General Gideon Pillow's Correspondence After Fort Donelson

        On the evening of February 15, 1862, there were three Confederate generals in Fort Donelson making the decisions.  Brig. Gen. John B. Floyd, first in command, Brig. Gen. Gideon Pillow second in command, and Brig. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, third in command.  Floyd determined that they could not hold out but did not want to effect the surrender himself.  Pillow agreed about not being able to hold out.  However, Pillow was not willing to do the actual surrender either.  The command was then turned over to Buckner, while Floyd and Pillow, with about 2,500 men escaped on boats.  The command was surrendered by Buckner February 16, 1862.  These are the events as they occurred according to the Official Records.  Pillow submitted his first after action report on February 18, 1862.  Then after giving it more thought, decided to submit another one on March 14, 1862.  This seems to be done so as to include some inclosures to support his version of the events as they unfolded at Fort Donelson.  The following is the correspondence, primarily between Pillow and the Confederate War Department, after they received his reports.  They are as they appeared in the Official Records.  I have inserted a horizontal between each piece of correspondence for ease of reading on the Internet.


HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEPARTMENT,
Decatur, Ala., March 16, 1862.

Brig. Gen. GIDEON J. PILLOW,
Chattanooga, Tenn.:

GENERAL: Under date of March 11 the Secretary of War says:

        The reports of Generals Floyd and Pillow are unsatisfactory, and the President directs that both these generals be relieved from command until further orders.

        He further directs General Johnston in the mean time [to] request them to add to their [reports] such statements as they may seem proper on the following points:

        1st. The failure to give timely notice of the insufficiency of the garrison of Fort Donelson to repel the attack.
        2d. The failure of any attempt to save the army by evacuating the post when found untenable.
        3d. Why they abandoned the command to their inferior officer instead of executing themselves whatever measure was deemed proper for the entire army.
        4th. What was the precise mode by which each effected his escape from the fort and what dangers were encountered in the retreat.
        5th. Upon what principle a selection was made of particular troops, being certain regiments of the senior general's brigade, to whose use all the transportation on hand was appropriated.
        6th. A particular designation of the regiments saved and the regiments abandoned which formed a part of the senior general's brigade.

        In obedience to this order I am directed by General Johnston to request your compliance with the wishes of the President in these particulars with as little delay as possible, and report to these headquarters. Under the same direction General Johnston has requested a report from Colonel Forrest, detailing particularly the time and manner of his escape from Fort Donelson, the road he took, and the number of the enemy he met or saw in making his escape, and the difficulties which existed to prevent the remainder of the army from following the route taken by him in his escape with his command.

I am, your obedient servant,
H. P. BREWSTER,
Assistant Adjutant-General.


        Sir: In my supplemental report, which is forwarded through General A. S. Johnston, I have, as I conceived, substantially answered the points indicated in the order of the Secretary of War as unsatisfactory to the President; but, to be more specific and to reply directly to these points, I beg to say that--
        1st. General Floyd reached Fort Donelson early on the morning of February 13, and, being my senior officer, assumed command. Up to that time we had no need of additional forces, for at that time the enemy had only about 20,000 troops, and we had a force fully sufficient to defend the place against that force, and I did not and could not know with what force they meant to invest us. We were attacked by that force on the 13th around our whole line, and after three or four hours of vigorous assault we repulsed his forces everywhere.
        After General Floyd's arrival, being second in command, I could not, without a violation of military usage, apply for re-enforcements; but I do not seek to shelter myself from responsibility by this consideration. Though the enemy's force greatly exceeded ours, we felt that we could hold our position against him until his large force of fresh troops arrived on the evenings of the 13th, 14th, and 15th. These arrivals of about 30,000 troops made it manifest that we could not hold the position long against such overwhelming numbers, particularly as they were then enabled to completely invest us and cut off our communication by river. It was then impossible to get re-enforcements from Bowling Green or elsewhere in time to relieve us. It required three days, by railroad and river, for the forces which did come to us to get there, owing to the shortness of transportation.
        I apprised General Johnston of the arrival of the enemy's large re-enforcements, giving him every arrival; but I had just come from Bowling Green, and was of opinion that the force reserved for that position was inadequate for its defense against a large assaulting force, and I knew General Johnston could not give me any re-enforcements unless he abandoned that place; a measure which I did not consider it my province to suggest. Knowing this, I felt it, my duty to make the best possible defense with the forces we had. We had one additional regiment or battalion there, which General Floyd sent to Cumberland City to protect public stores that had been forwarded to that place. These are t he reasons why no application was made for re-enforcements.
        2d. In response to the second point made by the Secretary's order, I have to say that arrangements were all made, orders given to the whole command to evacuate the works, and troops were under arms to march out, when information was received that we were invested. Up to this time the general officers were all agreed upon and the line of action necessary and proper under the circumstances. (See supplemental report.) It was as to the necessity of a change of policy in the new state of the case that a difference of opinion arose between the general officers. I was for cutting our way out. Generals Floyd and Buckner thought surrender was a necessity of the position of the army.
        In response to the point made by the Secretary's order, that it was not satisfactorily explained how a part of the command was withdrawn and the balance surrendered, I have to say:
        On the evening and night of February 15, after the battle, in expectation of evacuating the place that night, General Floyd had sent off every steamboat we had, with the prisoners and our sick and wounded. As matters turned out this was most unfortunate; but I do not perceive that the act could be censured for it was a measure preparatory to evacuation, and no one could have foreseen the course of events which late that night defeated that measure. The act, however, was that of my senior officer, and I was not even consulted about its propriety.
        When we ascertained, between 3 and 4 o'clock that night, that we were reinvested, and the question of our position became one of vital interest to the commanding officers, we had not a single boat, neither skiff, yawl, nor even flat or other ferry boat. There was no means of crossing the river. The river was full and the weather intensely cold.
        About daybreak the steamer General Anderson and one other little boat came down. One of the boats had on board about 400 raw troops. I had then crossed the river in a small hand flat, about 4 feet wide by 12 long, which Mr. Rice, a citizen of Dover (acting as my volunteer aide-de-camp), had, by some means, brought over from the opposite side of the river.
        Upon the arrival of these steamers General Floyd, acting, I presume, under the agreement between himself and General Buckner before the command was turned over, crossed over to the opposite shore as many of his troops as he could, until he was directed by General Buckner's staff officer to leave, as the gunboats of the enemy were approaching. This information was given me by General Floyd when we met at Clarksville. My horses were brought across the river on one of the boats that brought over the troops. Myself and staff then made our way to Clarksville by land. These facts explain how a portion of the command were withdrawn when the balance could not be. However, I had no kind of agency in it.
        3d. In response to the third point upon which information is called for by the Secretary's order, viz, upon what principle the senior officers avoided responsibility by transferring the command, I have only to say that I urged from first to last the duty of cutting through the enemy's lines with the entire command. I was not sustained, but was alone in my position; and with General Buckner's avowal that his troops could not make another fight, and without the assistance of either general in the command, and in an enterprise of great difficulty and peril, I could scarcely hope to cut through the enemy's line unaided. Yet it was against my conviction of duty to surrender. Under the circumstances in which I was placed I saw no means of defeating the surrender, and, therefore, considering myself only technically the recipient of the command, when turned over by General Floyd, I promptly passed or declined to accept it.
        It was in this sense that I said in my original report that when the command was turned over to me I passed it. In point of fact, however, the command was turned over by General Floyd to General Buckner. In proof of which I embody in this report a dispatch from General Floyd to General A. S. Johnston on the morning of February 16. I also embody an order of General Buckner, after he had assumed command, to Brig. Gen. B. R. Johnson.

CUMBERLAND CITY, TENN., February 16, 1862.

General JOHNSTON:

This morning at 2 o'clock, not feeling willing myself to surrender, I turned over the command to General Buckner, who determined a surrender of the fort and the army, as any further resistance would only result in the unavailing spilling of blood. I succeeded in saving half of my own command by availing myself of two little boats at the wharf, all that could be commanded. The balance of the entire reserve of the army fell into the hands of the enemy. The enemy's force was largely augmented yesterday by the arrival of thirteen transports, and his force could not have been less than 50,000. I have attempted to do my duty in this trying and difficult position, and only regret that my exertions have not been more successful.

J. B. FLOYD.

HEADQUARTERS, Dover, Tenn., February 16, 1862.

