retreat. The roads, as I have said,
were unfit for making fast time, but I got to my command as soon
as possible. The attack had been made on the National right. I
was some four or five miles north of our left. The line was
about three miles long. In reaching the point where the
disaster had occurred I had to pass the divisions of Smith and
Wallace. I saw no sign of excitement on the portion of the line
held by Smith; Wallace was nearer the scene of conflict and had
taken part in it. He had, at an opportune time, sent Thayer's
brigade to the support of McClernand and thereby contributed to
hold the enemy within his lines.

I saw everything favorable for us along the line of our left and
centre. When I came to the right appearances were different. The
enemy had come out in full force to cut his way out and make his
escape. McClernand's division had to bear the brunt of the
attack from this combined force. His men had stood up gallantly
until the ammunition in their cartridge-boxes gave out. There
was abundance of ammunition near by lying on the ground in
boxes, but at that stage of the war it was not all of our
commanders of regiments, brigades, or even divisions, who had
been educated up to the point of seeing that their men were
constantly supplied with ammunition during an engagement. When
the men found themselves without ammunition they could not stand
up against troops who seemed to have plenty of it. The division
broke and a portion fled, but most of the men, as they were not
pursued, only fell back out of range of the fire of the enemy.
It must have been about this time that Thayer pushed his brigade
in between the enemy and those of our troops that were without
ammunition. At all events the enemy fell back within his
intrenchments and was there when I got on the field.

I saw the men standing in knots talking in the most excited
manner. No officer seemed to be giving any directions. The
soldiers had their muskets, but no ammunition, while there were
tons of it close at hand. I heard some of the men say that the
enemy had come out with knapsacks, and haversacks filled with
rations. They seemed to think this indicated a determination on
his part to stay out and fight just as long as the provisions
held out. I turned to Colonel J. D. Webster, of my staff, who
was with me, and said: "Some of our men are pretty badly
demoralized, but the enemy must be more so, for he has attempted
to force his way out, but has fallen back: the one who attacks
first now will be victorious and the enemy will have to be in a
hurry if he gets ahead of me." I determined to make the assault
at once on our left. It was clear to my mind that the enemy had
started to march out with his entire force, except a few
pickets, and if our attack could be made on the left before the
enemy could redistribute his forces along the line, we would
find but little opposition except from the intervening abatis.
I directed Colonel Webster to ride with me and call out to the
men as we passed: "Fill your cartridge-boxes, quick, and get
into line; the enemy is trying to escape and he must not be
permitted to do so." This acted like a charm. The men only
wanted some one to give them a command. We rode rapidly to
Smith's quarters, when I explained the situation to him and
directed him to charge the enemy's works in his front with his
whole division, saying at the same time that he would find
nothing but a very thin line to contend with. The general was
off in an incredibly short time, going in advance himself to
keep his men from firing while they were working their way
through the abatis intervening between them and the enemy. The
outer line of rifle-pits was passed, and the night of the 15th
General Smith, with much of his division, bivouacked within the
lines of the enemy. There was now no doubt but that the
Confederates must surrender or be captured the next day.

There seems from subsequent accounts to have been much
consternation, particularly among the officers of high rank, in
Dover during the night of the 15th. General Floyd, the
commanding officer, who was a man of talent enough for any civil
position, was no soldier and, possibly, did not possess the
elements of one. He was further unfitted for command, for the
reason that his conscience must have troubled him and made him
afraid. As Secretary of War he had taken a solemn oath to
maintain the Constitution of the United States and to uphold the
same against all its enemies. He had betrayed that trust. As
Secretary of War he was reported through the northern press to
have scattered the little army the country had so that the most
of it could be picked up in detail when secession occurred.
About a year before leaving the Cabinet he had removed arms from
northern to southern arsenals. He continued in the Cabinet of
President Buchanan until about the 1st of January, 1861, while
he was working vigilantly for the establishment of a confederacy
made out of United States territory. Well may he have been
afraid to fall into the hands of National troops. He would no
doubt have been tried for misappropriating public property, if
not for treason, had he been captured. General Pillow, next in
command, was conceited, and prided himself much on his services
in the Mexican war. He telegraphed to General Johnston, at
Nashville, after our men were within the rebel rifle-pits, and
almost on the eve of his making his escape, that the Southern
troops had had great success all day. Johnston forwarded the
dispatch to Richmond. While the authorities at the capital were
reading it Floyd and Pillow were fugitives.

A council of war was held by the enemy at which all agreed that
it would be impossible to hold out longer. General Buckner, who
was third in rank in the garrison but much the most capable
soldier, seems to have regarded it a duty to hold the fort until
the general commanding the department, A. S. Johnston, should get
back to his headquarters at Nashville. Buckner's report shows,
however, that he considered Donelson lost and that any attempt
to hold the place longer would be at the sacrifice of the
command. Being assured that Johnston was already in Nashville,
Buckner too agreed that surrender was the proper thing. Floyd
turned over the command to Pillow, who declined it. It then
devolved upon Buckner, who accepted the responsibility of the
position. Floyd and Pillow took possession of all the river
transports at Dover and before morning both were on their way to
Nashville, with the brigade formerly commanded by Floyd and some
other troops, in all about 3,000. Some marched up the east bank
of the Cumberland; others went on the steamers. During the night
Forrest also, with his cavalry and some other troops about a
thousand in all, made their way out, passing between our right
and the river. They had to ford or swim over the back-water in
the little creek just south of Dover.

Before daylight General Smith brought to me the following letter
from General Buckner:

February 16, 1862.

SIR:--In consideration of all the circumstances governing the
present situation of affairs at this station, I propose to the
Commanding Officer of the Federal forces the appointment of
Commissioners to agree upon terms of capitulation of the forces
and fort under my command, and in that view suggest an armistice
until 12 o'clock to-day.

I am, sir, very respectfully,
Your ob't se'v't,
Brig. Gen. C. S. A.

To Brigadier-General U. S. Grant,
Com'ding U. S. Forces,
Near Fort Donelson.

To this I responded as follows:

Camp near Donelson,
February 16, 1862.

