Report of Lieut. Col. Milton A.
Haynes, C. S. Army, Chief of Tennessee Corps of Artillery.
FEBRUARY 12-16, 1862.--Siege and Capture of Fort Donelson, Tennessee.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 7 [S# 7]
RICHMOND, VA.., March 24, 1862.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant-General C. S. Army.
SIR: By direction of the honorable Secretary of War I have the honor to make the following report in regard to the defense of Fort Donelson, on February 12, &c.:
On January 15 General L. Polk ordered me to report to Brigadier-General Tilghman, for the purpose of organizing the artillery defenses of Forts Henry and Donelson, which order I obeyed by reporting on the 16th to General Tilghman in person at Fort Henry, who immediately sent me to Fort Donelson. That post was then under the command of Col. J. W. Head, Tennessee volunteers, with a force of three newly-raised regiments and one company of light artillery. Two companies of volunteer infantry were detailed to act as artillerists, under Captains Beaumont and Bidwell. These companies and Captain Maney's light battery were by me at once organized into a battalion, and General Polk, in response to a telegraphic dispatch, sent two lieutenants, viz, Martin and McDaniel, of the artillery, to report to me for duty, both well versed in the management of heavy artillery. These officers drilled and instructed the men daily, and under my own eye they were trained in firing their guns at targets at 1,000, 1,500, and 2,000 yards, and the ranges of the guns were explained to them. At the same time every man in the battalion fit for duty worked daily in putting the battery, embrasures, magazines, &c., in order.
A new bomb-proof magazine, of capacity to hold 100 rounds for ten guns, was rapidly constructed, under the direction of Captain Beaumont and Lieutenant Bedford, which was immediately connected with the battery by a covered way, also bomb-proof.
Under the direction of Capt. J.P. Shuster, formerly of the U.S. Navy, but now on artillery duty with me, by General Johnston's order, the shot and shells were distributed at the pieces, the ammunition, &c., placed in the magazine, and each man assigned to his post, and his especial duty explained to him in case of an engagement.
The entire armament of the fort at that time was ten 32-pounder guns (two of them ship carronades), one 8-inch howitzer, two nondescript 9 pounders, one 10-inch columbiad, and one rifled gun throwing a conical shell of 128 pounds. The columbiad had been mounted about January 25, but, upon trial, its recoil threw the gun back against the hurters, throwing the chassis off the pintle, and seriously damaging the iron barbette carriage. In this condition it was (like the one at Fort Henry) useless. To remedy this defect I had it dismounted, and sent a competent officer to the rolling-mill, and had two new rear traverse wheels cast, 4 inches in diameter larger than the older ones. These wheels were not to be obtained until a short time before the battle, and only reached us in time to enable us to remount this valuable gun the day before the battle began. With these new wheels it worked like a charm.
The large rifled gun was sent to us more than ten days before the engagement, but neither pintle nor pintle plate (without which it could not be mounted) was sent with it. I sent an officer of artillery at once to Nashville to obtain and bring forward these and other important fixtures, to enable us to mount this and other guns and work them to advantage. Fortunately they reached us just in time to enable us to place this gun in working order.
Our batteries being now in readiness, the following dispositions were ordered by me: 200 additional men were called for to act as supernumeraries, to aid in repairing the works or remounting guns, to carry ammunition, to extinguish fires, and to supply the places of disabled artillerists.
Capt. T. W. Beaumont, with his company (80 men), had charge of the five 32-pounder guns next the river, assisted by several lieutenants. Capt. B. G. Bidwell's company, 75 strong, had the 10-inch columbiad and four 32-pounder guns on the left, all under the eye of Captain Dixon, of the Engineers. Capt. J.P. Shuster, chief of battalion, and Lieut. Jacob Culbertson, C. S. Army, on special duty. Captain Ross (just arrived from Hopkinsville) and his company voluntarily gave up their light battery and took charge of the half-moon battery, containing the rifled gun and two carronades, furnishing a detachment, under charge of Lieutenant Starkovitch, to manage the 8-inch howitzer and two 0-pounder nondescripts, and Captain Maney's light battery was moved to the rifle trenches, in General Pillow's division, and no longer acted under my orders.
