In an attempt to open waterways further into the South, the Union decided to attack Fort Henry (on the Tennessee) and shortly thereafter Fort Donelson (on the Cumberland). For the attack at Fort Henry, US Grant was to be in charge of the land battle and Andrew Foot in charge of the water one. However, Foote’s water attack was so effective that Grant’s troops weren’t needed for the capture.
Fort Henry was already partly submerged from rising water levels and the majority of the Southern troops had been moved to Fort Donelson when Foote’s 4 ironclads and 3 timberclads attacked the fort on 6 February 1862. After a bombardment lasting a little over an hour, Fort Henry surrendered, having put one of Foote’s ironclads out of commission. Less than a week later, Foote and Grant again coordinated an attack, this time against Fort Donelson, which also surrendered. The victories over the two forts were important to Union morale and also further opened up the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers to the Union. Foote received the Thanks of Congress for his actions.