Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Reconstruction and The Rise of the Klu Klux Klan

Senator Ted Cruz's Comments 

Texas Senator Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)claimed, "The Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan." Speaking on Fox News, Cruz blasted the party for its opposition to Jeff Sessions,who was later confirmed as attorney general. 
Critics had accused Sessions of racial bias, among other things, but Cruz attempted to turn it around on the Democrats.

"When the left doesn’t have any other arguments, they go and just accuse everyone of being a racist. It’s an ugly, ugly part of the modern Democratic Party,” he said on "America’s Newsroom." 

"You look at the most racist, you look at the Dixiecrats, they were Democrats who imposed segregation, imposed Jim Crow laws, who founded the Klan,"Cruz said. "The Klan was founded by a great many Democrats." 

However, historians say the KKK and its founding had nothing to do with what Cruz called the "modern Democratic Party." 

PolitiFact looked into the accusation when it came up in 2013 and called it false.

The KKK was indeed made up largely of Democrats in the South after the Civil War, as most whites in the South were Democrats, but it was not started by the party. In addition, the modern Democratic and Republican parties are not what they were in the 19th century.

The Klan is Established

A group of southerners including many Confederate veterans founded the first branch of the Ku Klux Klan in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866. The organization was originally established as a social club. The first two words of the organization’s name supposedly derived from the Greek word "kyklos," meaning circle. In the summer of 1867, local branches of the Klan met in a general organizing convention and established what they called an "Invisible Empire of the South." Attendees elected Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest as the first leader or "grand wizard" of the Klan.

Radical Republican Reconstruction Policies Energize the Klan

In keeping with President Lincoln's policy toward the former Confederate states, President Andrew Johnson’s relatively lenient Reconstruction policies were in place from 1865 to 1866. The nature of the Klan changed significantly with the beginning of the second phase of post-Civil War Reconstruction, which the more radical members of the Republican Party in Congress put into place. Congress passed the Reconstruction Act over the President Johnson's veto. The provisions of the act divided the South was into five military districts. The act also required each state to approve the 14th Amendment, which granted "equal protection" of the Constitution to former slaves and enacted universal male suffrage.
Freemen Voting in New Orleans in 1867
This act set resulted in a violent eruption by Southerners who was still reeling from their defeat in the Civil War. The life that they knew was gone and the new social and political status of blacks and Republicans destroyed the last semblance of the plantation life.  The Klan quickly evolved into a military organization to resist the Reconstruction Act. White Southerners from all classes of society joined the Klan. The first step was to attack and destroy the "Republican influence in the South by terrorizing and murdering its party leaders and all those who voted for it."  Then the Klan punished newly freed blacks for a variety of reasons, including behaving in an "impudent" manner toward whites. They whipped the teachers of freedmen's schools and burnt their schoolhouses.
An October 24th, 1874 Harper's Magazine
editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast
denouncing KKK and White League
 murders of innocent blacks
The isolated incidents against blacks and Republicans grew into riots. In 1866, a quarrel between whites and black veterans erupted into a full-fledged riot in Memphis, Tennessee. White police officers assisted the mobs in their violent rampage through the black sections of town. By the time the violence ended, the mob killed forty-six people, wounded seventy, and burned numerous churches and schools. Two months later, on July 30, a similar violent outbreak erupted in New Orleans. A white mob attacked the attendees of a black suffrage convention and killed thirty-seven blacks and three white supporters.
The violence in the South threatened to catapult the nation into a second civil war. Numerous organizations defied the Republican-led federal government and violently intimidated blacks and Republicans who tried to win political power. 

