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The Union Takes the Mississippi River During the Civil War

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012

The Union Takes the Mississippi River

In February of 1862, Union troops captured Forts Henry and Donelson and the city of Nashville, Tennessee. These successes accomplished three things. First, the North gained control of Kentucky and western Tennessee, a power base from which it could invade the western half of the South. Second, it gave the Union troops confidence in their ultimate victory. Third, it brought a fierce, determined, and courageous officer named Ulysses S. Grant into prominence.

In the spring of 1862, General Grant marched his troops toward the Mississippi. They broke camp near a little church called Shiloh to wait for reinforcements. The Confederates took them by surprise with a fierce attack. Grant’s troops were pushed back to the Tennessee River, but he refused to surrender. When Union reinforcements arrived during the night, the battle began again. After two days of terrible fighting, the Union won. Victory at Shiloh gave the North the advantage in the fight for control of the Mississippi River and the river valley. Both sides had lost thousands of men. The capture of New Orleans by the U.S. Navy, which steadily shelled the two forts that guarded the approach to the city until the Confederates surrendered, completed the Union plan to take control of the Mississippi River and cut the South in two.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

The Civil War Practice Test

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