within the enemy's works, and
in a few minutes a white flag was seen moving upon the rebel ramparts.
Wild excitement and cheer after cheer went forth from the ranks
of the Federal troops. It was taken up by regiment after regiment,
until it swept along the entire line. The fort had surrendered.
About this time the Seventy-Eighth Ohio Regiment had reached
the battle-ground, having started early in the morning prepared
for engaging in the anticipated struggle of the day, but only
in time to join in the exultation of joyful victory.
About eighteen thousand prisoners were taken, thirty-one thousand small arms, and about eighty cannon, besides large amounts of ordnance, and commissary stores.
The importance of this victory was not the mere possession of Fort Donelson only, but it gave us Nashville and the undisputed possession of the Cumberland river. Nashville, during the progress of this battle, was intensely excited with hopes and fears. On Saturday a dispatch had been received that the victory was theirs; the Federal troops had been defeated. Wild enthusiasm and joyful exultation swept through the city that night, and the church bells on Sabbath morning were calling the people together to give thanks for victory. But, in the midst of it all, the news was received announcing "That Fort Donelson had surrendered 'to the Yankees,' with all its vast stores of supplies, except Floyd, who had made good his escape." This was like an electric shock, stunning and paralyzing the hearts of the people, so jubilant just then with joy.
The Sabbath was spent in burying the dead on the battle-field. The Seventy-Eighth bivouaced that day in a large corn field, without tents or shelter. About midnight a heavy rain set in, which continued without intermission for two days. The next day the regiment moved into the woods and constructed temporary shelters of rails and brush.
Colonel Leggett being that day appointed "Post Commander," received orders in the evening to move his "regiment into the town of Dover, and encamp it close by the river for post duty." Here the regiment encountered hardships that cannot be forgotten. The place, and the only place suitable that was near the town, was just below town, where all its filth naturally collected, and where dead rebels had been buried less than a foot deep, and the mud extended still deeper. The stench was so great that after the men had their tents pitched they were seized with fits of vomiting. In a few days sickness prevailed to such an extent that officers became alarmed. General Leggett was prostrated. Lieutenant-Colonel Hawks was down, and it was feared, beyond the hope of recovery. Major Carnahan, Chaplain Todd and Surgeon Reeves were active in their efforts to alleviate and better the condition of the men. The regiment remained here on active duty until the 6th of March. Many were now upon the sick list, who were sent to the general hospital. The regiment had received its first installment of pay; letters from home began now to come and cheer the soldiers' heart, and drive partially away home-sickness, which nearly all must experience, who for the first time in their lives leave their families at a great distance, and for a long time. This disease has not been considered a malady, hence it has been used in derision; but in the army it is a disease which depresses all the feelings and energies to such an extent that the soldier sometimes dies in consequence. Time will only correct this, and the soldier become more cheerful, and everything around him present a more lively appearance. It takes time to make a soldier, and time and experience to learn how to make the most of everything, by way of keeping the future bright, and hope always buoyant.
The little town of Dover was not such a place as to awaken emotions of cheerfulness, but everything to the contrary. It is a one-sided town, built on a hill side, and is on the opposite side of Union sentiment. It contains a court house, jail, and a small meeting house, besides about one hundred other small houses, all old, shattered and ragged. But few of the inhabitants remained at their desolate homes.