“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Dover in Stewart County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)

Holding The Line

The Stand of the 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry


— Battle of Fort Donelson —

Holding The Line Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, July 24, 2013
1. Holding The Line Marker
Inscription.  (overview)
In February 1862, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant attacked Forts Henry and Donelson on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers to take control of western Tennessee and Kentucky as well as the rivers. Grant captured Fort Henry on February 6, then approached Fort Donelson with his army on February 14 while Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote's gunboats shelled it. Confederate artillery repulsed the ironclads. Confederate Gen. John B. Floyd ordered a breakout from the fort for the next morning. At first successful, the Confederates retreated, and the Federals counterattacked. On February 16, part of Floyd's command escaped in boats. The remainder yielded to Grant's demand for “unconditional surrender”.

(main text)
On February 15, 1862, the morning of the Confederate breakout from Fort Donelson, Gen. Gideon J. Pillow’s attacking column smashed into the Federal line, overlapping the right wing under Gen. John A. McClernand, and began driving it back. Faced with superior numbers and short of ammunition, each Union regiment was forced to withdraw in turn before it was cut off. McClernand desperately appealed
Holding The Line Marker image. Click for full size.
By Don Morfe, July 24, 2013
2. Holding The Line Marker
for help.

The Union right wing was bent back, and at the center of the bend stood the 11th Illinois Infantry. It was part of Gen. William H.L. Wallace’s brigade; Wallace had been the regiment’s first commander before he was promoted and Thomas E.G. Ransom took his place. The 11th suffered heavy casualties as it held its position despite repeated assaults, caught in the crossfire of artillery shells from the Confederate trenches and small arms fire from the attacking infantry. Wallace ordered his brigade to retreat and re-form, but the fighting was so heavy that the order failed to reach the regiment.

Then, Col. Nathan B. Forrest’s cavalry struck the 11th hard in the rear and left flank. Alone after five hours of fighting, and with Ransom wounded, the Midwesterners fought their way back to their own lines individually. The last surviving member of the color guard carried the regimental colors from the field. During the battle, the 11th Illinois suffered 399 casualties out of 500 soldiers—the most of any Union regiment engaged.

“The movement (to retire) was executed, but too late to prevent the cavalry from getting in rear of most of my command, who bravely cut their way through with terrible loss. I found what was left of the Eleventh a few hundred yards in the rear of our first position.” — Lt. Col. Thomas E.G. Ransom.

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map - Courtesy Library of Congress
Col. Thomas E.G. Ransom Courtesy Library of Congress
Battle of Fort Donelson - Courtesy Library of Congress
Erected by Tennessee Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Tennessee Civil War Trails series list.
Location. 36° 28.74′ N, 87° 52.021′ W. Marker is in Dover, Tennessee, in Stewart County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Donelson Parkway (U.S. 79) and Moores Drive, on the left when traveling west. The marker is on the grounds of the Stewart County Visitor Center. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 117 Visitor Center Lane, Dover TN 37058, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Forrest's Attack (here, next to this marker); Morrison's Attack (here, next to this marker); Battle of Dover (here, next to this marker); Forrest's Escape (within shouting distance of this marker); 6-pounder Gun (approx. 0.3 miles away); Porter's Battery (approx. 0.3 miles away); Federal Troops and Casualties at Fort Donelson (approx. 0.3 miles away); Confederate Troops and Casualties at Fort Donelson (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Dover.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on September 30, 2013, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. This page has been viewed 450 times since then and 7 times this year. Last updated on May 5, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on September 30, 2013, by Don Morfe of Baltimore, Maryland. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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Apr. 6, 2020