Belmont, Fort Henry, and Fort Donelson

Updated 06/03/04

Western ACW Books

This was Grant's first campaign in charge of what would become the famed Army of the Tennessee. Forts Henry and Donelson controlled the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, respectively. The Rebels had sited Fort Henry on low, wet ground and had not completed the work when Grant's men showed up. It was a short contest, mainly won by the U.S. gunboats. The Rebels retreated east to Fort Donelson and Grant followed. He had to send his gunboats all the way back down the Tennessee, move via the Ohio River to the Cumberland, and then move upstream on the Cumberland to attack Fort Donelson. This wasn't quite the foregone conclusion that Fort Henry was, and some serious fighting took place. The Confederates even had an escape route open for a period of time but inexplicably failed to use it. Hence the legend of "Unconditional Surrender" Grant was born and the Confederates lost 15,000 troops they could not afford to lose at this critical early juncture of the war.

Stephen D. Engle

Stephen D. Engle's Struggle for the Heartland takes the latest scholarship on "the campaigns from Fort Henry to Corinth" and ties the military, political, and social issues faced during the campaign into an efficient and readable discussion of these events.  The book is an entry in the University of Nebraska Press' Great Campaigns of the Civil War series of books and covers the time frame of the military campaign from Fort Henry to Corinth, including the Battle of Shiloh.  Rather than focusing solely on military events, however, Engle provides a large amount of coverage to social and political considerations as well.  The result, then, is a balanced overview of a campaign in which there was a "struggle for the heartland" of the Confederacy.

251 pp., 8 maps

Read the full review HERE.

The Campaign for Fort Donelson


Benjamin F. Cooling
This is one of the books in the National Park Service's "Civil War Series". It is most likely only available at Civil War related National Park Service bookstores. Even though I live in southern Illinois, I actually picked up my copy in Fredericksburg, Virginia for $5.95. This would be a great book to pick up before you head to Fort Donelson National Battlefield. 51 pp., 5 maps

Unconditional Surrender: The Capture of Forts Henry and Donelson


Spencer C. Tucker
I was very disappointed with this book. It is aimed mainly at children of the upper elementary school level, so it is very simplistic. Buy Cooling's book (not the pamphlet above but the actual book he wrote) and/or Gott's book on the Campaign instead. This one is for the kiddies. 136 pp., 7 maps

Forts Henry and Donelson: The Key to the Confederate Heartland

Benjamin F. Cooling
Updated 08/18/03 This was a great book. I purchased it about a week ago and could not put it down. The explanations of the Campaign and the fighting were excellent. This is the book I was expecting Unconditional Surrender to be. The only shortcoming is the maps. They are adequate, but that's it. They only go down to Brigade level, which is not good enough for these small battles. More detail is desired. However, with that said, this book is a must have. It is the only really good book on this campaign out there. Until something with better maps comes along, this is the one to own. 354 pp., 7 maps

Where the South Lost the War: An Analysis of the Fort Henry-Fort Donelson Campaign, February 1862

Kendall D. Gott

Updated 06/03/04 Gott’s book is a slightly revisionist view of the Henry-Donelson Campaign and was a very good read. It contains 346 pages, of which 280 are text, with the rest dedicated to two appendices, notes, bibliography, and index. This is a solid entry in the study of the early War in the West, and I highly recommend it to anyone wishing to learn more about this area. I thoroughly enjoyed Gott's book. He presents his arguments in a clear-cut way, and touches on each in detail. His view is revisionist in that Buckner and Johnston are more to blame than Pillow or Floyd, but he presents his arguments in a thought-provoking way and has led me to change some of my previously held views on Henry and Donelson. The maps, 17 in all, 10 on Fort Donelson, are pretty good, going to Brigade level. Gott's writing style is very readable and he kept my interest throughout. This book is at least the equal of Benjamin F. Cooling's book on the same subject, and here I feel I owe it to prospective buyers to mention something I saw in some other review (if you know who said this let me know and I'll credit them here). Gott's title chapters are extremely similar in wording to Cooling's. Whether this was some form of intentional tribute to Cooling, or was something else, is left up to readers to decide. The other reviewer mentioned that in addition to the titles, Gott also had some passages in the book that may have paraphrased Cooling too closely. I tend to believe that Gott is only guilty of slightly overusing Cooling as a source for his book. Regardless, Gott clearly draws some different conclusions from Cooling, and the result is an interesting read. I would even recommend reading the two books back to back to see the differences. 346 pp., 17 maps

For a full and lengthy review and summary, click HERE.

The Battle of Belmont: Grant Strikes South

Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr.
NEW 05/19/04 I just recently bought this book. I will review it at a later date. It is the only book I know of which focuses on Grant's first battle.