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The fleet of gunboats prepared by the United States for the Mississippi and its tributaries consisted of twelve, seven of which were ironclads and able to resist all except the heaviest solid shot. The boats were built very wide in proportion to their length, so that in the smooth river waters they might have almost the steadiness of land batteries when discharging their heavy guns. This flotilla carried one hundred forty-three guns, some sixty-four pounders, some thirty-two pounders, and some seven-inch rifled guns carrying eighty-pound shells.

On February 2d General Grant started from Cairo with seventeen thousand men on transports. Commodore Foote accompanied him with seven gunboats. On the 4th the landing of the troops commenced three miles or more below Fort Henry. General Grant took command on the east bank with the main column, while General Charles F. Smith, with two brigades of some five to six thousand men, landed on the left bank, with orders to take the earthwork opposite Fort Henry, known as Fort Hindman. On the 5th the landing was completed, and the attack was made on the next day. The force of General Tilghman, who was in command at Fort Henry, was about thirty-four hundred men. It is evident that on the 5th he intended to dispute Grant's advance by land; on the 6th, however, before the attack by the gunboats, he changed his purpose, abandoned all hope of a successful defense, and made arrangements for the escape of his main body to Fort Donelson, while the guns of Fort Henry should engage the gunboats. He ordered Colonel Hindman to withdraw the command to Fort Donelson, while he himself would obtain the necessary delay for the movement by use of the battery, and standing a bombardment in Fort Henry. For this purpose he retained his heavy artillery company—seventy-five men—to work the guns, a number unequal to the strain and labor of the defense.1

Noon was the time fixed for the attack. But Grant, impeded by the overflow of water and unwilling to expose his men to the heavy guns of the fort, held them back to await the result of the gunboat attack. In the meantime the Confederate troops were in retreat. Four ironclads, mounting forty-eight heavy guns, approached and took position within six hundred yards of the fort, firing as they advanced. About half a mile behind these came three unarmored gunboats, mounting twenty-seven heavy guns, which took a more distant position, and kept up a bombardment of shells that fell within the works. Some four hundred of the formidable missiles of the ironclad boats were also thrown into the fort. The officers and men inside were not slow to respond, and as many as

1 The Life of General Albert Sidney Johnston, by his son.

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