SIR.: The command of the forces in this vicinity has devolved upon me by order of General Floyd. I have sent a flag to General Grant, and during the correspondence and until further orders you will refrain from any hostile demonstrations with a view to preventing a like movement on the enemy's part. You will endeavor to send a flag to the enemy's posts in front of your position, notifying them of the fact that I have sent a communication to General Grant from the right of our position, and desire to know his present headquarters.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. B. BUCKNER,

Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.

        These orders show that all parties understood that the command was turned over, not to myself, but to General Buckner. The reason for this was obvious. Both Generals Floyd and Buckner were of opinion that a surrender of the command was a necessity of its position. They had both heard me say that I would die before I would surrender the command. General Buckner had said if placed in command he would make the surrender, and he had agreed with General Floyd that he might withdraw his brigade. This understanding and agreement and my position necessarily excluded me from actual command.
        Having gone into the council of general officers and taken part in its deliberations, I felt bound by its decision, although against my conviction of duty. I therefore determined not to assume nor accept the command. I still think that in acquiescing in their decision, as a necessity of my position, I acted correctly, although my judgment was wholly against the surrender. I had no agency whatever in withdrawing any portion of the command, except to direct Colonel Forrest to cut his way out with the cavalry, all of which I had organized into a brigade under him.
        5th and 6th. In response to the 5th and 6th inquiries of the Secretary's order I reply:
        I do not know what regiments of General Floyd's brigade were surrendered nor which were withdrawn, nor do I know upon what principle the selection was made. For further information reference is made to my original and supplemental reports.
        Before closing this response to the honorable Secretary's order I deem it not improper to say that the only doubt I felt, in any opinion I expressed, position assumed, or act I did, was as to the propriety of retiring from the garrison when I could not control the fate of the command, whose surrender was not my act nor with my approval. Upon this point I consulted Generals Floyd and Buckner. For these reasons, and knowing that the general officers would not be permitted to accompany the men into captivity, I finally determined to retire, hoping that I might be able to render some service to the country.

Very respectfully,
GID. J. PILLOW,
Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.

Capt. H. P. BREWSTER,
Assistant Adjutant-General.


WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,
Richmond, Va., March 26, 1862.

.Brig. Gen. G. J. PILLOW,
Exchange Hotel, Richmond, Va.:

        SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your supplemental report of the battle and surrender of Fort Donelson and of your answer to the various points indicated in the letter of the Secretary of War to General A. S. Johnston, together with the several statements of staff officers and the statement of Colonel Forrest appended thereto. As the commanding general of the department has not yet made his report nor forwarded any communication to this Department, and as Generals Floyd and B. R. Johnson have not yet been heard from, you will readily perceive that it is impossible that the President should now take any action in a matter which so deeply concerns others as well as yourself.
        I have therefore the honor to inform you that the Government still keeps its judgment suspended on the entire subject until all information necessary for forming a considerate decision shall have been received.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. W. RANDOLPH,

Secretary of War.


OXFORD, MISS., May 15, 1862.

Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:

        I had expected the decision of the President on the case in which I was suspended from command at an earlier day, and I had hoped that when the facts were all known that he would see nothing in my conduct at Fort Donelson deserving censure. But I am not able to understand the delay in his action except upon the supposition that he is not yet satisfied.
        All the facts are before him. I know of no material conflict between my statements and those of any other officers. There are several statements in General Floyd's report to the Secretary's order in which my memory and his are at variance; but these statements of his in no way affect me, and can have no possible influence in the decision of the President in my branch of the case. If, however, there were contradictory statements between General Floyd and myself, it would seem to me that they ought to be settled by the sworn testimony of five officers, whose testimony accompanies my reply to the Secretary's interrogatories. If the facts of the case had not been thus clearly made out, I should have felt it my duty to demand a court of inquiry; but as such a court could only find the facts and give opinion thereon, and as the President already had these facts before him, I have deemed a court unnecessary, even if one could be ordered without injury to [the] service.
        When it was determined by Generals Floyd and Buckner [that the command] could not be saved, but must be surrendered; when General Floyd, before parting with the command, had stipulated with General Buckner (not to myself), what could I do but acquiesce? If I had attempted to defeat their purpose, General Floyd would have resumed command and arrested me for insubordination. At least such was my understanding of his rights and powers and of my position and responsibilities as his junior in rank. General Floyd, in his late published reply to the Secretary's interrogatories, as well as in his telegram to General A. S. Johnston, says that he turned over the command to General Buckner; that he and General Buckner agreed that it was determined that the command could not be saved, &c., but he nowhere says I agreed with him or pretends that I was in favor of surrendering the command. Under the proof as it is before the President, I cannot understand in his mind (?) as to the facts. I feel conscious of having tried to do my duty at Donelson and of having served the Government of my country faithfully, and I confess I did not expect its censure.
        When I was suspended from command I believed [the President] had acted under misapprehension of my position. As promptly as possible I answered the interrogatories of the Secretary, and sustained the statements by the sworn testimony of five officers as reputable as belong to the Army. In reply I was informed that the case could not be taken up until answer was received. Having rested under the displeasure of the Government for more than two months, it ought not to excite surprise that I am anxious to be relieved from his order.
        I understand that the President has been informed that my horses and servants were taken across the river some time before I crossed myself. This statement is untrue, as my report and the proof in his possession will show. I had but one horse and one servant there; the horse was borrowed of General Clark. I did not leave Dover until the command was turned over and General Buckner had commenced preparing his communication to the Federal commanders, asking terms of capitulation. I then left the garrison, crossed the river in a small hand flat, leaving my horse and servant in Dover. At that time no steamboat had reached Dover; my horse was brought over by the steamboat that arrived afterwards. When it crossed over, General Floyd, my trunk (all the baggage I had), and my servant were brought up the river in the steamboat in which General Floyd and a portion of his command reached Clarksville.
        These facts all appear in the proofs now in your possession, and are susceptible of proof by more than one hundred witnesses. If, from all the facts, the President thinks my conduct censurable, it is my duty to submit to his judgment; but if I cannot serve the Government satisfactorily, I would prefer to retire. Indeed, but for the interest I felt in the issues involved in this great revolution I would not have accepted the commission I now hold. The fortunes of war have placed [me] as the principal actor in two hard-fought and bloody fields (of Belmont and Donelson), where we fought most unequal numbers. In what I considered the most meritorious service of my life--the battle of Donelson or Dover--it was my misfortune to have been placed after the battle was fought in a position which brings upon me the displeasure of the Government.
        While resting under this displeasure, two of my brother general officers from my own State, who came into the Tennessee army under me, as its commanding general, and neither of whom had then performed any distinguished services or fought any battle, are promoted over me. I originally thought this was done under misapprehension of my position. If it shall turn out this impression of mine was erroneous, it becomes questionable if my honor as an officer is not so far compromised as to make it my duty to retire. Until I know the decision of the President I cannot determine my own course. Painful as would be the necessity of retiring at a time of so much peril to the country, yet I could not hesitate in my course if satisfied that I was the object of intentional injustice. To be just is the highest duty of government. I yet have the fullest confidence in the President's sense of justice. If any part of my conduct is not properly understood by him, or if he has received from any quarter statements contradictory to mine, [I] ask at his hands information of the fact, that I may have an opportunity of explanation or refutation.
        My apology for troubling you with this long communication must be found in the circumstances in which I am placed. The great delay and uncertainty of the mails induces me to send Major Nicholson, my aide-de-camp, with it. I trust you will find it convenient to place in his hands such orders as in the President's judgment are proper.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
GID. J. PILLOW,
Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.


TUPELO, MISS, June 21, 1862.

Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:

        On the 11th day of March last I was suspended from command by order of the President, and through the Secretary of War interrogatories were propounded to me in regard to the operations of the army at Donelson. These interrogatories were promptly answered, and, together with my supplemental report, were delivered to the Government. That there might be no doubt left upon the mind of the President as to the facts, I took the sworn testimony of five officers, who were present at the council of general officers on the night of February 15, these fully verifying the statement of the facts contained in my supplemental report and my answers to the Secretary's interrogatories. More than a mouth since I prepared and forwarded to you by Major Nicholson, of my staff, a dispatch to the Government, briefly reviewing the case as it was made out, and respectfully calling the attention of the President to the case and asking his decision. To this communication I have received no reply.
        I have now been suspended from my command nearly four months. I am accused of no crime. No charges have been preferred against me. I have never been informed that my answers to the interrogatories of the Secretary of War were not satisfactory, nor in what my conduct was censurable. I know of no statement from any quarter in conflict with mine; but if there were, my statement is sustained by the sworn testimony of Colonels Forrest and Burch, Majors Henry, Haynes, and Nicholson. They all testify that I opposed from first to last and earnestly the surrender of the command at Donelson; that I urged the duty of cutting our way through the enemy's lines, but that Generals Floyd and Buckner were of opinion that the command could not be saved; that its surrender was a necessity of its condition, and that General Floyd turned the command over to General Buckner to make terms of capitulation with the enemy.
        If the facts be that way, I do not understand how the decision of a council of war (the senior general being present and approving and afterwards taking measures, according to his convictions, to carry into effect that decision) can be regarded otherwise than a military order of that commander; nor do I understand how I could have attempted to defeat the execution of that purpose (viz, to surrender the command) without a violation of all discipline and subjecting myself to arrest for insubordination. Certainly I saw no alternative, but acquiesced in what I could not avert. I cannot suppose it will be maintained that before any capitulation took place or was agreed upon I could honorably retire from a garrison whose surrender was determined upon and in violation of my expressed convictions. To have voluntarily surrendered myself into the power of the enemy under such circumstances would have looked to me like treachery to the Government whose commission I bore. It should be borne in mind that I was not in chief command. How could the responsibility of the surrender rest on me when I was opposed to it? My command was at Columbus, Ky., and I was only ordered by General A. S. Johnston to that post for special duty, and, when that was ended by General Floyd's determination to surrender the command, I felt it duty I owed to my Government no less than to myself not voluntarily place myself in the power of the enemy. That the command was not turned over to me is proven by the telegram of General Floyd to General A. S. Johnston on the morning of February 16.  General Buckner's order to General B. R. Johnson, of the same date, after he had assumed command, proves the same thing. If, however, it had been turned over to me under the circumstances as they are proven, it is difficult to see how I could have done otherwise than to have carried out General Floyd's determination to surrender the garrison, for the decision of the council and General Floyd's approval and his turning over the command for the purpose of surrender would have been, in all military usage, equivalent to an order to capitulate. It is, however, proven that the command was not--in fact, was never intended to have been--devolved upon me. If the surrender was an unavoidable necessity (as Generals Floyd and Buckner believed), I do not perceive the grounds upon which I am to be censured. If, on the contrary, the surrender was improper (as was my opinion), I do not understand why I am censured, when it is known that I opposed it and did all I properly could to prevent it.
        The President will perceive upon examination of the documents and proofs that this view of the case is fully made out.
        Under these circumstances, that I should be suspended from command and held up before the country as a culprit for nearly four months may well excite surprise. If I am to continue in the service, I respectfully submit that such treatment is not likely to increase my efficiency for command or my usefulness as an officer.
        The facts in regard to General Floyd have all been laid before the public by the publication of his official report and his answers to the interrogatories of the Secretary of War by the committee of the House of Congress. The same committee summoned me before [it] and propounded interrogatories, which, from motives of delicacy, I declined answering. It then requested copies of my supplemental report and my answer to the Secretary's interrogatories and the accompanying proofs, which I declined furnishing, upon the ground that proper respect for the Government forbade it while the Government had the subject under consideration. Since then I have seen from the Richmond papers that the President declined furnishing copies of them under a resolution of the House, upon the ground that he considered it inexpedient to do so. While, therefore, I am held suspended from command for so long a period, the public are denied the means of judging how or in what I have been derelict in duty. Is this right? Can the President, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, reconcile it to his sense of justice longer to hold me in my present position? If the pressure of public duty has heretofore been heavy upon his time, as I am persuaded is the case, surely the great lapse of time since my suspension will excuse me for again calling his attention to the subject.
        If the President were not in possession of the facts I should feel it my duty to demand an investigation by a court of inquiry, but as these are before him and made clear by the proof, such proceeding would seem to me wholly useless, even if the officers necessary to constitute the court could be spared from duty in the field. I have submitted to the judgment of the Government as patiently as possible when conscious of the commission of no wrong. If I were informed in what my conduct was considered censurable, so that I might have an opportunity of explanation or refutation, I should not deem it my duty to take the final step now proposed. That I should continue patient under indefinite suspension could hardly be expected.
        If the Government does not need or does not want my services, it is my duty to retire. I have no wish to be in the way. I am unwilling to embarrass it by holding on to a position which I only accepted in the hope of rendering some service. It is a painful necessity which forces me to retire at a time of so much peril to the country, but if the President cannot now dispose of the case, I feel that proper self-respect and personal dignity leave me no alternative but to retire from the service. If, therefore, no action is deemed proper in response to this communication, I respectfully tender this as my resignation.
        Being at present at Tupelo, with the headquarters of the army, I forward this through General Bragg.

With great respect, your obedient servant,
GID. J. PILLOW,

Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.

[Indorsement No. 1]

        Considering Brigadier-General Pillow as still belonging to this command, his appeal to the Department for an official investigation is approved, as due to himself and the Government.

BRAXTON BRAGG,

Commanding.

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT WEST,
Tupelo, 22d June, 1862.

[Indorsement No. 2.]

        Respectfully submitted to the President. I think it will be well for me to inform General Pillow that negotiations are going on for a general exchange of prisoners, which will probably release General Buckner and the rest of the Donelson prisoners at an early day and render an investigation practicable, which cannot be entered upon now with justice to them.

G. W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War.

[Indorsement No. 3.]

        Answer as proposed, and correct the impression that the action is a reflection on him specially. The effort at a full investigation has failed from causes for which the Government is not responsible and regrets.

JEFFERSON DAVIS.


WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,
Richmond, July 5, 1862.

Brig. Gen. GIDEON J. PILLOW, Tupelo, Miss.:

        GENERAL: Your communication of the 21st ultimo having been considered by the President, I am instructed to inform you that your suspension has never been considered an accusation, but as preliminary to an investigation which the circumstances of the Fort Donelson affair rendered necessary. The President regrets that the detention of the Fort Donelson prisoners renders such investigation impossible at present, but as this detention could not be foreseen, but, on the contrary, was in violation of an agreement made with General Wool for an exchange of prisoners, neither the President nor the War Department is responsible for the delay which has occurred.
        General Wool has again announced his readiness to agree to a general exchange, and negotiations are about to be commenced which no doubt will lead to that result. So soon as the actors in the Fort Donelson surrender are at liberty the matter will receive thorough investigation and justice be done. I am quite sure, general, that you desire nothing else, and I very much regret that the Department could not, with due regard to the absent parties, order an investigation which necessarily implicates them.

Very respectfully,
G. W. RANDOLPH,

Secretary of War.


OXFORD, MISS., July 20, 1862.

Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:

Your reply of the 5th instant to my communication of the 21st ultimo to the President is acknowledged. In this communication you say:

        Your [my] suspension has never been considered an accusation, but as preliminary to an investigation which the circumstances of the Fort Donelson affair rendered necessary.
        [That] so soon as the actors in the Fort Donelson surrender are at liberty the matter will receive thorough investigation and justice be done. 
        I am quite sure, general, you desire nothing else, and very much regret the Department could not, with due respect to absent parties, order an investigation which necessarily implicates them.

        This is the first information I have received of the purpose of the Government to order an investigation. Such investigation I have always desired as the only means by which my own position and conduct could be properly understood by the country, unless, from the facts as they are shown to have existed, the President should relieve me from censure. How that matter would be, and what course the President would ultimately adopt, I had no means of judging. I had supposed, from the message of the President to Congress and from the order of the Department of March 11 to General A. S. Johnston, that the order of suspension in its duration would depend on the character of the information which should be elicited under that order. If the information thus obtained should prove satisfactory and acquit any one of the "actors in the surrender" from blame, then I had supposed the object of the order would have been answered as to him, and such acquitted officer relieved from the censure implied by the order and restored to duty. It was with this understanding of the objects of the proceedings that I accompanied my supplemental report and answers with sworn statements of the five officers present.
        This impression was confirmed by your communication of March 26, in which you say:

        As the commanding general of the department (General A. S. Johnston) has not yet made his report nor forwarded any communication to this Department, and as Generals Floyd and B. R. Johnson have not yet been heard from, you will readily perceive that it is impossible that the President should now take any action in a matter which so deeply concerns others as well as yourself.

