Author: tjlinzy (page 2 of 14)

Anzio Beachhead Breakout Attempt 30 January 1944

After a nearly unopposed beach invasion at Anzio and an impressive beachhead built up over a week, the Allied forces began their Anzio Beachhead Breakout Attempt on 30 January 1944.

Background

The decision to heavily fortify the intial beachhead, rather than advance on the Alban Hills, was the source of great rancor between British and Americans. The British Chiefs of Staff who planned the attack and General Henry Wilson who gave the orders for Anzio thought they had made it clear that it was their intent to get to the Alban hills ASAP. The Alban Hills commanded the road to Rome and would be the meeting place with the rest of the main assault coming up from the Cassino area further south. The British also felt an immediate push agains the Alban Hills would also relieve some of the pressure on the Rapido River crossing. General John Lucas (US VI Corps commander), who would command the Anzio campaign, and his commander General Mark Clark (US Fifth Army Commander), who would lead the US push from Cassino, thought the orders only meant a link up point and the timing would be determined later. Lucas and Clark also thought German counter-attacks would make getting to tha Alban Hills almost impossible immediately. Their idea was to fortify the beachhead to the point of impregnability, then move out. This is what they did. However, the Germans were not lax. They spent the week building up a force of 70,000 to oppose the breakout.

Anzio Beachhead Breakout Attempt

In the early morning of 30 January 1944, the Rangers under the command Colonel William O. Darby, began the assault by getting within a kilometer of their objective of Cisterna. That would be as close as they got that day. They were found out by the Germans and ambushed which drove them to ground. By mid-morning, they were being attacked by tanks of the Herman Goring Division and attempted a fighting retreat. By noon, only 6 out of 767 Rangers in the attack made it back to friendly lines. The US 3rd Division continued the attack, but still were a mile away from Cisterna by end of 31 January.

The other prong of the breakout was to capture the town of Campleone near the Alban Hills. Here the British 1st Division and a regiment from the US 1st Armored Division pushed forward with great difficulty. They spent a lot of time just reaching the start line, because of mines and obstacles. Over two days, they got tantalizingly close, but once again the Allied push was stopped short of the town objective. The Allied high command was surprised by the lack of progress and this led them to think the German were preparing a major counter-attack soon. The Allies rushed to re-enforce the Anzio beachhead.

Whether Clark and Lucas were correct about the initial speed of the push out of Anzio or not is immaterial, but the fact remains that the Germans did not counter-attack quickly or decisively and this made the decision to stay near the beachhead potentially catastrophic. It is also conceivable that the lack of an immediate move out of the beachhead contributed to the fiasco at the Battle of the Bloody Rapido River.

Anzio Beachhead Breakout Attempt Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out this ride from Nettuno to Cisterna to the Alban Hills and back down to Anzio going through Aprilia.

Battle of Cowan’s Ford, North Carolina 1 February 1781

After Daniel Morgan’s devastating victory over the British commander Banastre Tarleton at the Battle of Cowpens on 17 January 1781, the American commander of the southern theatre, Nathaniel Greene, was leading a confident force. However, they were still far outnumbered by British Lord Cornwallis’ forces. Greene needed to recruit more before he turned to face the British. To this end, Greene ordered William Lee Davidson to take a small force and provide rear cover to Greene’s evasion.

Background to the Battle of Cowan’s Ford

Davidson was a member of a family that had immigrated from Ulster to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania before the Revolution. They had moved to North Carolina shortly after William’s birth. Davidson became a respected member of the colonial establishment in the area. He served as an envoy to the Cherokee to set boundaries and later served as a constable. By the time of the Revolution, Davidson was a prominent patriot leader in the area of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and knew the area well. He was responsible for a highly successful recruitment effort. The Mecklenburg County area had become known to Cornwallis as a “hornet’s nest” of Revolutionary activity. The victory at the Battle of Cowpens had re-energized the recruitment. He was to become one of the founding members of Jim Webb’s Born Fighting breed of Scots-Irish American fighting men.

The Battle of Cowan’s Ford

On 31 January 1781, Davidson had sent pickets out to the east of the fording areas of the Catawba River that he felt were likely to be used by Cornwallis in his pursuit of Greene’s army. There were two suspected, Beatties Ford to the north (now part of Lake Norman formed by Cowan’s Ford dam) and Cowan’s Ford to the south (now the point of the dam on the Catawba River). Therefore, Davidson had to spread himself thin with his cavalry and infantry contingents. Cornwallis had sent a show force to Beatties Ford to make a racket in an attempt to fool the patriots into thinking he was crossing there. However, Cowan’s Ford was always the more likely with high water from recent rains, because Cowan’s had both a deep, but straight wagon crossing and a shallower, but oblique horse crossing. Davidson had situated himself near, but to the rear of Cowan’s Ford, wanting to ward off a suspected attempt by Tarleton to flank him.

