20th Mississippi at Fort Donelson
Confederate States Army Casualties M836-4 fr. 0059
National Archives & Records Administration
Transcribed by Billy Markland
Report of Maj. W.N. Brown 20th Miss. Vols.
To. Genl. G.W. Randolph
Secretary of War C.S.A.
I am directed by his Excellency President Davis to make to your Department a report of the part taken by the 20th Mississippi Regiment in the engagement with the enemy at Fort Donelson Tennessee February 13th 14th and 15th 1862 also all other facts concerning the investment and subsequent surrender of that Post.
The Regiment was assigned to the command of Brig. Genl. Jno. B. Floyd in Western Virginia during the past summer and went to Kentucky, and from there to Fort Donelson as part of his "immediate command"; arriving at that place at daylight on the 13th February.
By sunrise we were ordered into position as a reserve immediately in rear of a point which was said to be our center. During the day heavy cannonading was kept up by both sides, mostly of shells and Shrapnel which resulted in killing one man and wounding slightly three or four others. At night we bivouacked in position until 12 O'clock when an order came from Genl. Pillow to relieve the 7th Texas Regiment commanded by Col. Jno. Gregg then in the trenches. At that time a brisk firing was going on supposed to be induced by the enemy's scouts and sharpshooters. The breastworks were thought insufficient from the test of the preceeding day so the remainder of the night was occupied in strengthing [sic] them and cleaning out the trenches now partially filled with water and Snow. The next day (Friday) was spent in occasional engagements with the enemy's sharpshooters. The Fort was actively engaged in repelling an attack of the Gun Boats of the enemy. My position did not afford me a view of the proceedings, which has been fully reported by others.
About 1 O'clock I received an order to form my Regiment on the extreme left in an open field for the purpose of making a sortie on the enemy, which formation was executed in a very short time. By order of Genl. Pillow the 20th Miss. Was attached to the Brigade of Col. Wm. E. Baldwin 14th Mississippi Regt. for this occasion. Before the order to advance had been given a few guns of the enemy were heard and by the time we had advanced 100 yards a private of Company "D" was shot down showing that the enemy was close at hand: We continued the march for 200 yards more when the order to halt was given - said to come from Genl. Floyd, with the explanation that we did not have time to accomplish what he wanted, and the order to countermarch being given, we did so in proper order and retook our position in the trenches.
About 1 O'clock on that night (Friday) I received an order to form again as the preceding evening which was executed promptly and by direction of Genl. Pillow was again placed under the command of Col. Wm. E. Baldwin 14th Miss. Regt. - Acting Brigadier.
I made a report to him of the casualties of that day while in captivity but as he has been prohibited from making a statement to the War Department of this Government as likewise Genl. Buckner I hereby append substantially the same of that days proceedings which was confined particularly to the 20th Miss. Regt.
"Being the only Field Officer present I was in command and greatly assisted by Capt. Cantey Co. "A" and Capt. C.K. Massey Co. "D" who were selected voluntarily by the officers of the Regiment to assist in field duty - there being some difficulty as to seniority of Captains. Adjutant J.M. Culiper [sic] was also very efficient and rendered valuable assistance.
Asst. Surgeon T.B. Elkin was present and rendered every assistance in his power to the wounded.
Casualties of the several Companies
500 Aggregate engaged
That being the number returned by the commanding officers of companies on Sunday Feb. 16th/62 the day we were surrendered; afterwards many of them reported that they had several to escape.
On the morning of Saturday the 15th Feb. when marched out to attack the enemy we were third in the order of advance. The enemy's pickets and sharpshooters commenced firing upon us soon after the order to advance and by the time we had gained three hundred yards we were under a brisk fire, which came from a hill in front covered with timber.
