Siege of Fort Donelson
Colonel Chief of Staff.
THE SIEGE OF FORT DONELSON.
REPORT OF COL. J. D. WEBSTER,
CHIEF OF ENGINEER STAFF.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT WEST TENNESSEE
FORT DONELSON, FEB 22, 1862
Maj.-Gen. U.S. Grant, Commanding:
The preparations made by the enemy for the defence of this position were very extensive. A complete and accurate surrey of the works and vicinity would require more means and time than can now be commanded.
The water batteries, upper and lower, which were intended to subserve the primary object of the position -the control of the river navigation- were well located for the purpose. At the lower and principal one, were mounted nine pieces -eight 32-pound guns and a 10-inch columbiad. At the upper, one gun of the exterior form and dimensions of a 10-inch columbiad, but bored as a 32-pounder and rifled; also two 32-pounder carronades.
Both these batteries are sunken or excavated in the hillside. In the lower one, strong traverses are left between the guns, to secure them against an infilading fire. The elevation above the water- say thirty feet at the time of the gunboat attack- gave them a fine command of the river, and made the task of attacking them in front an arduous one. The range of the guns in arc, was, however, quite limited.
[The report is accompanied by a diagram of the works. A small portion of the report which is here omitted is devoted to explanation of the diagram. The outworks, rested at either extremity upon creeks impassable on account of back-water from the river.]
These defenses consisted in the main of what have come to be called rifle-pits -hollow ditches, the earth from which is thrown to the point affording shelter from the fire of the attack.
The strength of the profile of this work, which had evidently been very hastily executed, varied at different points.
Along the front of this exterior line, the trees had been felled, and the brush cut and bent over, breast high, making a wide abatis, very difficult to pass through. The lines run along a ridge cut through by several ravines, running toward the river. The hillsides rise by abrupt ascents to a height of perhaps seventy-five or eighty feet.
Our army approached the place with very little knowledge of its topography. Our first line of battle was formed on the 12th inst., in some open fields opposite the enemy's centre. On the 13th, we were established on a line of heights in general parallelism with the enemy's outworks, and extending a distance of over three miles.
Various elevations and spurs of the hills afforded positions for our artillery, from which we annoyed the enemy, but which were not of such commanding character as to enable us to achieve decisive results. The ranges were long, and the thick woods prevented
During the next two days our lines were gradually extended to the right and left. Our skirmishers, thrown out in front, keeping up an active, and as we since learn, effective fire on the enemy's outworks.
On the 13th a gallant charge was made against the enemy on our right, and was probably only prevented from being successful by the fall of the Colonel leading it, who was severely wounded.
Up to the 15th, our operations had been chiefly those of investment; but we had not gained a position from which our artillery could be advantageously used against the main fort.
On the 15th, the enemy seeming to grow uncomfortable under the constricting process, came out of his entrenchments and attacked our right with great force and determination, achieving considerable success in the forenoon. This active movement necessitated active retaliation. On the left wing an attack was ordered on the outworks, and the right was reinforced and ordered to retake the ground lost in the morning.
How well both orders were executed need not here be stated. On the right our former position was taken and passed, and on the left a successful assault gave us possession of a position within the enemy's lines, and opened the way to a still better one, which nightfall alone prevented us from occupying with our rifled artillery, which would readily have commanded the enemy's main works,
This repulse from the ground so hardly won in the forenoon, and probably still more, our possession of a vantage ground within their lines, induced the enemy to capitulate on the morning of the 16th.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, General, your obedient servant,
J. D. WEBSTER,
Colonel Chief of Staff
Printed in the New York Times, March 2, 1862
From The New York Times, Feb 22, 1862:
Among the wounded whose names I have been able to obtain, are the following
Col. Lawler, 18th Illinois, shot through arm.
Col. J. A. Logan, 31st Illinois, shot through shoulder
Cunt. D. H, Brush, 18th Ill., shot through shoulder.
Lieut. While, Co. D, 8th Missouri, severely.
Capt, Lawler.Co. D, 18th Illinois, severely.
Capt. Crews, Co. G, l8th Illinois, severely.
Capt. Dillon, Co. C, 18th Illinois, severely.
Capt Reid, Co. E. 18th Illinois, slightly.
Capt. Wilson, Co. B, 18th Illinois, slightly.
Lieut. Towle, Co. D, 18th Illinois, slightly.
Lieut. Churchill, Co. A, 11th Illinois, hip.
Lieut. Duncan, Co. H, 11th Illinois, badly.
Lieut. Murray, Co. G, 11th Illinois, three places.
Capt. Rose, Co. G, 11th Illinois, leg.
Lieut. Wilcox, Co. B, 11th Illinois, badly.
Lieut. Dean, Co. B. 11th Illinois, badly.
Capt. McKee, Co. C. 11th Illinois, slightly.
Capt. Andrews, Co. D, 11th Illinois, badly.
Lieut. Blackstone, Co. I, 11th Illinois, slightly.
Capt. Carter. Co. K. 11th Illinois, slightly.
Lieut. Kenyon, Co. K, 11th Illinois, missing.
Capt Bernard, Co. ?, 20th Illinois, badly.
Adjutant Copehart, 31st Illinois, badly wounded.
Lieut. King, Co. B, 20th Illinois, slightly.
Lieut. Jones, 17th Illinois, mortally.
Capt. Clowton, 2d Iowa, badly.
Lieut. Holmes, Co. A., 2d Iowa.
Lieut. Ensign, 2d Iowa.
Lieut. Archdeacon, 20th Illinois, leg broken.
Lieut. King, 20th Illinois, slightly.
Lieut.-Colonel Ransom, 11th Illinois, slightly.
Capt. McKee, 11th Illinois, slightly.
Capt. Carter, 11th Illinois, badly.
Other Illinois Casualties
Transcribed by K. Torp
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