        I have never regarded the order itself [as] an accusation, but I did then and do yet consider it as implying censure and displeasure of the President, and the country so understands it.
        While you do not say in your communication of the 5th instant that my conduct is not considered censurable, yet I infer as much. If there is nothing elicited in all the reports and testimony before the Department showing that my participation in the surrender was such as rendered my [conduct] censurable, it seems to me unjust to continue me under this censure in order to discover in the future if something might not be found objectionable. This looks like arresting a man upon suspicion, without proof or circumstances to warrant it, and holding him in custody to hunt up evidences of his guilt, which is condemned by all law writers. When such investigation is had and the result before the President it would be as competent then as now to embrace me in any proceeding the President might deem proper; but with every circumstance in my favor to hold me suspended until others thought to have offended can be got at could only be justified by a well-founded belief on the part of the Government that I could not be found when wanted.
        Such, too, is the practice in all analogous cases of offenders in all countries where law regulates and protects the rights of the citizen, and it seems to me that officers of the Army are entitled to the benefit of the rule of law which is universal in practice and founded in wisdom and on the experience of ages. As a lawyer yourself, I am willing to submit the decision of the question to your judgment.
        In my military experience such has been the usage of the service. It certainly has in its favor the great principle of justice. The history of the present case shows that there is but one of the actors in the surrender not present, viz, General Buckner. I have already been suspended from command over four months. It may be four months more, possibly until the end of the war, if I am to be held under this order until all the actors are at liberty.
        It will not be denied that suspension from command is a punishment, if it is not an accusation. It is one of the modes of punishment, and when that is answered, the party is restored to duty without accusation, charge, or investigation. This is in accordance with military authority and practice. If, then, there be nothing elicited in the case showing that I have offended or been derelict in duty, but, on the contrary, every circumstance in all the proof, by the first reports of the officers engaged or present at the surrender (except one, and he absent)--if it is shown that my views of what was proper were coincident with those of the President and were urged as far as my rank and military propriety would allow--is it not a hard case that I should be thus punished for the faults of others?
        I know that the President, so far as he sees and understands a case, will carry out his sense of justice. I believe his intentions to be inflexibly just, but I do not believe he has, in the great pressure of weightier matters, had the time properly to consider the effects of the position in which I am placed by his order. I do not complain of the original order at the time it was issued, for I was well aware that my original report was, for want of time necessary for its preparation, but a skeleton account of the important events which had occurred at Donelson, and hence in that report I promised to prepare a supplemental one the moment my public duties would permit. Before, however, I had completed this report I was suspended from command. But I do complain of and deeply feel the injustice of holding me under this order until the conduct of others, not now in the power of the Government, can be properly investigated. If the actors were all present, an investigation of their case might be joint or separate by the rules of law. They could not be forced by military [power] into joint trial or investigation. The right of severance is an unquestioned one.
        If my services are worth anything as an officer, they are needed in the field. If I have any reputation or character as an officer, it cannot be denied that they are already deeply injured in the judgment of the country. In addition to this injury to myself, there are many persons who are using my position and the supposed sympathy for me in the public mind as a means of attack upon the President. They ascribe as the motives of his treatment of me a secret hostility of long standing, thus intimating that he is using his official power and position to gratify personal malice. In defense of these assaults of the President his zealous friends, determined to sustain him, are attacking me, believing there is something by them not understood. Thus they find a motive for my detraction. I have myself been asked if there was such ancient hostility. Even Senators of Congress have asked me the question. Under the existing circumstances of the country everything which is calculated to divide the country and weaken the influence of the President should be carefully avoided. I can give no explanation to relieve him. I can make no defense of myself. If the facts of the case were published to the world as they exist in your office, it would in some degree satisfy the public mind.
        I have been careful to avoid any discourtesy to the President. I have avoided everything calculated to excite controversy or create excitement. I have uniformly denied the existence of any motive in the President to do me injustice, and all knowledge or belief of the existence of any secret hostility. I have preserved rigid silence, abstaining from every demonstration of popular sympathy, declining to make speeches (with the exception at Raleigh, N. C., where my remarks were very badly reported). I have violated no law or regulation, except in the publication of my original report at Memphis, which I did believing that under the circumstances the President would excuse the act. My object was to give the public mind, then greatly excited and greatly depressed, correct information as to the character, extent, and causes of the surrender, and as far as possible to arrest the many false reports as to its extent. In doing this I first consulted General A. S. Johnston, and have in my possession his approval of the necessity: of its being placed before the public---not his authority for the act. He thought that had better be done by indirection. I chose to do it, avowing the responsibility for the act, and have heretofore expressed my willingness to submit to the judgment of the President if he shall consider me censurable for the act. My excuse and apology for it is the peculiar condition of the public [mind] at the time and my own position. I telegraphed Senator Benjamin for permission to publish the report, but failed to get an answer, and afterwards by telegram advised him of what I had done.
        I now introduce the subject in this communication as an apology for the offense, that it may remain on record. These last suggestions are not introduced here as strictly pertaining to the subject or argument in hand, but in explanation of matters proper to be understood and as due to myself.
        Returning to the more important object of this communication, that is, the injurious effects of the order on my reputation, I desire to say that I am satisfied the President is incapable of being influenced by motives not properly pertaining to the subject-matter; that I myself utterly discredit the report of his alleged secret hostility to me, and that I would not have him relieve me or restore me to command unless from the proofs before him--entitled to his confidence---he shall be satisfied that my conduct in the Donelson affair was blameless. If upon this point his mind is satisfied, then, as an act of justice which I feel sure he will not deny me, I ask the cessation of the punishment, feeling that I have been already deeply injured by it. You, sir, very properly say that you are sure that I only want justice. This is all I want or ask; but, if I have done no wrong, do I get justice when so long held in a position which the world can understand in no other light than as a punishment or as snowing unfitness for command.
        This is the last communication which I shall address to the President upon this subject, and I ask for it his respectful consideration. I am obliged to submit to his decision. I will sustain [him] and oppose all his enemies in every measure that is proper and right of itself until this struggle is over though he should incarcerate me in a dungeon the balance of my life; but if I am to be continued in a position of so lunch humiliation, if the best efforts of my life to serve my country are to be thus rewarded, if I possess so little of the respect or sympathy of the President that for one error of judgment (if such I have committed) I am to be thus dishonored by the man who was my own first choice for the Presidency of all the statesmen in the Confederacy, then I am forever done with the service, whether my resignation is accepted or not. I could not return to the Army pursued by the sense of humility, from which death without dishonor would be relief.

With respect, your obedient servant,
GID. J. PILLOW,

Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.


XL. The reports of the Fort Donelson disaster having now been received and considered, it is impossible to acquit Brig. Gen. G.J. Pillow of grave errors of judgment in the military operations which resulted in the surrender of the army, but there being no reason to question his courage and loyalty, his suspension from duty is removed, and he will report to General B. Bragg for orders.

By command of the Secretary of War:
JNO. WITHERS,

Assistant Adjutant-General.


OXFORD, MISS., August 27, 1862.

General S. COOPER,
Adjutant-General, Richmond:

        Is the order of suspension simply removed, without anything being said relieving me from censure? Am I required to report to General Van Dorn, or will the President allow me to report to General Bragg and assist in relieving my own State?

GID. J. PILLOW,
Brigadier-General, C. S. Army


RICHMOND, VA., September 12, 1862.

Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH.
Secretary of War :

        The order of the Government restoring me to duty ascribes to me errors of judgment in the military operations at Donelson. The explanations as to what constitutes those errors, in our personal interview, indicated to my order to call off the pursuit of the army after the battle of the 15th February and back into the works as erroneous. In my communication of the 11th instant I gave my understanding of the objects and purposes of that combat, and solemnly asseverated that I never understood that the army was to retreat from the battle-field towards Charlotte, and I assigned reasons to show that that step was then impossible. I beg now to refer the Department to the original and supplemental reports of Colonel Gilmer, of the Engineer Corps, who was on duty with me at that post.
        The supplemental report will be filed in a few days. From these reports [you] will, I am persuaded, be satisfied that my order was not only a proper one, but that it was the means of saving the army from a conflict with a large fresh force of the enemy, which would greatly have endangered its existence, and that General Buckner was himself in error in supposing that my order had defeated or had any reference to the army retreating from the battle-field. That step was never contemplated or spoken of or even suggested as proper. It is difficult to understand how he could have taken up such impression, and it is singular that if my order had interfered with the previously-understood programme of action, why General Floyd should have so promptly approved my order, as General Buckner himself states in his report, and why neither he nor General Floyd should have said something about it.
        I hope to make the point clear by other testimony, when, I trust, the Department will perceive the justice of rescinding the order.

