Timeline for the 7th Illinois Infantry in the Campaigns Against Forts Henry and Donelson (American Civil War)

Article Covers
Ft. Henry, Henry, Tennessee, United States
Ft. Donelson, Stewart, Tennessee, United States
Year range
1862 - 1862



Currently, this article describes the environment, experience, and movements of the 7th Illinois Infantry during this 3 February to 19 February 1862 Tennessee campaign of the American Civil War. Only two sources are detailed in this first version. Eventually, descriptions from other sources will be integrated, ultimately including multiple perspectives and types of records.

These initial sources are a first-person account published in 1868 by a member of the 7th, and a 1996 book which compiles letters, diaries and other documents and memorabilia from this campaign. The current primary source is "History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry..." Author Ambrose served in Company H of the 7th. He evidently combined a personal journal with official records to write this book, and includes rosters. The secondary initial source used is "Shiloh" by the editors of Time-Life Books. This is a collection of letters, diaries, photos and memorabilia, with explanatory text written by the editors.

My purpose in creating this time-line is to gain a deeper understanding of my ancestors' experiences in these battles, and to share with other researchers. When integrating other sources in the future, I will continue searching for discrepancies, and attempt to reconcile those while also including the differing accounts in my text. In this current format, some entries do not include a time of day, and are therefore located at the end of that date's section. As data from other sources is collected, hopefully at least approximate times can be added to these entries, and they can then be moved to the correct sequence.

Ft. Henry

3 Feb. 1862 Monday on the steamer City of Memphis on the Ohio River.

  • "The regiment takes passage on board the steamer City of Memphis, for parts unknown." p. 25 Ambrose
  • "Being nearly all day loading the camp and garrison equipage, the steamer does not move until 5 o'clock, p.m." Ibid
  • "We now steer up the Ohio river; pass Paducah at midnight." Ibid
  • Using the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, Grant shipped 15,000 soldiers by boat to the Ft. Henry area. p. 21 Shiloh

4 Feb. Tuesday on the steamer City of Memphis on the Tennessee River.

  • The day "dawns beautifully," as the steamer moves up the Tennessee river. p. 25 Ambrose
  • The men hear a rumor that they are headed to Fort Henry. "The drums are now beating, colors flying and hearts beating high..." Ibid
  • The gun boats lead, followed by the steamers, including 5 steamers behind the Memphis. Ibid
  • In the evening, they "disembark four miles from the Fort and go into camp on the bank of the river. Some one remarks that there is mud here, and so say we, and the most terrible mud. As the soldiers move through the camp this evening, their cry is: 'No bottom!'" Ibid

5 Feb. Wednesday near Ft. Henry.

  • The morning is foggy. p. 25 - 26 Ambrose
  • There are about 10,000 troops in the area and the gun-boats are anchored in the river, "waiting for the land forces." Ibid
  • Many troops are landing on the other side of the river. Ibid
  • "Everything this evening looks warlike." Ibid
  • By 5 February, Grant hadn't yet been able to move on Ft. Henry. His troops were delayed both by "the heavy current of the rain-swollen rivers," and "a lack of transports." Wanting to attack before CSA reinforcements could reach the fort, "Grant decided ... to allow Foote to launch a naval assault." p. 21 Shiloh

6 Feb. Thursday At "Camp Halleck."

  • They woke to rain, after it had rained all night; the sun came out later in the morning. p. 27 Ambrose
  • They were wet, camp fires had been poor in the rain, and there was much mud. Ibid
  • Received marching orders before noon. 7th is one of the rear regiments in the line. Ibid
  • They see their first "rebel camp." Ibid
  • The regiment is headed to the rear of the Fort before the firing from the Union gunboats begins. Ibid
  • Because the roads are bad, the artillery gets stuck on the hills and the 7th lifts the guns out. Ibid
  • The men are eager to join the battle. Ibid
  • The afternoon's march takes them "winding around through the woods" as they continue to work to the back of the fort. Ibid
  • Near evening a mounted messenger informs them the Confederates have retreated. Ibid
  • They make camp in the pine woods, 1 mile from the fort, now occupied by other Union troops. Ibid
  • It's cold and windy, and the soldiers have no coats or blankets, as they had been ordered to leave their knapsacks with the wagons that morning. Ibid
  • The battle for Ft. Henry ended "after 70 minutes of shelling," when the CSA commander of Ft. Henry "surrendered to his naval counterpart." There were no infantry casualties in the battle. p. 22 Shiloh

