War of the Rebellion: Serial 007 Page 0139 Chapter XVII. CAPTURE OF FORT HENRY, TENN.

Search Civil War Official Records

of only 1 man on each side. Very soon the main body of the Federal advance guard, composed of a regiment of infantry and a large force of cavalry, was met, upon which our cavalry retreated.

On receipt of this news I moved out in person with five companies of the Tenth Tennessee, five companies of the Fourth Mississippi, and 50 cavalry, ordering at the same time two additional companies of infantry to support Captain Red at the outworks. Upon advancing well to the front I found that the enemy had retired. I returned to camp at 5 p.m., leaving Captain Red re-enforced at the outworks. The enemy were again re-enforced by the arrival of a number of large transports.

At night the pickets from the west bank reported the landing of troops on that side [opposite Bailey's Ferry], their advance picket having been met 1 1/2 miles from the river. I at once ordered Captain Hubbard, of the Alabama cavalry, to take 50 men, and, if possible, surprise them. The inclemency of the weather, the rain having commenced to fall in torrents, prevented anything being accomplished.

Early on the morning of the 6th Captain Padgett reported the arrival of five additional transports overnight and the landing of a large force on the west bank of the river at the point indicated above. From that time up to 9 o'clock it appeared as though the force on the east bank was again re-enforced, which was subsequently proven to be true.

The movements of the fleet of gunboats at an early hour prevented any communication, except by a light barge, with the western bank, and by 10 a.m. it was plain that the boats intended to engage the fort with their entire force, aided by an attack on our right and left flanks from the two land forces in overwhelming numbers.

To understand properly the difficulties of my position it is right that I should explain fully the unfortunate location of Fort Henry in reference to resistance by a small force against an attack by land co-operating with the gunboats, as well as its disadvantages in even an engagement with boats alone. The entire fort, together with the entrenched 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. At the same time the entrenched camp, arranged as it was in the best possible manner to meet the case, was two-thirds of it completely under the control of the fire of the gunboats. 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 or filling one of the many requirements of a site for a work such as Fort Henry. The work itself was well built; it was completed long before I took command, but strengthened greatly by myself in building embrasures and epaulements of sand bags. An enemy had but to use their most common sense in obtaining the advantage of high water, as was the case, to have complete and entire control of the position.

I am guilty of no act of injustice in this frank avowal of the opinions entertained by myself, as well as by all other officers who have become familiar with the location of Fort Henry; nor do I desire the defects of location to have an undue influence in directing public opinion in relation to the battle of the 6th instant. The fort was built when I took charge, and I had no time to build anew. With this seeming digression, rendered necessary, as I believe, to a correct understanding of the whole affair, I will proceed with the details of the subsequent movements of the troops under my command.

By 10 a.m. on the 6th the movements of the gunboats and land