Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2/12/2014 Tennessee Civil War Notes

12-16, Siege &capture of Fort Donelson

Colonel Adolphus Heiman of the 10th Tennessee Infantry gave two accounts of the fall of Fort Donelson, one formal, the other not.

Report of Col. A. Heiman, Tenth Tennessee Infantry, commanding brigade.

RICHMOND, VA., August 9, 1862.

SIR: My imprisonment since the surrender of the troops at Fort Donelson has prevented me from reporting the operations of the brigade under my command during the action at Fort Donelson before now. In the absence of Gen. Pillow, who commanded the division to which my brigade was attached, it becomes my duty, and I have the honor, to submit to you the following report:

After the battle of Fort Henry, on February 6 last, I was directed by Gen. Tilghman, then in command of the defenses of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, to retreat with the garrison of the fort by the upper road to Fort Donelson. The garrison consisted, besides the company of artillery which was surrendered with the fort, of two, the first commanded by myself and the second by Col. Drake, consisting of an aggregate of about 2,600 men. After a very tedious march we reached Fort Donelson at 12 o'clock at night, where Col. Head, of the Thirtieth Tennessee, was in command during the absence of Gen. Tilghman. Expecting the arrival of Gen. B. R. Johnson and other general officers in a few days I did not assume command, which would have been my duty, being next in command to Gen. Tilghman.

Gen. Johnson arrived on the 8th, Gen. Pillow on the 9th, Gen. Buckner on the 12th, and Gen. Floyd on the 13th of February.

The brigade assigned to my command consisted of the Tenth Tennessee, Lieut.-Col. MacGavock; Forty-second Tennessee, Col. Quarles; Forty-eight Tennessee, Col. Voorhies; Fifty-third Tennessee, Col. Abernathy; Twenty-seventh Alabama, Col. Hughes, and Capt. Maney's light battery, amounting in all to an aggregate of about 1,600 men.

This brigade formed the right of Gen. Pillow's division, and was in line on the left of the division of Gen. Buckner, who commanded the right wing.

The ground I occupied in line of defense was a hill somewhat in the shape of a V, with the apex at the angle, which was the advance point as well as the center of my command, and nearly the center of the whole line of defense. From this point the ground descended abruptly on each side to a valley. The valley on my right was about 500 yards in width, and divided my command from Gen. Buckner's left wing. The one on my left was about half that width, and ran between my left wing and the brigade commanded by Col. Drake. These two valleys united about half a mile in the rear. The ground in front of my line (2,600 feet in length) was sloping down to a ravine and was heavily timbered.

We commenced digging rifle pits and felling abatis on the 11th, and continued this work during the following night, under the directions of Maj. Gilmer and Lieut. Morris, engineers, the latter belonging to Gen. Tilghman's staff. The pits were occupied by Lieut.-Col. MacGavock's regiment on the right, Col. Voorhies' regiment on the left, Col.'s Abernathy's and Hughes' regiments and Maney's battery in the center. Col. Quarles' regiment I held in reserve, but several of his companies also had to occupy the pits, the other regiments not being sufficient to cover the whole line. Col. Head, of the Thirtieth Tennessee Regiment, occupied the valley between my command and Col. Drake's brigade. I was afterward informed that this regiment was also placed under my command, but, the colonel not having reported to me, I did not know it.

In the mean time the enemy commenced forming his line by investment and his pickets were seen in every direction. Early on the morning of the 12th he had two batteries placed in range of my position, one on my left and front, and the other on the other side of the valley, on my right. Both were in the edge of the woods and under cover, while Capt. Maney's battery, on the summit of the hill, was entirely exposed not only to the enemy's artillery, but also to their sharpshooters. No time could yet have been spared to protect his guns by a parapet; besides, we were ill-provided with tools for that purpose. However, our battery had some advantage over the battery on my left in altitude, and had also a full range of a large and nearly level field to the left, which the enemy had to cross to attack Col. Drake's position or my own from that direction. In that respect and some other points the position of my battery was superb.

