of Brig. Gen. Simon B. Buckner,
C. S. Army, Commanding Division at the
Siege and Capture of Fort Donelson, Tennessee
Dover, Tenn., February 18, 1862.
Col. W. W. MACKALL,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Nashville, Tenn.
SIR: It becomes my duty to report that the remains of this army, after winning some brilliant successes both in repulsing the assaults of the enemy and in sallying successfully through their lines, have been reduced to the necessity of a surrender.
At the earliest practicable day I will send a detailed report of its operations. I can only say now that, after the battle of the 15th instant had been won and my division of the army was being established in position to cover the retreat of the army, the plan of battle seemed to have been changed and the troops were ordered back to the trenches. Before my own division returned to their works on the extreme right the lines were assailed at that point and my extreme right was occupied by a large force of the enemy, but I successfully repelled their further assaults.
It was the purpose of General Floyd to effect the retreat of the army over the ground which had been won in the morning, and the troops moved from their works with that view; but before any movement for that purpose was organized a reconnaissance showed that the ground was occupied by the enemy in great strength. General Floyd then determined to retreat across the river with such force as could escape; but as there were no boats until nearly daylight on the 16th, he left with some regiments of Virginia troops about daylight, and was accompanied by Brigadier-General Pillow.
I was thus left in command of the remnant of the army, which had been placed in movement for a retreat which was discovered to be impracticable. My men were in a state of complete exhaustion from extreme suffering from cold and fatigue. The supply of ammunition, especially for the artillery. was being rapidly exhausted; the army was to a great extent demoralized by the retrograde movement. On being placed in command I ordered such troops as could not cross the river to return to their intrenchments, to make at the last moment such resistance as was possible to the overwhelming force of the enemy. But a small portion of the forces had returned to the lines when I received from General Grant a reply to my proposal to negotiate for terms of <328>surrender. To have refused his terms would, in the condition of the army at that time, have led to the massacre of my troops without any advantage resulting from the sacrifice. I therefore felt it my highest duty to these brave men, whose conduct had been so brilliant and whose sufferings had been so intense, to accept the ungenerous terms proposed by the Federal commander, who overcame us solely by overwhelming superiority of numbers. This army is accordingly prisoners of war, the officers retaining their side-arms and private property and the soldiers their clothing and blankets. I regret to state, however, that, notwithstanding the earnest efforts of General Grant and many of his officers to prevent it, our camps have been a scene of almost indiscriminate pillage by the Federal troops.
In conclusion, I request at the earliest time practicable, a court of inquiry, to examine into the causes of the surrender of this army.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. B. BUCKNER,
Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.
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