7 Feb. Friday at Ft. Henry.

  • Windy, the soldiers stand in groups around their campfires. p. 28 Ambrose
  • Overnight, 3 men were injured when part of a tree fell. Ibid
  • They move inside the fortifications, and spend the night in CSA barracks near the fort. Ibid
  • They now have their blankets and coats and are "comfortable and happy." Ibid

8 Feb. Saturday at Ft. Henry.

  • The fort appears as though a major storm has struck. p. 28 Ambrose
  • The few captives from Ft. Henry are sent to Cairo. Ibid

9 Feb. Sunday at Ft. Henry.

  • More troops landing, with about 20,000 men in the fort and the woods around it. p. 29 Ambrose

10 and 11 Feb. Monday and Tuesday at Ft. Henry.

  • More troops landing, from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. p. 29 Ambrose
  • The 7th moves out of the barracks and back into the woods into tents on high ground, and are more comfortable, "not so much crowded," "out where the free winds blow." Ibid
  • They hear rumors that Grant is planning to attack Ft. Donelson soon. Ibid

Ft. Donelson

12 Feb. Wednesday, morning, at Ft. Henry.

  • Clear blue sky. p. 30 Ambrose
  • The 3rd brigade moves out early, commanded by Colonel John Cook, and lead by Lieutenant Colonel Babcock. Ibid
  • The men are "in fine spirits." Ibid
  • 1:10 PM While still marching they hear the artillery attack begin by the gunboats. Ibid
  • After moving on "briskly" they make camp two miles from Ft. Donelson. Ibid
  • That night the men sleep on a "bed of leaves," while the shelling continues from the gunboats. Ibid

13 Feb. Thursday near Ft. Donelson.

  • It's a "beautiful still morning," despite the occasional heavy cannon fire from the gunboats. p. 31-32 Ambrose
  • They eat breakfast quickly and then are ordered into line. Colonel Babcock commands them forward. Ibid
  • Soon they're ordered to halt, and leave their coats and knapsacks in "the fence corners." Ibid
  • At "double-quick time" they march "over a hill and down towards a ravine," and find a "masked battery." Ibid
  • This is the regiment's first experience of battle. Ibid
  • They're only 75 yards from the battery, "grape and canister fall thick and fast." Ibid
  • Colonel Babcock and Major Rowett move the regiment to flank the battery. Ibid
  • They lose only one man. Ibid
  • "The principal fighting to-day has been done by the sharpshooters." Ibid
  • At dark, there is a lull, except for occasional shelling from the gunboats. Ibid
  • They bivouac for the night, some of the soldiers have no blankets. Ibid
  • It begins to rain, then worsens to sleet and snow with a cold wind. Ibid
  • Grant has ordered that no fires be lit. Ibid
  • Colonel Babcock and some of his men kept from freezing by pacing up and down a hill during the end of the night. Ibid

14 Feb. Friday near Ft. Donelson.

  • With daylight, they can light fires, and they're seen everywhere, with shivering men huddled around them. p. 32 Ambrose
  • Despite the fires, the "soldiers are still suffering" with wet clothes and frozen blankets. Ibid
  • The sleet and snow have given way to sleet and rain and it's still windy. Ibid
  • The firing begins. They are in range of the CSA batteries, and cannon balls snap off the tops of trees above their heads. Ibid
  • "Remaining at 'a stand,'" behind the fort, they again hear the cannon from the boats. Ibid
  • Another day of the sharpshooters "doing their work," but "no general fighting." Ibid
  • The night is dark, no moon or stars visible, hidden by "dark, threatening clouds." Ibid