General S. B. BUCKNER,
Confederate Army.

SIR:--Yours of this date, proposing armistice and appointment of
Commissioners to settle terms of capitulation, is just
received. No terms except an unconditional and immediate
surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon
your works.

I am, sir, very respectfully,
Your ob't se'v't,
Brig. Gen.

To this I received the following reply:

February 16, 1862.

To Brig. Gen'I U. S. GRANT,
U. S. Army.

SIR:--The distribution of the forces under my command, incident
to an unexpected change of commanders, and the overwhelming
force under your command, compel me, notwithstanding the
brilliant success of the Confederate arms yesterday, to accept
the ungenerous and unchivalrous terms which you propose.

I am, sir,
Your very ob't se'v't,
Brig. Gen. C. S. A.

General Buckner, as soon as he had dispatched the first of the
above letters, sent word to his different commanders on the line
of rifle-pits, notifying them that he had made a proposition
looking to the surrender of the garrison, and directing them to
notify National troops in their front so that all fighting might
be prevented. White flags were stuck at intervals along the line
of rifle-pits, but none over the fort. As soon as the last
letter from Buckner was received I mounted my horse and rode to
Dover. General Wallace, I found, had preceded me an hour or
more. I presume that, seeing white flags exposed in his front,
he rode up to see what they meant and, not being fired upon or
halted, he kept on until he found himself at the headquarters of
General Buckner.

I had been at West Point three years with Buckner and afterwards
served with him in the army, so that we were quite well
acquainted. In the course of our conversation, which was very
friendly, he said to me that if he had been in command I would
not have got up to Donelson as easily as I did. I told him that
if he had been in command I should not have tried in the way I
did: I had invested their lines with a smaller force than they
had to defend them, and at the same time had sent a brigade full
5,000 strong, around by water; I had relied very much upon their
commander to allow me to come safely up to the outside of their
works. I asked General Buckner about what force he had to
surrender. He replied that he could not tell with any degree of
accuracy; that all the sick and weak had been sent to Nashville
while we were about Fort Henry; that Floyd and Pillow had left
during the night, taking many men with them; and that Forrest,
and probably others, had also escaped during the preceding
night: the number of casualties he could not tell; but he said
I would not find fewer than 12,000, nor more than 15,000.

He asked permission to send parties outside of the lines to bury
his dead, who had fallen on the 15th when they tried to get
out. I gave directions that his permit to pass our limits
should be recognized. I have no reason to believe that this
privilege was abused, but it familiarized our guards so much
with the sight of Confederates passing to and fro that I have no
doubt many got beyond our pickets unobserved and went on. The
most of the men who went in that way no doubt thought they had
had war enough, and left with the intention of remaining out of
the army. Some came to me and asked permission to go, saying
that they were tired of the war and would not be caught in the
ranks again, and I bade them go.

The actual number of Confederates at Fort Donelson can never be
given with entire accuracy. The largest number admitted by any
writer on the Southern side, is by Colonel Preston Johnston. He
gives the number at 17,000. But this must be an underestimate.
The commissary general of prisoners reported having issued
rations to 14,623 Fort Donelson prisoners at Cairo, as they
passed that point. General Pillow reported the killed and
wounded at 2,000; but he had less opportunity of knowing the
actual numbers than the officers of McClernand's division, for
most of the killed and wounded fell outside their works, in
front of that division, and were buried or cared for by Buckner
after the surrender and when Pillow was a fugitive. It is known
that Floyd and Pillow escaped during the night of the 15th,
taking with them not less than 3,000 men. Forrest escaped with
about 1,000 and others were leaving singly and in squads all
night. It is probable that the Confederate force at Donelson,
on the 15th of February, 1862, was 21,000 in round numbers.

On the day Fort Donelson fell I had 27,000 men to confront the
Confederate lines and guard the road four or five miles to the
left, over which all our supplies had to be drawn on wagons.
During the 16th, after the surrender, additional reinforcements

During the siege General Sherman had been sent to Smithland, at
the mouth of the Cumberland River, to forward reinforcements and
supplies to me. At that time he was my senior in rank and there
was no authority of law to assign a junior to command a senior
of the same grade. But every boat that came up with supplies or
reinforcements brought a note of encouragement from Sherman,
asking me to call upon him for any assistance he could render
and saying that if he could be of service at the front I might
send for him and he would waive rank.



The news of the fall of Fort Donelson caused great delight all
over the North. At the South, particularly in Richmond, the
effect was correspondingly depressing. I was promptly promoted
to the grade of Major-General of Volunteers, and confirmed by
the Senate. All three of my division commanders were promoted
to the same grade and the colonels who commanded brigades were
made brigadier-generals in the volunteer service. My chief, who
was in St. Louis, telegraphed his congratulations to General
Hunter in Kansas for the services he had rendered in securing
the fall of Fort Donelson by sending reinforcements so
rapidly. To Washington he telegraphed that the victory was due
to General C. F. Smith; "promote him," he said, "and the whole
country will applaud." On the 19th there was published at St.
Louis a formal order thanking Flag-officer Foote and myself, and
the forces under our command, for the victories on the Tennessee
and the Cumberland. I received no other recognition whatever
from General Halleck. But General Cullum, his chief of staff,
who was at Cairo, wrote me a warm congratulatory letter on his
own behalf. I approved of General Smith's promotion highly, as
I did all the promotions that were made.

My opinion was and still is that immediately after the fall of
Fort Donelson the way was opened to the National forces all over
the South-west without much resistance. If one general who would
have taken the responsibility had been in command of all the
troops west of the Alleghanies, he could have marched to
Chattanooga, Corinth, Memphis and Vicksburg with the troops we
then had, and as volunteering was going on rapidly over the
North there would soon have been force enough at all these
centres to operate offensively against any body of the enemy
that might be found near them. Rapid movements and the
acquisition of rebellious territory would have promoted
volunteering, so that reinforcements could have been had as fast
as transportation could have been obtained to carry them to their
destination. On the other hand there were tens of thousands of
strong able-bodied young men still at their homes in the
South-western States, who had not gone into the Confederate army
in February, 1862, and who had no particular desire to go. If
our lines had been extended to protect their homes, many of them
never would have gone. Providence ruled differently. Time was
given the enemy to collect armies and fortify his new positions;
and twice afterwards he came near forcing his north-western front
up to the Ohio River.

