Numbers 8. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Frank L. Rhoads, Eighth Illinois Infantry.
HDQRS. EIGHTH REGIMENT ILLINOIS VOLUNTEERS,
Fort Donelson, Tenn., February 18, 1862.
I have the honor to report the part taken by the Eighth Regiment in the siege and reduction of Fort Donelson from the 12th to the 16th instant.
Colonel R. J. Oglesby having been assigned to the command of the First Brigade of the First Division of the District of Cairo, I took command of the Eighth Regiment. On the 12th instant, at noon, marching on the right of the brigade, I received an order to deploy into line of battle on the right of the road leading into Fort Donelson. Skirmishers were sent forward, but the enemy retiring the column was again formed and the line of march taken up in the direction of the Paris and Fort Donelson road. Passing over some open fields, the right of the column took position on the ridge in front of the fort. The grand guard was thrown forward and met a body of cavalry for a few moments. The right wing of the regiment was formed in column of plato in face of a large body of the enemy's cavalry. The Second Illinois Cavalry passed through the intervals, and the right wing of the Eighth delivered its fire upon the enemy and dispersed them. Later in the day an order was received to move forward in line of battle through an open field out by the main road leading to the main fort of the enemy. At this point the Eighteenth Regiment was sent to my right over a high ridge. About dark of the same ridge into the Paris road. The regiment encamped on this ridge of the night and slept on their arms.
On the morning of the 13th the line of march was taken up in front of the main redoubt of the enemy and within 500 yards of his batteries. The regiment filed past Captain Dresser's light battery under a heavy fire of artillery, and took a new position at noon about 1 mile from the Cumberland River, in the direction of Dover. Two companies (C and A) were detached to sustain Lieutenant Gumbart's light battery and one section of Captain Taylor's, engaging the enemy in a hot artillery contest of two hour's duration. At this point, later in the afternoon, the colonel commanding gave the order to prepare to assault the long line of entrancements on our right and front. By the time the necessary instructions were given to carry this order into effect it was countermanded. The next order to move brought the right of the Eighth Regiment within 100 yards of the enemy's line. Just before dark the line was changed, and the regiment stood to arms all night 200 yards from their entrenchments. The night was intensely cold, and the snow fell full 2 inches deep. Skirmishing was kept up all night. The men were relieved at daylight an hour for breakfast, but only coffee could be obtained. The regiment remained all day on the ground and stood to arms most of the time.
At daylight on the morning of the 15th heavy firing indicated an attack upon our lines. I immediately formed the regiment on the line of battle previously fixed by the colonel commanding, and by 6 o'clock the right of the Eighth had fired a few shots. I sent some skirmishers in advance over the brow of the elevation to annoy the enemy, as well as to give me information of his force and movements. The skirmishers soon reported the enemy approaching in force, and soon the battle became general from the right of the
brigade to the left of the Eighth Regi-