....on the morning of February 6, 1862 as they (Captain Taylor's artillery crew) watched the rest of Fort Henry's garrison march away towards Fort Donelson. At 10:50 a.m., the assault flotilla of Flag Officer Foote - including the ironclads USS Essex, Cincinnati, Carondelet, St . Louis and timberclads USS Tyler, Conestoga, and Lexington - left Bailey's Landing (just south of Byrd's Creek area) and chugged upriver towards Fort Henry. About noon, the Federal ironclads sighted the fort and at 12:34 p.m., the assault was initiated by the USS Cincinnati, firing its 8-inch bow-mounted Dahlgren cannon; the other ironclads soon joined in.
General Tilghman and his staff took position at the center battery in Fort Henry - the approximately 70 Confederates in the fort had only 11 cannons facing the river and the Federal flotilla while Flag Officer Foote had a combined total of 54 cannons at his disposal. As documented in The Fall of Fort Henry (1963) by Edwin C. Bearss, General Tilghman refused to allow his men to return fire until he could evaluate the effectiveness of the Federal bombardment; he then told Captain Taylor to have his men begin firing. Captain Taylor assigned a target to each gun captain and told them their pieces must be constantly trained on that particular boat. The Fort Henry Columbiad fired first, followed by the rebored 24-pounder, and the other guns as the ironclads closed in.
Foote's flagship Cincinnati took numerous hits as did the ironclad Essex, including a shot from the Confederate Columbiad that exploded the Essex' boiler and killed several of its crew with scalding steam. That single 128-lb. shot resulted in 10 killed, 23 wounded, and 5 missing from the crew of the Essex. While Pvt. George W. Byrd and his Confederate comrades were still cheering the fate of the Essex, the rebored 24-pounder rifle in the fort suddenly burst, killing or disabling its crew. Shortly thereafter, another disaster struck the valiant Confederates when the Columbiad was accidently spiked by a jammed priming wire. By this time, several of the 32-pounders had been knocked out by the Federal cannonfire and the remaining ironclads raked the parapets of Fort Henry with destructive fire. Pvt. Byrd (Kenneths' ggg-uncle) and his comrades (Joe Allports ggg-grandfather) understandably shrank from their stations in accordance with self-preservation. At approximately 1:30 p.m., General Tilghman threw off his coat and jumped up to man one of the remaining 32-pounders in an attempt to rally his men; he personally aimed two shots at the Cincinnati , causing her to alter her course. The three remaining ironclads now closed to within 600 yards of the fort, their 8-inch Dahlgrens actually blowing chunks out of Fort Henry's parapets.
Throughout the battle, the Tennessee River had continued to rise and now actually stood calf-deep within Fort Henry. General Tilghman now reluctantly decided to surrender at about 2:00 p.m. and had Captain Taylor strike the Confederate colors from the main flagstaff. Flag Officer Foote then received General Tilghman aboard the Cincinnati where Tilghman greeted Foote by saying "I am glad to surrender to so gallant an officer . " Foote rather unchivaIrously replied back " You do perfectly right, sir, in surrendering, but you should have blown my boat out of the water before I would have surrendered to you."