Fort Pillow: Was It a Massacre? Essays

Fort Pillow: Was It a Massacre? Essays

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The War Between the States was full of atrocities that Americans had not

experienced before. One incident that stirred up the Union occurred at Fort Pillow,

Tennessee. The numbers of those who perished at Fort Pillow were relatively small

compared to battles such as that at Fort Donelson where casualties numbered

17,398.1 The total dead after Confederate forces took Fort Pillow over was more than

half of the Union soldiers, the majority of them being black. The high death rate

caused Union officials to call it an outright massacre. Was it a massacre or a result of

war?
The battle that came under scrutiny occurred about forty miles from Memphis on

the Tennessee side of the Mississippi River at Fort Pillow. The Union continued to

maintain garrisons all over the south due to Confederate raiders, though most of the

fighting was then focused in Georgia, with an eye on the taking of Atlanta. Those

involved in the battle at Fort Pillow and the result of the fight there came under scrutiny

of the United States Congress with controversial results.

Union forces at Fort Pillow were under the command of Major Lionel F. Booth

who had been a member of the regular army before the outbreak of the war. During the

battle between Booth’s troops within the fort and those of the attacking Confederate

troops, command of the fort came under Major William Bradford. Major Bradford took

charge when Major Booth was killed by a sharpshooter as he was making rounds and

giving encouragement to his troops.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, a cavalry commander from the state of

Tennessee, was in command of the Confederate troops that attacked Fort Pillow. He had

been in the area...


... middle of paper ...


...rved for the Union that the United States

Congress was forced to make inquiries into the event. After an investigation that

contained both personal and written testimony, Congress’ final decision of the incident

did nothing to change what occurred in the minds of the families of the slain and Union

forces that took up the rally cry, “Remember Fort Pillow” as they charged into battle.






Works Cited

1 http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/tn002.htm
2 General Thomas Jordan and J.P. Pryor, Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and of Forrest’s Cavalry (New York: Da Capo Press, 1996), 422, 423
3 http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/abpp/battles/tn030.htm
4 Robert Selph Henry, Nathan Bedford Forrest First with the Most, (New York: Konecky and Konecky, 1992), 250.
5 http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/abpp/battles/tn030.htm
6 Jordan and Pryor, 424, 425

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