As to the specifics of the narrative of Foote’s gunboats attacking Fort Henry, there are perhaps two key elements that are most often overlooked. First, it is important to know Andrew Hull Foote’s history. From 1849 to 1851, Foote commanded the USS Perry, off the African coast, actively suppressing the slave trade. This experience persuaded him to support the cause of abolition, and in 1854, he published a book, Africa and the American Flag. Back in the USA, he became a frequent lecturer on the Abolitionist cause. The second element of significance is the blurred lines of command during the military operation. Foote was a Captain in the US Navy, but at the time of the attack on Fort Henry, he was actually serving under the US Army and working in close collaboration with Ulysses S. Grant.
While these historical facts can be considered merely that, they, when chosen by Walker, have poetic implications – abolitionist tendencies coming from seeing people at peace and people of different types (Navy, Army) working together for a common good. This is not to confuse the issue – the most significant element in Walker’s work is her silkscreen overlay of some sort of mound (earth, dirt, rubble, etc.) and a stylized silhouette of what could be seen as an African-American figure deep in the pile, moving.