Victory in the West 147 years ago

Today is the 147th anniversary of one of the first major Union victories in the Western Theater. It was on February 6, 1862 that the Battle of Fort Henry was fought. This battle has many significant points to it. First, it was the first major victory for Ulysses S. Grant, who was a Brig. Gen. at the time. Second, it allowed the Tennessee River to be used as a highway by the Union. Finally, it paved the way for Grant’s eventual successful campaigns in the West.

The fort was at a significant disadvantage, as not only did Grant land two divisions to prevent escape, but the fort was partially flooded by the Tennessee and was completely inundated a couple of days later. It was undermanned and suffered from worn out artillery. As a battle, it was a major one with light casualties, as only around 120 were killed or wounded.

So, if you are in Tennessee, I would encourage you all to visit the sites for Forts Henry and Donelson, as Fort Henry led to Fort Donelson, which solidified Grant’s reputation as a fighter. In retrospect, it was a good thing that Grant chose to attack Donelson after Henry, even when Maj. Gen. Halleck told him not to do so. The anniversary of Fort Henry is a nice lead up to the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, which will be next Thursday.

4 thoughts on “Victory in the West 147 years ago

  1. What about the role of Foote’s fleet (the fleet of Foote?) in the fall of Ft. Henry? From my reading of the early part of the Donelson campaign, the army merely spectated. With the fort flooded and unable to defend itself from almost anything; Grant and the army watched the back door to seal off retreat while Foote’s river fleet tossed in a couple of shells and took the glory (temporarily.)

    • Good point Robert, Foote’s fleet did play a significant role in the battle. My main focus was to illustrate the importance of this battle and the later Battle of Fort Donelson as the beginning of Grant’s push into the Deep South, however, I should have included something on the role of the Union Navy. Thanks for your comment.

  2. It was a good to see a discussion of what I would consider one of the forgotten battles of the Western Theater, often over shadowed by the larger battle at Donelson fought shortly thereafter. I’ve been following for a couple of months now, and I enjoy the work you’ve done here. Please keep up the good work!

  3. Robert beat me to the punch. Yes, the victory at Fort Donelson did catapult Grant to national fame, but Fort Henry was a complete naval victory. Grant’s troops were bogged down on muddy roads when the white flag was lowered at Fort Henry. The fort was poorly defended with a token force left to garrison it and the rest of the troops sent back to Fort Donelson. The commander actually rowed out to Foote’s flag ship for the surreneder – evidence of how bad the fort was flooded from the swollen Tennessee River.

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