Friday, May 23, 2014

April 13, 1864 (Sunday): Fort Pillow

Battle of Fort Pillow

HEADQUARTERS SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS, Memphis, Tenn., April 13, 1864.
Brigadier General J. McARTHUR,
Commanding at Vicksburg, Miss.:
    GENERAL: Fort Pillow is reported captured yesterday about noon. This closes the river temporarily.
The Third Division, Seventeenth Army Corps, already under orders, must be hurried forward as fast as possible, as it will be necessary to retake the fort from the land side, and it is doubtful whether General Sherman will furnish any force from above.
    Forward the inclosed to Brigadier General A. J. Smith by first and quickest dispatch.
As the gun-boats are engaged in Red River, you will order two of the Marine Brigade boats to report at Memphis for duty.
    I am pretty sure that Loring's infantry is moving on North Alabama, and that most of Lee's cavalry is also above Grenada on the march north. Under these circumstances you can, if you judge it expedient, occupy Yazoo City. The proper force for this would be one regiment white infantry, two of colored, a battery, and the whole or part of Osband's cavalry.
     I have no return of forces, and cannot therefore judge what can be spared. The negro troops should not be scattered. The occupation of Yazoo City is the best protection for the Mississippi River up to Greenville.
     Your obedient servant,

     S. A. HURLBUT,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 32, Part 3, Page 348.

Confederate cavalry general James R. Chalmbers was sent by Forrest with 1500 men to attack Fort Pillow.  The fort was held by 262 African-Americans and 295 white soldiers.  The fort helped protect Union access to the Mississippi River.  On the 12th the Confederates arrived and surrounded the fort.  Forrest arrived to take command and at 10 a.m. and by 3 p.m. had his troops in place and sent in a demand for surrender.  The Union commander, Major Lionel F. Booth had been killed by a sniper, and Major William F. Bradford, his successor responded "I will not surrender."  The Confederates then overwhelmed the defenses with little difficulty.  Southern accounts say Federal losses were incurred in fighting to the river's edge.  Northern accounts say the Union troops surrendered as soon as the fort was overrun and were shot in cold blood by Confederates  shouting "No quarter!".  Most modern scholars maintain a massacre did occur, although there is still debate over the degree.  

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