The enemy's battery on my right had only range of part of my right wing, but was in a better position to operate on Gen. Buckner's left wing. Both batteries opened fire at 7 o'clock in the morning and kept it up until 5 o'clock in the evening, firing at any position on our line within their range. Their fire was returned by Maney's battery, Graves' battery of Col. Brown's command, and a battery at Col. Drake's position. The enemy's guns were nearly all rifled, which gave them a great advantage in range and otherwise. However, with the exception of the loss of two artillery horses, my command met with no other serious casualties on that day.

At night I strengthened my pickets and directed Lieut.-Col. MacGavock to throw a strong picket across the valley on my right. There were no rifle pits or any other defenses in that valley, although a road leading from Dover to Paris Landing, on the Tennessee River, runs through it Col. Cook, of Col. Brown's brigade, co-operate with Lieut.-Col. MacGavock in guarding this point afterwards. Strong parties were kept at work during the whole night in improving the rifle pits and felling abatis.

Daylight next morning (13th) showed that the enemy was not idle either. During the night he placed another battery in position on my left, and the one on my right and center and on Capt. Graves' battery. He had also thrown across the main valley two lines of infantry (advance and rear), about three-quarters of a mile from our line, and the firing of all his batteries was resumed early in the morning and was promptly answered by our batteries. One of the gunners had both his hands shot off while in the act of inserting the friction primer.

At about 11 o'clock my pickets came in, informing me of the advance of a large column of the enemy. Having myself been convinced of that fact, and finding that they were deploying their columns in the woods in front of my right and center, I directed Capt. Maney to shell the woods, and use grape and canister when they came within the proper range, which was promptly executed. Capt. Graves, seeing the enemy advancing upon my line, with excellent judgment opened his battery upon them across the valley. In the mean time their sharpshooters had approached my line through the woods, fired their rifles from behind the trees, killing and wounding Maney's gunners in quick succession. First Lieut. Burns was one of the first who fell. Second Lieut. Massie was also mortally wounded; but the gallant Maney, with the balance of his men, stood by their guns like true horses, and kept firing into their lines, which steadily advanced within 40 yards of our rifle pits, determined to force my right wing and center. Now the firing commenced from the whole line of rifle pits in quick succession. This constant roar of musketry from both lines was kept up for about fifteen minutes, when the enemy were repulsed; but they were rallied, and vigorously attacked us the second and third time, but with the same result, and they finally retired. They could not stand our galling fire. The dry leaves on the ground were set on fire by our batteries, and, I regret to state, several of their wounded perished in the flames. The pickets I sent out after their retreat brought in about 60 muskets and other equipments they had left behind. I learned from two prisoners who were brought in that the attack was made by the Seventeenth, Forty-eighth, and Forty-ninth Illinois Regiments, and have since learned from their own report that they lost in that attack 40 killed and 200 wounded.

Our loss I cannot accurately state, nor am I able to give the names of killed and wounded, as subsequent events prevented me from getting reports of the different commanders; but I am sure that my loss is not over 10 killed and about 30 wounded, nearly all belonging to Capt. Maney's artillery and Col. Abernathy's regiment, which was at that time under the command of Lieut.-Col. Winston. The firing from their batteries continued all day.

Late in the evening Gen. Pillow re-enforced me with section of a light battery, under Capt. Parker. The night was unusually cold and disagreeable. Snow and sleet fell during the whole night; nevertheless we constructed a formidable parapet in front of the battery, in which I was actively assisted by Maj. Grace, of the Tenth Tennessee. This hard and most unpleasant labor was chiefly performed by Col. Quarles' regiment. It was a horrible night, and the troops suffered dreadfully, being without blankets.