Respectfully,
GID. J. PILLOW,

Brigadier-General, C. S. A.


RICHMOND, VA., September 11, 1862.

Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War:

        In the personal interview with the President and yourself explanatory of the errors of judgment which I am considered by the Government to have committed (as stated in the order of August 22 past), I understood that the Government was satisfied that I was opposed to the surrender of the army of Donelson, and that in regard to the surrender my error consisted in not accepting the command when turned over by General Floyd to General Buckner for the purpose of capitulation and myself fighting it out (if I believed that was practicable), or of surrendering the command and myself with it. I have stated in my correspondence with the Department that I consider the action of Generals Floyd and Buckner in determining that the command could not be saved but must be surrendered was binding upon me, and that I refused to accept the command to carry this determination (by a surrender) into effect. The decision of the President upon the point settles the question, and I accept that decision as the law of the case, and acknowledge myself relieved of a question upon which (suddenly sprung upon me) my mind was never free from doubt.
        The other error, as I understand your explanation of the order, consisted in the order I gave after our army had driven the enemy from all his positions in front of our lines, where he was slowly falling back upon his large fresh force of 20,000 men at the gunboat landing.
        My order was to draw off from further pursuit, and for our forces to return to our line of defenses. This order was given to avoid a conflict, after a long and bloody battle, with the enemy's large body of fresh troops, which I was satisfied would be brought to the field, and which I knew we could not withstand in the exhausted condition of our small force. I had kept up the fight with the forces under my immediate command for the last two hours by carrying ammunition in boxes upon the heads of details from the command for that purpose, my supply of 60 rounds having been exhausted in the long struggle, and no wagon could go to the battle-field on account of the thick undergrowth and want of road. The order that I gave had no other object, and when its object was explained to General Floyd he unhesitatingly approved it. I did not prevail upon him or use any arguments or persuasive measures to induce him to approve of it. He at once saw its necessity, and countermanded the order which he had given upon the field for General Buckner's command to occupy the open field in front of our line and from which we had driven the enemy on the Wynn's Ferry road.
        This order of mine did not prevent the command from retiring from the position on the retreat towards Charlotte and Nashville, for the reason that it was not ready nor in condition to assume the march. I solemnly aver before God that I never understood it to be the purpose, object, or determination of the general officers, or of any of them, to march in retreat from the battle-field if we won it. So far from it, and as an evidence that we all so understood it, the command went into the action without the necessary subsistence and covering for a long march over a country scarcely practicable for infantry and deemed impracticable for anything else, covered as it was with a deep snow and sheeted over with sleet. The army could not have taken the field for battle, encumbered with the necessary rations, blankets, knapsacks, &c., for the march.
        Neither in the council of the night of the 14th nor at any other time was it understood or even suggested that we should march from the field of battle on retiring from Donelson. General Buckner seems to have understood it differently, but he never explained to me this view of his, and I did not know that he so understood it until I read his official report. I was in the midst of his troops several times during the after part of the battle and after they returned into the work, and I am satisfied they had not the rations and other necessary preparations for the march.
        It will be recollected that the first purpose was to have fought the enemy on February 14; but it was deferred, at my suggestion, as being too late in the day. General Buckner never reported himself really for the march nor intimated to me after the battle that my order had interfered with his views or intended action. No orders had been issued to the command, either written or verbal, to march from the field; no preparations had been made for that purpose.
        The battle of the 15th was fought to cut up the investing force before the fresh forces could get in position to open the way to Charlotte, but it never entered into my head that we were to march from the field of battle without any subsistence, blankets, or knapsacks, leaving all of our wounded upon the field of snow, with the different regiments and brigades broken, mixed, and scattered, leaving behind the artillerists in the river bottoms, the two regiments at that place as a protecting force, the four regiments of Heiman's brigade left in its position in the line of works to protect General Buckner's right flank, and all the pickets along our whole line then drawn back into the works to hold them, while the main army contested the field outside of the works. To none of these forces had orders been given. Neither had any of our field artillery been taken outside of our works before the battle was won. Its participation in the conflict was from the inside of the works. General Buckner's artillery was left in his part of the works, and the piece ordered by him into the field after the battle was fought was taken from my portion of the works.

I feel confident General Floyd will sustain me in this view of the subject. This point (deemed to involve error on my part) is raised by General Buckner's report; was unknown to me until I read his report, and I am persuaded that upon a full view of all the circumstances the Government will see the injustice done me in ascribing to me an error of judgment. My order for the army to be called off from the pursuit and brought back into the works alone saved it from being crushed by the large, fresh force of the enemy which did in a short time afterwards attack and carry a portion of General Buckner's rifle pits.
        For these reasons the order of the Government ascribing to me error of judgment I feel is unjust, and I respectfully request that part of the case may be held by the Government for further information, which I hope to present to the Department in the future.
        I also ask that the Department will, in writing, specify the points of error ascribed to me as stated in our verbal conversation, believing that, when the errors are stated in order, they will be less injurious to me than the general ascription of errors without specifying them. I cannot believe the President or yourself will do me intentional injustice, and yet, as the order now stands, I feel that it is more hurtful to my reputation than if the errors were pointed out.

Respectfully,
GID. J. PILLOW.


OXFORD, MISS., October 10, 1862.

Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War:

        Having made up my mind to retire from the service unless a reconsideration of its action by the Government shall cause a correction of those acts considered unjust towards me, I consider it respectful to the Government as well as due to my own reputation as a patriot to explain the reasons of my determination. In doing so, I may refer to past occurrences, in which the President has felt but little interest, yet, as they are truths, they should be known as parts of the history of this war.
        When Tennessee, by her declaration of independence, had separated herself from the Lincoln Government, she provided by law for raising and arming a force of 55,000 men, and placed me, as the senior major-general, in command of this force. When I had organized about 35,000 of this force, had established shops for the manufacture of cannon and small-arms of every description, and had gathered a large amount of powder and other material of war, and before a man had been transferred to the Confederate service, the President appointed Bishop Polk, of Louisiana, a major-general, and assigned him to the command of the department which embraced my then field of operations, and instructed him to have the Tennessee forces transferred to the Confederate service. Subsequently he tendered me the appointment of major-general. That I should have felt deeply humiliated at being thus deprived of my command, reduced in rank, and placed under the orders of a priest, who had devoted his life to religious pursuits and had no experience in the field as a military man, ought not to excite surprise. That this injustice should have been done by a fellow-soldier of the Mexican war, for whom I had always cherished a warm friendship and for whom I had a high admiration, neither diminished my surprise nor mortification. From a sense of duty to the country (under certain pledges of the major-general), I accepted the position.
        Subsequently I fought the battles of Belmont and Donelson. In both of these battles the great inequality of the forces engaged made the conflicts most unequal and bloody. In both our arms were victorious. In the battle of Donelson the forces commanded by myself fought with brilliant success and with a gallantry never surpassed. Had General Buckner's command been equally successful we would have destroyed the enemy's army of 30,000 men. But unfortunately, by his failure in the assault on the Wynn's Ferry road battery, and permitting the enemy after the main battle had been won to take possession of a portion of his rifle pits, the position we occupied became untenable, and having reinvested us with 40,000 troops, half of which were fresh, Generals Floyd and Buckner were of opinion that the army could not be saved, and that capitulation was all that was left us. In this opinion I differed with them. I believed we could cut our way through the enemy's new line and insisted that it was our duty to do so. But not being sustained in these views, and regarding their decision, approved as it was by General Floyd (the senior general present), as equivalent to a military order of that commander, I felt constrained to acquiesce in what I could not prevent.
        In pursuance of this decision General Floyd devolved the command upon General Buckner, who surrendered it accordingly. It is proper here to state that I refused to receive the command for the purpose of capitulation. It appeared afterwards, from the President's special message to Congress, that he was surprised and offended at the surrender, and by his orders General Floyd and myself were suspended from command. Believing the President had acted under a misapprehension of my position, I took the sworn testimonials of five officers present, all of whom proved that I opposed the surrender, and early in April I laid it before the Government, and asked to be relieved from the order of suspension. This was not done. On the contrary, I was held suspended for nearly six months and until General Buckner's release. When his report [was] received by the Government the order of suspension was removed, but in the order relieving me from suspension it is recited:

        It is impossible to acquit Maj. Gen. G. J. Pillow of grave errors of judgment in the military operations which resulted in the surrender of the army at Donelson, but there being no reason to question his courage or loyalty, the order of suspension is removed, and he will report to General Bragg for orders.