I promptly informed the department commander of our success at
Fort Donelson and that the way was open now to Clarksville and
Nashville; and that unless I received orders to the contrary I
should take Clarksville on the 21st and Nashville about the 1st
of March. Both these places are on the Cumberland River above
Fort Donelson. As I heard nothing from headquarters on the
subject, General C. F. Smith was sent to Clarksville at the time
designated and found the place evacuated. The capture of forts
Henry and Donelson had broken the line the enemy had taken from
Columbus to Bowling Green, and it was known that he was falling
back from the eastern point of this line and that Buell was
following, or at least advancing. I should have sent troops to
Nashville at the time I sent to Clarksville, but my
transportation was limited and there were many prisoners to be
forwarded north.

None of the reinforcements from Buell's army arrived until the
24th of February. Then General Nelson came up, with orders to
report to me with two brigades, he having sent one brigade to
Cairo. I knew General Buell was advancing on Nashville from the
north, and I was advised by scouts that the rebels were leaving
that place, and trying to get out all the supplies they could.
Nashville was, at that time, one of the best provisioned posts
in the South. I had no use for reinforcements now, and thinking
Buell would like to have his troops again, I ordered Nelson to
proceed to Nashville without debarking at Fort Donelson. I sent
a gunboat also as a convoy. The Cumberland River was very high
at the time; the railroad bridge at Nashville had been burned,
and all river craft had been destroyed, or would be before the
enemy left. Nashville is on the west bank of the Cumberland,
and Buell was approaching from the east. I thought the steamers
carrying Nelson's division would be useful in ferrying the
balance of Buell's forces across. I ordered Nelson to put
himself in communication with Buell as soon as possible, and if
he found him more than two days off from Nashville to return
below the city and await orders. Buell, however, had already
arrived in person at Edgefield, opposite Nashville, and
Mitchell's division of his command reached there the same day.
Nelson immediately took possession of the city.

After Nelson had gone and before I had learned of Buell's
arrival, I sent word to department headquarters that I should go
to Nashville myself on the 28th if I received no orders to the
contrary. Hearing nothing, I went as I had informed my superior
officer I would do. On arriving at Clarksville I saw a fleet of
steamers at the shore--the same that had taken Nelson's
division--and troops going aboard. I landed and called on the
commanding officer, General C. F. Smith. As soon as he saw me
he showed an order he had just received from Buell in these

NASHVILLE, February 25, 1862.

Commanding U. S. Forces, Clarksville.

GENERAL:--The landing of a portion of our troops, contrary to my
intentions, on the south side of the river has compelled me to
hold this side at every hazard. If the enemy should assume the
offensive, and I am assured by reliable persons that in view of
my position such is his intention, my force present is
altogether inadequate, consisting of only 15,000 men. I have to
request you, therefore, to come forward with all the available
force under your command. So important do I consider the
occasion that I think it necessary to give this communication
all the force of orders, and I send four boats, the Diana,
Woodford, John Rain, and Autocrat, to bring you up. In five or
six days my force will probably be sufficient to relieve you.

Very respectfully, your ob't srv't,
Brigadier-General Comd'g.

P. S.--The steamers will leave here at 12 o'clock to-night.

General Smith said this order was nonsense. But I told him it
was better to obey it. The General replied, "of course I must
obey," and said his men were embarking as fast as they could. I
went on up to Nashville and inspected the position taken by
Nelson's troops. I did not see Buell during the day, and wrote
him a note saying that I had been in Nashville since early
morning and had hoped to meet him. On my return to the boat we
met. His troops were still east of the river, and the steamers
that had carried Nelson's division up were mostly at Clarksville
to bring Smith's division. I said to General Buell my
information was that the enemy was retreating as fast as
possible. General Buell said there was fighting going on then
only ten or twelve miles away. I said: "Quite probably;
Nashville contained valuable stores of arms, ammunition and
provisions, and the enemy is probably trying to carry away all
he can. The fighting is doubtless with the rear-guard who are
trying to protect the trains they are getting away with." Buell
spoke very positively of the danger Nashville was in of an attack
from the enemy. I said, in the absence of positive information,
I believed my information was correct. He responded that he
"knew." "Well," I said, "I do not know; but as I came by
Clarksville General Smith's troops were embarking to join you."

Smith's troops were returned the same day. The enemy were
trying to get away from Nashville and not to return to it.

At this time General Albert Sidney Johnston commanded all the
Confederate troops west of the Alleghany Mountains, with the
exception of those in the extreme south. On the National side
the forces confronting him were divided into, at first three,
then four separate departments. Johnston had greatly the
advantage in having supreme command over all troops that could
possibly be brought to bear upon one point, while the forces
similarly situated on the National side, divided into
independent commands, could not be brought into harmonious
action except by orders from Washington.

At the beginning of 1862 Johnston's troops east of the
Mississippi occupied a line extending from Columbus, on his
left, to Mill Springs, on his right. As we have seen, Columbus,
both banks of the Tennessee River, the west bank of the
Cumberland and Bowling Green, all were strongly fortified. Mill
Springs was intrenched. The National troops occupied no
territory south of the Ohio, except three small garrisons along
its bank and a force thrown out from Louisville to confront that
at Bowling Green. Johnston's strength was no doubt numerically
inferior to that of the National troops; but this was
compensated for by the advantage of being sole commander of all
the Confederate forces at the West, and of operating in a
country where his friends would take care of his rear without
any detail of soldiers. But when General George H. Thomas moved
upon the enemy at Mill Springs and totally routed him, inflicting
a loss of some 300 killed and wounded, and forts Henry and Heiman
fell into the hands of the National forces, with their armaments
and about 100 prisoners, those losses seemed to dishearten the
Confederate commander so much that he immediately commenced a
retreat from Bowling Green on Nashville. He reached this latter
place on the 14th of February, while Donelson was still
besieged. Buell followed with a portion of the Army of the
Ohio, but he had to march and did not reach the east bank of the
Cumberland opposite Nashville until the 24th of the month, and
then with only one division of his army.