In the early morning of the 1st of Febuary 1781, the pickets near Cowan’s Ford fired to alert Davidson. Davidson’s force began firing on the British near daybreak as they crossed the rain swollen river at the deeper wagon crossing point. Many British horses were going under and the Americans were able to take quite a toll on the British as they floundered in the Catawba. Davidson moved to the sound of the guns and arrived at the river’s edge not long after the skirmishing began. Unfortunately, Davidson was almost immediately hit in the chest. The loss of Davidson made the patriots in the immediate area retreat and soon the retreat was general. The patriots hadn’t lost many in number, but in Davidson, they had lost their charismatic leader.
Cornwallis completed the crossing and was not slowed much, but the British morale must have slumped even further with the significant casualties. These rebels were proving hard to root out. Davidson’s death was taken hard by the local community. Davidson College would later be named after him when his son provided ground for the college.

Battle of Cowan’s Ford Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission’s tour of the area. Here is my imperfect attempt to recreate their route using Google Maps.

Ulysses S. Grant Begins Western Campaign 2 February 1862

Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com [CC BY 3.0 or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

On 2 February 1862, the Commander of the Union’s Army of the Tennessee, U.S. Grant, began the action that would lead to his being recognized by President Abraham Lincoln as a General with a bias for action. Grant launched his forces from Cairo, Illinois, through far western Kentucky towards Forts Heiman, Henry (on the Tennessee River) and Donelson (on the Cumberland River).

Grant Begins Western Campaign

Grant had a sizable force consisting of three infantry divisions, led by John A. McClernand, Charles F. Smith and Lew Wallace. There were also two regiments of cavalry and eight batteries of artillery. Grant also had Captain Andrew Foote’s squadron of seven gunboats. (troop numbers are from the excellent military history of the USA Civil War, The Longest Night by David J. Eicher)

The force, although reasonable, was not huge, so Grant had to make a decision to attack or wait for the initiative to be sent to him from his superiors. However, the western theatre (generally in Kentucky and south of the Ohio River and west of the Appalachian Mountains, but also in Kansas and Missouri) was split into three commands. Those commands were frozen by indecision on how to attack the south, so Grant might have waited forever to get his chance to attack. The known forces were unclear to both sides, as proven by the still debatable troop numbers present at Fort Donelson to weeks later. Grant chose the warrior’s path of seizing the initiative whilst others debated strategy. He proposed to his Commander, General Henry Halleck, that he proceed to take Fort Henry and open up Tennessee via the Tennessee River. The rest as they say is history. Grant’s star was on the rise.

Grant Begins Western Campaign Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Leaving Cairo, Illinois, cross the Ohio River near its confluence with the Mississippi River on U.S. Highway 51 towards Paducah, Kentucky. Take US-62 out of Paducah and US-68 down to KenLake State Resort Park on the Cumberland River (now Kentucky Lake) pretty much following the path that Grant followed to get to the Fort Henry area. Continue on KY-SR-94 down to Paris Landing State Park in Tennessee and then into the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. In the southwest corner of LBL, near the Piney Bay Campground, you can find the remains of Fort Henry. A map of the ride is here.

Battle of Hatcher’s Run 5 February 1865

On 5 February 1865, the Union Army moved on the Confederate line at Petersburg. After 3 days of vicious fighting, no one had won, but the Union had succeeded in stretching the already overstretched Rebel line. The battle has been called the Battle of Hatcher’s Run / Dabney’s Mill / Armstrong’s Mill / Rowanty Creek / Vaughan Road / Boydton Plank Road. Each name had a significance in the battle, but the battle is generally referred to as the battle of Hatcher’s Run.

The Siege of Richmond

By early February 1865, General Grant had besieged Petersburg for 8 months. Further south, Sherman had completed his march to the sea and was now heading north. Schofield was moving inland from Fort Fisher. Lee knew that Grant would not wait for a full encirclement. Grant wanted to prove he could take Lee without help. The actions from 5-7 February 1865 were the opening moves to make Lee’s hold on Petersburg unsustainable.

