Today in History:

56 Series I Volume VII- Serial 7 - Ft. Henry-Ft. Donelson

Page 56 OPERATIONS IN KY., TENN., N. ALA., AND S. W. VA. Chapter XVII.

I see by the telegraphic dispatches that the enemy represents his achievement of a victory over me upon the occasion to which I am referring, and says that my troops fled in confusion, &c. I state that this is not only false, but it is an afterthought, for it can be proved by many that the enemy's troops represented themselves as having retired from the field because they were whipped; but the reporting officer, finding next day that I also had withdrawn from the battle-field, for the first time thought of establishing a claim to victory. Let a few facts decide that question. He came to attack and did attack, and he was in force far superior to mine. He did not move me from a single position I chose to occupy. At the close of the day each man of mine was just where he had been posted in the morning. He came to attack, yet came so cautiously that my left wing never fired a shot, and he never came up sufficiently to engage my center or my left wing. His force was fired upon by the 12-pounder howitzer and at once cleared my front, but, concealed by a point of the hills from my artillery, confined his further efforts to assaults upon my right wing, by which he was repulsed three times. Finally I found that he was re-enforcing heavily, and I ordered Trigg's regiment to pass over the creek and to make the work short and decisive, with the bayonet, if necessary; but before the Fifty-fourth Virginia could climb one side of the hill the enemy had entirely withdrawn from the scene of action, leaving my force in full and quiet possession. He withdrew from sight, and did not then dispute the ground on which we had fought. Not only I personally, but every officer and soldier in my entire command, without one exception, then understood that the enemy had been signally and unmistakably whipped, and that the repulse was final. It proved final, for he has never since that day sought in any manner or form to re-engage.

The enemy had some 4,500 or 5,000 men on the field and at least 500 cavalry for that number was counted. I had some 1,600 men fit for duty and present on the field. He engaged 2,500 or 3,000 of his men; I about 900 to 1,000 of mine. A natural inquiry will be why he did not pursue, if my force fled before him. I moved from the battle-field upon the Left Fork of Middle Creek, and at 7 miles from the field of battle came to the foot of a very lofty mountain, which it was necessary for me to cross, and the road from the field of battle to that point was a valley road all the way. I did not cross that mountain until the night of January 12, and the enemy did not come to see what had become of me. On the contrary, by that time he had fallen back to Paintsville, whence he came in mass to drive me out of the State. He returned without accomplishing his mission.

Why did I not pursue if I thought I had the victory? My reasons are simple and straightforward

First. I could not renew the engagement that night because it was too dark, had I been so inclined. I did not know how far the enemy had gone, and would not have followed under any circumstances with the inferior force.

Second. I did not follow because my men were exhausted from hunger, having had nothing to eat all that day, and they were weak, and would not have been capable of service another day without food.

Third. I did not follow because I did not know the strength of the enemy in reserve, and had no idea of risking by rashness what my troops had gained by gallantry. I had fought superior numbers with the advantage of position on my side; I had no intent to renew the engagement, giving superior numbers the advantage of choice of the ground.

But, general, the controlling, present, and moving reason was that my

Page 56 OPERATIONS IN KY., TENN., N. ALA., AND S. W. VA. Chapter XVII.