The bridge at Nashville had been destroyed and all boats removed
or disabled, so that a small garrison could have held the place
against any National troops that could have been brought against
it within ten days after the arrival of the force from Bowling
Green. Johnston seemed to lie quietly at Nashville to await the
result at Fort Donelson, on which he had staked the possession of
most of the territory embraced in the States of Kentucky and
Tennessee. It is true, the two generals senior in rank at Fort
Donelson were sending him encouraging dispatches, even claiming
great Confederate victories up to the night of the 16th when
they must have been preparing for their individual escape.
Johnston made a fatal mistake in intrusting so important a
command to Floyd, who he must have known was no soldier even if
he possessed the elements of one. Pillow's presence as second
was also a mistake. If these officers had been forced upon him
and designated for that particular command, then he should have
left Nashville with a small garrison under a trusty officer, and
with the remainder of his force gone to Donelson himself. If he
had been captured the result could not have been worse than it

Johnston's heart failed him upon the first advance of National
troops. He wrote to Richmond on the 8th of February, "I think
the gunboats of the enemy will probably take Fort Donelson
without the necessity of employing their land force in
cooperation." After the fall of that place he abandoned
Nashville and Chattanooga without an effort to save either, and
fell back into northern Mississippi, where, six weeks later, he
was destined to end his career.

From the time of leaving Cairo I was singularly unfortunate in
not receiving dispatches from General Halleck. The order of the
10th of February directing me to fortify Fort Henry strongly,
particularly to the land side, and saying that intrenching tools
had been sent for that purpose, reached me after Donelson was
invested. I received nothing direct which indicated that the
department commander knew we were in possession of Donelson. I
was reporting regularly to the chief of staff, who had been sent
to Cairo, soon after the troops left there, to receive all
reports from the front and to telegraph the substance to the St.
Louis headquarters. Cairo was at the southern end of the
telegraph wire. Another line was started at once from Cairo to
Paducah and Smithland, at the mouths of the Tennessee and
Cumberland respectively. My dispatches were all sent to Cairo
by boat, but many of those addressed to me were sent to the
operator at the end of the advancing wire and he failed to
forward them. This operator afterwards proved to be a rebel; he
deserted his post after a short time and went south taking his
dispatches with him. A telegram from General McClellan to me of
February 16th, the day of the surrender, directing me to report
in full the situation, was not received at my headquarters until
the 3d of March.

On the 2d of March I received orders dated March 1st to move my
command back to Fort Henry, leaving only a small garrison at
Donelson. From Fort Henry expeditions were to be sent against
Eastport, Mississippi, and Paris, Tennessee. We started from
Donelson on the 4th, and the same day I was back on the
Tennessee River. On March 4th I also received the following
dispatch from General Halleck:

Fort Henry:

You will place Maj.-Gen. C. F. Smith in command of expedition,
and remain yourself at Fort Henry. Why do you not obey my
orders to report strength and positions of your command?


I was surprised. This was the first intimation I had received
that General Halleck had called for information as to the
strength of my command. On the 6th he wrote to me again. "Your
going to Nashville without authority, and when your presence with
your troops was of the utmost importance, was a matter of very
serious complaint at Washington, so much so that I was advised
to arrest you on your return." This was the first I knew of his
objecting to my going to Nashville. That place was not beyond
the limits of my command, which, it had been expressly declared
in orders, were "not defined." Nashville is west of the
Cumberland River, and I had sent troops that had reported to me
for duty to occupy the place. I turned over the command as
directed and then replied to General Halleck courteously, but
asked to be relieved from further duty under him.

Later I learned that General Halleck had been calling lustily
for more troops, promising that he would do something important
if he could only be sufficiently reinforced. McClellan asked
him what force he then had. Halleck telegraphed me to supply
the information so far as my command was concerned, but I
received none of his dispatches. At last Halleck reported to
Washington that he had repeatedly ordered me to give the
strength of my force, but could get nothing out of me; that I
had gone to Nashville, beyond the limits of my command, without
his authority, and that my army was more demoralized by victory
than the army at Bull Run had been by defeat. General
McClellan, on this information, ordered that I should be
relieved from duty and that an investigation should be made into
any charges against me. He even authorized my arrest. Thus in
less than two weeks after the victory at Donelson, the two
leading generals in the army were in correspondence as to what
disposition should be made of me, and in less than three weeks I
was virtually in arrest and without a command.

On the 13th of March I was restored to command, and on the 17th
Halleck sent me a copy of an order from the War Department which
stated that accounts of my misbehavior had reached Washington and
directed him to investigate and report the facts. He forwarded
also a copy of a detailed dispatch from himself to Washington
entirely exonerating me; but he did not inform me that it was
his own reports that had created all the trouble. On the
contrary, he wrote to me, "Instead of relieving you, I wish you,
as soon as your new army is in the field, to assume immediate
command, and lead it to new victories." In consequence I felt
very grateful to him, and supposed it was his interposition that
had set me right with the government. I never knew the truth
until General Badeau unearthed the facts in his researches for
his history of my campaigns.

General Halleck unquestionably deemed General C. F. Smith a much
fitter officer for the command of all the forces in the military
district than I was, and, to render him available for such
command, desired his promotion to antedate mine and those of the
other division commanders. It is probable that the general
opinion was that Smith's long services in the army and
distinguished deeds rendered him the more proper person for such
command. Indeed I was rather inclined to this opinion myself at
that time, and would have served as faithfully under Smith as he
had done under me. But this did not justify the dispatches which
General Halleck sent to Washington, or his subsequent concealment
of them from me when pretending to explain the action of my

On receipt of the order restoring me to command I proceeded to
Savannah on the Tennessee, to which point my troops had
advanced. General Smith was delighted to see me and was
unhesitating in his denunciation of the treatment I had
received. He was on a sick bed at the time, from which he never
came away alive. His death was a severe loss to our western
army. His personal courage was unquestioned, his judgment and
professional acquirements were unsurpassed, and he had the
confidence of those he commanded as well as of those over him.



