After the first confused moments, with shots and shouts ringing out in the cold air, McClernand's brigade commanders got their units formed into line and began to return the Confederates' fire. Both sides slugged away for the better part of the morning, spreading a lurid red over the snow, toppling limbs from trees and sending up a continuous roar. The Yankees held. About noon, officers from various regiments rode up to the Union brigade commander on the right, with news that their men were running out of ammunition. They asked where they could get more, but he could only reply, “Take it from the dead and wounded." The men that could not find ammunition began to give way, holding up their empty cartridge boxes as they retreated to prove that they were not cowards. Seeing them the Southerners gave a whoop and swept around the flank, the Yankees began to retreat. The Confederates had control of the Forge Road; the road to the southeast and Nashville was open to them.

 

The time had come to begin the retreat to the south. There can be no doubt that had the Confederates started out by noon they would have made it safely to Nashville. The Union force probably would not have even mounted an effective pursuit, since Grant was not on scene to direct it. He had left before daybreak to consult with Foote and was in the middle of the Cumberland River on the St. Louis. Pillow convinced himself that Grants whole army was fleeing in rout for Fort Henry. He rode over to Buckner and accused him of cowardice. He ordered Buckner to attack. He then abandoned the thought of a Confederate retreat to Nashville.

 Lew Wallace decided to turn and fight. He placed the artillery across the road, with the infantry on either side and in reserve. The Confederates hit the roadblock at full speed and rebounded like a rubber ball. For the next ten minutes they tried to break through, finally decided it was impossible, and stopped to catch their breath. A lull settled over the field.

 Just then, Grant rode up. He had ridden the entire length of his line, and was satisfied with what lie saw. Noticing the full knapsacks on the Confederate dead. Grant immediately realized that Floyd and Pillow were trying to cut their way out. He began walking his horse along the line, calling out to his men, "Fill your cartridge boxes, quick, and get into line; the enemy is trying to escape and he must not he permitted to do so." It worked. The men cheered, set to work, and quickly re-established the line on the right.

Grant then decided to launch an attack of his own. He was sure that Floyd must have stripped his entrenchments to make the attack, so he rode over to Smith's headquarters and told that general to attack.

 The position was a mean one, uphill and crisscrossed with felled trees. Smith, in what Grant called "an incredibly short time," got his men into line and began the movement. Smith him-self went to the front and center of the line to keep his men from firing while they worked their way through the abatis. From time to time, he turned in his saddle to make sure the alignment was kept. He looked as if he were on review; one private remarked, "I was nearly scared to death, but I saw the old man's white mustache over his shoulder, and went on." Confederate fire began to increase and men began to fall. Smith's line hesitated. The general put his cap on the point of his sword, held it aloft, and called out, "No flinching now, my lads! Here this is the way! Come on!" Most of his men followed him, broke through the abatis, and scattered the Confederates.

Grant now held an important section of the Southern entrenchments. Lew Wallace and McClernand meanwhile had reorganized their men and launched their own attacks, driving Pillow's and Buckner’s men back into their entrenchments. The Confederate attempt to break out had failed.

    

That night, as both sides gathered their wounded, Floyd and Pillow argued about ways of extricating the army from its embarrassing position. Unable to reach an agreement, at one A. M., they called a meeting of all the general officers and regimental and brigade commanders. When most of the leaders assembled, Floyd began to speak. His scouts had just discovered that Grant had five regiments of reinforcements coming to join his army. Floyd wanted to get out before they arrived. He ordered his men to march by four a.m. The officers all left except Floyd, Pillow, and Buckner. They remained in Dover at Pillow's headquarters. Buckner argued that Floyd's orders were as unrealistic as Pillows actions had been the preceding morning. The troops had fought all day and were exhausted. There had been no regular issue of rations for days and the ammunition was nearly expended. Grant had four times as many men and half of his were fresh. It would be madness to try to fight their way through. If he persisted, Floyd would lose three-quarters of his men, and Buckner said, "He did not think any general had the right to make such a sacrifice of human life." Pillow argued that they ought to hold on and wait for transports to carry them across the river; then they could make their escape by way of

 

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