Next day (14th), finding the enemy again in line across the valley, and believing that he would attempt to force my line on my right, I directed Capt. Maney to move a section of his battery down the hill, in range of the valley. The advance of the enemy towards this direction would then have been checked by Graves' and Maney's batteries, and the fires of MacGavock's and Cook's regiments from the right and left; but no demonstration was made in that direction, although I considered it the weakest point in our line. During the whole day my command was exposed to a cross-fire of the enemy's batteries and were much annoyed by their sharpshooters.

At 11 o'clock at night I was summoned to attend a consultation of general officers at Gen. Floyd's headquarters. The general opinion prevailed that the place could not be held against at least treble the number of our forces, besides their gunboats, and that they could cut off our communication at any time and force a surrender; therefore it was agreed to attack the enemy's right wing in force at 4 o'clock in the morning, and then to act according to circumstances, either to continue the fight or to cut through their lines and retreat towards Nashville. Gen. Buckner was to move a little later and attack the enemy's flank at the moment he gave way to our forces in his front. I was directed to hold my position. Col. Bailey was to remain in the fort (near the river), and Head's regiment was to occupy the vacated rifle pits of Gen. Buckner's command. I doubted very much that these positions, isolated as they were from each other, could be held if attacked, and I stated my fears to Gen. Floyd, who replied, if I was pressed to fall back on the fort or act as circumstances would dictate.

At the appointed hour on the 15th the different brigades moved to their assigned positions. Maj. Rice, aide-de-camp to Gen. Pillow, brought an order to me from Gen. Buckner to send a regiment forward and hold the Wynn's Ferry road until the arrival of Gen. Buckner's division. This duty I assigned to Col. Quarles' regiment, which returned after the fulfillment of this order. Maj. Cunningham, chief of artillery (directed by Gen. Floyd), reported to me that two light batteries were at my disposal. Having more guns than I could use to an advantage, and not a sufficient number of gunners to work them, I respectfully declined the offer, but requested him to send me efficient gunners for at least one battery. This was done. Maj. Cunningham came with them and remained with me for some time. During the day my guns were used to the best advantage, and at one time with excellent effect, against the enemy's cavalry, who immediately after were pursued by Forrest's cavalry.

About noon I was directed by an aide-de-camp of Gen. Buckner to guard the fire of my battery, as he intended to send a column to charge one of the enemy's batteries. Seeing these regiments pass my left in the open field, and being aware that my left wing could not be attacked at that time, I sent two regiments from my left (Col. Voorhies' and Col. Hughes') to their support; but before they reach the ground the three attacking regiments were withdrawn. The battery was not taken, and my regiments returned. Early in the evening the different troops were ordered back to their respective rifle pits, but the fighting continued at different points until night.

At 2 o'clock on the morning of the 16th Lieut. Moorman, aide-de-camp to Gen. Johnson, brought the order to vacate the rifle pits without the least noise and to follow the movement of the troops on my left, stating at the same time that it was the intention to fight through their lines before the break of day. All the forces were concentrated near Dover, under the command of Gen. Johnson. In the mean time white flags were placed on the works of our former lines, and by the time the sun rose above the horizon our forces were surrendered.

Much credit is due to Capt.'s Maney and Parker, of the artillery, for their gallant conduct during the action, as well as to many other officers and men, whom, in the absence of reports from their respective commanders, I am unable to particularize; but it gives me great pleasure to state that, with very few exceptions, they all have done their duty like brave and gallant soldiers.

To Capt. Leslie Ellis, acting assistant adjutant-general, and my aide-de-camp, Capt. Bolen, I am particularly indebted for their untiring exertions in assisting me in the performance of my duties. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. HEIMAN, Col., Cmdg. Brigade.

OR, Ser. I, Vol. 7, pp. 366-370.


Heiman's other account of the fall of Fort Donelson was composed while he was a prisoner of war at Fort Warren, Boston Harbor. On April 23, 1862, his subordinate Lieutenant-Colonel Randal McGavock of the 10th Tennessee Infantry Regiment noted the following in his diary:


Below I furnish Col. A Heiman's Report of the battle at Ft. Donelson in verse. Its chief merit is lost to those who do not hear him read it.