When I reassumed command on the 17th of March I found the army
divided, about half being on the east bank of the Tennessee at
Savannah, while one division was at Crump's landing on the west
bank about four miles higher up, and the remainder at Pittsburg
landing, five miles above Crump's. The enemy was in force at
Corinth, the junction of the two most important railroads in the
Mississippi valley--one connecting Memphis and the Mississippi
River with the East, and the other leading south to all the
cotton states. Still another railroad connects Corinth with
Jackson, in west Tennessee. If we obtained possession of
Corinth the enemy would have no railroad for the transportation
of armies or supplies until that running east from Vicksburg was
reached. It was the great strategic position at the West between
the Tennessee and the Mississippi rivers and between Nashville
and Vicksburg.

I at once put all the troops at Savannah in motion for Pittsburg
landing, knowing that the enemy was fortifying at Corinth and
collecting an army there under Johnston. It was my expectation
to march against that army as soon as Buell, who had been
ordered to reinforce me with the Army of the Ohio, should
arrive; and the west bank of the river was the place to start
from. Pittsburg is only about twenty miles from Corinth, and
Hamburg landing, four miles further up the river, is a mile or
two nearer. I had not been in command long before I selected
Hamburg as the place to put the Army of the Ohio when it
arrived. The roads from Pittsburg and Hamburg to Corinth
converge some eight miles out. This disposition of the troops
would have given additional roads to march over when the advance
commenced, within supporting distance of each other.

Before I arrived at Savannah, Sherman, who had joined the Army
of the Tennessee and been placed in command of a division, had
made an expedition on steamers convoyed by gunboats to the
neighborhood of Eastport, thirty miles south, for the purpose of
destroying the railroad east of Corinth. The rains had been so
heavy for some time before that the low-lands had become
impassable swamps. Sherman debarked his troops and started out
to accomplish the object of the expedition; but the river was
rising so rapidly that the back-water up the small tributaries
threatened to cut off the possibility of getting back to the
boats, and the expedition had to return without reaching the
railroad. The guns had to be hauled by hand through the water
to get back to the boats.

On the 17th of March the army on the Tennessee River consisted
of five divisions, commanded respectively by Generals C. F.
Smith, McClernand, L. Wallace, Hurlbut and Sherman. General W.
H. L. Wallace was temporarily in command of Smith's division,
General Smith, as I have said, being confined to his bed.
Reinforcements were arriving daily and as they came up they were
organized, first into brigades, then into a division, and the
command given to General Prentiss, who had been ordered to
report to me. General Buell was on his way from Nashville with
40,000 veterans. On the 19th of March he was at Columbia,
Tennessee, eighty-five miles from Pittsburg. When all
reinforcements should have arrived I expected to take the
initiative by marching on Corinth, and had no expectation of
needing fortifications, though this subject was taken into
consideration. McPherson, my only military engineer, was
directed to lay out a line to intrench. He did so, but reported
that it would have to be made in rear of the line of encampment
as it then ran. The new line, while it would be nearer the
river, was yet too far away from the Tennessee, or even from the
creeks, to be easily supplied with water, and in case of attack
these creeks would be in the hands of the enemy. The fact is, I
regarded the campaign we were engaged in as an offensive one and
had no idea that the enemy would leave strong intrenchments to
take the initiative when he knew he would be attacked where he
was if he remained. This view, however, did not prevent every
precaution being taken and every effort made to keep advised of
all movements of the enemy.

Johnston's cavalry meanwhile had been well out towards our
front, and occasional encounters occurred between it and our
outposts. On the 1st of April this cavalry became bold and
approached our lines, showing that an advance of some kind was
contemplated. On the 2d Johnston left Corinth in force to
attack my army. On the 4th his cavalry dashed down and captured
a small picket guard of six or seven men, stationed some five
miles out from Pittsburg on the Corinth road. Colonel Buckland
sent relief to the guard at once and soon followed in person
with an entire regiment, and General Sherman followed Buckland
taking the remainder of a brigade. The pursuit was kept up for
some three miles beyond the point where the picket guard had
been captured, and after nightfall Sherman returned to camp and
reported to me by letter what had occurred.

At this time a large body of the enemy was hovering to the west
of us, along the line of the Mobile and Ohio railroad. My
apprehension was much greater for the safety of Crump's landing
than it was for Pittsburg. I had no apprehension that the enemy
could really capture either place. But I feared it was possible
that he might make a rapid dash upon Crump's and destroy our
transports and stores, most of which were kept at that point,
and then retreat before Wallace could be reinforced. Lew.
Wallace's position I regarded as so well chosen that he was not

At this time I generally spent the day at Pittsburg and returned
to Savannah in the evening. I was intending to remove my
headquarters to Pittsburg, but Buell was expected daily and
would come in at Savannah. I remained at this point, therefore,
a few days longer than I otherwise should have done, in order to
meet him on his arrival. The skirmishing in our front, however,
had been so continuous from about the 3d of April that I did not
leave Pittsburg each night until an hour when I felt there would
be no further danger before the morning.

