by Timothy B. Smith
Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2016. Pp. xxii, 514.
Illus., maps, appends, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0700623132
New View of the Henry-Donelson Campaign
One would think the Henry-Donelson campaign was well-trod ground, but Prof. Smith, author of earlier works on Shiloh and Corinth, makes some conclusions that are both obvious and yet long overlooked about the opening bout of Grant’s 1862 campaign.
In essence, Smith’s case is that the strategic importance of Grant’s capture of Forts Henry and Heinman has tended to be overlooked in comparison to the capture of the more impressive Fort Donelson, which was essentially an outpost protecting Henry. To be sure, the capture of Donelson resulted in a very large prisoner bag, the fall of Nashville, and the clearing of the Cumberland River. But the less spectacular capture of Henry, largely effected by the Navy, had far greater strategic consequences, with the Tennessee River offering a highway into the heart of the Confederacy, which brought about the Shiloh and Corinth operations.
Smith cites the correspondence of various Confederate leaders citing Fort Henry as the key to the theater, even as he remarks on how their frequently tendentious relationships, shortage of materiel, and imprecise, overlapping chains of command hampered their efforts to complete and defend both forts, as well as the smaller Fort Heiman. Smith also covers the Union side of the campaign, noting that initially the area around the forts fell under two different geographic commands, which hampered efforts to conduct effective operations against the bastions.
Smith offers much more, including some interesting profiles of the commanders, a number of well written battle pieces, and many insights into the military and social institutions of the day.
A volume in the Kansas series “Modern War Studies,” Grant Invades Tennessee is a valuable read for anyone seriously interested in the Civil War.
Note: Grant Invades Tennessee is also available as an e-Book, ISBN 978-0-7006-2314-3