Pillow and Floyd, two Generals of might

Came to Donelson the Yankees to fight.

Pillow said he is a Hero

And would drive them back to Cairo,

The Cumberland and Tennessee

From Hessians I will free--

In fact I am the man for the crisis

If you only follow my advices--

With Johnson on my left, and Buckner on my right

I shall give them a Devil of a fight-

Gideon, said Floyd, I'll make you understand

That these troops here are under my command,

Besides your are too big for your britches,

This you have shown by your ditches--

Ah! Cried Pillow, do you mean at Camargo[1]

On this unkind hint I shall lay an Embargo--

But let this pass, we must have no contentions now,

Or we will not gain fresh laurels for our Brow.

With pick, shovel, and spade

Lines of rifle pits were made.

And a consultation was held of Cols. & Gens wise

On the 15th of Feb. by daylight in the morning

The Rebels gave them a Hell of a storming,

They were driven back from their position

And our affairs were thought to be in the best condition--

Now our Generals put together their wits

And ordered the troops back to their rifle pits--

Said it was no use to hold out any longer,

The enemy is by great odds the stronger--

They will cut off our communication

And that will be followed by starvation.

Gideon said Floyd, I cannot, I will not surrender

And he felt his neck and pulled his suspender--

Ah Ha! said Pillow, you are afraid of the halter--

Now did you ever know me to falter--

But like yourself, surrender I will not,

Let us try and fix up a great plot--

Give the command over to Buckner and let us be smart,

Let his surrender while we depart--

And so they did,

With kin and kith

and during the night

They took to flight

Said now all is over

We are the Heroes of Dover--

Make defences [sic], that was the order given

That the enemy from our lines may be driven.

Pen and Sword [2]



12, A note on Confederate conscription near Memphis


Rebel parties continue forcing poor white men in West Tennessee into the ranks. They have been particularly active in the vicinity of Memphis, expecting, no doubt, to get those tinctured with Unionism.


Louisville Daily Journal, December 12, 1862.



12, 1864 John Wilkes Booth in Nashville

The distinguished tragedian, J. Wilkes Booth, takes his farewell benefit to-night, his engagement closing the following evening. The entertainment will commence with Shakespeare's tragedy, "the Merchant of Venice," and close with "Catherine and Petruchio," a Shakespearean comedy. In the former, Mr. Booth appears as Shylock; in the latter as petruchio. [sic] The pieces have been well cast, and we may expect them to be produced in the most brilliant style.

Mr. Booth came amongst us a stranger, his reputation as a rising star having preceded him, creating a general desire amongst our playgoers to get a "taste of his quality." His first night was a splendid ovation; the theater being densely packed, every foot of standing room occupied, and numbers sent away unable to get in. Nobly did he fulfill expectations, and establish himself as a favorite. Every succeeding performance has been a repetition of his successes. In no part has he failed. His genius appears equal to anything the tragic muse has produced; and the time is not too distant when he will attain the high niche of professional fame. His engagement here will not soon be forgotten by any who have attended the theatre, and the records of that establishment will transmit it to those who follow after him as the best played here during the most eventful of dramatic seasons.

We expect to see the house literally overflowing to-night. Gentlemen with ladies should make it a point to go early to be sure of seats.

Nashville Daily Union, February 12, 1864



12, 1864 - "Knoxville is now covered with dead mules, horses, cows, calves, dogs, oxen and men The men are supposed to be burried [sic] but there they lay some with their feet, others with their faces and some with nearly their whole from exposed God forbid that I should ever be burried in such a place." Excerpts from Ira Conine's letter to Jennie

Knoxville Tenn

Feb, 12.. /64

Miss Jennie

Yours of Jan, 30.. was recieved yesterday had'nt heard from you before since I received yours of Dec 1st I really thought you had given me up entirely But I guess you think of me once in a while yet I am glad your school is so near out perhaps you will have time to write oftener I can't begin to get along with one letter a month ---"not if you have time to write oftener"