Grant's Presidency  

President Ulysses S. Grant
The Klan's activities increased in speed and brutality prior to the 1868 presidential election. In the crucial contest, Republican Ulysses S. Grant opposed Democrat Horatio Seymour. To the Klan, a Republican victory meant that the federal government would continue programs that "prevented Southern whites from gaining political control in their states." Klan members knew the blacks in their communities would vote Republican. Across the South, the Klan and other groups used brutal violence to intimidate Republican voters. In Kansas, over 2,000 murders were committed in connection with the election. In Georgia, the number of threats and beatings was even higher. In Louisiana, the Klan and other organizations killed 1,000 blacks before the election. In those three states, Democrats won decisive victories at the polls.
The Klan's violent actions actually backfired. Northerners believed the violence and coercions indicated that the South had not learned its lesson in the recent war. Federal government officials  realized that the South required harsher laws to stop the violence and protect Southern blacks.
Republican Ulysses S. Grant won the 1868 presidential election with the slogan, "Let Us Have Peace." Republicans also won a majority in Congress. Many Northerners, disgusted by Klan violence, supported the Fifteenth Amendment, which gave the vote to black men in every state, and the First Reconstruction Act of 1867, which placed harsher restrictions on the South and closely regulated the formation of their new post-Civil War governments. 

Enforcement and Klu Klux Klan Acts

Between 1870 and 1871, Congress passed the Enforcement Acts, which made it a crime to interfere with registration, voting, office holding, or jury service of blacks. Courts indicted more than 5,000 people under these laws, but only convicted slightly more than 1,000.
In 1871, Congress also passed the Ku Klux Klan Act, which allowed the government to act against terrorist organizations. Grant did not rigorously enforce these laws, although he did order the arrest of hundreds of Klan members. However, the overwhelming support of the Klan in the South made convictions difficult to obtain, and the financial panic of 1873 distracted the North from the problems of Southern racism. 
From the early 1870s onward, white supremacy gradually reasserted its hold on the South as federal support for Reconstruction waned. By the end of 1876, the Democratic Party again controlled the entire South. In 1882, the United States Supreme Court declared Ku Klux Klan Act unconstitutional.

Hayes Ends Reconstruction

President Rutherford
 B. Hayes
On January 29, 1877, President Grant signed the Electoral Commission Act, which set up a fifteen-member commission to settle the disputed 1876 election of eight Republicans and seven Democrats. The Electoral Commission awarded Rutherford B. Hayes the electoral votes he needed and Congress certified that he won by one electoral vote. Southern Democrats agreed not to block Hayes' inauguration based on a "back room" deal. Key to this deal was the understanding that federal troops would no longer interfere in southern politics despite substantial election-associated violence against blacks. The Southern states said they would protect the lives of blacks. Hayes' friends spread rumors that he would promote Federal aid for internal improvements and name a Southerner to his cabinet. With the end to the political role of Northern troops, the President had no method to enforce Reconstruction, thus this "back room" deal signaled the end of American Reconstruction.   

Rebuttal of Senator Cruz's Statements

Based on the historical record, Senator Cruz's assertion is wrong. The Klan drew their membership from "small farmers and laborers to planters, lawyers, merchants, physicians and ministers."  In areas of high Klan activity, local law enforcement officials either belonged to the Klan or refused to take action against it.  Even officials who arrested accused Klansmen found it difficult to find witnesses willing to testify against them. Other leading white citizens in the South declined to speak out against the group’s actions and gave them tacit approval. The Klan members were probably Southern Democrats. Attributing the rise of the Klan to all Democrats ignores the Northern Democrats who rejected the Klan's actions.
Senator Cruz also ignores the role that radical Republicans played in fostering the growth of the Klan. Klan activities were in direct response to legislation passed by Republican legislators. Efforts to elect Republicans to local, state, and national posts were met with violence.  At least ten percent of the black legislators elected during the 1867-1868 constitutional conventions were victims of violence including seven who were murdered. The more the Republican-controlled federal government tried to enforce legislation against the Klan, the more the Klan resisted attempts to change the social and political environment in the South. Then, federal Republican authorities led by President Rutherford B. Hayes compounded the issue by refusing to enforce the very laws they enacted.