On Friday the 4th, the day of Buckland's advance, I was very
much injured by my horse falling with me, and on me, while I was
trying to get to the front where firing had been heard. The
night was one of impenetrable darkness, with rain pouring down
in torrents; nothing was visible to the eye except as revealed
by the frequent flashes of lightning. Under these circumstances
I had to trust to the horse, without guidance, to keep the
road. I had not gone far, however, when I met General W. H. L.
Wallace and Colonel (afterwards General) McPherson coming from
the direction of the front. They said all was quiet so far as
the enemy was concerned. On the way back to the boat my horse's
feet slipped from under him, and he fell with my leg under his
body. The extreme softness of the ground, from the excessive
rains of the few preceding days, no doubt saved me from a severe
injury and protracted lameness. As it was, my ankle was very
much injured, so much so that my boot had to be cut off. For
two or three days after I was unable to walk except with

On the 5th General Nelson, with a division of Buell's army,
arrived at Savannah and I ordered him to move up the east bank
of the river, to be in a position where he could be ferried over
to Crump's landing or Pittsburg as occasion required. I had
learned that General Buell himself would be at Savannah the next
day, and desired to meet me on his arrival. Affairs at Pittsburg
landing had been such for several days that I did not want to be
away during the day. I determined, therefore, to take a very
early breakfast and ride out to meet Buell, and thus save
time. He had arrived on the evening of the 5th, but had not
advised me of the fact and I was not aware of it until some time
after. While I was at breakfast, however, heavy firing was heard
in the direction of Pittsburg landing, and I hastened there,
sending a hurried note to Buell informing him of the reason why
I could not meet him at Savannah. On the way up the river I
directed the dispatch-boat to run in close to Crump's landing,
so that I could communicate with General Lew. Wallace. I found
him waiting on a boat apparently expecting to see me, and I
directed him to get his troops in line ready to execute any
orders he might receive. He replied that his troops were
already under arms and prepared to move.

Up to that time I had felt by no means certain that Crump's
landing might not be the point of attack. On reaching the
front, however, about eight A.M., I found that the attack on
Pittsburg was unmistakable, and that nothing more than a small
guard, to protect our transports and stores, was needed at
Crump's. Captain Baxter, a quartermaster on my staff, was
accordingly directed to go back and order General Wallace to
march immediately to Pittsburg by the road nearest the river.
Captain Baxter made a memorandum of this order. About one P.M.,
not hearing from Wallace and being much in need of
reinforcements, I sent two more of my staff, Colonel McPherson
and Captain Rowley, to bring him up with his division. They
reported finding him marching towards Purdy, Bethel, or some
point west from the river, and farther from Pittsburg by several
miles than when he started. The road from his first position to
Pittsburg landing was direct and near the river. Between the
two points a bridge had been built across Snake Creek by our
troops, at which Wallace's command had assisted, expressly to
enable the troops at the two places to support each other in
case of need. Wallace did not arrive in time to take part in
the first day's fight. General Wallace has since claimed that
the order delivered to him by Captain Baxter was simply to join
the right of the army, and that the road over which he marched
would have taken him to the road from Pittsburg to Purdy where
it crosses Owl Creek on the right of Sherman; but this is not
where I had ordered him nor where I wanted him to go.

I never could see and do not now see why any order was necessary
further than to direct him to come to Pittsburg landing, without
specifying by what route. His was one of three veteran
divisions that had been in battle, and its absence was severely
felt. Later in the war General Wallace would not have made the
mistake that he committed on the 6th of April, 1862. I presume
his idea was that by taking the route he did he would be able to
come around on the flank or rear of the enemy, and thus perform
an act of heroism that would redound to the credit of his
command, as well as to the benefit of his country.

Some two or three miles from Pittsburg landing was a log
meeting-house called Shiloh. It stood on the ridge which
divides the waters of Snake and Lick creeks, the former emptying
into the Tennessee just north of Pittsburg landing, and the
latter south. This point was the key to our position and was
held by Sherman. His division was at that time wholly raw, no
part of it ever having been in an engagement; but I thought this
deficiency was more than made up by the superiority of the
commander. McClernand was on Sherman's left, with troops that
had been engaged at forts Henry and Donelson and were therefore
veterans so far as western troops had become such at that stage
of the war. Next to McClernand came Prentiss with a raw
division, and on the extreme left, Stuart with one brigade of
Sherman's division. Hurlbut was in rear of Prentiss, massed,
and in reserve at the time of the onset. The division of
General C. F. Smith was on the right, also in reserve. General
Smith was still sick in bed at Savannah, but within hearing of
our guns. His services would no doubt have been of inestimable
value had his health permitted his presence. The command of his
division devolved upon Brigadier-General W. H. L. Wallace, a most
estimable and able officer; a veteran too, for he had served a
year in the Mexican war and had been with his command at Henry
and Donelson. Wallace was mortally wounded in the first day's
engagement, and with the change of commanders thus necessarily
effected in the heat of battle the efficiency of his division
was much weakened.

The position of our troops made a continuous line from Lick
Creek on the left to Owl Creek, a branch of Snake Creek, on the
right, facing nearly south and possibly a little west. The
water in all these streams was very high at the time and
contributed to protect our flanks. The enemy was compelled,
therefore, to attack directly in front. This he did with great
vigor, inflicting heavy losses on the National side, but
suffering much heavier on his own.

The Confederate assaults were made with such a disregard of
losses on their own side that our line of tents soon fell into
their hands. The ground on which the battle was fought was
undulating, heavily timbered with scattered clearings, the woods
giving some protection to the troops on both sides. There was
also considerable underbrush. A number of attempts were made by
the enemy to turn our right flank, where Sherman was posted, but
every effort was repulsed with heavy loss. But the front attack
was kept up so vigorously that, to prevent the success of these
attempts to get on our flanks, the National troops were
compelled, several times, to take positions to the rear nearer
Pittsburg landing. When the firing ceased at night the National
line was all of a mile in rear of the position it had occupied in
the morning.

In one of the backward moves, on the 6th, the division commanded
by General Prentiss did not fall back with the others. This left
his flanks exposed and enabled the enemy to capture him with
about 2,200 of his officers and men. General Badeau gives four
o'clock of the 6th as about the time this capture took place. He
may be right as to the time, but my recollection is that the hour
was later. General Prentiss himself gave the hour as half-past
five. I was with him, as I was with each of the division
commanders that day, several times, and my recollection is that
the last time I was with him was about half-past four, when his
division was standing up firmly and the General was as cool as
if expecting victory. But no matter whether it was four or
later, the story that he and his command were surprised and
captured in their camps is without any foundation whatever. If
it had been true, as currently reported at the time and yet
believed by thousands of people, that Prentiss and his division
had been captured in their beds, there would not have been an
all-day struggle, with the loss of thousands killed and wounded
on the Confederate side.

