Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/176

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Southern Historical Society Papers.

Henry. To save his command from capture, he and a handful of equally devoted followers served the few guns they had in the fort, and delayed the comparatively vast force and armament attacking them until his brigade, thus covered, could retreat upon Fort Donelson. At last, when his defences were breached, he surrendered with the surviving remnant of the gallant little band, who had offered themselves a willing sacrifice on the altar of their country, and went to that torture, mental and physical, which any of you who had the misforture to be a prisoner know how to estimate.

Close by in time and space was another example of patriotic and soldierly devotion, which you will not value the less for not having been crowned with victory—the defence of Fort Donelson, on which depended the possibility of holding our line in Southern Kentucky and the safety of Nashville.

Relying on constitutional guarantees and restrictions, the South had not prepared for the war before taking the step which led to it. Therefore it was not possible to supply you with the clothing and shelter needful in the extraordinary cold and sleet, nor to garnish the work you defended with an armament and munitions at all comparable to that of your assailants; yet to the world it is known, and will long be remembered, how gallantly you held the position, and the desperate efforts which you made to cut your way through the investing force.

I am sure you will anticipate me in paying a tribute to the soldierly conduct of the true-hearted Buckner, who, when the command devolved upon him, refused to follow the example which had been set him, and declared his purpose to remain and share the fate of the men, whatever it might be. That wise and far-seeing soldier, Sidney Johnston, had correctly measured the value of holding the position of Fort Donelson. From the few troops with which he held the line of Green river, he made a detachment to reinforce the garrison of Fort Donelson. When that fort fell, and the fact become apparent, which he so long skillfully concealed from both friend and foe, of the small number of troops under his immediate command, retreat beyond the Cumberland became inevitable. Time has revealed how nobly you bore those disappointments and reverses, and still remained true to your colors; and I am sure your conduct on that occasion must ever be held in grateful remembrance by your countrymen.

The carpet knights, who, like Job's war horse, snuffed the battle from afar, but, unlike the war horse, neighed not with impatience to engage the enemy, but from afar off criticised and derided every failure, without caring to inquire, and perhaps without capacity to comprehend, the cause thereof, added to your regrets for the unavoidable, and the painful memories of all you had dared, suffered and loot, the bitter sting of unjust censure and ingratitude. Yet it is a memorable fact, that, though leaving your homes and wives and children behind, you closed your ears to their pitiful cries and circled deep around your commander, who richly deserved and had acquired your confidence in his ability to defend the country