James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
towards his left, he stopped somewhere to send a despatch to Foote, requesting his assistance.1 While on the way he heard some of the men say that the enemy had come out with knapsacks and haversacks filled with rations. This was evidence to him that the sortie of the Confederates amounted to nothing less than an attempt to escape from the fort and he said to the staff officer who was riding with him: Some of our men are pretty badly demoralized, but the enemy must be more so, for he has attempted to force his way out but has fallen back; the one who attacks first now will be victorious. Call out to the men as we pass, Fill your cartridge boxes quick and get into line; the enemy is trying to escape, and he must not be permitted to do so.2 Wherever Grant appeared confidence followed in his train. He rode quickly to Smiths headquarters and ordered him to charge, assuring him that he would have only a thin line to contend with. Through abatis which looked too thick for a rabbit to get through, Smith led the charge with unusual energy and courage, carried the advanced works of the enemy and effected a lodgement in his intrenchments, securing a key to his position.3 After the order to Smith, Grant commanded McClernand and Wallace to charge; they advanced with vigor and recovered their position of the morning, regaining possession of the Nashville road. There was now no way of escape for the Confederates from Fort Donelson
Note 1. This is the despatch: If all the gunboats that can will immediately make their appearance to the enemy, it may secure us a victory. Otherwise all may be defeated. A terrible conflict ensued in my absence, which has demoralized a portion of my command and I think the enemy is much more so. If the gunboats do not show themselves, it will reassure the enemy and still further demoralize our troops. I must order a charge to save appearances. I do not expect the gunboats to go into action but to make appearance and throw a few shells at long range. O. R., VII, 618. [back]