With the single exception of a few minutes after the capture of
Prentiss, a continuous and unbroken line was maintained all day
from Snake Creek or its tributaries on the right to Lick Creek
or the Tennessee on the left above Pittsburg.

There was no hour during the day when there was not heavy firing
and generally hard fighting at some point on the line, but seldom
at all points at the same time. It was a case of Southern dash
against Northern pluck and endurance. Three of the five
divisions engaged on Sunday were entirely raw, and many of the
men had only received their arms on the way from their States to
the field. Many of them had arrived but a day or two before and
were hardly able to load their muskets according to the
manual. Their officers were equally ignorant of their duties.
Under these circumstances it is not astonishing that many of the
regiments broke at the first fire. In two cases, as I now
remember, colonels led their regiments from the field on first
hearing the whistle of the enemy's bullets. In these cases the
colonels were constitutional cowards, unfit for any military
position; but not so the officers and men led out of danger by
them. Better troops never went upon a battle-field than many of
these, officers and men, afterwards proved themselves to be, who
fled panic stricken at the first whistle of bullets and shell at

During the whole of Sunday I was continuously engaged in passing
from one part of the field to another, giving directions to
division commanders. In thus moving along the line, however, I
never deemed it important to stay long with Sherman. Although
his troops were then under fire for the first time, their
commander, by his constant presence with them, inspired a
confidence in officers and men that enabled them to render
services on that bloody battle-field worthy of the best of
veterans. McClernand was next to Sherman, and the hardest
fighting was in front of these two divisions. McClernand told
me on that day, the 6th, that he profited much by having so able
a commander supporting him. A casualty to Sherman that would
have taken him from the field that day would have been a sad one
for the troops engaged at Shiloh. And how near we came to this!
On the 6th Sherman was shot twice, once in the hand, once in the
shoulder, the ball cutting his coat and making a slight wound,
and a third ball passed through his hat. In addition to this he
had several horses shot during the day.

The nature of this battle was such that cavalry could not be
used in front; I therefore formed ours into line in rear, to
stop stragglers--of whom there were many. When there would be
enough of them to make a show, and after they had recovered from
their fright, they would be sent to reinforce some part of the
line which needed support, without regard to their companies,
regiments or brigades.

On one occasion during the day I rode back as far as the river
and met General Buell, who had just arrived; I do not remember
the hour, but at that time there probably were as many as four
or five thousand stragglers lying under cover of the river
bluff, panic-stricken, most of whom would have been shot where
they lay, without resistance, before they would have taken
muskets and marched to the front to protect themselves. This
meeting between General Buell and myself was on the
dispatch-boat used to run between the landing and Savannah. It
was brief, and related specially to his getting his troops over
the river. As we left the boat together, Buell's attention was
attracted by the men lying under cover of the river bank. I saw
him berating them and trying to shame them into joining their
regiments. He even threatened them with shells from the
gunboats near by. But it was all to no effect. Most of these
men afterward proved themselves as gallant as any of those who
saved the battle from which they had deserted. I have no doubt
that this sight impressed General Buell with the idea that a
line of retreat would be a good thing just then. If he had come
in by the front instead of through the stragglers in the rear, he
would have thought and felt differently. Could he have come
through the Confederate rear, he would have witnessed there a
scene similar to that at our own. The distant rear of an army
engaged in battle is not the best place from which to judge
correctly what is going on in front. Later in the war, while
occupying the country between the Tennessee and the Mississippi,
I learned that the panic in the Confederate lines had not
differed much from that within our own. Some of the country
people estimated the stragglers from Johnston's army as high as
20,000. Of course this was an exaggeration.

The situation at the close of Sunday was as follows: along the
top of the bluff just south of the log-house which stood at
Pittsburg landing, Colonel J. D. Webster, of my staff, had
arranged twenty or more pieces of artillery facing south or up
the river. This line of artillery was on the crest of a hill
overlooking a deep ravine opening into the Tennessee. Hurlbut
with his division intact was on the right of this artillery,
extending west and possibly a little north. McClernand came
next in the general line, looking more to the west. His
division was complete in its organization and ready for any
duty. Sherman came next, his right extending to Snake Creek.
His command, like the other two, was complete in its
organization and ready, like its chief, for any service it might
be called upon to render. All three divisions were, as a matter
of course, more or less shattered and depleted in numbers from
the terrible battle of the day. The division of W. H. L.
Wallace, as much from the disorder arising from changes of
division and brigade commanders, under heavy fire, as from any
other cause, had lost its organization and did not occupy a
place in the line as a division. Prentiss' command was gone as
a division, many of its members having been killed, wounded or
captured, but it had rendered valiant services before its final
dispersal, and had contributed a good share to the defence of

The right of my line rested near the bank of Snake Creek, a
short distance above the bridge which had been built by the
troops for the purpose of connecting Crump's landing and
Pittsburg landing. Sherman had posted some troops in a
log-house and out-buildings which overlooked both the bridge
over which Wallace was expected and the creek above that
point. In this last position Sherman was frequently attacked
before night, but held the point until he voluntarily abandoned
it to advance in order to make room for Lew. Wallace, who came
up after dark.

There was, as I have said, a deep ravine in front of our left.
The Tennessee River was very high and there was water to a
considerable depth in the ravine. Here the enemy made a last
desperate effort to turn our flank, but was repelled. The
gunboats Tyler and Lexington, Gwin and Shirk commanding, with
the artillery under Webster, aided the army and effectually
checked their further progress. Before any of Buell's troops
had reached the west bank of the Tennessee, firing had almost
entirely ceased; anything like an attempt on the part of the
enemy to advance had absolutely ceased. There was some
artillery firing from an unseen enemy, some of his shells
passing beyond us; but I do not remember that there was the
whistle of a single musket-ball heard. As his troops arrived in
the dusk General Buell marched several of his regiments part way
down the face of the hill where they fired briskly for some
minutes, but I do not think a single man engaged in this firing
received an injury. The attack had spent its force.

