extremely spirited; and although the resistance of the enemy was obstinate, and their numbers far exceeded ours, our people succeeded in driving them, discomfited and terribly cut to pieces, from the entire left. The Kentucky troops, under Brigadier-General Buckner, advanced from their position behind the entrenchments upon the Wynn's Ferry road, but not until the enemy had been driven in a great measure from the position he occupied in the morning.
I had ordered on the night before that the two regiments stationed in Fort Donelson should occupy the trenches vacated by Brigadier-General Buckner's forces, which, together with the men whom he detached to assist in this purpose, I thought sufficient to hold them. My intentions was to hold with Brigadier-General Buckner's command the Wynn's Ferry road, and thus to prevent the enemy during the night from occupying the position on our left which he occupied in the morning. I gave him orders upon the field to that effect.
Leaving him in position, then, I started for the right of our command, to see that all was secure there, my intention being, if things could be held in the condition that then were, to move the whole army, if possible, to the open country lying southward beyond the Randolph Forge. During my absence, and from some misapprehension, I presume, of the previous order given, Brigadier-General Pillow ordered Brigadier-General Buckner to leave his position on the Wynn's Ferry road and to resume his place in his trenches on the right. This movement was nearly executed before I was aware of it. As the enemy were pressing upon the trenches, I deemed that he execution of this last order was all that was left to be done. The enemy, in fact, succeeded in occupying an angle of the trenches on the extreme right of Brigadier-General Buckner's command; and, as the fresh forces of the enemy had begun already to move towards our left to occupy the position they held in the morning, and as we had no force adequate to oppose their progress, we had to submit to the mortification of seeing the ground which we had won by such a severe conflict in the morning reoccupied by the enemy before midnight.
The enemy had been landing re-enforcements throughout the day. His numbers had been augmented to eighty-three regiments. Our troops were completely exhausted by four days and nights of continued conflict. To renew it, with any hope of successful result was obviously vain, and such I understand to be the unanimous opinion of all the officers present at the council called to consider what was best to be done. I through, and so announced, that a desperate onset upon the right of the enemy's forces, on the ground where we had attacked them in the morning, might result in the extricating of a considerable proportion of the command from the position we were in, and this opinion I understood to be concurred in by all who were present; but it was likewise agreed, with the same unanimity, that it would result in the slaughter of nearly all who did not succeed in effecting their escape. The question then arose whether, in point of humanity and a sound military policy, a course should be adopted from which the probabilities were that the larger proportion of the command would be cut to spices in an unavailing fight against overwhelming numbers. I understood the general sentiment to be averse to the proposition. I felt that in this contingency, while it might be questioned whether I should, as commander of the army, lead it to certain destruction in an unavailing fight, I had a right individually to determine that I would not survive a surrender there. To satisfy both propositions, I agreed to hand over the command to Brigadier-General Buckner through Brigadier-General Pillow, and to make an effort