From Ohio History Central
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The Northern victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson were the first significant ones for the Union in the western theater of the war. They also gave the Northern military unfettered access to the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, allowing the Union to gain deeper access into the South and an easier means to transport troops and supplies. These victories enhanced Northern morale, including that of Ohioans. Previously, many Northerners were demoralized by Southern victories at the Battles of First Bull Run and Ball's Bluff in 1861. The Battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson also signaled Grant's ascendancy as a prominent military leader for the North.