        From this order it appears that the President was of opinion that the surrender of the army was caused by my grave errors of judgment. I was conscious of the commission of no errors. None were specified in the order. To enable me to guard against like errors in the future it was essential that I should understand what were the errors of judgment ascribed to me. For the purpose of having this explanation of the order I visited Richmond, and in a personal interview with the President and yourself I asked for this explanation. In reply, the first error specified was that it was my duty--notwithstanding the decision of Generals Floyd and Buckner that the command must be surrendered--to have taken command and fought it out, if that was practicable, or have surrendered the command and myself with it. I accepted this decision of the President as the law of the case, though I had thought I would have subjected myself to arrest for insubordination had I taken that course. I then asked what other error I had committed. The answer was that it appeared from General Buckner's reports that, after we had driven the enemy from our front to the right of our position, he was in position to protect the retreat of the army towards Charlotte, and that my order calling off the pursuit and ordering it back into our works defeated this retreat. In reply to this I stated that this was a new point; that I had never heard of it before as offensive to the Government; that it was founded on a total misapprehension of the order I had given and of the condition of the army. I stated that we fought the battle of February 15 to cut up the investing force before the fresh force of 20,000, which arrived at the gunboat landing on the evening of the 14th, could be got into position, with the view of opening our communications with Charlotte and Nashville, and intending ultimately to avail ourselves of a successful issue of the battle to retire from the post. All parties regarded the issue as more or less doubtful. We knew we should have a desperate fight; but we made no preparation before going into the battle for retreating from the battlefield. No suggestion or proposition was ever made that we should do so, and all that was determined upon in the conference on the night of February 14 was that we would give the investing force battle next morning. We could not have gone into such a fight with the men loaded down with blankets, knapsacks, and six days' rations, and without these the march over 60 miles of extremely broken and poor country, covered with snow and sleet 4: inches deep, could not have been made. We had left all of our field artillery within our works, because we could not use it on a battle-field covered over with a thick undergrowth of black-jack bushes. We could not have commenced a retreat before the enemy's large force of cavalry and artillery without artillery to protect our rear.
        We had fought the battle, leaving the three companies of artillery in the river batteries, with two regiments of infantry as a supporting force. We had left Heiman's brigade of four regiments in its position in the line of works to protect the right flank of General Buckner's force when he should attack the enemy's position on the Wynn's Ferry road. All these forces were left within our works, without orders or a knowledge that we contemplated a retreat from the battle-field.
        Again, when the army had been engaged in a close and bloody fight for seven and a half hours, every officer of experience in the field knows that regiments and brigades are broken and mixed and more or less scattered over the field. To have attempted a retreat from the battlefield under such circumstances, and without reformation and in compact order, would have resulted, if pursued, in a massacre of the command. All these circumstances I stated as showing that the statement in General Buckner's reports was founded in error on his part as to our intention to retreat from the battle-field. If such was then his understanding he would certainly have reported himself to me as ready to commence the retreat, which he never did ; and when we were engaged on the night of the 15th (after the battle) in making arrangements for the retreat, then we called together all the commanders of companies, regiments, and brigades, of every arm of the service; gave orders for the retreat; assigned to the different corps their respective positions; gave orders for the whole command to have their blankets, knapsacks, new supply of ammunition, and five days' rations, and directed General Buckner (then nearest the position of the enemy) to protect the rear of the army in the retreat. General Buckner, after so great a lapse of time, evidently has his memory confused as to what was determined upon on the night of the 15th, confounding them with events and purposes entertained on the night of February 14.
        I further said that as this point was a new one, suggested for the first time in General Buckner's report, it would have been but fair to give me notice of the point and an opportunity of explanation before my conduct was condemned; that my object in giving the order was to avoid a conflict with the enemy's fresh force of 20,000 men, which, in our then exhausted condition, I knew we could not withstand; that the moment the reasons of the order were explained to General Floyd he revoked his own order, approved of mine, and directed General Buckner to return as promptly as possible to his position in the rifle pits. The necessity of this order is proved beyond all question by the result which quickly followed, for before General Buckner got back to his position he found the enemy advancing rapidly upon and into some of them, and' he actually made so firm a lodgment into those on his right that he could not be dislodged. I further said that I was satisfied that Major Gilmer and General Floyd would sustain me in this view of the order imputed to me as error of judgment.
        Before leaving Richmond I saw Major Gilmer, had a full conversation with him, and ascertained that his recollection and opinions fully sustained mine on this whole subject. I then addressed an official communication to you, referring you to the original and supplemental reports of Major Gilmer as sustaining me on the point, and requested that the specifications of error might remain open for further information. To this I have received no reply. General Floyd being in Western Virginia, I could not see him.
        Such, sir, was the substance of my explanation to yourself and the President of the order of mine which you regard as having resulted in the surrender of the army; yet my communication addressed to you from Richmond remains unnoticed, and I still rest under the censure of this order.
        From the above history of the operations of the army at Donelson it is manifest that the position of peril to which the army was reduced, which produced the necessity of its surrender, was caused by General Buckner's unsuccessful attack on the Wynn's Ferry road battery and his failure to hold his rifle pits and by his afterwards advocating the necessity of a surrender, and not by any error of judgment on my part; and yet in your order I am made to bear all the odium of that measure, while he who caused it is held blameless and uncensured. That I should feel deeply aggrieved by such treatment at the hands of my Government might be expected. Against such injustice I solemnly protest. If the Government is determined to shut its eyes to the light of truth, and at no time to do me justice, it is time for me to retire.
        Again, after being so long held suspended I was ordered to report to General Bragg for orders. He ordered me by telegram to report to General Van Dorn, and placed General Buckner in command of the division which General A. S. Johnston had organized for me, and which was under my command when I was suspended. I have twice reported to General Van Dorn, and yet I have no command now after the lapse of about a month. The Secretary of War has been informed by telegram of the state of facts. I have applied for permission to raise a new command of war volunteers or to take ten regiments of skeleton returned volunteers and fill them up, but have failed to get any favorable response.
        Believing now that I am the victim of injustice; that my past services are not and never will be appreciated; being without command after every effort on my part to procure one, and believing that I can render the country no service, I am forced to the conclusion that it is my duty to retire from the service. Yet I have determined to make the very last effort at vindication and to procure a command before retiring finally from the service.
        I need not say that the promotion of my juniors in rank, who, when promoted had fought no battle, had no experience in high command and little of any sort, taken from the very forces organized by myself as a part of the Army of Tennessee, of which I was the commander--promotions made over me while I was suspended under an unjust order--adds additional poignancy to other acts of injustice I have sustained.
        I am the more induced to hesitate in taking final action from personal considerations affecting my family. My whole fortune, large as it was, has been swept away by the enemy. In evacuating my portion of Tennessee the enemy took away my negro property from that State also. The policy of my own Government induced it to burn all my cotton. In this way I am reduced to poverty, with a large and dependent family of grown-up and unmarried daughters on my hands. While I see no means of supporting my family in the future, I am, on the other hand, doubly important to them. In addition to this source of embarrassment my taxes for the present year were assessed on my whole estate, and amount to some $5,000. This sum I have no means of paying, and my lands will be sacrificed to pay this sum unless the Government make me advances on the cotton burned. The consideration of these matters does not properly belong to official communications, but yet are proper to be made known to the Government, as having their influence on the course I feel constrained to inform you I am about to take.
        Protesting, as I solemnly do, against the injustice of this last order of the Government (explained above), and claiming a right that this my protest shall be filed on record in its archives, and having no command after a month's delay waiting for one, I now inform the Government that I shall proceed to my residence in Tennessee and there await the action and orders of the Government upon this communication. It is proper to state likewise that I never expect to take further part in this struggle unless upon a review of its own action in regard to myself it shall do me full justice. If satisfied no such action on its part will be taken, I shall, of course, promptly forward my resignation.
        I transmit this by Major Cheatam, who will bring to me your reply.

With great respect, your obedient servant,
GID. J. PILLOW,

Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.


WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,
Richmond, Va., October 21, 1862.

