FORT DONELSON, TENNESSEE, Feb. 19, 1862.
The battle is fought, the dead are buried and the wounded cared for, and we are again settling down to the old routine of military discipline. But what a scene we have passed through, and what a victory we have won! We have already sent off eight or nine thousand prisoners, and we have more yet to send. But such a lot of humanity I never saw before — all butternut color; but they can shoot, as many of our boys can testify.
I have made my report to Gen. Smith, which I suppose will be published, and before this reaches you, you will know more about the battle than I do. I have already seen that the Iowa Seventh was all cut up on the first day's fight. I hope you did not let any of these reports disturb you. We had a hard time. For three nights we lay in the open air without tents, and some without blankets, raining and snowing all night. The last night we remained under arms all night, prepared to repel an assault; but when morning came — and oh! how long it was in coming — the enemy attracted our attention to their white flag, and I received proposals for capitulation, which we promptly forwarded to Gen. Smith, and through him to Gen. Grant. Gen. Grant refused terms and insisted on unconditional surrender, and an hour was given them to consider. At the end of that time the loud shouts of the men gave indications that the surrender was unconditional. Then commenced the rejoicings. I claimed for my brigade the right to enter first, which was accorded; when with drums beating and colors flying we entered the fort. The Rebels were drawn up in line, with their arms in great heaps, and looked quite woe-begone, I assure you, as the victors passed along.
My brigade is in the fort, of which I have command. Gen. Smith's division is quartered all around about. The fortifications extend over the country for miles, and the other divisions of the army encamped at other points. The greatest loss was on our right, in McClernand's division. The enemy endeavored to cut through at that point, and fought with great desperation — loss very heavy. But you know all this and more, and this will be stale news to you. I found the pistols I lost at Belmont at Fort Donelson, or others just as good.
Capt. Rhiza will return to Burlington, he informed me today, for a short time. So he informed me, but he may not be able to get off. If he does, I will send a flag, secesh, captured in the fort. They either destroyed or secreted their flags, as none could be found. I have not yet seen the reports of my commanding officer, but Gen. Grant has caused a highly complimentary order to be read to the troops. Gen. Smith is a good officer, and as brave as a lion. I am proud to be under him. I had a good brigade, and I believe they like me. I hope the rebellion will receive such a shock from this that they will not be able to hold up their heads for some time to come. I am obliged to Jennie for her kind and very acceptable letter, and hope she will write again. I received a letter from Gov. Kirkwood covering the resolutions of the legislature of Iowa, and had them read to my regiment last evening. Tell Lou that Harry Doolittle is doing well. I went to the boat to see him, but it had started before I got there. He will remain for the present at Paducah, I suppose. I met, as I was on my way to Dover, where the boat was lying, Drs. Marsh and Nassau of Iowa Second, who gave me this information. Among the hundreds of wounded and dead, it is almost impossible to keep the whereabouts of anyone. I must now bring this to a close. Let Lou see this and it will be the same as though I had written to her. Capt. Slaymaker's remains were forwarded to St. Louis for preparation to send home. I cut off a lock of his hair and sent it to Betty for his friends, fearing something might occur that the coffin could not be opened when it got home. Give my love to all, and if anything should befall me, take good care of wife and little ones, and believe me to be your affectionate brother,
SOURCES: Army Service Schools Press, Donelson Campaign Sources Supplementing Volume 7 Of The Official Records Of The Union And Confederate Armies In The War Of The Rebellion, p. 161-2; Samuel H. M. Byers, Iowa In War Times, p. 105-6