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The Fort Donelson Fight.

How the Enemy's Works were Taken.

The best and most vivid description we have yet seen of the fight at Fort Donelson is published in the New York World. It is accompanied by a diagram and occupies nine columns of that paper. We have only room for an account of the desperate feats of bravery performed by our army on Saturday.


The enemy, true to his tactics, and true also to the dictates of good generalship, made a formidable show of force on the right of our position. From amid the confusion attending the narrative of facts, I glean the following particulars. It appears that the rebel officers in the fort had seen, with no little dismay, the arrival of so large a force of troops, and had seen regiment after regiment winding along the hills from the right to the left of their position and concluded to make at least one desperate attempt to turn the right wing of our force or, failing in that, to take advantage of our confusion to make their escape southward. Our force occupied the hill across which the rebels must pass to reach the main road to Clarksville.

Early in the morning a large rebel force admitted to be 12,000 strong by themselves, which had lain in the trenches all night, were ordered outside of the rifle pits. The men, it appears, were uncertain whether it was a retreat, and resolved to fight with desperation.

The rebel force was, as nearly as can be ascertained, composed of

First Mississippi, Third Mississippi, Fourth Mississippi, Fourteenth Mississippi, and Twentieth Mississippi under General Johnson.

Forty-first Tennessee, Fifty-first Virginia, Fifteenth Arkansas, Second Texas and an Alabama regiment under Gen. J. B. Floyd.

Forrest's Cavalry, 1,200 strong.

They had posted their batteries inside of the breastworks, ready to open fire so soon as our troops advanced to meet them. At six o'clock a shot was sent over to the rebel ranks just leaving their lines. In a few minutes the whole column was in motion. Col. Oglesby who had the position menaced by the enemy, got his troops in line as rapidly as possible, and had Schwartz's Battery of four pieces ready to receive them. The announcement had hardly been made that the enemy was upon us than they were fairly engaged with our troops. The position of our troops during the first assault may be expressed as follows:

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In this order was the fight — which proved a very severe one — begun. Col. Oglesby being hardly pressed, sent back for reinforcements. Col. W. H. Wallace was sent forward with his brigade, consisting of the Eleventh, Twentieth, Forty-eighth and Forty-ninth Illinois regiments, who cam up to find the Mississippi regiments heavily engaged with the Illinoisans of Col. Oglesby. After several desperate volleys our men were flanked by an overpowering force of rebels, and for a few minutes were over-powered. The timely arrival of Col. Wallace turned the day. One of his regiments was cut off from the rest by the cavalry force and a regiment of rebel infantry. They gallantly cut their way through, and drove the enemy back from the hill.

The firing was excessive and well sustained. The Eighth Illinois sustained the brunt of the charge, as did also the Fourteenth Mississippi. The men on both sides behaved with characteristic intrepidity. The southerners rash, impetuous, daring, and soon spent, fought bravely for a short time. The western men, stubborn, daring, and full of fortitude, standing almost unmoved amid the storm of buck and ball which poured from the rifles and muskets of the rebels, only breaking after they had seen their comrades falling by their sides.


By dint of rapid firing from the two batteries of Taylor and Schwartz, the enemy was driven back. The regiments of our line which had suffered so much were withdrawn. The enemy had by this time concentrated their broken troops for another attack. Gen. McClernand had already prepared for the emergency. Anticipating that an attempt would be made to force a passage through, he ordered a brigade to the rear and extreme right to form behind the regiments then in front.

Possibly an hour had elapsed when the enemy returned in a dense mass to the attack. The battery of Capt. Schwartz seemed to be the object of their attack. Out they came pell mell, with deafening volleys of fire. Our batteries, well nigh exhausted of cannister, poured shell into them with all possible dispatch. Ammunition caisons were sent back in haste to get a fresh supply of cannister. The Ninth, Eighteenth, Thirtieth and Forty-first were the next regiments to be brought up. The crest of the hill was contested with variable success for a full hour, when the enemy was finally driven back. The line of battle was so much confused that no connected account of the movements can be detailed. The utmost bravery was displayed on both sides until the struggle generated into a large sort of skirmish; in which a great deal of powder lead and was expended without much effect. The rebels finally retired a third time.

Our men had by this time expended their quantum of ammunition (forty rounds.) It was during this lull and before our men could realize the fact that they had driven the enemy before them, that the fourth and last attempt was made to seize the battery. The horses being shot, the enemy succeeded in gaining possession of the battery of Capt. Schwartz, and were upon the point of turning them upon our troops when Capt. Willett's Chicago battery, which had just toiled up fresh from Fort Henry, arrived on the ground and poured in a perfect storm of canister just in time to save the day. The rebels fell back in disorder pulling the guns of Schwartz with them down the hill, and gained entrance to the fort before our troops could pertake them. Our regiments followed them to the embankments, some of them climbing over, and were driven back for want of support.

