by slave labor — at a point some 80 or 90 miles up the Tennessee
, where those rivers first approach within 10 or 12 miles of each other, a few miles south of the Kentucky
line, and north of the Louisville and Memphis Railroad, two strong and spacious works; Fort Henry
, commanding the Tennessee
from its eastern bank, and Fort Donelson
, controlling the passage of the Cumberland
from the west, a little below the Tennessee
village of Dover
A dirt road connected the two forts, whereof the garrisons were expected to support each other if assailed.
, situated on a point or bend of the river, and scarcely above its surface when in flood, menaced the approach by water for a mile on either hand, but was overlooked by three points1
within cannon-shot on either bank of the river.
It covered two or three acres of ground, mounted 17 large guns, 11 of them bearing upon any vessels approaching from below, with a spacious intrenched camp in its rear, and a wide abatis encircling all. It was defended by Gen. Lloyd Tilghman
, of Kentucky
, with 2,600 men.
To Brig.-Gen. U. S. Grant
, of Illinois
, was assigned the task of its reduction, with the powerful aid of Commodore A. H. Foote
and his fleet of seven gunboats, four of them partially iron-clad.
with some 15,000 men on steam transports, he moved up the Ohio
to the mouth of the Tennessee
, then ascended that stream to within ten miles of Fort Henry
, where his transports halted,3
while Com. Foote
, with his gunboats, proceeded cautiously up the river, shelling the woods on either side to discover any masked batteries that might there be planted.
Having pushed this reconnoissance far enough to receive a 32-pound ball through the unprotected side of one of his boats, Gen
decided that the proper landing-place for the troops was about four miles below the fort, where he and they were debarked4
The next day was spent in preparations, and the next appointed for the attack: Gen. Grant
directing the main body of his forces, under Gen. John A. MeClernand
, to move diagonally across the country and seize the road leading from the fort to Donelson
, while Gen. C. F. Smith
, with his brigade, advanced along the west bank of the river, and Com. Foote
, with his gunboats, moved slowly up and attacked the fort from the water.
formed his vessels in two lines: the iron-clads Cincinnati
, and St. Louis
, in front, while the old wooden Conestoga
, and Lexington
, formed a second line some distance astern, and out of the range of the enemy's fire, throwing shell over the iron-clads into and about the fort.
Thus advancing slowly and firing deliberately, the iron-clads steadily neared the fort, using only their bowguns, because unwilling to expose their weak, unsheltered sides to the heavy guns of the fort, one of them having a caliber of 128 and another of 60 pounds, and but 12 of ours in all of our front line being available.
For a moment only was there hesitation in the attack; when, after an