Brig. Gen. GIDEON J. PILLOW:

        GENERAL: I have received and carefully considered your letter of the 10th instant, and am constrained to say that I find in it nothing in reference to the operations at Fort Donelson which you had not already communicated in conversation, except the statement, now for the first time made, that "the necessity for the surrender was caused by General Buckner's unsuccessful attack on the Wynn's Ferry road battery and his failure to hold his rifle pits."
        Declining to enter into this new point of controversy between General Buckner and yourself, I find nothing in the letter to change my opinion of your conduct at Fort Donelson or to render it proper that the order of which you complain should be rescinded. Neither do I find in the report of Colonel Gilmer any confirmation of your opinions. His supplemental report, if made, has not been laid before me. Should it satisfy me that I have done you injustice, I need not assure you, general, that it will give me great pleasure to repair it.
        I have not received your application "to raise a new command of war volunteers or to take ten regiments of skeleton returned volunteers and fill them up"; but the conscript act would hinder you from raising a new command, and the disposition already made of the returned prisoners renders it impossible to place ten regiments of them at your disposal. I regret to hear of your losses, and have expressed my sense of your courage and patriotism; but, as you rightly remark, the question of indemnifying you for the sacrifices of property cannot find a place in this correspondence. It only remains for me to say that, entertaining the opinion expressed in the order of which you complain, I cannot rescind it; and since you make your retirement from service the only alternative, your resignation is accepted.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. W. RANDOLPH,

Secretary of War.


MURFREESBOROUGH, TENN, November 8, 1862.

Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War:

        Your communication of October 21 is received. I have not resigned. In my letter of October 10, to which yours is in reply, I used the following language:

        Believing now that I am the victim of injustice; that my past services are not and never will be appreciated; being without command after every effort on my part to procure one, and believing that I can render the country no service, I am forced to the conclusion that it is my duty to retire from the service. Yet I have determined to make the very last effort at vindication and to procure a command before retiring finally from the service.

        Again, I said in that letter:

        Protesting, as I solemnly do, against the injustice of this last order of the Government (explained above), and claiming a right that this my protest shall be filed on record in its archives, and having no command after a month's delay waiting for one, I now inform the Government that I shall proceed to my residence in Tennessee and there await the action and orders of the Government upon this communication. It is proper to state likewise that I never expect to take further part in this struggle unless upon a review of its own action in regard to myself it shall do me full justice. If satisfied no such action on its part will be taken, I shall, of course, promptly forward my resignation.

        By no popular or legal interpretation can this language be construed into resignation nor was it so intended. The language used, "will forward my resignation," expressly negatives and excludes the inference that there was a resignation. By it my future course was made to depend upon my conviction that justice would not be done me by the Government. Upon this subject my mind is not satisfied.
        The "grave error of judgment" imputed to me is that it was determined in council of February 14, 1862--for no other council was held before the battle--that the army should cut its way through the enemy's line of investment and retreat from the battle-field, and that, in contravention of this purpose, when we had driven the enemy from his position in the battle of February 15 I ordered the pursuit discontinued and our works reoccupied. The only evidence of this as an error is found in a paragraph of General Buckner's report, in which he treats the order as defeating the retreat. My reply has been and is that General Buckner is in error in stating that any purpose was ever determined upon in council or ordered elsewhere previously to the battle to retreat from the battlefield; that my order was made to avoid collision with a large, fresh force of the enemy, which in our then condition we could not have withstood, and that a retreat at that time was impracticable; that General Floyd, my senior in command, approved and adopted my order, and repeated it to General Buckner as his own before it was executed, as is distinctly stated in General Buckner's report. In proof of the correctness of this explanation and of the necessity of my order I refer to Colonel Gilmer's supplemental report. I learn with surprise from your communication of October 21 that his supplemental report was not filed, or, if filed, was not laid before you. When last in Richmond, upon my written application you made an order directing him to make a supplemental report upon the points under consideration. He being on duty in that city, I had a right, after the lapse of a month, to suppose that document was on file in the Department and was before you. I find, however, in your dispatch of October 21 this sentence:

        His (Colonel Gilmer's) supplemental report, if made, has not been laid before me. Should it satisfy me that I have done you injustice, I need not assure you, general, that it will give me great pleasure to repair it.

        From this it is manifest that no proof, other than the circumstances given by me in explanation, was before the Department when your letter of October 21 was written.
        Having it in my power to place before you proofs which I am persuaded will be satisfactory, I shall cause to be laid before you as promptly as possible, in the shape of supplemental reports, official statements of Brig. Gens. B. R. Johnson and Forrest, and Colonel Gilmer. They will accompany this communication, except Colonel Gilmer's report, which as early as possible I shall cause to be laid before you.
        The labors I have performed in behalf of the cause in which we are engaged, and the sacrifices I have endured, prove my devotion, and should satisfy the President that I did not desire to quit the service until we had achieved the independence of the country; but I have felt and still feel deeply aggrieved by the order of the Government, knowing that it is founded in error and is unjust. Until the merits of the case shall have been passed upon by the President with these proofs before him (however indifferent I feel about the position I hold), I cannot and never contemplated retiring. Holding myself subject to the orders of the Government and in communication with Major-General Breckinridge's headquarters, I shall await its action.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GID. J. PILLOW,

Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.

Brief of General Pillow for the Secretary of War.

        A preliminary question for consideration is, was my letter of October 10 a resignation in fact or in law? I deny that it is. This will be settled by the letter itself. If the letter was not a resignation, should not the letter of the honorable Secretary of October 21 be withdrawn?
        The order complained of as unjust is in the following language, viz:

        It is impossible to acquit Brig. Gen. Gideon J. Pillow of grave errors in the military operation of the army at Donelson, resulting in its surrender.