Sen. Ted Cruz Calls Democrats "The Party of the KKK"
PBS - Rise of the Klu Klux Klan
History - Klu Klux Klan
New Georgia Encyclopedia - Klu Klux Klan in the Reconstruction Era
North Carolina Digital History - The Compromise of 1877
Wikipedia - Reconstruction Era
Wikipedia - Klu Klux Klan

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Lighthouse Board

Lighthouses transferred to the Federal Government (1789-1820)

During the colonial period, the government of each colony built and managed lighthouses in their colony. Twelve existing lighthouses and newly constructed facilities were under the control of the individual states throughout the period of confederation. On August 7, 1789, President George Washington signed the ninth act of the United States Congress, which required states to turn over their existing, proposed, under construction, and proposed, to the federal government. The act created the US Lighthouse Establishment in the Department of Treasury. 

Initially, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton reviewed contracts and the appointment of keepers before sending these documents to President Washington for his signature. In 1792, Hamilton turned over the administration of aids to navigation to the Commissioner of Revenue until Albert Gallatin became Secretary of the Treasury. Gallatin managed lighthouses for nearly all of his two terms in office when this responsibility went back to the Commissioner of Revenue. The commissioner retained this duty until the government abolished the office in 1820. At that time, the Secretary of the Treasury assigned the lighthouse responsibilities to Stephen Pleasonton, Fifth Auditor of the Treasury. The collector of customs administered lighthouses on the local level.

Lighthouses under the Fifth Auditor of the Treasury (1820-1852)

Stephen Pleasonton
Pleasonton administered the US Lighthouse Establishment for thirty-two years. During this time, the number of lighthouses and lightships grew dramatically. In 1822, there were seventy lighthouses in the country. By 1842, the number had increased to 256 lighthouses and 30 light vessels. Ten years later that number had increased to 331 lighthouses and 42 lightships. However, there was little technical progress during his administration. Once Pleasonton had adopted a way of operation or a technical development, he resisted changes or innovations. For example, when he assumed his new responsibilities, the Argand lamp and parabolic reflector system lit lighthouses. When French scientist Augustin Fresnel invented a lens in 1822, which produced a light infinitely superior to the system used in American lighthouses, Pleasonton resisted testing the new lens until forced to do so by Congress in the 1840s. When After the highly successful test, Pleasonton refused to adopt the lens. This rejection resulted in the responsibility for aids to navigation to be assigned to the US Light-House Board. 

During Pleasonton's administration, shippers, navigators, chambers of commerce, and navigation experts attacked bible complained of the poor quality of America's lighthouses, especially the lights.

In 1837, Congress questioned the need for funding a large number of new lighthouses and appointed a board of navy commissioners to examine the necessity of proposed lighthouses. After careful study, the commissioners recommended dropping thirty-one of the proposed lighthouses.

In the following year, Congress divided the country into eight districts and assigned a naval officer to each district to examine the condition of current lighthouses and sites selected for new ones. The officers found that the condition of lighthouses ranged from good to terrible. They reported faulty construction, inadequate lighting system, and poor placement. In 1838, Congress increased the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in selecting the sites, constructing, and lighting lighthouses.

In 1851, after increasing complaints about the country's system of navigation aids, Congress ordered an extensive investigation of the navigation system and appointed a panel of distinguished military officers and civilian scientists to study the situation.

The Congressional investigation took more than four years to effect a change in the administration of navigation aids along the American coasts. During that time, congressional appointee, Lt. Jenkins of the US Coast Survey conducted interviews with pilots and mariners, researched domestic and foreign studies, and participated in hearings on existing navigational aids administration. On March 3, 1851, Congress passed "An Act Making Appropriations for Light House, Light Boats, Buoys, &c." Section 8 of the act stated:
The Secretary of the Treasury is authorized and required to cause a board to be convened at as early a day as may be practical after the passage of that act to be comprised of two officers of the Navy of high rank, two officers of Engineers of the Army, and such civil officers of scientific attainments as may be under the orders or at the disposition of the Treasury Department, and a junior officer of the Navy to act as Secretary to said board, whose duty it shall be under instructions from the Treasury Department to inquire into the condition of the Lighthouse Establishment of the United States, and make a general detailed report and programme to guide legislation in extending and improving our present system of construction, illumination, inspection, and superintendence.