General Lew. Wallace, with 5,000 effective men, arrived after
firing had ceased for the day, and was placed on the right. Thus
night came, Wallace came, and the advance of Nelson's division
came; but none--unless night--in time to be of material service
to the gallant men who saved Shiloh on that first day against
large odds. Buell's loss on the 6th of April was two men killed
and one wounded, all members of the 36th Indiana infantry. The
Army of the Tennessee lost on that day at least 7,000 men. The
presence of two or three regiments of Buell's army on the west
bank before firing ceased had not the slightest effect in
preventing the capture of Pittsburg landing.

So confident was I before firing had ceased on the 6th that the
next day would bring victory to our arms if we could only take
the initiative, that I visited each division commander in person
before any reinforcements had reached the field. I directed them
to throw out heavy lines of skirmishers in the morning as soon as
they could see, and push them forward until they found the enemy,
following with their entire divisions in supporting distance, and
to engage the enemy as soon as found. To Sherman I told the
story of the assault at Fort Donelson, and said that the same
tactics would win at Shiloh. Victory was assured when Wallace
arrived, even if there had been no other support. I was glad,
however, to see the reinforcements of Buell and credit them with
doing all there was for them to do.

During the night of the 6th the remainder of Nelson's division,
Buell's army crossed the river and were ready to advance in the
morning, forming the left wing. Two other divisions,
Crittenden's and McCook's, came up the river from Savannah in
the transports and were on the west bank early on the 7th. Buell
commanded them in person. My command was thus nearly doubled in
numbers and efficiency.

During the night rain fell in torrents and our troops were
exposed to the storm without shelter. I made my headquarters
under a tree a few hundred yards back from the river bank. My
ankle was so much swollen from the fall of my horse the Friday
night preceding, and the bruise was so painful, that I could get
no rest.

The drenching rain would have precluded the possibility of sleep
without this additional cause. Some time after midnight, growing
restive under the storm and the continuous pain, I moved back to
the log-house under the bank. This had been taken as a
hospital, and all night wounded men were being brought in, their
wounds dressed, a leg or an arm amputated as the case might
require, and everything being done to save life or alleviate
suffering. The sight was more unendurable than encountering the
enemy's fire, and I returned to my tree in the rain.

The advance on the morning of the 7th developed the enemy in the
camps occupied by our troops before the battle began, more than a
mile back from the most advanced position of the Confederates on
the day before. It is known now that they had not yet learned
of the arrival of Buell's command. Possibly they fell back so
far to get the shelter of our tents during the rain, and also to
get away from the shells that were dropped upon them by the
gunboats every fifteen minutes during the night.

The position of the Union troops on the morning of the 7th was
as follows: General Lew. Wallace on the right; Sherman on his
left; then McClernand and then Hurlbut. Nelson, of Buell's
army, was on our extreme left, next to the river.

Crittenden was next in line after Nelson and on his right,
McCook followed and formed the extreme right of Buell's
command. My old command thus formed the right wing, while the
troops directly under Buell constituted the left wing of the
army. These relative positions were retained during the entire
day, or until the enemy was driven from the field.

In a very short time the battle became general all along the
line. This day everything was favorable to the Union side. We
had now become the attacking party. The enemy was driven back
all day, as we had been the day before, until finally he beat a
precipitate retreat. The last point held by him was near the
road leading from the landing to Corinth, on the left of Sherman
and right of McClernand. About three o'clock, being near that
point and seeing that the enemy was giving way everywhere else,
I gathered up a couple of regiments, or parts of regiments, from
troops near by, formed them in line of battle and marched them
forward, going in front myself to prevent premature or
long-range firing. At this point there was a clearing between
us and the enemy favorable for charging, although exposed. I
knew the enemy were ready to break and only wanted a little
encouragement from us to go quickly and join their friends who
had started earlier. After marching to within musket-range I
stopped and let the troops pass. The command, CHARGE, was
given, and was executed with loud cheers and with a run; when
the last of the enemy broke. (*7)



During this second day of the battle I had been moving from
right to left and back, to see for myself the progress made. In
the early part of the afternoon, while riding with Colonel
McPherson and Major Hawkins, then my chief commissary, we got
beyond the left of our troops. We were moving along the
northern edge of a clearing, very leisurely, toward the river
above the landing. There did not appear to be an enemy to our
right, until suddenly a battery with musketry opened upon us
from the edge of the woods on the other side of the clearing.
The shells and balls whistled about our ears very fast for about
a minute. I do not think it took us longer than that to get out
of range and out of sight. In the sudden start we made, Major
Hawkins lost his hat. He did not stop to pick it up. When we
arrived at a perfectly safe position we halted to take an
account of damages. McPherson's horse was panting as if ready
to drop. On examination it was found that a ball had struck him
forward of the flank just back of the saddle, and had gone
entirely through. In a few minutes the poor beast dropped dead;
he had given no sign of injury until we came to a stop. A ball
had struck the metal scabbard of my sword, just below the hilt,
and broken it nearly off; before the battle was over it had
broken off entirely. There were three of us: one had lost a
horse, killed; one a hat and one a sword-scabbard. All were
thankful that it was no worse.

After the rain of the night before and the frequent and heavy
rains for some days previous, the roads were almost
impassable. The enemy carrying his artillery and supply trains
over them in his retreat, made them still worse for troops
following. I wanted to pursue, but had not the heart to order
the men who had fought desperately for two days, lying in the
mud and rain whenever not fighting, and I did (*8) not feel
disposed to positively order Buell, or any part of his command,
to pursue. Although the senior in rank at the time I had been
so only a few weeks. Buell was, and had been for some time
past, a department commander, while I commanded only a
district. I did not meet Buell in person until too late to get
troops ready and pursue with effect; but had I seen him at the
moment of the last charge I should have at least requested him
to follow.

I rode forward several miles the day after the battle, and found
that the enemy had dropped much, if not all, of their provisions,
some ammunition and the extra wheels of their caissons,
lightening their loads to enable them to get off their guns.
About five miles out we found their field hospital abandoned. An
immediate pursuit must have resulted in the capture of a
considerable number of prisoners and probably some guns.

Shiloh was the severest battle fought at the West during the


Back to Full Books