Statement of Col Nathan Beford Forrest, Colonel Commanding Forrest's Regiment of Cavalry.
at the Battle of Fort Donelson
This statement was originally presented as an inclosure to a report by
Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow, C. S. Army.
Statement of Col. N. B. Forrest.
MARCH 15, 1862.
Sworn to and subscribed before me on the 15th day of March, 1862.
Intendant of the Town of Decatur, Ala.,
and ex-officio Justice of the Peace.
Between 1 and 2 o'clock on Sunday morning, February 16, being sent for, I arrived at General Pillow's headquarters, and found him, General Floyd, and General Buckner in conversation. General Pillow told me that they had received information that the enemy were again occupying the same ground they had occupied the morning before. I told him I did not believe it, as I had left that part of the field, on our left, late the evening before. He told me he had sent out scouts, who reported a large force of the enemy moving around to our left. He instructed me to go immediately and send two reliable men to ascertain the condition of a. road running near the river bank and between the enemy's right and the river, and also to ascertain the position of the enemy. I obeyed his instructions and awaited the return of the scouts. They stated that they saw no enemy, but could see their fires in the same place where they were Friday night; that from their examination and information obtained from a citizen living on the river road the water was about to the saddle skirts, and the mud about half-leg deep in the bottom where it had been overflowed. The bottom was about a quarter of a mile wide and the water then about 100 yards wide.
During the conversation that then ensued among the general officers General Pillow was in favor of trying to cut our way out. General Buckner said that he could not hold his position over half an hour in the morning, and that if he attempted to take his force out it would be seen by the enemy (who held part of his intrenchments), and be followed and cut to pieces. I told him that I would take my cavalry around there and he could draw out under cover of them. He said that an attempt to cut our way out would involve the loss of three-fourths of the men. General Floyd said our force was so demoralized as to cause him to agree with General Buckner as to our probable loss in attempting to cut our way out. I said that I would agree to cut my way through the enemy's lines at any point the general might designate, and stated that I could keep back their cavalry, which General Buckner thought would greatly harass our infantry. in retreat. General Buckner or General Floyd said that they (the enemy) would bring their artillery to bear on us. I went out of the room, and when I returned General Floyd said he could not and would not surrender himself. I then asked if they were going to surrender the command. General Buckner remarked that they were. I then slated that I had not come out for the purpose of surrendering my command, and would not do it if they would follow me out; that I intended to go out if I saved but one man; and then turning to General Pillow I asked him what I should do. He replied, "Cut your way out." I immediately left the house and sent for all the officers under my command, and stated to them the facts that had occurred and stated my determination to leave, and remarked that all who wanted to go could follow me, and those who wished to stay and take the consequences might remain in camp. All of my own regiment and Captain Williams, of Helm's Kentucky regiment, said they would go with me if the last man fell. Colonel Gantt was sent for and urged to get out his battalion as often as three times, but he and two Kentucky companies (Captains Wilcox and Huey) refused to come. I marched out the remainder of my command, with Captain Porter's artillery horses, and about 200 men of different commands up the river road and across the overflow, which I found to be about saddle-skirt deep. The weather was intensely cold; a great many of the men were already frost-bitten, and it was the opinion of the generals that the infantry could not have passed through the water and have survived it.
N. B. FORREST,
Colonel, Commanding Forrest's Regiment of Cavalry.
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