Diary Entry from Allen, Charles Richard

Soldier: Allen, Charles Richard
Allegiance: Union
Unit/Service Branch: 2nd Cavalry
Home State: Illinois
Date Written: Wednesday, February 12th, 1862
Location: Fort Donalson
Correspondence Type: Diary Entry
Subjects: Battlefield, Combat Description, Commanders, Comrades, Enemy, Patriotism
Jan 25th 1862 – Saturday
We are all in camp again in Paducah, Ken where we found a good many letters from home. Our sick and invalids that we left here were glad to see us back once more and now commenced picket guard and rain and again. I think the winters in Ken are about as disagreeable as possibly can be. We now commenced to take up our drill again.

Feb 1st 1862
Troops are coming and camping near here. We have orders to be ready to move anytime.

Feb 4th 1862 – Tuesday
We went aboard a steamboat. Com A and Com B – 2 Com A I and C of the 2nd US Regular Cav took another boat. We landed at Patterson’s Landing in the eve. The regulars were all pretty drunk when we left Paducah. One of them rode into the Tenn. River to water his horse. The river was very high and his horse went off the bank and they were both drownded {sic] in a few moments and floated away down the river. It seemed pretty hard for us Vol but the Reg did not seem to care anything about it.

Feb 5th 1862
We started early. We had some miserable roads. We only went about 20 miles.

Feb 6th 1862
It rained all day. We heard cannonading. We heard cannonading all Fri and Sat. we got to Fort Henry found that our gunboats had taken Fort Henry on the 7th when we heard the guns. We camped near the battleground the next day. I was on a detail to unload hay for our horses and while we were at work our Com or part of them went out on a scout. They got into a fight with some Rebel Cav. The Com killed 4 or 5 and took 22 prisoners. How mad I was because I was not along. Cap Hotaling lost two horses. One of our boy was wounded shot through the jaw. The Confederate Cavalry they struck were armed with very fine double barreled shotguns. Most of their guns were English made guns.. Our Com was armed with Sharps Rifle Carbine and Navy revolvers and Sabers. Cap. Hotaling killed and wounded 4 or 5 himself. It was a splendid little fight one the Com was very proud of the fight.

Feb 10th 1862
We received our full complements of arms with the exception of our carbine slings have had no practice with our carbines.

Feb 11th 1862
We went out on a scout. Com I & C U.S. Regulars, Com A & B U.S. Volunteer went to Fort Donalson. Within ½ to ¾ mile of the fort the guns of the fort opened up on us with shell and round shot. We soon heard our pickets fireing [sic] in our rear that we had posted at different roads we had passed. We found that the Johnies had completely cut us off in our rear. Our Col. Noble who was green at this kind of business turned the command over to the Captain of the Regulars who with his two Com took the advance. When we turned to go back our two Com following the Regulars moved off at a gallop and when we got within good shooting distance of the Rebs they whirled into line and gave the Confeds as pretty a volley as I ever saw and then drew sabers and charged them. The Confeds broke and run in every direction into the timber n each side. We were following the Reg close so we did not have much fighting to do after all. Fort Henry - Feb 11th 1862 We had one or two men slightly wounded. The Rebel Cav kept out of our way. Think they were rather afraid of the Reg Cav. was with us. I guess our officers learned all they expected to learn by our scout. We could not have done much better unless we had taken the fort but Gen’l Grant was not ready for us to do that. When we got back to camp I picked out 18 or 20 buck shots out of Lieut. Jackson’s horse. It was funny to hear the boys talk about this affair. Everyone was sure he had killed a Confed. as we went through their lines on the run but I am sure. I was glad and very thankfull [sic] that the Confeds stepped out of the way and let us go through without hurting any more of us. Now we all had the scouting we could stand up under night and day while the Inf were snoozing in their camps.

