odds, both in point of numbers and in caliber of guns. My object was to save the main body by delaying matters as long as possible, and to this end I bent every effort.
At precisely 111.45 a.m. the enemy opened from their gunboats on the fort. I waited a few moments until the effects of the first shots of the enemy were fully appreciated. I then gave the order to return the fire, which was gallantly responded to by the brave little band under my command. The enemy, with great deliberation, steadily closed upon the fort, firing very wild until within 1,200 yards. The cool deliberation of our men told from the first shot fired with tremendous effect.
At 12.35 p.m. the bursting of our 24-pounder rifled gun disabled every man at the piece. This great loss was to us in a degree made up by our disabling entirely the Essex gunboat, which immediately floated down-stream. Immediately after the loss of this valuable gun we sustained another loss, still greater, in the closing up of the vent of the 10-inch columbiad, rendering that gun perfectly useless and defying all efforts to reopen it. The fire on both sides was now perfectly terrific. The enemy's entire force was engaged, doing us but little harm, while our shot fell with unerring certainty upon them and with stunning effect. At this time a question presented itself to me with no inconsiderable degree of embarrassment. The moment had arrived when I should join the main body of troops retiring toward Fort Donelson, the safety of which depended upon a protracted defense of the fort. It was equally plain that the gallant men working the batteries, for the first time under fire, with all their heroism, needed my presence. Colonel Heiman, the next in command, had returned to the fort for instructions. The men working the heavy guns were becoming exhausted with the rapid firing. Another gun became useless by an accident, and yet another by the explosion of a shell immediately after, striking the muzzle, involving the death of 2 men and disabling several others. The effect of my absence at such a critical moment would have been disastrous. At the earnest solicitation of many of my officers and men I determined to remain, and ordered Colonel Heiman to join his command and keep up the retreat in good order, while I should fight the guns as long as one man was left, and sacrifice myself to save the main body of my troops.
No sooner was this decision made known than new energy was infused. The enemy closed upon the fort to within 600 yards, improving very much in their fire, which now began to tell with great effect upon the parapets, while the fire from our guns [now reduced to seven] was returned with such deliberation and judgment that we scarcely missed a shot. A second one of the gunboats retired, but I believe was brought into action again.
At 1.10 p.m., so completely broken down were the men, that but for the fact that four only of our guns were then really serviceable I could not well have worked a greater number. The fire was still continued with great energy and tremendous effect upon the enemy's boats.
At 1.30 p.m. I took charge of one of the 32-pounders to relieve the chief of that piece, who had worked with great effect from the beginning of the action. I gave the flag-ship Cincinnati two shots, which had the effect to check a movement intended to enfilade the only guns now left me. It was now plain to be seen that the enemy were breaching the fort directly in front of our guns, and that I could not much longer sustain their fire without an unjustifiable exposure of the valuable lives of the men who had so nobly seconded me in this unequal struggle.
Several of my officers, Major Gilmer among the number, now suggested to me the propriety of taking the subject of a surrender into con-