15 Feb. Saturday near Ft. Donelson.

  • It snowed overnight, but the morning sky is clear and sunny. p. 33 Ambrose
  • From the "right wing" they hear gunfire. They "learn that Lawman's, McArthur's 2d and Oglesby's brigades are engaged," and "[t]he battle is now raging furiously." Ibid
  • "Our regiment is ordered to hasten to the left." Colonel Babcock leads the men "[d]own the ravines, over the hills and across the abattis." Ibid
  • They "find the Second Iowa and an Indiana regiment in position near the enemy's works, breasting manfully a rebel battery playing upon them from a hill inside the outer works." Ibid
  • "Colonel Babcock forms the regiment under the galling fire. At this moment the veteran General Smith ...draws rein to his charger in front of the Seventh, and says to Colonel Babcock, 'I never saw a regiment make such grand movements under such a fire in all my military life as your's has just made. Colonel, I thank God for your command at this moment. Charge that rebel battery! charge it with your steel and silence its work of death!'" Ibid
  • The 7th Illinois and the 2nd Iowa move past the outer works of the battery, but the 7th is halted by gunfire. Ibid
  • The men of the 2nd Iowa are the first to scale the walls of the fort, with the 7th close behind. Ibid
  • By dark, the CSA forces have been driven back but still control the fort. Ibid
  • The dead and dying lie in and around the fort. Ibid
  • "The 7th Illinois and 52d Indiana of Colonel John Cook's brigade -- supported by a detachment of sharpshooters commanded by Colonel John W. Birge -- found their way blocked by felled trees, or an abatis, and came under heavy fire from Confederate artillery." p. 39 Shiloh
  • "'The severest casualty of the morning was in the Seventh Illinois. In advancing down a road on a ridge connecting the two hills on which the opposing forces were drawn up, a battery of three guns, from the hill above, opened suddenly with grape and canister. Fortunately the battery had been discovered a moment before, and the men had to a great extent availed themselves of the protection of the neighboring trees, before the storm of iron hail was fairly among them.' Anonymous Correspondent to the Missouri Democrat." p. 39 Shiloh
  • "Already hard-pressed, Colonel W.H.L. Wallace's brigade came under a heavy cross fire when Oglesby's troops withdrew from their right. With ammunition running dangerously low, Colonel Wallace ordered his embattled regiment to fall back to a new position half a mile in the rear. The colonel was leading his disorganized units when he met reinforcements under General Lew Wallace." p. 51 Shiloh
  • The 7th Illinois was in Colonel W.H.L. Wallace's brigade, among those "dangerously low on ammunition," and falling back one-half mile when they met reinforcements. Ironically, the reinforcements were under General Lew Wallace, Division Commander of the Army of the Tennessee. Confederate forces were following W.H.L. Wallace's unit so closely that the new battle line formed shortly afterward where the two Wallace's had met. As Lew Wallace formed his line, he sent W.H.L. Wallace's unit further behind, to his tent and wagon, for the ammunition they needed. Brigadier General Lew Wallace's account of the meeting also describes their discussion of the post-office confusion due to their similar names. p. 51 Shiloh [With CSA forces minutes away, it's interesting they took the time for this personal chat, and probably is an example of their calmness in battle.]

16 Feb. Sunday near Ft. Donelson.

  • They're surprised by the lack of firing in the morning, then learn there is a truce while Grant and Buckner discuss the fort's surrender. p. 35-36 Ambrose
  • Buckner eventually agrees to Grant's demand of unconditional surrender. Ibid
  • The 7th spends the night in the CSA barracks. Ibid

17 Feb. Monday at Ft. Donelson.

  • The Union controls the fort. p. 36-37 Ambrose
  • "Although the Seventh was in the thickest of the battle, as then-riddled colors show, their loss is comparatively small. The casualties in the two days' battle around Fort Donelson ...total ...20." Ibid
  • "The wounded are now being sent north..." Ibid
  • "Lieutenant Colonel A. J. Babcock deserves the praise of all...We will not soon forget how often his voice rang out in inspiring tones, and how the Seventh went surging on with him..." Ibid
  • "Major Rowett also deserves the plaudits of all. Says he, since the battle: 'I never felt so happy in all my life as when before that rebel battery the first day; happy because I there discovered that I had a heart to face the cannon's mouth, which I did not feel certain of having until then.' Many of the Seventh can speak like-wise; can testify that they feel glad in their hearts that they have been tried and not found wanting." Ibid
  • Fatigue parties spent the day burying the dead, but did not finish. Ibid

18 Feb. Tuesday at Ft. Donelson.

  • "This morning a fatigue party is detailed from the Seventh to help bury the dead on the battle field, and those who died from wounds received in battle, who are now lying in every house in Dover (a small village on the banks of the Cumberland inside the fortifications)." p. 42-43 Ambrose

19 Feb. Wednesday at Ft. Donelson.

  • Hard rain in the morning. p. 43 Ambrose
  • "[S]ome [troops] are still out in the woods without blankets. (For once the Seventh is more fortunate.)" Ibid
  • Despite the weather, the men "are cheer and their spirits run high." They feel pride in their advance further into the CSA. Ibid


  • Ambrose, Daniel L. History of the Seventh Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, from Its First Muster into the U.S. Service, April 25, 1861, to Its Final Muster Out, July 9, 1865. by D. Leib Ambrose. 1868. Internet resource. Print. [Out of copyright, available on-line as a free e-book.]
  • Shiloh. Alexandria, Va: Time-Life Books, 1996. Print.