Saturday, February 4, 2012

Fort Henry Invested

Plant of the fort
Grant, having embarked on February 2nd, arrived near Fort Henry and began disembarking his troops on February 4th and 5th. Fort Henry and Fort Donelson were constructed by the Tennessee state government in 1861.They did not occupy the best sites, because Kentucky had declared itself neutral and so the forts had to be built in Tennessee. They were also primarily designed to stop river traffic, not repell a land attack. Fort Henry was the weaker of the two. Although it had a good view of the river, it was built on swampy ground and was overlooked by nearby hills. Tilghman, the Confederate commander in the area, recorded this in the Official Records:
To understand properly the difficulties of my position it is right that I should explain fully the unfortunate location of Fort Henry.... The entire fort, together with the intrenched camp spoken of, is enfiladed from three or four points on the opposite shore, while three points on the eastern bank completely command them both, all at easy cannon range. ... The history of military engineering records no parallel to this case. Points within a few miles of it, possessing great advantages and few disadvantages, were totally neglected, and a location fixed upon without one redeeming feature.
By the time of Grant's arrival the Confederates had 17 cannosn and over 3,000 men to defend the Fort against Grant's 15,000 men and powerful ironclads. At the time of the Federal attack the water was very high, and because of the swampy ground of the fort, eight of the guns were already under water. Tilghman realized the fort would fall, and pulled out any unnecessary troops and sent them to Fort Donelson.

On February 4th the Union gunboats approached and opened a preliminary bombardment prior to their main attack.
Gunboats approaching the fort


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