Decisions at Forts Henry and Donelson

The Twenty-One Critical Decisions that Defined the Battles

  • Author(s): Koopman, Hank
  • Series: Command Decisions in America's Civil War
  • Imprint: University of Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2024-09-01
  • Status: Not Yet Published - Will Back Order
  • Available in Paper: Price $29.95 | Buy Now
  • Available in PDF: Price $23.96 | Buy Now

The Battles of Forts Henry and Donelson took place in February of 1862 and were early indicators of the success the US would have in the Civil War’s Western Theater. Due to Kentucky’s neutrality at the time, Brig. Gen. Daniel S. Donelson was instructed to find suitable sites for fortification along the Tennessee River but just inside the state boundaries of Tennessee. Forts Henry and Donelson were constructed in the summer of 1861 and were quickly identified by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant as strategic fortifications that, if conquered, would open the Federal Army’s path to Alabama and Mississippi. Fort Henry fell to Federal control on February 6, 1862, and Fort Donelson fell six days later. With the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers now open to Federal gunboats, Grant and his army would head southwest to Memphis and on to Vicksburg.

Decisions at Forts Henry and Donelson explores the critical decisions made by Confederate and Federal commanders during the battle and how these decisions shaped its outcome. Rather than offering a history of the battle, Hank Koopman hones in on a sequence of critical decisions made by commanders on both sides of the conflict to provide a blueprint of the Battles of Forts Henry and Donelson at their tactical core. Identifying and exploring the critical decisions in this way allows students of the battles to progress from a knowledge of what happened to a mature grasp of why events happened.

Complete with maps and a driving tour, Decisions at Forts Henry and Donelson is an indispensable primer, and readers looking for a concise introduction to these battles can tour this sacred ground—or read about it at their leisure—with key insights into the campaigns and a deeper understanding of the Civil War itself.

Decisions at Forts Henry and Donelson is the eighteenth in a series of books that will explore the critical decisions of major campaigns and battles of the Civil War.

HANK KOOPMAN was a dam safety engineer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife until his recent retirement.