The Lighthouse Board resulted from this mandate, and its original members consisted of William B. Shubrick, and Samuel F. Du Pont, U.S. Navy; James Kearney, U.S. Topographical Engineers; civilian academics Alexander Dallas Bache, Superintendent of the U.S. Coast Survey and Joseph Henry, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; and Lt. Thornton Jenkins, US Navy, who acted as Secretary.

The US Lighthouse Board (1852-1910)

US Light House Service Seal
The appointment of these experienced, knowledgeable men to the Board attracted others of similar quality to lighthouse duty, both on the board and in district offices. Congress organized the country into twelve lighthouse districts. Each district had an inspector (a naval officer) responsible for building the lighthouses and seeing that they remained in good operating condition. After a few years, the inspectors became overloaded with work and an engineer (an army officer) was appointed to each district to direct construction and maintenance of lighthouses. 

The Lighthouse Board quickly applied new technology, particularly in purchasing and installing new Fresnel lenses and constructing screw pile foundation lighthouses. The Board managed construction of the first lighthouses on the west coast. It was a difficult period for the Lighthouse Board, but it methodically went about getting its program started and underway. By the time of the Civil War, all lighthouses had Fresnel lenses. 

In the 1850s, the Board prescribed color schemes for the buoys, as well as range lights and day markers; and the buoy system was standardized. Classification systems were also developed to mark the nation's waterways. The board introduced iron buoys to replace the more expensive copper-clad wooden buoys. The Lighthouse Board also began printing changes made in aids to navigation as a Notice to Mariners.

Beavertail Whitehouse
Several advances in the technology of fog signals were made during the 1850s. In 1851, the Board installed an experimental air fog whistle and reed horn at Beavertail Lighthouse at the entrance to Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. A horse-operated treadmill and later by an internal combustion steam engine powered this sound signal. Around 1851, the Board introduced mechanically rung fog bells. The strokes of the fog signals were timed deliberately to afford each signal a unique sound characteristic. The bell signal was gradually replaced by three variations of that instrument. The first was an ordinary locomotive whistle, enlarged and modified and blown by steam from a high-pressured tubular boiler.

Famous members of the US Corps of Engineers helped build lighthouses including

  • Richard Delafield (class of 1818, brigadier general and chief of engineers US Army)
  • Hartman Bache (class of 1818, colonel Corps of Engineers US Army)
  • Andrew A. Humphreys (class of 1831, major general US Volunteers)
  • George W. Cullum (class of 1833, brigadier general US Volunteers)
  • George G. Meade (class of 1835, major general US Army)
  • Henry Benham (class of 1837, brigadier general US Volunteers)
  • Jeremy Gilmer (class of 1839, major general Confederate States Army)
  • Horatio Wright (class of 1841, major general US Volunteers)
  • Amiel Whipple (class of 1841, major general US Volunteers)
  • John Newton (class of 1842, brigadier general US Volunteers)
  • John Pope (class of 1842, major general US Volunteers)  
  • William Franklin (class of 1843, major general US Volunteers)
  • William F. Smith (class of 1845, major general US Volunteers)  
  • Alfred Gibbs (class of 1846, brigadier general US Volunteers)  
  • James St. C. Morton (class of 1851, brigadier general US Volunteers)
  • Orlando Poe (class of 1856, brigadier general US Volunteers)    

Sources: United States Lighthouse Board <>,
Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy <>, United States Lighthouse Society <> ,and Cullum Register

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Texans at West Point

After Texas joined the United States, three Texans received appointments before the start of the Civil War. 