I sent of few lines to you by Anderson on his return I want you to send me a great long, long, letter and don't forget to enclose your Photograph now I shall look for it now please dont disappoint me --- I recieved a letter from mother Wednesday answered it last night first letter I have got from her since I left home how is'nt it to bad my letters certainly do not come through or you are all getting verry slack about writing and I cant think you are ---- well here is the mail again and I must look for an anther letter --- the mail is distributed and behold another letter from Jennie dated Jan 14 and a good letter it is too dont care now how long the war lasts nothing does a soldier as much good as to recieve a letter from home or from some intimate friend Jennie if I could recieve a letter from you every day I dont believe I would be satisfied I would then want to see you But God knows this wicked Rebellion cant last always Oh! Then what joy there will be It will be equal to that great day when there shall be no more waiting or gnashing of teeth It is then we shall cease to hear the roar of cannon The rattle of musketry or the clashing of Bayonets; "God Speed the day"

Hell I presume Ham and Miss Apger do not feel so badly by this time as Anderson is home and they find him not dangerous by wounded: Anderson is a brave and noble boy and has so distinguished himself that he will never be forgotten by his comrades ---

You write that the 21st is home and mother wrote that Dillworth was married and dont say to whom? I wish when you write such things you would write the particulars I presume you are having gay times sleighing up there we dont go sleighing down here have no snow when we want to go any place here we walk or take a government wagon I would like to have attended some of you spellings like to happen in and spell down your school

You said you almost dreaded to hear from me afraid of hearing bad news I assure you if I have no good news to write I shall not write the bad You thought several times you would not hear from me again don't borrow any trouble on that account you will not get rid of me so easy of course I have seen some varry hard times since I left home but I have been well all the time and that is almost all a soldier need ask for good health is a great blessing but all are not blessed with it Smallpox is raging varry high here at present: There is not a day but the toll of the Death bell can be heard some poor soldier has gone the way of all the earth from some mortal wound or fever and often from homesickness There is a great deal of sickness here --- and is it any wonder the ground that was once green and beautiful around Knoxville is now covered with dead mules, horses, cows, calves, dogs, oxen and men The men are supposed to be burried but there they lay some with their feet, others with their faces and some with nearly their whole form exposed God forbid that I should ever be burried in such a place….

To be sure it is verry lonely here when you cant hear from home but dont flatter your self that we dont see nothing here but blue jackets and Rebs for there is some as pretty Lass's in Old Tennessee as ever the sun shone upon But as J.C. says They can chew tobacco and smoke I have had several say to me --- Why dont you neither chew tobacco or smoke? I tell them I never saw a woman smoke or chew tobacco till I came to Tennessee but that the women in the north get most Gloriously drunk very often; They think it must be awful to see a woman drunk think that is worse than chewing tobacco --- I tell them some awful yarns about the northern women and their habits Poor Sallie had to have both fingers taken off how lost she must feel without the use of her hand you say George and John Shaw have not gone in to the service yet neither will they go in if they know when they are well off

~ ~ ~

I remain ever yours

Ira B. Conine

Ira B. Conine Correspondence.



        12, 1865 - Major-General R. H. Milroy's solution for guerrilla activity in the Tullahoma area, an excerpt from a letter to his wife in Rensselaer, Indiana

Tullahoma, Tenn [sic]

