As C.F. Smith had reported, Fort Henry was poorly sited, and the rising river had already put its lower level out of action. Commodore Foote didn’t even have to wait for Grant’s ground troops to get there; he took the fort with the gunboats alone.
The American Civil War reported Foote’s orders to his gunboats earlier, and they’re telling — he was confident he could take the fort, and planning how to follow up on that action. His confidence was justified.
From the Official Record:
U.S. FLAG SHIP CINCINNATI, OFF FORT HENRY,
TENNESSEE RIVER, Feb. 6, 1862.
The gunboats under my command, the Essex, commander PORTER: the Carondelet, Commander WALKE; he Cincinnati, Commander STEMBEL; the St. Louis, Lieut.-Commanding PAULDING; the Conestoga, Lieut.-Commanding PHELPS; the Taylor, Lieut.-Commanding GWINN, and the Lexington, Lieut.-Commanding SHIRK, after a severe and rapid fire of one hour and a quarter, have captured Fort Henry, and have taken Gen. LLOYD TILGHMAN and his Staff, with sixty men, as prisoners.
The surrender to the gunboats was unconditional, as we kept an open fire upon the enemy until their flag was struck.
In half an hour after the surrender, I handed the fort and prisoners over to Gen. GRANT, commanding the army, on his arrival at the fort in force.
The Essex had a shot in her boilers, after fighting most effectually for two-thirds of the action, and was obliged to drop down the river. I hear that several of her men were scalded to death, including the two pilots.
She, with the other gunboats, officers and men’ fought with the greatest gallantry.
The Cincinnati received thirty-one shots, and had one killed and eight wounded, two seriously.
The fort, with twenty guns and seventeen mortars, was defended by Gen. TILGHMAN with the most determined gallantry.
I will write as soon as possible.
I have sent Lieut.-Commanding PHILLIPS and three gunboats after the rebel gunboats.
(Signed,) A.H. FOOTE, Flag-Officer.