12th and 13th Feb 1862
The whole army moved against Fort Donalson and as Com. A & B knew the roads pretty well by this time we were separated into squads on the different roads and put in the extreme advance guard. The detail that I was with drawed the first fire. We had a pretty hard little fight before their pickets would give way. We soon struck their reserve and Infantry and Cav pickets then the fun commenced. We were reinforced by this time by Inf and 2 small field pieces. The Confed formed up to make a charge but we waited a few minutes and they did not come at us so we made a feint like we was agoing to charge and instead our little battery opened up with grape and canister. They fell back in confusion. It seemed they did not believe we really were intending this for a general advance. We had dashed in on them so often and then fallen back that they evidently thought we were at our old game but they were mistaken that time. Gen’l U.S.G. was along with us that time and by that we ment [sic] business. Soon the roar of the gunboats and the rattle of small arms showed that our army was advancing on all sides. Along about 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, Com A was sent out on the right to look out for the Confederate Cavelry [sic]. That night we stood a picket. 10 of us within close gun shot of the Confederate lines. They worked hard on their fortifications all night. The night was cool. The moon shown bright. We could see a Rebel battery being placed in position not far from where we were. The officer in command of our picket sent in work to Gen’l Ogelsby that Confed were placing a battery near us. The Gen’l came out where we were with the balance of the company under the Capt. Just as day broke. I showed the Gen’l where the Rebs were at work. Carpenter on of our spies who was with the Gen’l and staff said that could not be so for they was almost in the rear. I says “you will know directly. They are getting ready to give a shot.” Sure enough they sent a load of grape at us but they was up on quite a hill above us and as they generally done the charge went whistling over us. Now I says to the spy “Who do you think they are?” He had got his glass on them just before the gun opened. “By the great horned spoons you are right”. Yes, the Gen’l say we can see the grey uniform now. The Gen’l sent us back for one of our batteries one of the Dressers Guns Chicago Battery unlimbered and in about 10 minutes the Confed. battery was getting out of there on a run. Soon the battle commenced in earnest. The Confederates made a sortie on our right driving McCarthurs Division back but they were flanked by Gen’l Logan’s division and driven back into their fortifications. The battle continued all day. One of our divisions charged over their lines along towards night. That night was very cold. We’re scouting in the rear of our army. We were out of provisions so along towards 12 o’clock we rode back to our camp at Ft. Henry and got some rations for ourselves and horses and then rode back to Donalson getting back there early in the morning. We found that Fort Donalson has surrendered to Gen’l Grant. We felt some better than we did the day before when we at one time was drawed up in line to charge a body of Confederate inf. Well Grant had added another feather in his cap 25000 prisoners. We are scouting or are on picket guard most of the time. This country is very rough. There seems to be iron mines all around. I guess that is about all this country is good for. The rebel Gen’ls [John B.] Floyd and [Gideon J.] Pillow escaped the night before the Rebs surrendered on steam boats. They took about 3 or 4000 troops with them. Our gun boats must have been very careless to let them get away. Gen. [Nathan Bedford] Forrest escaped by swimming the back water. That was the fault of Col. [T.Lyle] Dickey of the 4th Ill Cav. He had orders especially to watch that point but moved his Reg’t in the night down near one of the mines on account of the cold. Forrest had probably 1000 men. This was a very bad mistake of Col. Dickey one he ought to answer for by a court martial and dishonorable discharge. Now Forrest will be eternally striking us on the flank or on our trains. He is one of the most active daring leaders the Rebs have got. If we only had such a Cavalry leader at our head how we could make them smoke but our Cols. Are all some old country judges or ex members of Congress or some rich saloon keeper who get their appointments by the help of some politician who has a pull on some governor of some of the states. Col. Dickey was I think a county judge. Col. [Silas] Noble was a county judge from Lee Co. at Dixon. That was how he got the appointment as Col. of the 2nd Ill Cav. He did not know anything about army life. Looked more like some old farmer rideing [sic] out of his hay field than like a Col. of one of the best Reg’t of Cavelry that went out as volunteers in the War on 1861 & 5 but of course our Gov. could not find men that were capable at the start. While the South seem to be overrun with Col’s. some of them never done anything else but ride around and boss some one. Well I feel that we will conquer them at last anyhow. We will have to learn something about the business before we make a success of the war. When we went into camp at Camp Butler Springfield, we had a good many young Christian boys and I have no doubt they fully intended to live their Christianity all the time but they soon found that it was the hardest place for a Christian to be in they had ever come across. I was not a professor of religion at that time although I felt the need of a Savior and had determined to live as near upright and honorable as I could. It was impossible for a person in our Com to keep up any form of religion in the Com without taking more abuse than any free citizen could stand. I still stuck to some promises that I had made my mother and father before I left home such as gambling drinking swearing and I tried not to get into any quarrels or disputes.

Feb 20th 1862
Camp at Fort Donalson. Lieut. Frank Bennett of our Com was made Capt. Of Com. H. Frank is a well drilled cavalry man.