cover of book

Forts Henry And Donelson: Key To The Confederate Heartland
by Benjamin Franklin Cooling
University of Tennessee Press, 1987
Paper: 978-1-57233-265-2 | Cloth: 978-0-87049-538-0
Library of Congress Classification E472.96.C66 1987
Dewey Decimal Classification 973.731

Reviewed in the United States on November 27, 2008

This book was a pretty easy read. It introduces and follows the first major campaign in the West from the point of view of the generals commanding. It did a good job documenting the early build up of the different armies as they built up their troops and defenses. In the case of the Union, the early development of the navy in the western rivers is described. There were lots of pictures and period lithographs. There were few maps but they were good and easy to read not dark fuzzy reproduction of Maps from the Official Records. The strength of this book was its examination of the commanders and their blunders. For the Confederates each commander was focused on his position and saw it as the key to the west. The author does a good job of telling you why the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers were vital to the North and South. The North could use these rivers to strike deep into the center of the rebellion. Johnston never visited Forts Henry and Donelson and didn't appreciate their importance until they were threatened. Grant had developed a good relationship the naval commander Foote that enabled them to get permission to attack For Henry. The description of the Naval action is excellent and allows you to understand why Foote thought the Key was to close to close range with his armored gunboats and why this increased the damage from Confederate guns. Find out why after defeating the gunboats and winning a battle with Grants army the confederates lost heart and surrendered the next day. I would recommend this book to any student of the early western campaigns, as it will give you fresh insight.

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