Numbers 75. Reports of Captain B. G. Bidwell, Thirtieth Tennessee Infantry, commanding battery.
COURTLAND, ALA., March 13, 1862.
SIR: Being the only officer connected with the heavy batteries at Fort Donelson who was fortunate enough to escape, I inclose you the following account, not as a report, but as a source of information:
It may be proper to first five some description of our batteries and their position. Fort Donelson was on the crest of a hill, on the south bank of the Cumberland, about 1 mile below the little town of Dover. The vicinage around was very broken below the fort. running back from the river was a deep ravine or gorge, filled with backwater for a mile back. Breaking off from this was another deep hollow, which ran up behind the fort, making almost all of the fort on the crest of the hill. Just above the main part of the fort a hollow makes out from the river, which runs diagonally across the fort, making the inner fort nothing by a hollow and the side of the hill. The most of the work was tolerably good earthwork, the remainder nothing but rifle pits, thrown up after the fall of Fort Henry. There was in the fort one large howitzer (a good one) and two small 9 or 12 pounders, made in Clarksville, of very little account. Below the fort, and just at the foot of the hill, was our battery of eight 32-pounders and one 10-inch columbiad. On the extreme left, just above on the river bank and on the point of the hill above, was another battery, including one rifled gun and two old carronades or ship's guns, which were worthless there or anywhere else. Their trunnions, being too small, were bent. This battery was separated from the other by another hollow and point of land projecting to the river bank between them. The 32-pounders were in good condition. Four of them were under the charge of Captain Beaumont and the other four commanded by myself. the rifled gun was under the charge of Captain Ross. The columbiad was manned by a detachment of Captain Ross' men, under Lieutenant Bedford, of Mississippi, a most excellent artillerist. This gun was not in good condition, owing to the following facts: After the fall of Fort Henry our gunners tried, with a 20-pound charge, to test it. The gun-carriage was found necessary to increase the inclination of the carriage. This was done by substituting a large traverse wheel in the rear and depressing the traverse circle in front. this depression was so great that it produced a valley or bed out of which the front wheels could not be rolled, thus diminishing very greatly the range of the gun right and left. This gun could only fire when their boats passed the field of its range, and probably on the right boat all the time.
One boat made its appearance around the point about two miles and a half below us on Thursday, February 13, and fired a few rounds at us, to which our battery replied pretty warmly until she retired. The next to the last shot from the boat came through the embrasure of the second gun in my battery, striking the left cheek of the carriage, shivering it, and disabling the gun, killing Captain Dixon, of the Engineer Corps, who had, by order of General Pillow, been placed in command of the entire heavy artillery as chief. Upon his death Captain Culbertson, of the old Army, took command, a position he had held for some time which credit to himself and satisfaction to those under him.