came within a mile and then only four hundred yards. All the Ironclads were taking hits the decks were slippery with blood, the surgeons were absorbed in tending the wounded, and the carpenters were busy making repairs. Foote and the disabled boats began to float down the current. Any victory won at Fort Donelson would have to be won by the army.

 Grant was disappointed at Foote's failure, but he did not panic. He knew that the Confederates could not get reinforcements into the fort nor bring supplies to the besieged men. He was willing to wait for starvation to bring him victory.

 Within the confines of the entrenchments, the infantry of Johnson had begun to suffer heavily from the bombardment. The Texans of the 7th, poorly armed and inexperienced, became so unnerved at the shell fragments which skipped through their trenches that the 20th Mississippi, held in reserve since their morning arrival, was sent by Johnson as a replacement. Dissatisfied with the state of their cover, the Mississippians began to burrow downward like moles. Amid their labors to build and bolster the height and thickness of their breastworks, the 20th Mississippi found it to their comfort and advantage to keep their feet dry by bailing the accumulated water and melted snow out of the trench.

 The Confederates decided not to wait. That night Floyd held a council of war and all present agreed with his plan to attack the Union right wing and force a breakout. The southerners spent the night of February 14th preparing for the attack. Most of the troops left their rifle pits and massed over on the left. They made every effort to keep silent, but heavy gun carriages just could not be moved without making some noise. Yet, because of high winds from the tail of the blizzard, the Yankees did not hear them.

 At dawn when the woods were ringing with reveille and the numbed Union soldiers were rising from their icy beds and shaking off the snow, the Confederates struck. Pillow led the attack on the left, Buckner in the center. The general direction was along Wynn's Ferry Road. The 20th Mississippi serving with Davidson's brigade received orders to march at double time to the extreme left of the line to be thrown in with Baldwin's infantry. On the Forge Road, Baldwin assembled his brigade with the 26th Mississippi in the lead, followed by the 26th Tennessee and with the 20th Mississippi trailing.

In the valley of Barn Hollow and to the east of the roadway lay a large open field. Between the field and the road, about 10 yards from the latter, stood a rail fence roughly parallel to

the Forge road. While the field offered no protection for mounting an attack within range of the enemy musketry, Pillow also knew he could not afford to expose his flank by leaving the enemy there unopposed. The newly assigned and idle rear regiment of Baldwin's brigade, the 20th Mississippi, was handed the task. The leg of the fence coming at right angles to the road and at the north end of the field gave the new regiment a fine bulwark behind which to string out.

 Colonel Isaac Pugh of McArthur's brigade had long since discovered that the biting cold of winter always brought on his most aggressive nature. His pickets had also been involved in raising the alarm for the brigade. Almost on reflex on the hearing of the news, Pugh had shoved two companies of skirmishers of the 41st Illinois forward on the road, the right side of which was his responsibility.

 Before Confederate eyes, patches of blue began to appear around the road dividing the two Mississippi regiments. Penetration of this gap could disastrously delay the assault. Instead of activating the third regiment of the brigade, Pillow decided to utilize the 20th already at hand and already in formation. Speaking to its senior office, Major Brown, he outlined a rather complex flank assault on the Union skirmishers. The Confederate line would swivel until it was parallel to the road, catch the Yankees in their right flank, and then remain in a position to cover the exposed gap. Pillow in turn would be responsible for filling the hole behind the fence.

 Meanwhile the gray-clad components of the 20th Mississippi had enthusiastically leaped over the fence that had so conveniently allowed them to dress their line. With the right Flank Company marking time, the 500 Mississippians began one gigantic wheeling movement toward the west. Major Brown considered this less risky than moving his inexperienced recruits into position by, echelon.

Pillow, in his saddle near the road, raised his field glasses and took in the crisis. After a few seconds meditation he instructed the messengers to cancel the previous orders and to return the 20th to its former position. To very the correctness of the interpretation of his wishes, he sent one of his on aides with identical instructions to Major Brown.

Minute’s later soldiers under Brown's command were scampering over the fence and stretching themselves in security at its base. Not all the regiment had retired, however. Several companies of the left wing found it impossible to extricate

 

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