The Battle of Hatcher’s Run

Grant was trying to cut what he thought was Lee’s primary supply route into Petersburg. To this end, Grant sent General David Gregg’s cavalry division to conduct the operation on Boydton Plank Road to Burgess Mill, near where it crossed the Hatcher’s Run (creek). In support, he sent two divisions each of General G.K. Warren’s V Corps and General A.A. Humphreys’ II Corps. Warren set up a blocking position for Gregg on the Confederate side of Hatcher’s Run and Humphreys protected Warren’s flank.

As the action commenced on a cold morning, Gregg seized little in the way of supplies on the Boydton Plank Road. Lee was not using it heavily for supplies, partly because he suspected such an attack and partly because little supply was reaching his bedraggled troops anyway. Warren and Humphreys dug in for protection from long range artillery. Late in the day, the General John Gordon’s Rebels tried an attack on Humphreys, but it didn’t amount to much and was thrown back. Overnight, the Yankees re-enforced with two divisions from Meade.

On 6 February, Warren probed forward, but was hit hard by Gordon and pulled back sloppily until reaching the line with Humphreys. In the 6th’s fierce fighting, Gordon lost one of the Rebel’s best division commanders, General John Pegram, to a shot through the chest. The 7th brought entrenchment and stalemate.

In the end, the Yankees had to settle for extending their line to the Vaughan Road crossing of Hatcher’s Run. The Union took heavy losses, but made Lee extend his line and killed one of the south’s best leaders in Pegram. This was bad for Lee, but the worst was to come.

Battle of Hatcher’s Run Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

Check out the Petersburg battlefield tour.

If you want a longer ride, try VA-SR-10 and 31 from Petersburg to Williamsburg. You can stop off at the first English settlement in America at Jamestown Island.

10 December 1864 Sherman Reaches Savannah and Begins Siege

On 10 December, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman reached Savannah after carving a 40 mile wide swath through Southeast Georgia. Sherman declared Savannah a “Christmas present” for President Lincoln.

Prelude to the March to the Sea

The decision to march through Georgia free from Union supply lines was a stroke of genius. Confederate General John Bell Hood, after the defeat at Atlanta, tried to draw Sherman back north by cutting his communications and heading for middle Tennessee. Sherman was undeterred and set his mind on the sea and “making Georgia howl.” Sherman sent Major General George H. Thomas to face Hood in Tennessee. Hood was playing his last card in hopes of drawing Sherman north and defeating him, recruiting new troops in northern Tennessee and Kentucky, and finally heading east over the mountains to help Lee in Richmond. It was not to be, as Thomas defeated Hood decisively at the Battle of Nashville.

Sherman Reaches Savannah

Meanwhile, Sherman continued to ravage Georgia. With a width of forty miles and sometimes wider, Sherman’s forces marched from Atlanta to Savannah. Sherman’s troops were so spread out at times that he instructed his far flung commanders to burn a few barns to indicate their positions. The destruction had Sherman’s desired effect of making the people of the Confederacy, especially the fatigued troops think twice about continuing the cause. Desertion rates of Confederate forces increased heavily, especially in Georgia, with the fall of Atlanta and the march to the sea. Once on the coast, Sherman took Fort McAllister then sieged Savannah. It did not take long as the Confederate forces broke the lines to escape.

By February 1865, Richmond was under siege, Sherman was heading north, and Schofield was moving in from Fort Fisher. If you are into the USA Civil War, check out Shotgun’s Civil War Home.

Sherman Reaches Savannah Motorcycle Ride

For a nice long ride that follows the general path, take the GA SR-16 East from I-75 (between Atlanta and Macon) to Eatonton. At Eatonton, go South on US-441 to Milledgeville. At Milledgeville, take GA SR-24 East through Waynesboro to US-301, turn right on US-301 and go to Sylvania. At Sylvania, take GA SR-21 in to North Savannah.

Seminoles Attack Camp Monroe Florida 8 February 1837

Photo by John Stanton via Creative Commons License.

By Spring of 1835 trouble between the Florida indigenous population was brewing again. The U.S. government was trying to force the Seminoles to leave Florida for the Indian Territory of present day Oklahoma. The enticement to move was flimsy (a blanket per man and a pittance paid to the tribe), so the Seminoles ignored the Treaty of Payne’s Landing which spelled out the conditions of removal. The Seminoles found their voice in a firebrand, Osceola, who had fought with the Creeks against Andrew Jackson. What followed was the Second Seminole / Florida War.

