The Tennessee River in the Civil War

The Tennessee River in the Civil War (HM1EX9)

Location: New Johnsonville, TN 37134 Humphreys County
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Country: United States of America
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N 36° 3.768', W 87° 57.984'

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The Tennessee River flows from the mountains of east Tennessee to the Ohio River at Paducah, Kentucky. In the 19th century it was navigable from the Ohio to Great Bend at Muscle Shoals in northern Alabama. Steamboats and gunboats could move freely from Paducah to Alabama, bringing supplies and soldiers to whichever side controlled the river.

The Confederates Occupy Columbus

In a monumental blunder, the Confederates occupied neutral Columbus, Kentucky, in September 1861. Federal forces quickly responded by seizing Paducah and Smithland, Kentucky, at the mouths of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.

Forts Henry and Heiman Fall

The Confederates constructed two forts on the Tennessee River, Fort Henry on the east bank in Tennessee and Fort Heiman on the west bank in Kentucky. The Union navy made short work of both. Gunboats again steamed as far south as Alabama, demonstrating Union might.

The Union Takes the River

Combined Union army-navy operations proved successful at Fort Henry, Fort Donelson and Shiloh, blows from which the Confederacy never recovered. Once Union forces took the Tennessee River it became part of a supply network for Federal armies in the west. The river and railroad connection at Johnsonville made it a key component in the Union supply line.

(lower left) Union engineers built strong fortifications in Puducah, strengthening the army's hold on the mouth of the Tennessee River.(upper right) Fort Henry was no match for the Union's "brown water navy." Ironclad gunboats shelled the fort into submission. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
HM NumberHM1EX9
Placed ByTennessee State Parks
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, September 11th, 2014 at 11:48pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 412968 N 3991346
Decimal Degrees36.06280000, -87.96640000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 36° 3.768', W 87° 57.984'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds36° 3' 46.08" N, 87° 57' 59.04" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)931
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 800 Museum Rd, New Johnsonville TN 37134, US
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