But a faint idea can be obtained of the plan of the fight from the best description that can be offered. A conference with the leading officers may settle some of the disputed points. The best account of the affair will undoubtedly be found in the official reports of Gen. McClernand. All others are based, for the present, mainly on speculation. It is conceded on all sides that we could have carried the fort had we mustered all our strength to follow up our success in the attack.

Gen. McClernand who had been a conspicuous mark during the whole of the fight, bore himself with great firmness, exhibiting the greatest decision and calmness in the most arduous situation. The tumult on the left having subsided, he sent a messenger back to Gen. Grant to know if the left wing of Gen. Smith was secure; if so he was ready to advance. As the day waned an occasional shot was to be heard from the gunboats, but no satisfactory account could be received of their operations. We had yet gained no ground on the enemy, although his guns were not half as busy as before. A lull followed the storm. Our armies were preparing for the grand coup de main, by which the place was to be taken.


The task of accomplishing this delicate and dangerous enterprise was accorded to Gen. Smith. Gen. McClernand had tried it thrice and failed, not for want of pluck or men, but the position of the enemy was better defended, and less easily approached, although more easily seen.

The task fell into able hands. Some imputations have before now been thrown upon Gen. Smith's loyalty by malicious rivals, but on yesterday did the general not only vindicate his loyalty, but his ability and skill for to wield an army of soldiers, to wield them easily, and to wield them well.

His division was divided for the attack into two brigades, one under Col. Cook, including the Seventh Illinois, Twelfth Iowa, Thirteenth Missouri, Fiftieth Illinois, and Fifty-second Indiana; Col. Lauman with the Second, Seventh and Fourteenth Iowa, Twenty-fifth Indiana and Thirteenth Missouri.

Col. Cook took the right of the attack, menacing the center of the enemy's position. Opposed to him were six Tennessee regiments, commanded by Cols. Saggs, Baily, Head, Quarles, Brown, and Coombs, with the Second Kentucky regiment. Col. Cook took his men straight up the side of the hill, at the highest portion of the fortifications and the furthest removed from the river. The regiments went gallantly up the sides of the hill, and then encountered the barricade of felled timber and brushwood. The enemy's infantry kept a rain of fire upon them. A 34-pound gun in battery poured down grape and shell upon them, not, however, with very fatal effect. The men stood it without flinching, the lines remaining unbroken. In accordance with the plans of attack, it was decided that the brigade of Col. Cook should engage the enemy on the right, while the brigade of Col. Lauman should make the entree into the works further on the left. He kept up an incessant fire on infantry, engaging the Tennesseeans who were safely unsconced behind the earthworks.

Out he right, however, lay an open space, up which climbed the brigade of Lauman. The Second Iowa led the charge, followed by the rest in their order. The sight was sublime. Onward they sped, heedless of the bullets and balls of the enemy above. The hill was so steep, the timber cleared, that the rebels had left a gap in their line of rifle pits on this crest of hill. Through this gap they were bound to go. Right up they went, climbing on all fours, their line of dark blue clothing advancing regularly forward, the white line of smoke from the top of the works opposed by a line from our troops.

They reach the top! Numbers fall! The suspense in breathless! See, they climb over the works! They fall — they are lost! Another group, and still another and another, close up the gap! All is covered in smoke. The lodgment is made — the troops swarm up the hill side, their bright bayonets glittering in the sun. The firing slackens.

What is more wonderful is that Capt. Stone's battery of rifled 10-pounders, close behind the brigade, is tugging up the hill, the horses plunging and riders whipping. Upward they go, where never vehicle went before, up the precipitous and clogged sides of the hill. No sooner on the crest than the guns are unlimbered, the men at their posts. Percussion shells and canister are shot spitefully from the Parrot guns at the flying enemy. The day is gained — a position is taken — the troops surround the guns, and the enemy has deserted his post. The 34-pounder which has caused so much havoc is silenced by Col. Cook's brigade, and the rebels fly to the main fort in alarm. The day is gained! The foe is running! Cheers upon cheers rend the air, and in a few minutes all is hushed.

In the midst of all this warm work there rode the white-haired Gen. Smith, his snowy moustache standing out like bristles, his hand waving majestically, his bearing erect and proud — undaunted by the deadly hail, and unmoved at the brilliant success. Sure of his point, his batteries placed, the enemy's guns are turned upon them, and ordered his reserve into line with all the coolness of a Hannibal. An offer comes to him of more troops. "Thank you, gentlemen; I think we've already more than enough;" calmly replies the general, and in fifteen minutes the lines were disposed of for the night. The loss I am happy to say, to our forces was small compared with the amount of firing. Our loss, in the storming of the works, will not exceed two hundred killed and wounded. That of the enemy must have been at least that number notwithstanding that they were intrenched behind breastworks.


What followed may be told in a few words. The enemy seeing that we had gained one of his strong positions, successfully repulsed him in his most daring attempts to raise the siege, took advantage of the darkness, called a council of war in which it was determined to surrender.