Attack Camp Monroe

On 8 February 1837, two Seminole leaders, Emaltha (King Philip) and his son, Coacoochee (Wildcat), led 200 Seminoles on a strike on the fledgling Camp Monroe, near present day Sanford, Florida, on the south lip of Lake Monroe. The camp was caught off guard, but was able to fight off the assault with the help from a steamboat on the lake that was equipped with a canon. The toll was an undetermined number of Seminole killed, one U.S. soldier killed and eleven wounded. The U.S. soldier was Captain Charles Mellon of the 2nd U.S. Artillery. The camp was later named Fort Mellon in his honor. The area was later renamed Sanford. More can be found at The History of the Second Cavalry (Dragoons at that time).

The Seminoles delivered many of these blows to the U.S. Army during this classic guerilla war. The war often seemed unwinnable and the costs became a real problem for the new republic. Congress debated the war ad nauseum. If this seems familiar, you might want to read an analysis of the military strategy of the Second Seminole War by a modern day warrior. Major White’s conclusion sounds pretty familiar,

Eventually the Army did remove over 3OOO Seminoles to the West. Even though only a relative few managed to evade capture, the government fell short of accomplishing the political end state. The real lessons from the war concern how the Army preferred to view itself as a conventional power and was totally unprepared to fight an unconventional war. Even as they gained valuable lessons on Indian fighting, they lacked the institutions to pass these lessons along to the officers and men. Therefor[e], throughout the 19th century, the Army offered not one shred of training in preparation for an enemy it would ultimately end up fighting throughout the period of western expansion.”

Attack Camp Monroe Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

When you are next in the Orlando area, leave the kids and the wife at Disney World, rent a bike and check out this ride around Lake Monroe, through some of central Florida’s wilder areas and over to Ponce de Leon inlet where the European began his conquest of Florida.

The Second / Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes 7-22 Feb 1915

WWI started in the east with the German declaration of war on the Russian Empire in 1914. However, the heaviest fighting soon shifted to the western front in France, but it became static very quickly. Paul von Hindenburg, Commander-in-Chief of the German armies in the East, and his Chief of Staff, Erich Ludendorff, came up with a plan. The idea was to decisively defeat the Russians in East Prussia, so that overwhelming power could then be transferred to the Western Front.

Second / Winter Battle of the Masurian Lakes.

On 7 February 1915, Hindenburg attacked in the south lakes in a blizzard. He quickly pushed the Russians back by 70 miles and out of most of east Prussia. Two days later he attacked in the north lakes and had the Russians on the run. However, one corps of the Russians fell back into the primeval forests around Augustow (present day Poland) and held on for another 10 days before surrendering. This delay allowed three other corps to escape the German encirclement. Shortly thereafter, the Russians counter-attacked and ended the German initiative. The Russians took horrendous numbers of casualties and captured, but their willingness to take great pain had stopped a total rout.

Hindenburg was a viewed as the saviour of East Prussia to a weary German nation, but his grand plan of delivering a crushing blow that would remove the need for heavy forces in the east had not been completed. In the south, near the Carpathian mountains, the offensive had stalled early. The Germans had to continue on two fronts for most of the remainder of the war. Hindenburg’s great rival, Falkenhayn, the German Chief of Staff, was against the plan, but had to concede under a withering attack on his reputation by Hindenburg himself. Eventually, Hindenburg would ascend to take Falkenhayn’s place, with Ludendorff becoming the Quartermaster General.

Battle of the Masurian Lakes Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

I have had a great ride in this area, but I was lost worse than Cooter Brown somehwere west-northwest of Suwalki, near the Russian border, in the area that Hindenburg’s northern prong would have attacked through on 9 February 1915. A buddy and I spent 3 hours riding through some beautiful country, but I can’t tell you where exactly. However when we did find ourselves again, we travelled through the Augustow area, then west through the middle of the lakes and on to Germany and can highly recommend it as well.

Unconditional Surrender Grant Takes Fort Donelson 12-16 Feb 1862

On 13 February 1862, Union commanding General U.S. Grant’s positioning was complete and the time had come to attack Fort Donelson. The Union forces had spent the 12th of February closing in from Fort Henry and exchanging picket fire with the Confederates manning the earthen works of Fort Donelson. The gunboats had also spent the 12th testing the river batteries and found them tough, but assumed they could be taken as Fort Henry’s had been.

