A copy of the “Casualty Sheet” that declares Private Henry Winter, Company A, Illinois 45th Infantry regiment, dead of a head wound suffered at the Battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee. The only problem was he did not die!

By Margaret Downing


Twelve years ago, John Winter of Winnebago gave me an account of his great-grandfather, Private Henry Winter’s Civil War experiences, included being wounded at the Battle of Fort Donelson, Tennessee, February 1862.

John explained: “The following story is about Henry Winter being severely wounded in the ‘fahnes’ (head) during the battle at Fort Donelson (February 13-15, 1862).

The Army issued a report listing Pvt. Henry Winter as being killed at the battle of Fort Donelson, having been wounded in the head. It was been told that his death was reported in the Mt. Carroll, Illinois newspaper.

John said, “At this time no proof”…(of the newspaper report)…”has been found…in his official Company Muster Roll, January and February of 1862, it says that he died of his wounds.

“The March and April Muster Roll has him absent and wounded in action at Fort Donelson. It also states that he was wounded on Feb. 13/62. The May and June Company Muster Roll has him present and sent home on leave.

“The following letter written March 2, 1862 by his brother John, was apparently sent to the U.S. Army, address unknown.


“62 Palsgrove

“March 2nd

“Carroll Co. Ill.

“In consequence of my brother being wounded at the battle of Fort Donelson and who is now at your care in the Military Hospital shall take the liberty to address you. As I have yet learned whether his wound is dangerous or not, I beg of you to inform me (if not…) in what condition he is in If…you…can any of his relations can aid him…you also will please let me know. My brother belongs to the 45th Ill. Vol. Company A. His name is Henry Winter. You will please answer as soon as you can do so conviently and oblige. Your humble Servant John Winter”

Great-grandson John also explained: “The next letter of record was written 4th March 1862 by Henry to his brothers, in which he describes where, when, etc., he was wounded in the Battle at Fort Donelson.

The spelling is Henry’s. It was not unusual, especially in that time period in letters from soldiers, to write a word phonetically if they did not know how to spell it.

“Jewish Hospital

“Cincinaty March the 4th 1862

“You have no doubt felt somewhat uneasy of late on account of not having heard from me, and will perhaps be surprised to hear from me at all. The reason why I did not write sooner is simply because I was not able. I have been for the last three weeks as among the Dead, and am even now hardly convalescent, but considered it my duty to relieve you of perhaps a great deal of suspense by writing as soon as I could do so.

“On the 13th of last month I was in the Battle at Fort Donelson and after firing four rounds and loading the fifth time I received a shot in my head almost perpendicular above my right eye and in about the center of the top of my right head. I having my head bent forward in the act of taking a cap form the cap box. It of course knocked me as fellow says right in head and I tumbled over very much like a shot Hog.

“How long I lay there dreaming of Stars and Visions of innumerable colors. I do not know, at any rate as soon as I came to and found the Blood streaming down my face and Bullets whistling around me like a hail Storm. I soon realised the danger of my position, thinking that I was a gone case, I told the boys to fight on and bid them farewell.

“But when after having almost given myself up for Dead, I found that I was still able to navigate, and comenced crawling towards the rear of our column, I had proceeded about two hundred yards when I came across our Phisician who dressed my wounds and as I was about given out from the loss of Blood was carried to the ambulance, upon which I was drawn to the nearest Field Hospital which was about three miles from the Battle Field.

“Here I had to wait until the next day (there being so many wounded ahead of me) before I had the Ball extracted. From here I was sent to Mound City Hospital where I took the…(unreadable)…in the head which nearly finished me, however with good care I got over it, when I was sent to this place. I could not ask better treatment that I have here, this is a Jewish Hospital with only eight German wounded Soldiers in it of which number I am one.

“We have a good German Doctor in attendance with plenty of good wholesome rations. I could get a furlough for thirty days if I wanted it, but as my wound is not near healed yet it might be dangerous to expose myself at present therefore I have concluded to content myself here until I am able to travel, when I shall pay you a visit.

“I do not know whether to fear the Injury with which I am at present afflicted or not. I am almost entirely deaf in my right ear, but my left is not affected. I am also partly paralyzed in my right side. I have not strength in my right arm nor in my right leg, the Doctor says this will all pass away with the healing of my wound, although it is healing very slow it is doing very well considering the chance I have had.”

Great-grandson John noted, “I guess as to why Henry was sent to the German Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, could be because of his German name, as well as he may have had a German accent, coming to this country at the age of seven years. His family was not Jewish.

“The next item is a paper written by Henry Winter describing his wound and his problems. No date was on this paper but this appears to be the proper time to include this story.”

Henry wrote:


“1 1 / 2 inch fracture of skull near the junction of the frontal and parital bones, right side of head, the ball severing nerves and blood vessels so that a compress was required to check the flow of blood.

“The lead and spicular bone were removed in small particles as tho they had been ground and the surgeons – on the occasion of a subsequent re-opening and cleansing of the wound – remarked that a portion of the lead and bone had escaped thru the fracture inside the skull and out of their reach. A congestive chill and erysipelas resulted almost immediately after being wounded.”*

*Note: It is no wonder so many Civil War soldiers died of disease. With a doctor probing the wound with his finger, it’s a wonder Henry did as well as he did and survived!

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