James B. McIntyre - Cullum Number: 1627 - Class Rank: 49 

He graduated 49th in his class and the Army promoted him to brevet second lieutenant of infantry on July 1, 1853. 

The Army assigned him to duty on the frontier at Ft. Brown, Texas (1853-1854) and Ft. Belknap, Texas (1854-1855). 

On March 3, 1855, the Army promoted McIntyre to second lieutenant, First Cavalry. He was a member of the Sioux Expedition (1855) and at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas (1855-1856). 

The Army promoted him to first lieutenant, First Cavalry on January 16, 1857. 

Ft. Kearny, Nebraska
The First Cavalry rode to Ft. Kearny, Nebraska in 1856. At Ft. Kearny, the First performed scouting duty (1856) against the Cheyenne Indians and fought a skirmish near the fort on August 26, 1856. The Army sent him to Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas (1856-1857) where his unit participated in Cheyenne Expedition (1857), engaged the Cheyenne in the action on Solomon's Fork of the Kansas on July 29, 1857, and fought the Kiowa and Comanche Indians in a skirmish near Grand Saline, Kansas on August 6, 1857. He served at Ft. Riley, Kansas (1857-1858), Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas (1858), Ft. Riley, Kansas (1859-1860), and Ft. Wise, Colorado (1860). While assigned to these posts, he participated in the Utah Expedition (1858), the march to the Arkansas River (1859), and the Kiowa and Comanche Expedition (1860). He was Quartermaster of the First Cavalry from April 15, 1858 to April 30, 1860. He received a leave of absence from April 1860 until May 1861. 
American Frontier Forts
When the Civil War began, McIntyre honored his commitment to the Union Army. On his return to active duty, the Army promoted him captain in the First Cavalry on May 3, 1861. On August 3, 1861, McIntyre transferred to the Fourth US Cavalry. McIntyre's initial assignment during the Civil War was in the Defence of Washington, DC September 22, 1861 to March 1862. He commanded a Squadron of the Escort of Major General McClellan of the Army of the Potomac in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign (March-August 1862) and in the Maryland Campaign (September-November 1862). He was on detached service at Washington, DC from December 1862 to March 1863. McIntyre commanded a company in Union operations in Tennessee and Alabama (March-June 1863) which fought in cavalry action at Franklin, Tennessee on May 10, 1863. He received a brevet promotion to major on May 10, 1863 for gallant and meritorious services in the cavalry action at Franklin, Tennessee. He directed a regiment (June-December 1863) that saw action near Chickamauga, Georgia on September 25, 1863 and fought the enemy in numerous skirmishes. The Army promoted him to lieutenant colonel for gallant and meritorious services in the action near Chickamauga, Georgia. 

He was on a leave of absence from December 24, 1863 to February 1864. The Army placed McIntyre in command of the cavalry regiment from March to November 17, 1864. He led the regiment on its march from Nashville, Tennessee to join the Army of the Cumberland in the invasion of Georgia. He was in charge of the unit in the cavalry operations of the campaign. After the regiment returned to Nashville, Tennessee, the Army granted him a leave of absence from November 17, 1864 to January 1865. Following his leave, he was in command of the regiment at their camp at Gravelly Springs, Alabama (January -March 1865). He was on recruiting service at Baltimore, Maryland from March 1, l865 to January 5, 1866. 

After the war, McIntyre commanded posts at Ft. Brown, Texas (May 1866- January 1867) and Ft. Larned, Kansas (January-May 1867). He received a promotion to major, Third Cavalry on July 28, 1866 at Ft. Larned. He died on May 10, 1867 at Ft. Larned, Kansas at the age of 34.

For more information on McIntyre, please see Fiddler's Green: James B. McIntyre, 

Horace Randal - Cullum Number: 1675 - Class Rank: 45 

Randal was a cadet at the US Military Academy from July 1, 1849, to July 1, 1854.He graduated 45th in his class and the Army promoted him to brevet second lieutenant of infantry on July 1, 1854. 