By order from Genl. Pillow the Regt. was formed on the left of the road perpendicular to the road in the woods immediately behind a fence with an open field in front. Subsequently I received an order from the same source to wheel the Regt. to the right through the field behind the line of fence parallel to the road. This movement subjected us to a cross fire of and very much exposed us to the enemy on both sides under cover of the woods. I had this fact represented to Genl. Pillow who ordered me back to our first position. Even at this time the five left companies werer actively engaged on the hill and not hearing the command did not obey with promptness. The destruction in their ranks at that time demonstrate the fierceness of the conflict and their unflinching bravery. I would mention especially Lt. R.W. Paine of Co. "H" who fell at this time a martyr to his country's cause. Here also were wounded Capt. D.T. Patterson Co. "K", Lt. O.R. Eastland of Co. "F" was badly perhaps mortally wounded: he refused to be carried from the [field?] and exclaimed "never mind me boys - fight on, fight on" Lt. J.H. Barbee Co. "H" was wounded and forced to retire Capt. W.A. Rorer Comdg. Co. "B" Lt. W.R. Nelson Comdg. Co. "G" Lieutenants T.B. Sykes - Conway Murf - Roberts W.S. Champlin Comdg. Co. "E" Lt. Harrison [are?] all deserving of honorable mention for their conduct at this place.
To enumerate all the Officers and privates who were deserving of notice for their gallantry thoughout the day would be to return a list of all who were on the field and I would refer you to the foregoing list , but as fortune had thrown the left of the Regiment in a more fiercely contested place of which the suffering truthfully indicates it is but justice to give those companies some special notice.
On several other occasions during the day we were ordered to advance and charge through the woods, part of the time under the eye and immediate direction of Genl. B.R. Johnson on the extreme left until the enemy were entirely driven off. Our movements under that officer seemed to take [the] enemy by their flank and rear. We opposed several of their lines of reserves which retired with but little resistance. At 12 O'clock I was instructed by Genl. Johnson to remain with the Brigade of Col. [Jos.?] Drake of 4th Miss. then on my left. The Regiment on my right very soon commenced retiring to the entrenchments. I did not learn by whose order or for what purpose. In two or three hours a heavy column of the enemy attacked us in front which was repulsed with little or no loss to us, they then endeavored to flank our right and thereby cut us off from the breastworks now about three fourths of a mile distant - Col. Drake being so informed gave the order to move by the right flank and continue the firing, which was executed. By this time many companies were without ammunition - such was the case of many of Col. Drake's command on this account we retired to the trenches in perfect good order.
When called upon the field the Regiment had been without sleep for four nights, during which time they were marching, working and watching in the trenches encountering a severe snow storm without tents or cooking utensils - Nothwithstanding all these privations and sufferings every order was obeyed with the greatest alacrity - Every man seeming to feel that much depended upon himself.
At 1 O'clock on Saturday night I was sent for to report to Genl. J.B. Floyd, which I did promptly and received notice from him that the place was to be surrendered, but that he would not surrender himself, and would cut his way out with his immediate command - to carry out this determination he ordered me to form my Regiment on the left of our line as the previous morning with the Virginia Regiments. While executing this order an aide de camp of Genl. Buckner brought an order countermanding this arrangement and directing me to the Steam Boat Landing to embark on one of two Boats then momentarily expected.
I went immediately to Genl. Floyd so as better to understand the movement and from him learned the authenticity of the instructions, and also that we would embark according to the rank of commanding officers - (Col. Wharton's and Col. McCauslin's Brigade would precede me in order). I was further directed to place a strong guard around the Steam Boat Landing to prohibit stragglers from going aboard. The boats being detained until nearly daylight and the news of surrender spreading through the camp caused many to flock to the river almost panic stricken and frantic to make good their escape by getting aboard. In all this confusion I am proud to say that the 20th Mississippi Regt. stood like a stone wall which as the necessity had required I had thrown in a semi-circle around the landing to protect Genl. Floyd and his Virginia Regiments while embarking - and when the last hope had vanished of getting aboard according to the orders and promises of Genl. Floyd and we realized the sad fact that we had been surrendered the Regiment stacked arms in perfect good order without the least intimidation, but full of regret.
I am not able to state why we were not taken aboard the Boat - there was about 200 men and officers between my Regiment and the Boat - and Genl. Floyd was aboard. I sent my adjutant to inform him we were ready to go aboard - I did not get a satisfactory answer, but learned that the Genl. was fighting off the men in my front who I thought belonged to one of the Va. Regts. commanded by Maj. Thos. Smith who has since informed me that some did not [go?].