        In reply to my application for an explanation and specification of the errors ascribed to me, it is said that my order calling off the pursuit (after the main battle of February 15 had been fought, and ordering the reoccupation of our works) defeated the previously-settled determination of a council of general officers, held on the night of February 16, to retreat from the battle-field on February 15, and was a grave error of judgment.
        In the first place, I deny that my order was in contravention of any previously-settled purpose of the council of general officers held on the night of February 14. I deny that it was ever determined or even proposed in the council of the night of the 14th to retreat from the battlefield or to abandon the works. In that council we determined to give the enemy battle on the next day (15th), and we settled the plans of battle, nothing else. Our purpose was to cut up the enemy's investing forces before his fresh troops could get in position, thus defeating his designs upon our position and opening our communications, and intending afterwards to be governed by circumstances. We all believed we would ultimately be forced to retire from the position, then invested by a force of 30,000 men, threatened with a fresh force of 20,000; but it was likewise believed that if we were completely successful in the sally we might hold the position for a time and save the vast interests known to depend upon our doing so.
        In proof of the correctness of this position I refer to the supplemental reports of Brig. Gens. B. E. Johnson and Forrest and Colonel Gilmer. I maintain, therefore, that my order calling off the pursuit was not in contravention of any purpose previously settled by the council of general officers before the battle and was not a grave error of judgment.
        Secondly, no retreat of the army was defeated by the order, for none had been resolved upon, and at that time a successful retreat from the battle-field could not have been made. I maintain that the order was necessary and proper, and was the only means of avoiding an immediate conflict with a vastly superior force of fresh troops, which in our then condition we could not have withstood.
        We had fought seven and a half hours a force of three to one. We had pursued the retreating foe nearly 3 miles and to within 3 miles of the gunboat landing, and until we met and had a severe conflict with the advance of his fresh troops, under General C. F. Smith. These facts all appear in General Buckner's report as well as in my own.
        My own command (full two-thirds of the army in the fight) was out of ammunition, and the reports of General Buckner and those of his colonels show that his command had but little left. Our artillery was left in the works because we could not use it in the field. If we had pursued the enemy farther, we would have had to contend with his veterans and fresh forces combined--fully 40,000 men. With our small and exhausted command (originally only 10,000 men in the fight), it is obvious that we would have been crushed, and perhaps annihilated.
        If we had remained in the open field outside our works long enough to have reformed the command, supplied its wants, and brought out our artillery and the six regiments left within, as necessary in their positions, the whole force of the enemy would have been precipitated upon us before it was possible to have commenced the retreat.
        When fully prepared, it is known to be a most difficult operation for an exhausted command to retreat before a superior force; but when the retreating force is without ammunition and artillery and the pursuing force is fresh, a successful retreat is impossible.
        The proof shows that the weather was intensely cold; that the country over which we would have had to pass was destitute of any supplies; that we had no artillery at hand ; that my command had neither rations, knapsacks, blankets, nor ammunition, and that General Buckner's had an inadequate supply; that the regiments and brigades were broken, mixed, and scattered over the field, as is always the case after so long and severe a battle. Under such circumstances I maintain that retreat was impracticable, and that my order was necessary and proper, and the only means of saving the army from imminent peril of annihilation.
        It was in this most obvious view of the case that General Floyd, who had, as he states in his report, ordered the command to remain in the open field, countermanded his order, approved, adopted, and issued my order as his own, before my order was executed, as is stated by General :Buckner in his report, at page 102 of the pamphlet.
        To have attempted a retreat without reformation of the command, without artillery, without a fresh supply of ammunition (which we could only obtain from our works), with one-third of our whole force left in the works, and in the face of 20,000 fresh troops, must have resulted in the massacre or capture of the command.
        In proof of the facts stated above reference is made to the reports already referred to. An additional proof of the necessity of my order is seen in the fact stated by General Buckner, that before he got back to his rifle pits the enemy had taken possession of a portion of them, from which he could not be dislodged. This made it impossible for us long to hold the position. Indeed, there remained only one of two alternatives, viz, to capitulate or to supply the wants of our army and cut our way out on the night of the 15th, which I was in favor of attempting. (See statements of Forrest, Burch, and others.)
        In addition to this, I answer that General Buckner never gave me to understand, nor did I know, that he expected me to retreat from the battle-field; nor did he report his readiness to do so, or his opinion that we ought or could do so, neither did General Floyd say one word to me upon that subject.
        My original reports, at page 35 of the pamphlet, written on February 18, only three days after the capitulation, sustained the views herein expressed as to the purpose we had settled on the night of the 14th and as to the impracticability of any other course than the one pursued. That the loss of the garrison was a severe misfortune none will pretend to deny. That loss was the result of the investment by vastly superior numbers. We all saw our danger, and the battle of the 15th in the open field proves it was given for the express purpose of relieving us; but yet, in view of the disastrous consequences to the country of the fall of the position, we felt our duty (as General Johnston instructed the undersigned) to hold the position as long as was possible. I was then and am now clear in the conviction that we could not have retreated from the battle-field. If the army could have been saved, as I believed it could, it was on the night of February 15 and morning of the 10th. None of these proofs were before the Government when the order complained of was issued. I had no notice of the points made in General Buckner's report until the order had issued, and as I then had no opportunity of explanation, I trust the Government will pardon the length of these remarks, submitted in the shape of a brief of the facts. Trusting that the President will be satisfied, from the proofs now presented, that the order does me injustice, I cheerfully submit the case to his judgment and sense of right.

GID. J. PILLOW,
Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.

NOTE--See Colonel Gilmer's original report, pages 167 and 168 [p. 263], for a clear statement of what was determined upon the night of February 14.

GID. J. PILLOW,
Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.


SPECIAL ORDERS No. 289.

ADJT. AND INSP. GENERAL'S OFFICE,
Richmond, December 10, 1862.

        On review of the communication of Brig. Gen. G. J. Pillow, construed as a tender of his resignation and acted on by its acceptance, but not, as General Pillow contends, so intended or correctly interpreted, the order accepting his resignation is revoked, and he will be regarded as having never surrendered his commission. He will report to General Joseph E. Johnston for duty.

By command of Secretary of War:
JNO. WITHERS,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

Brigadier-General PILLOW,
Richmond.


MARIETTA, GA., October 1, 1863.

His Excellency President Davis:

        SIR: In addressing you this unofficial letter, calling your attention to a matter of personal interest to myself, I simply appeal to your sense of justice, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, in the only way I can communicate personally with you.
        I do not believe, I cannot believe, you capable of intentional injustice to any man or officer, much less to one who has been your personal and political friend for the last fifteen years. Yet, as matters now stand, I feel that great injustice has been done me, and that you alone have the power of correction. I allude to the order of the Secretary of War, Mr. Randolph, in regard to the operations of the army at Fort Donelson. Without intending any reflection upon Mr. Randolph, it is nevertheless not improper to inform you that he was my personal enemy, growing out of my controversy with General Scott, in which Mr. N. P. Trist (Mr. Randolph's brother-in-law) was a chief witness. I think it the more necessary to give this information because you mentioned in my presence to Mr. Randolph that you had not seen the order until in that interview.
        Knowing the view you took of the operations of the army at that place, upon the then existing state of the case as it appeared in the record (the Secretary's order having been based entirely on the report of General Buckner, in which I know he had fallen into error), I have since taken the testimony of General B. R. Johnson, General Forrest, and Colonel Gilmer, all of whom testify that, in the then condition of our army and in the face of General C. F. Smith's fresh force of 20,000 men, a successful retreat of our army was impracticable, and that no previous determination to retreat from the battle-field had been determined upon or even suggested.
        I have also taken the sworn testimony of four other witnesses, to wit: Captain Hinson, Dr. Moore, Captain Newberry, and Lieutenant Hollister, all of whom testify that the enemy had not reinvested our position or army on the night of the 15th February, as was then supposed, and never did reinvest, and that the army was surrendered under a delusion, and that our army could have marched out on the night of the 15th or morning of the 16th February without any obstacle or opposition. If these facts be so, and they are fully so proved by the most indisputable testimony, it follows as a necessary consequence that I was right in not attempting to retreat when it was impracticable on the 15th, and that the error was committed by the officers who refused to march out on the night of the 15th, when we could have done so without risk or obstacle. Upon this point I inclose you the statement of Brig. Gen. W. A. Quarles, recently furnished me, having just met him for the first time since we separated at Donelson.
        All this testimony is on file in the War Office, but has never, I presume, been laid before you. When I last saw you in Richmond, in November last, you told me you had not seen any of the testimony, but you assured me, as soon as your public duties would permit, after your return from your western tour, you would take the case up, examine it, and "would do me justice." Under this assurance I have been content to work on in the humble position to which I have been assigned, never doubting but that you would ultimately do me justice. To my letters to the Secretary of War I have received no answer; my communications transmitting the proofs above adverted to were not even acknowledged.
        I am therefore driven to the necessity of addressing you privately and unofficially, appealing to your sense of justice, or of resting forever under the censure implied by the order of Secretary Randolph, while the proof on file, but which you have not seen, fully vindicates me against the very error ascribed to me as causing the sacrifice of that army. My position is rendered more painful from the conviction resting upon the minds of my friends, who know the truth of the case, and of that of the public, resulting from the fact that I have never been promoted while all others who fought under me have been. They very naturally suppose that there is something else in my conduct which your judgment condemns as much more criminal than even the error ascribed to me in the order.
        Under these circumstances I feel well assured, from my knowledge of your character, that you will pardon the liberty which, as a citizen, I take of calling your attention to the case of an injured officer and earnestly asking your attention to the case. If you will take up the case and examine the proof I will cheerfully submit to your own sense of right and justice.

I am, sir, with great respect, your friend and obedient servant,
GID. J. PILLOW.


MARIETTA, GA., October 3, 1863.

His Excellency President DAVIS:

        Having found the original letter or statement of General Quarles, I herewith forward it. You will perceive an error in the copy I sent you, the copy using the word "partially" instead of "positively" in regard to the determination to surrender the command.
        With assurances of my continued friendship, I am, your obedient servant,

GID. J. PILLOW.

[Inclosure.]

Col. W. A. Quarles' statement of facts relative to Fort Donelson.

MARIETTA, GA., August 1, 1863.

General GIDEON J. PILLOW:

        In accordance with your request I make the following statement of a conversation with you on the morning of the day of the surrender of the troops at Fort Donelson:
        I called at the general headquarters for orders, and while there heard that we were about to be surrendered.
        I immediately approached you and asked you if it was true You replied it was. I then asked you if there was no possible way to prevent it and fight out. Your reply was, "No; I have fought against the surrender in the council, but my senior and junior in command overrule me. I can do nothing; I am powerless; the surrender has been positively determined on; had I my way I would fight the troops; I believe I could get them out." Your words are impressed upon my memory, and I think I give your very language.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant
W. A. QUARLES
Colonel Forty-second Tennessee Regiment.

This conversation was before the flag of truce was sent out.

Source:  Official Records of the War of the Rebellion

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