Horace Randal
The Army assigned him to duty on the frontier. He conducted recruits to Ft. Washita, Indian Territory (1854-1855). The Army assigned him to Ft. Davis, Texas (1855) where Randal had scouting duties. On March 3, 1855, he received a promotion to second lieutenant in the First Dragoons. He participated in a surprise attack on an Apache Indian camp near Ft. Bliss, Texas on July 22, 1855. Later that year, the Army posted him Ft. Union, New Mexico (1855) and Los Lunas, New Mexico (1855-1857). He fought in a skirmish against Apache Indians near the Almaigre Mountains in April 1856 and in an action with the Apaches near Gila River on November 30, 1856. He served at Ft. Buchanan, New Mexico (1857); on recruiting service (1858); and on frontier duty at Ft. Buchanan, New Mexico (1859-1860). 

Randal resigned from the United States Army on February 27, 1861. He joined the Confederate Army and received a commission as a first lieutenant in the cavalry on March 16, 1861. Initially, he served in General Braxton Bragg's quartermaster corps at Pensacola, Florida. The Army transferred him to the Army of Northern Virginia. On November 16, 1861, the Army appointed him as an aide-de-camp to Major General Gustavus W. Smith. On February 12, 1862, Randal received a commission as a colonel of cavalry. Colonel Randal recruited the Twenty-eighth Texas Cavalry regiment (Dismounted) from men in and around Marshall, Texas. Randal appointed his father, brother, and brother-in-law to serve on his regimental staff. On July 9, 1862, the regiment composed of twelve companies through Marshall and marched to Little Rock, Arkansas. In Little Rock, the regiment joined what was to become the Second Brigade of General John G. Walker's Texas (Greyhound) Division. The Army appointed Colonel Randal brigade commander on September 3, 1862, and he served in Arkansas and Louisiana. He led the brigade at Milliken's Bend during the Vicksburg campaign in June 1863, and in repulsing Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks' Red River campaign in the spring of 1864. General E. Kirby Smith appointed Randal brigadier general on April 8, 1864, but the Confederate government never confirmed his promotion. He was killed at the Battle of Jenkins Ferry, Arkansas on April 30, 1864. 

For more information on Randal, please see Randal, Horace and Twenty-eighth Texas Cavalry

Henry C. McNeill - Cullum Number: 1785 - Class Rank: 26 

McNeill was a cadet at the US Military Academy from July 1, 1853, to July 1, 1857. He graduated 26th in his class and the Army promoted him to brevet second lieutenant, Mounted Riflemen, July 1, 1857. He attended the Cavalry School for Practice at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1857-1858. The Army promoted him to second lieutenant, Mounted Riflemen on October 26 1857. 

The Army assigned him to frontier duty at Ft. Thorn, New Mexico (1858); Ft. Defiance. New Mexico (1859); and Ft. Fillmore, New Mexico (1859) where he engaged in scouting activities in Navajo Country, New Mexico. 

While on an expedition against the Pinal Apaches (1859-1860), McNeill fought in a skirmish near Ft. Buchanan, New Mexico on December 3, 1860. He was at Ft. Fillmore, New Mexico (1860); on scouting duty (1860-1861); and on scouting duty at Ft. Union, New Mexico (1861) and Ft. Stanton, New Mexico (1861). 

The Fifth Texas Cavalry
On May 12, 1861, McNeil resigned his commission and joined the Rebellion of 1861-1866 against the United States. The Confederate Army commissioned him as a first lieutenant. On August 9, 1861, McNeill received a commission as lieutenant colonel in the Fifth Texas Cavalry. He distinguished himself during the New Mexico campaign, at one point capturing the bulk of a Union army regiment. On May 20, 1863, the Confederacy promoted McNeill to colonel. 

