It’s occupants could not stand the shot and shell that were thrown with such effect from our gunboats.

According to the Adjutant General’s Regimental history report of the 48th Illinois involvement at Ft. Donelson:

“February 15, was in position by the side of the Eleventh and Twentieth. The rattle of musketry, on the right, was incessant, and gradually approached the left, where the Forty-eighth was stationed, on the brow of the hill, and it was soon fiercely engaged. The enemy were twice repulsed from the front of the Forty-eighth, but they finally succeeded in turning the right of our line, and the Regiment was compelled to retire and form a new line, where the enemy was again repulsed, and he retired within the works. The Regiment lost, this day, forty killed and wounded. Among the killed was the gallant, daring and courteous Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Smith.”

Fort Donelson
Dover Tennessee

February 27, 1862

[From an Illinois Union soldier in the Wallace 3rd Brigade],

Editors note: this Union soldier was probably a member of the 20th or 48th Illinois Infantry.

On the 8th, inst we received the news of the surrender of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River, and also received orders to move from (Cape Girardeau?) immediately.

Accordingly we embarked on the Steamer Gladiator at 4 o’clock pm of the 8th, and were soon on our way down the Mississippi arriving at Cairo [ILL] at 2am of the 9th when we took the Cario up to Paducah, Ky where we arrived at 10am and stopped for one hour. Here we found but few soldiers, the rest having gone to Fort Henry, Tenn.

Donelson capture print

We took the Tennessee River and arrived at Fort Henry at 10pm and disembarked at 9am on the 10th. I took a stroll around the late Rebel fort which was one of the strongest and best armed forts I have seen during the campaign, but it’s occupants could not stand the shot and shell that were thrown with such effect from our gunboats.

They must have lost many more than were reported to have been, for we found some twenty bodies that had been thrown into the water inside of the fort and covered up with sand bags. They had some twenty guns well mounted and plenty of ammunition. One of their guns was a 128 pound Dahlgren, and one a 32 pound rifled cannon the latter of which was burst during the action.

At 4pm of the 11th we started out with two days rations for Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River a distance of 15 miles. After going 4 miles we encamped for the night and at daylight we started again in the direction of the enemy arriving within 2 1/2 miles of the fort, we were drawn up in line of battle when we heard firing in the advance which proved to be skrimmishing between the advance guard and the pickets of the enemy the latter were soon drove in with a total of five killed and several wounded.

We came in sight of their camp outside of the fort at sundown and cast a few shells among them which drove them in confusion into the trenches. We soon surrounded their works at a distance of 1/2 mile and lay on our arms to await the approach of daylight to commence the attack.

At an early hour our guns opened up on the enemy and we were occasionally answered by a shell from their batteries. Our force was some 40,000 thousand strong and hourly increasing.

At eleven am (the 13th) Col. Oglesby [8th Illinois] with his Brigade [1st] was ordered to take a redoubt and batteries which were supposed to be vacated by the enemy but he refused to do so, and Col. [William R.] Morrison [3rd brigade, led the 17th and 49th Illinois at Donelson] with the 2nd Brigade (ours) was assigned the task.

Editors note: The 2nd brigade was led by W.H.L. Wallace (also Colonel of the 11th ILL). Comprised of the following regiments: 11th, 20th, 45th, 48th Illinois Infantries. Battery B & D artillery, and 4th Illinois Cavalry.

We moved forward through the woods to within 100 yards of the works when we received a murderous crossfire of Artillery & musketing and the engagement had commenced. We again moved foward and held our position until ordered three times to fall back, which we did with reluctance after Col. Morrison was carried wounded from the field.

The enemy was within their works, with their front so effectually blockaded that it was impossible for us to approach them in line or we would have taken the redout at the point of the bayonet. But Gen. Grant seeing our situation ordered us to fall back which we did in good order.

The loss of our Regt. in this charge was 15 killed and 80 wounded, & in our Co. 4 killed and 15 wounded, several of whom were mortally. We brought off our dead and wounded many of whom were found within 50 yards of the enemy, but the dead of other companies were left on the field.

*******************************************
Note: In Feb 1862, Grant ordered 30,000 men including Col Oglesby who led the 8th Ill and five other regiments, on to take Fort Donelson. The Federals quickly drove back the Rebel pickets, but the Rebs were now entrenched behind breastworks and ditches. The 8th with its sister regiments with artillery support attacked the redoubts, but were bloodied and repulsed. That night it snowed and the men were without cover and suffered terribly in the weather. But, by Feb 15th the fort was surrounded and it was only a matter of time for the Rebs.

********************************************

Casualties at Donelson:

11th Illinois – Fort Donelson; February 12th, 13th and 14th, occupied in investing that place; 15th, heavily engaged with the enemy about five hours, losing 329 killed, wounded and missing, out of about 500 engaged, of whom 72 were killed and 182 wounded.

20th Illinois, at Donelson in mid February had 19 killed and 4 wounded (at least according to CWD).

45th Illinois, at Fort Donelson it was sent to the relief of the 49th Ill. infantry, which was engaged close up to the enemy’s works and received its “baptism of fire.” The regiment bore its full share of the three days, fight at Donelson, though its loss was small, only 2 killed and 26 wounded.

48th Illinois, At Fort Donelson, in connection with the 17th and 49th Ill., it charged the enemy’s works, but was repulsed with a severe loss, and was under fire during the following day, losing a few men wounded. During the third and last day of the battle it was fiercely engaged and lost 40 in killed and wounded.

According to the Adjutant General’s Regimental history report of the 48th involvement at Donelson:

“February 15, was in position by the side of the Eleventh and Twentieth. The rattle of musketry, on the right, was incessant, and gradually approached the left, where the Forty-eighth was stationed, on the brow of the hill, and it was soon fiercely engaged. The enemy were twice repulsed from the front of the Forty-eighth, but they finally succeeded in turning the right of our line, and the Regiment was compelled to retire and form a new line, where the enemy was again repulsed, and he retired within the works. The Regiment lost, this day, forty killed and wounded. Among the killed was the gallant, daring and courteous Lieutenant Colonel Thomas H. Smith.”

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