The battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in February 1862 were the first two significant victories for the Union. They also demonstrated an important Union strategy that many believe was the ultimate key to Union defeat of Confederate resistance. They set out to dominate the water transportation lifelines critical to the Southern economy and military defense. They were eventually able to dominate these critical arteries with a “Brown Water Navy” of gunboats. The South had few such resources to oppose them. Fort Henry was on the Tennessee River in west-middle Tennessee near the Kentucky border. Fort Donelson was about 12 miles to the east on the Cumberland River. The commander of Fort Henry was West Point graduate and engineering inspector Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman, from Paducah, Kentucky. Tilghman had realized that both forts Henry and Donelson were defective defensive positions but put up a valiant battle before surrendering to a Union siege on February 6, 1862. Meanwhile he had secretly moved most of his of his troops to Fort Donelson.
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