Excerpt from The Capture of Fort Henry and Fort Donaldson, February, 1862
Navigable from its mouth at Paducah into Alabama, the Tennessee River was to be defended by Fort Henry, while Fort Donelson was to protect the Cumberland from Smithland on the Ohio to Nashville and beyo... nd. The latter, the capital of the state, was a point of vast importance to the southern cause, situated as it was in a rich agricultural region, and with the fer tile fields of Kentucky on the north. Both by rail and river it largely controlled the movements of the troops and supplies, and with a firm foothold in Tennessee, southern Kentucky and southern Missouri - could they hold the smaller rivers and established lines of defense - they would confine the battles of the west to their front, and be able, they hoped, to check the advance of the western armies of the Union, and as well hold the navigation of the Mississippi from Cairo to New Orleans. Both from the military and political View, in gaining the favor of the people of such sections there was much at stake, especially so as those of Kentucky were endeavoring, in a manner, to remain neutral, but all such hopes were blasted, as point after point was taken by the advancing Union armies.
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