Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Fort Pillow Massacre


1885 color poster of the "Fort Pillow Massacre".

The Battle of Fort Pillow, also known as the Fort Pillow Massacre, was fought on April 12, 1864, at Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River in Henning, Tennessee, during the American Civil War. The battle ended with a massacre of surrendered Federal black troops by soldiers under the command of Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Military historian David J. Eicher concluded, "Fort Pillow marked one of the bleakest, saddest events of American military history."

Conflicting reports of what happened from 16:00 to dusk, led to controversy. Union and Confederate sources claimed that even though the Union troops surrendered, Forrest's men massacred them in cold blood. Surviving members of the garrison said that most of their men surrendered and threw down their arms, only to be shot or bayoneted by the attackers, who repeatedly shouted, "No quarter! No quarter!" The Joint Committee On the Conduct of the War immediately investigated the incident and concluded that the Confederates shot most of the garrison after it had surrendered. A 2002 study by Albert Castel concluded that the Union forces were indiscriminately massacred after Fort Pillow "had ceased resisting or was incapable of resistance." Historian Andrew Ward in 2005 reached the conclusion that an atrocity in the modern sense occurred at Fort Pillow, including the murders of fleeing black civilians, but that the event was not premeditated nor officially sanctioned by Confederate commanders.
Of the 585–605 men present, the Union losses were reported as 277–297 dead. Some scholars, however, believe these reports were exaggerated (Jordan). It is obvious that the race of the soldiers affected casualties. Of the black members of the garrison, only 58 (around 20%) were marched away as prisoners; 168 (almost 60%) white soldiers were taken prisoner. Not all of the prisoners who were shot were black – Major Bradford was apparently among those shot after he surrendered. Confederate anger at the thought of blacks fighting them, and their initial reluctance to surrender (because many of the black troops believed they would only be killed if they surrendered in Federal uniform) resulted in a tragedy.
The Confederates evacuated Fort Pillow that evening, so they gained little except a temporary disruption of Union operations. The "Fort Pillow Massacre" was thereafter used as a Union rallying cry and cemented resolve to see the war through to its conclusion.


“I worked on the barn frame nearly all day.  I took the Holstein cow to bull about 5 o’clock.  Was a little rainy about two hours this morning.  The day since that has been pleasant.”


“I went up town this morning with the milk and worked in the barn rest of the day.  I got out nearly all the girts and rafters.  It has rained nearly all day and some of the time hard.”
Leesah

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