Feb 12th 1865

....I have no news to write of any interest to write about except brutal Murders [sic] by bushwhackers which is an almost daily occurance [sic] in some direction around us, but the history of these atrocities would be too long and would shock you. But I have fell on a plan to stir up the people against these monsters and to pitch in and help us clean the country out. Blood and fire is the medicine I use. I shoot the men who are friendly with and harbour the bushwhackers and burn their houses. By spreading death and fire in a neighborhood where the bushwhackers have friends, the survivors come rushing in demanding in terror "What shall we do to be saved?" I tell them to organize companies-get guns-horse clubs or anything else and rush out after the bushwhackers-kill or capture them and being them in and we will be their friends and protect them-and they are doing it splendidly-They know where the hiding places and paths of the bushwhackers are and I have got up a war of extermination between the people and the bushwhackers or am fast getting it up. The people have heretofore been natural and the bushwhackers could go where they pleased among them. But this state of affairs is fast changing. I was about to hang two notorious Bushwhackers [sic] on last Friday by a public execution. They had been captured by some new green Wisconsin troops and brought in alive. They had recently brutally murdered two negroes [sic] after whiping [sic] them nearly to death mostly because they had been working for the Yankees. I had the gallows erected near town, had them taken out and up on the scaffold [with] a thousand soldiers and people around to see them hung, and they were making speeches and bidding good buy [sic] when a dispatch arrived from Gen. Rousseau to try them by military commission first before hanging them. This was a great dissappointment [sic], especially to my Missouri troops, who are the greatest enemies to bushwhackers I have ever met. I can easily prove the villians [sic] guilty and will have the pleasure of hanging them yet....

* * * *

Your Husband Truly,

R. H. Milroy

Papers of General Milroy, pp. 495-496.

[1] Camargo is located in Northern Mexico, just south of the Rio Grande River. It was a supply base for the U. S. Army in the initial phases of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). During the conflict Gideon J. Pillow, at best a military novice, was made a brigadier general by his good friend, erstwhile law partner and fellow Tennessean, President James K. Polk. While stationed at Camargo Pillow directed the building of earthen fortifications which included a trench, or "ditches" as Heiman called them. Pillow's efforts amused West Point graduate, Lieutenant. Cadmus M. Wilcox, a qualified military engineer. Wilcox wrote of his encounter with Pillow's project: "While detained at Camargo I saw what was reported at the time in the newspapers as General Pillow's fortifications, with the ditch on the inside [i.e. built backwards]. Being recently from West Point, with our minds full of what the text books prescribed in such cases, I and my classmates were greatly amused, and one, Lieut. James Stuart, of South Carolina, mounted on a Texas mustang, and riding at a fast gallop, leaped both parapet and ditch." As cited in George Winston Smith and Charles Judah, eds., Chronicles of the Gringos: The U. S. Army In the Mexican War, 1846-1848; Accounts of Eyewitnesses and Combatants, (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press, 1968) p. 24, from: Cadmus M. Wilcox, History of the Mexican War, ed. Mary R. Wilcox, (Washington: Church News Publishing Co., 1892), pp. 113-114. Thus, Pillow had built the fortifications backwards. The story of "Pillow's earthworks" must have been fairly well known, hence Heiman's satirical reference to ditches, etc. Moreover, the following story indicates Pillow's ineptitude for military fortifications was widely known: "Gen. Gilmore on Folly Island [S.C.]-A little incident has been told us which has not so far as we gave seen, found its way into the papers, and which is illustrative of the character of Gen. Gillmore. [sic] It appears that under the regime of Gen. Hunter, fortifications had been constructed on Folly Island-an ominous name, by the way. Instead of being on the north side of the island and pointing towards the rebel works, these fortifications on the Gen Pillow Plan - were on the south [sic] side and pointed directly away from the enemy! Gen Gilmore, on taking command, immediately visited the island and discovered how the land lay. Turning to one of his engineers he inquired: 'Have you got this island moving on a pivot?' There was no answer to the question, but the hit was appreciated, and Gen. Hunter's stronghold on the south side was neglected from that time." See: Nashville Daily Press for September 5, 1863.

[2] Jack Allen, Herschel Gower, eds., Pen and Sword: the Life and Journals of Randal W. McGavock, (Nashville: Tennessee Historical Commission, 1959), pp. 616-618.

James B. Jones, Jr.

Public Historian

Tennessee Historical Commission

2941 Lebanon Road

Nashville, TN  37214

(615)-532-1550  x115

(615)-532-1549  FAX


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