A False Start

On the morning of 13 February 1862, Grant meant to have a simultaneous push along the right and left, but General John A. McClernand had jumped the gun and got manhandled by the Confederates, led by General Gideon Pillow. A push on the other side by General C.F. Smith was more disciplined and originally successful, but met with the same fate at the hands of General Simon Bolivar Buckner’s troops. Overnight, a snow and ice storm befell the area and the lines woke on the 14th to a white landscape, ice laden trees and wounded who had died from exposure overnight.

Commodore Foote’s Gunboats

On 14 February 1862, Commodore Andrew Foote was to unleash his gunboats on the Fort Donelson river batteries just like he had at Fort Henry. However, Donelson was not Henry. Fort Donelson’s batteries were on tiered bluffs overlooking the Cumberland River, which gave them great range and an enviable angle of fire up close. This was to prove decisive. Foote was to preclude the ground assault with a show of force and hopefully take out the batteries. Foote came on and made considerable progress, until the flotilla got close enough for the Confederate gunners to zero in. When very close, the Donelson guns were firing right down on the Yankee ships, delivering devastating blows. Virtually the entire flotilla lost navigation capabilities due to direct hits and were floating helplessly down stream. Foote was seriously injured and many were dead. Donelson would not be another Henry. The overall Rebel commander, General John B. Floyd, was ecstatic, because his original mission was to slow down the Yankee advance long enough to let Rebel troops in Bowling Green, Kentucky retreat to Nashville unhindered and this he had accomplished. His follow-on mission would drive the course of the battle, though.

Fight in the Snow and Ice

Grant now had to face the very real possibility that his confidence in taking Donelson was misplaced. The next day would be critical, but not in the way Grant expected. On 15 December 1862, Grant had to go meet Foote as the Navy man was too injured to travel to Grant. As Grant left, he left explicit instructions not to engage with the Confederates in the belief that the Confederates would not dream of attacking. Grant met with Foote and asked for whatever force Foote could give the following day to keep the batteries busy, whilst he attacked on land. As Grant rode back on the icy roads, he got news that McClernand was under pressure on the right. The fight was on, but not at Grant’s bidding.

Bickering Confederates

The Confederate leadership of Floyd, Buckner and Pillow had querulously decided to attempt a breakout around Dover. Buckner was to provide a rear guard, Pillow, with the help of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Cavalry, would push McClernand out of the way, then Floyd would lead the vanguard to Nashville. Pillow and Buckner would then retreat under fire and provide cover for Floyd.
Pillow’s and Forrest’s push on McClernand was what the reports Grant was receiving were all about. Grant made his way forward and heard that the Rebels were carrying 3 days of rations on them. This told him that they were trying to breakout. Grant immediately ordered re-enforcements to McClernand and also told Smith to attack Buckner’s rear guard with force. Smith put such pressure on Buckner that Pillow had to send some help to stave off a collapse of the rear. Pillow thought this was OK, because he and Forrest had opend the road near Dover for a retreat. However, as the Rebels settled back into their positions after opening the road, a stasis developed. As the intitative ebbed away, Floyd, Pillow and Buckner traded turns in being optimistic, pessimistic and openly hostile to each other.

Unconditional Surrender Grant Takes Fort Donelson

Floyd was a deer in the headlights now. Finally, Pillow wanted to hold the position and Buckner wanted to ram the forces through the hole created during the day. Floyd lost nerve and decided to hold the position. The day ended in much the same position as it had began with the notable exception of some of Smith’s unit occupying some of the ridge line near the fort, putting artillery in range of the main fort. It might have continued that way had Pillow and Floyd stuck around, but both were former Federal officials and feared being tried for treason if caught. So, under the cover of darkness, they caught the first thing steaming to Nashville. A small number of Confederate troops also got up river that night. Forrest, who was disgusted by the trio of Generals, stomped out and took his cavalry command across a swollen stream and into the Tennessee darkness. Buckner was left in charge and immediately drafted a request for terms to send to his old friend, Grant. Buckner was probably hoping for some leniency based on his previous relationship with Grant. The request reached Grant in the early morning and he responded with what was to make him famous, “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.” Buckner called him “unchivalrous,” but accepted the terms anyway.

Grant Takes Fort Donelson Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

This is my home ride and I recommend it as one of the most beautiful rides anywhere. It splits the the Land Between the Lakes from North to South. Along the way, you will pass the Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum which gives you a good feel for how the people lived in that area in that era. Finish off the ride with a visit to Fort Campbell, KY, home of the 101st Airborne Division’s Don F. Pratt Museum and a little WWII to modern era military history.

