The Breakout Begins

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The attack started well and by 9 a.m., despite heavy resistance, the Confederates had pushed McClernands troops back along the Wynn Ferry Road and cleared the way for the Confederates to escape by way of Forge Road.

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Here at 6 a.m. on February 15, Pillows Confederate division, supported by Buckner’s division and Forrest’s cavalry, launched a surprise dawn assault against McClernand’s division on the Union right flank in an attempt to break out of Fort Donelson.

The attack started well and by 9 a.m., despite heavy resistance, the Confederates had pushed McClernand’s troops back along the Wynn Ferry Road and cleared the way for the Confederates to escape by way of Forge Road. Seventy percent of Union casualties occurred during these three hours of fighting.

Here, too, Union troops in the West first heard the famous rebel yell. The success of this phase of the attack was due largely to the leadership of Pillow’s second-in-command, Bushrod R. Johnson, and a flanking assault by Confederate cavalry under Forrest.

The brigades of Cols. Richard Oglesby and John McArthur were hardest hit, but withdrew in an orderly manner despite having nearly exhausted their ammunition.

Brigadier General Bushrod Johnson   Colonel Richard Oglesby  Colonel John McArthur

February 15, 1862

Fort Donelson National Battlefield Site

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