The Battle of Mansfield
From January 1863 to September 1864, McNeill served with this unit and acted as commander in several engagements. These actions included the battles of Galveston and Bayou Bourbeau, Louisiana, in 1863 and the battles of Mansfield and Pleasant Hill in Louisiana in 1864. A valued officer, his superiors repeatedly recommended McNeill for promotion to general. In 1864, McNeill's father turned over control of the family plantation and its forty-six slaves to McNeill and his brother-in-law, T. Scott Anderson. On May 26, 1865, McNeill and his unit surrendered along with the rest of the Trans-Mississippi command by Gen. E. Kirby Smith. 

After the war, McNeill farmed in Eagle Lake, Texas. Henry McNeill died in Columbus, Texas, on November 29, 1876, of congestion of the lungs. His grave is probably in Lakeview Cemetery, Eagle Lake, Colorado County. He married Margaret L. Murray. 

For more information on McNeill, please see McNeill, Henry Cameron,

Friday, January 20, 2017

Fort Heiman

On January 30, Major General Henry Halleck ordered Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant to prepare "to take and hold Fort Henry."[1] Grant quickly got things moving. His invasion force consisted of 15,000 to 17,000 men in two divisions and the Western Flotilla. Brigadier General John A. McClernand commanded the First Division at Cairo, Brigadier General Charles F. Smith led Second Division at Paducah and Smithland, and US Navy Flag Officer Andrew Hull Foote directed the Western Flotilla. The Western Flotilla had four "ironclad" gunboats (Foote's flagship USS Cincinnati, USS Carondelet, USS St. Louis, and USS Essex) commanded by the flag officer, and three "timberclad" gunboats (USS Conestoga, USS Tyler, and USS Lexington) under Lieutenant Seth L. Phelps. 
Attack on Fort Henry and Fort Donelson

Grant informed Smith that " On Monday next I expect to start from Smithland, Paducah, and this place some 15,000 men for Fort Henry, to take and occupy that position. Full instructions will be received from General Halleck in the morning. At the present I am only in possession of telegraphic orders to take and hold it."[2]
Col. Adolphus Heiman
When the federal attack began on February 4, Colonel Adolphus Heiman was in command of the works because Brigadier General Tilghman was inspecting construction at Fort Donelson. The Confederates fired rockets to alert Tilghman of the Union assault. Fort Henry's garrison of 2,600 troops was scattered with two regiments at Fort Heiman and two up the river at Paris Landing. Colonel Heiman waited for Tilghman's orders to consolidate the dispersed troops. When Tilghman heard the artillery exchange that morning and learned that Union troops had landed below the fort that afternoon, he placed Colonel John W. Heard in command at Donelson and left for Henry. Tilghman and his escort reached Fort Henry around 11:30 p.m. on February 4.

General Lloyd Tilghman
The next day, Tilghman ordered the evacuation of Fort Heiman except for two companies of Alabama cavalry and the forty Kentucky men of Padgett's Spy Company. Tilghman instructed this small force to harass Union forces on the Kentucky side of the river. The Fifteenth Arkansas Regiment and Twenty-Seventh Alabama Regiment crossed the river and joined their comrades at Fort Henry.
Smith's Second division arrived on the scene. Two brigades landed on the Kentucky side and one brigade on the Tennessee side. It was after 11:00 p.m. on February 5 before all of Grant's army was in position. Tilghman knew he was outnumbered and regretted "the wretched military position of Fort Henry and the small force" at his disposal. [3]

Attack on Fort Henry
The attack began at dawn on February 6. While Union gunboats were bombarding Fort Henry, General Smith's troops advanced to Fort Heiman. The remaining Confederate quickly left Heiman when they saw Smith's troops. The Rebels abandoned the fort so fast that they left their recently prepared dinner. Smith and General Wallace enjoyed a meal of a block of pork "done to a turn" and cornbread. Across the river, they saw the United States flag flying over Fort Henry [4]