There seemed to me to be room enough on board for us all, and if he had wanted them out of the way I could have cleared the bank in a moments time. When the boat left there did not seem to me to be fifty men on deck. It is perhaps unbecoming in me to say whose fault it was that my Regt. was not embarked, but I certainly owe it to myself to show that it was not mine. While this excitement was going on Genl. Buckner sent for me and informed me that unless the Steam Boat left the landing immediately he would have a bomb shell thrown into it - that he had sent word to the Boat to that effect - He made some further remarks of an explanatory character among them that we were in danger of being shelled by the Gun Boats of the enemy, as he [had encircled?] the place and the Gun Boats were or may be at the Fort. That his honor as an officer, and the honor and good faith of the confederacy, required that at daylight he should turn over everything under his command aggreeably to the terms of capitulation with Genl. Grant of the Federal Army - I returned to the Boat to make every effort to get aboard, but it had shoved off and was making up the river, with very few persons aboard.
If I have been at fault and caused the unnecessary imprisonment of my regiment I am deserving the eternal infamy of my fellow soldiers but to the contrary not an officer or private of the Regiment who witnessed the proceedings but who freely and cheerfully exhonorates me from any blame whatever.
During the summer and fall campaigns in Western Virginia, in Kentucky and in Tennessee this Regiment has [done honor?] to themselves and their state for the arduous service they have performed - At Sewell Mountain, Cotton Hill and Fort Donelson, their manly endurance of privations, prompt obedience to orders and their eagerness for [battle?-faded] was never excelled by veteran soldiers of any army and has entitled the 20th Miss. To a prominent place in the history of this revolution.
In obedience to my instructions to furnish the Department whatever information I may know of the Battle of Donelson I hereby append an unofficial statement, which I have in my possession made by
[Transcriber's Note: the following section has several "erasures" whether from the film or on the paper it is impossible to tell. They are indicated by [?] ]
Capt. Inft. C.S.A.
Col. 14th Miss. Vol.
Comdg. 2d Brigade 2d Division
(Genl. Buckner's) Central Army KY
from Oct. 30th 1860
"To supply an anticipated omission in the future history of our country, it may not be improper here to state, that this Brigade composed of the following regiments
14th Miss. Commanded by Maj. W.L. Doss
26th Tenn. Commanded by Col. J. M. Lillard
26th Miss. Commanded by Col. A.E. Reynolds
41st Tenn. Commanded by Col. R. Farquharson
was temporarily divided in the line around Fort Donelson: the 14th Miss. And the 41st Tenn. [were?] posted in the right wing under Genl. Buckner's immediate supervision - The 26th Tenn. and the 26th Miss. were posted under my own command on our extreme left. These regiments with the 20th Miss. Maj. W.N. Brown which was added to the command constituted the advance in our attack on the right of the enemy at six o'clock in the morning of 15th of Feb. 1862. They all behaved with great gallantry in a six hour combat which resulted in the total defeat of the enemy's right, whereby a way was opened for the retreat of the army."
"The opportunity not having been seized - the enemy 60,000 strong having completely enveloped our little force, numbering before the losses occasioned by four days constant engagement but 12,000 officers & men - The senior Generals, Floyd and Pillow relinquished the command to Genl. Buckner and made their escape, the former taking with him some 1500 troops of his immediate command, only leaving Maj. Brown with the 20th Miss., who like veterans, were silently and steadily, though sullenly guarding the embarcation of troops while their cheif [sic] was seeking safety. "
"The command was unconditionally surrendered on the morning of the 16th of Feb. by Genl. Buckner who [ ?-half a line erased ]"
"It is unbecoming [ ?-half a line erased ] the conduct of superiors; but when after rejecting the counsels of juniors, the condition of affairs is placed beyond the power of human means to retrieve, the seniors endeavor to escape responsibility, by throwing the same upon the former, comment is unnecessary."
"After surrendering the force was taken on transports, the rank and file separated from officers - Most of the Officers were confined in Camp Chase near Columbus, Ohio - On the 4th of Ma[?] Field Officers, fifty in number were [?-half a line erased] place to this (Fort Warren), where [?] since been waiting with patience for the time when we can again strike for our honor and our country's independence."
It may not be improper for me here to state that should an arrangement be established with the Federal Government for the exchange of Prisoners of War - that in consideration of the services rendered by this Regiment and the further fact that it is mustered for the War, I would [?]
W.N. Brown Maj.
20th Mississippi Regt.