On the 12th the gunboats made their appearance, but did not venture within the range of our guns. Early the next morning (a vigorous attack then being made by the enemy on the exterior defenses) the gun-boats opened a spirited cannonade of shot and shells from heavy rifled 'and smooth-bore guns upon the batteries and fort, which was, though at too long a range, returned with spirit by our guns--one of the boats being struck and damaged by shot from Captain Ross' rifled gun, driving the boats back under the shelter of a bend in the river, from which they continued to throw shells. Unfortunately a single shot dismounted one of our 32-pounder guns, instantly killing the brave Captain Dixon, disabling for a short time Captain Shuster, and killing and wounding 2 or 3 privates.
I immediately placed Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Culbertson in charge of these batteries, and although unable to walk without crutches and then with great pain, I took my post at the river batteries. In the mean time the two armies were hotly engaged along our whole line, and soon the gunboats returned to the contest, keeping up a continued discharge of shells and solid shot upon our batteries, without, however, doing us any material damage. Our fire was for some time carefully withheld in order to draw the boats nearer to us, and, as expected, they soon ventured nearer, when a few well-directed shots from our columbiad and rifled gun drove them back, one of the boats being so seriously injured that she (as we afterwards learned) was with difficulty kept from sinking. The contest at the close of the day ceased by land and water, and our batteries were visited by Generals Floyd and Pillow in person, and our artillerists especially commended by them.
On the following day the increased inflammation and pain of my wound rendered it impossible for me to remain longer at the batteries, and I was, by direction of Surgeon Williams, placed on board a steamer, with other wounded soldiers, to be conveyed to Nashville.
During my services at Fort Donelson, both before and during the engagements, I was under obligations to Acting Adjt. W. W. Foote, of the Corps of Artillery, and to Lieut. H. S. Bedford, adjutant of the battalion, for the prompt and faithful manner with which they discharged their duty.
I cannot close this statement of my brief and humble connection with the defense of Fort Donelson without expressing my particular obligations to First Lieut. (Acting Captain) J. Culbertson, of the Regular Artillery, and Lieut. H. S. Bedford and Lieutenant Cobb, of the Ordnance Department, for their zeal and energy in superintending the work at the batteries and valuable services rendered during the engagement, in all of which they were greatly assisted by Capt. T. W. Beaumont; nor to Lieutenants Martin and McDaniel, for their untiring energy in imparting instructions to the artillerists under my command. Neither can too much be said in praise of the 200 volunteer infantry, who, after three weeks' instruction, in the midst of labor and toils, both day and night, acquired such skill in the management of their guns as to be able to maintain successfully a four days' cannonade with a flotilla of gunboats, crippling at least five of them, and compelling their flag-officer to withdraw his fleet entirely from the contest so badly crippled that he was unable to renew the fight. Nor should the gallant Captain Ross and Lieutenant Starkovitch (both old artillery officers, who, in command of Captain Ross' light artillerists, worked their heavy guns with such admirable precision) be forgotten in the award of praise.
Our success was greatly due to the admirable position of our guns, rising as they did successively from the river to the height of 50 feet, thus enabling us to throw our shot by a plunging fire into the holds of the boats, and thus reaching and crippling their machinery; and to the narrowness of the river (here only 500 feet wide), which compelled the boats to approach the guns with their prows exposed.
I may here add that, from information derived from the men themselves, I afterwards learned that Captain Bidwell, Lieutenant Butt, with 36 men, and all the horses of Porter's light battery, and Forrest's cavalry regiment, and many stragglers from various corps, effected their safe retreat on Saturday night without the loss of a man or any opposition from the enemy.
In justice to myself (as I had for a short time had charge of the artillery defenses at Fort Donelson), I may with propriety say that I had nothing whatever to do with the arrangements of the exterior defenses, which were entirely under the direction of the general commanding and engineers.
In my opinion the site itself was most unfortunate--first, because the space inclosed by the trenches formed a cul-de-sac, cut in the middle by an impassable backwater, thus rendering communication between the wings of our army difficult and hazardous; second, because the whole position was surrounded by hills at the distance of from 800 to 1,500 yards higher than those occupied by us, thus giving commanding positions for the enemy's rifled field guns, from which every point in our lines could be reached.
Hence the utmost courage and endurance could not and did not avail to save us from disaster; but the deeds of daring performed by our army will form the brightest picture in the pages of our history, and make the names of the heroes of Dover and its blood-stained hills immortal.
I am, your obedient servant,
MILTON A. HAYNES,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Chief of Tennessee Corps of Artillery.
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