Flag Officer
Andrew H. Foote 
In the time it had taken for Smith's forces to reach Fort Heiman, Foote's seven-gunboat flotilla had bombarded Fort Henry into submission. Foote deployed the four ironclads in a line abreast, followed by the three wooden ships. Foote kept the "timber clad" gunboats away from the fort and fired from long-range on the works. The flagship USS Essex opened fire at 1,700 yards, and the artillery battle began. The other gunboats started shelling the fort, and Henry's guns returned fire. The gunships slowly approached the fort until they were within 600 yards of the Rebel batteries when "the fire both from the gunboats and fort increased in rapidity and accuracy of range." About twenty minutes before the fort surrendered, the Essex "received a shot in her boilers, which resulted in wounding, by scalding, 29 officers, and men, including commander Porter." The shot forced the disabled Essex out of the line. The firing continued with "unabated rapidity and effect upon the three gunboats" as they "continued to approach the fort with their destructive fire until the rebel flag was hauled down, after a very severe and closely contested action of one hour and fifteen minutes." General Tilghman had no choice except to surrender, and he sent a boat containing his adjutant general and captain of engineers to request a meeting with the flag officer. The fort was so badly flooded that a small boat was able to sail through the sally port [5] to pick up Tilghman for the surrender ceremony on the Cincinnati. The evacuating force left all of its artillery and equipment behind. Foote reported taking "the general, his staff and 60 or 70 men as prisoners,[6] and a hospital ship containing 60 invalids, together with the fort and its effects, mounting twenty guns, mostly of heavy caliber, with barracks and tents capable of accommodating 15,000 men, and sundry articles." Flag Officer Foote commented, "The excessively muddy roads and high stage of water" altered the army's role in the attack and "prevented the Army reaching the rear of the fort to make a demonstration simultaneously with the Navy" until after Foote had taken possession of the fort.[7]
The Union victory was mostly due to the flooded condition of the fort. The low elevation of the Rebel guns only allowed their shells to hit the ships where their armor was strongest. As Foote pointed out in his report to General Halleck, except for skirmishes the day before and pursuit of the fleeing Confederates, it was a victory won by the Union navy. While the flag officer and the new city class gunboats claimed the victory, both the army and navy were proud of the successful amphibious operation.
Buoyed by the easy victory, Grant sent a triumphant dispatch to Halleck:
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF CAIRO,Fort Henry, February 6, 1862.
Fort Henry is ours. The gunboats silenced the batteries before the investment was completed. I think the garrison must have commenced the retreat last night. Our cavalry followed, finding two guns abandoned in the retreat.
 I shall take and destroy Fort Donelson on the 8th and return to Fort Henry.
U. S. GRANT,Brigadier-General.Maj. Gen. H. W. HALLECK, Saint Louis, Mo.[8]
Last Fall, I had the opportunity to return to Fort Donelson and discovered the Fort Heiman unit of the National Battlefield.

Entrance to Fort Heiman
Markers along the road explain the role of the fort in the Civil War.
Description of the Unfinished Fort prior to the Battle of Fort Henry

Along the road with remains of earthworks

The fort was under Union control after the Battle of Fort Henry

General Forest conducted a raid on the Union Works

Video 1 on earthworks

Video 2 on earthworks


[1James Knight, Battle of Fort Donelson (Charleston: History Press, 2011), 70. 

[2] Grant, U. S. Orders to C. F. Smith, January 31, 1862, Official Records, Ser. 1 - Vol. 7, 575. 
[3] Knight, Fort Donelson, 73.
[4] Knight, Fort Donelson, 80.

[5] A sally port is a secure, controlled entryway of a fortification. Sally port,, Accessed 15 October 2012.

[6] Other accounts say 12 officers and 82 men surrendered with 15 men killed and 20 wounded.

[7] Foote, A. H. Report to H. W. Halleck, February 7, 1862, Official Records, Ser. 1 - Vol. 7, 122-124.

[8] Grant, U. S. Note to H. W. Halleck, February 6, 1862, Official Records, Ser. 1 - Vol. 7, 124.