The Battle of Arkansas Post / Fort Hindman 9-11 January 1863

One of the major problems that Union forces had with capturing Vicksburg and all of the lower Mississippi was that they faced almost continual harassment of supply lines, both on land and rivers. I’ve written a little about this when referring to BG Stand Watie and his Confederate American Indian cavalry harassing supply lines on the Mississippi River. In Fort Hindman, near Arkansas Post and overlooking the Arkansas River, the Confederates had a strong position to harry any Union boats trying to make their way up to Little Rock. Additionally, it was a safe haven and replenishing point for Confederate gunboats working the Mississippi River. Before the Union forces could secure the lower Mississippi river area, they needed to secure their supply lines throughout Missouri, Arkansas and along the Mississippi River and its tributaries.

The Battle of Arkansas Post

Hence, on 9 January, Union General John McClernand led a combined ground and naval force with Admiral David Porter to shut down Fort Hindman starting on 9 January 1863. Union troops, led by General William Sherman landed on the 9th and began assaulting the outlying trenches of the fort immediately, eventually over-running them and forcing the Confederates to retreat to the fort itself. On 10 January 1863, Porter laid into the fort with naval fire. By 11 January 1863, McClernand had tightened the noose with infantry preparing for a full attack on the fort and Porter’s guns both bombarding the fort and cutting off retreat lines. Eventually, Confederate commander General Thomas Churchill saw the futility of further resistance and surrendered the fort. One more secure post along the Mississippi was secured for future Union operations.

John A. McClernand and Lincoln’s famous quote on Grant’s whiskey

Check out this biography of John A. McClernand, who was a congressman before becoming a general. McClernand did well at first, but went head on with Grant, shortly after the Battle of Arkansas Post, and lost over the conduct of the Vicksburg campaign. McClernand was one of the main sources that reported back to Washington about Grant’s drinking. To which, Abraham Lincoln was to have said, “I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”

Battle of Arkansas Post Motorcycle Ride

Try this circular route from Pine Bluff to Stuttgart to Gillett to Dumas and back to Pine Bluff which passes by Arkansas Post National Memorial. It also includes the long stretch of scenic highway US 65.

Image Credit:Currier and Ives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Grant Takes Forts Heiman and Henry on Tennessee River 6 Feb 1862

On 6 February 1862, Union forces descended on the hapless Forts Heiman and Henry on the Tennessee River near the Kentucky / Tennessee border. If there was the one action that precipitated the fall of the Confederate west militarily, this was it. With control of the Tennessee River from Illinois through western Kentucky and western Tennessee all the way down to North Alabama, the Union changed the war with one stroke.

Forts Heiman and Henry

Fort Henry was under the Confederate command of General Lloyd Tilghman, but little could any General do about a poor position and a rising river. If Grant and Foote had not taken him, the river would have. Torrential rains had made the fort almost untenable for river guns. The heights across the river at Fort Heiman were to have been improved and might have made a difference, but the lack of men and equipment meant that the construction was not complete.

Confederate hopes flooded

A few days previous, Tilghman actually thought the Rebels might inflict a terrible loss on the Yankees, if reserves could be brought down from Columbus and over from Bowling Green. In the end, Tilghman saw he had a losing hand when no re-enforcements came to his call. Tilghman decided to save the infantry and personally join a small artillery detachment to hold off the Yankees long enough to let the infantry escape to Fort Donelson. He succeeded and surrendered to Foote on a gunboat at the entrance to the fort. Grant’s infantry divisions were bogged down in mud on either side of the river after alighting from Foote’s troop transports, so they didn’t even get in place before the surrender.

Commodore Foote’s ironclads had taken a significant beating in the battle with the Confederate river guns, but Foote had a few fast timberclads continue up the Tennessee River to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to wreak havoc with Confederate shipping and railway river bridges.

Whiskey and Combined Operations

An excellent anecdote from Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: Fort Sumter to Perryville pages, 184-185;
“At fifty-six he [Foote] had spent forty years as a career officer fighting two things he hated most, slavery and whiskey. It was perhaps a quirk of fate to have placed him thus alongside Grant, who could scarcely be said to have shown an aversion for either.” But both men got along, because they both believed in combined operations fervently. Foote was quoted as saying the Army and Navy “were like blades of shears–united, invincible; separated, almost useless.”

Forts Heiman and Henry Motorcycle Ride Recommendation

If you’re in Memphis, try this ride through beautiful far west Tennessee going through the Reelfoot Lake State Park area and on to the Fort Henry area in Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

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