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
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.
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
4 Robert Selph Henry, Nathan Bedford Forrest First with the Most, (New York: Konecky and Konecky, 1992), 250.
6 Jordan and Pryor, 424, 425
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