Holding the Line: The Stand of the 11th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

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 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.