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Tennessee in the Civil War
Tennessee in the Civil War

Selected Contemporary Accounts of Military and Other Events, Month by Month

Fort Pillow Tennessee


American Civil War
April 12, 1864


  The war's single most brutal incident involving black troops took place at Fort Pillow. Publicized Congressional inquiries determined that many Colored Troops in the Union fort were massacred after having surrendered to Confederate attackers. Some black units responded with the avenging battle cry, "Remember Fort Pillow" in subsequent retaliations  
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Nathan Bedford Forrest's Escort And Staff
The CSA escort company and staff officers of Nathan Bedford Forrest were held in awe by men on both sides of the conflict during the war and long after, and they continue to be held in esteem as figures as legendary as Forrest himself. Not merely guards or couriers, these men were an elite force who rode harder and fought more fiercely than any others

In April 1864, the Union garrison at Fort Pillow, a Confederate-built earthen fortification and a Union-built inner redoubt, overlooking the Mississippi River about forty river miles above Memphis, comprised 295 white Tennessee troops and 262 U.S. Colored Troops, all under the command of Major Lionel F. Booth.

Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked the fort on April 12 with a cavalry division of approximately 2,500 men. Forrest seized the older outworks, with high knolls commanding the Union position, to surround Booth's force. Rugged terrain prevented the gunboat New Era from providing effective fire support for the Federals. The garrison was unable to depress its artillery enough to cover the approaches to the fort Rebel sharpshooters, on the surrounding knolls, began firing into the fort killing Booth.

Major William F. Bradford then took over command of the garrison. The Confederates launched a determined attack at 11:00 am, occupying more strategic locations around the fort, and Forrest demanded unconditional surrender. Bradford asked for an hour for consultation, and Forrest granted twenty minutes. 

Bradford refused surrender and the Confederates renewed the attack, soon overran the fort, and drove the Federals down the river's bluff into a deadly crossfire. Casualties were high and only sixty-two of the U.S. Colored Troops survived the fight. Many accused the Confederates of perpetrating a massacre of the black troops, and that controversy continues today. The Confederates evacuated Fort Pillow that evening so they gained little from the attack except a temporary disruption of Union operations.

The "Fort Pillow Massacre"  became a Union rallying cry and cemented resolve to see the war through to its conclusion.

Result(s): Confederate victory

Location: Lauderdale County

Campaign: Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee and Kentucky (1864)

Date(s): April 12, 1864

Principal Commanders: Major Lionel F. Booth and Major William F. Bradford [US]; Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest [CS]

Forces Engaged: Detachments from three units (approx. 600) [US]; Brig. General James R. Chalmers's 1st Division, Forrest's Cavalry Corps [CS]

Estimated Casualties: 654 total (US 574; CS 80)



A Grand Army of Black Men: Letters from African-American Soldiers in the Union Army 1861-1865
Almost 200,000 African-American soldiers fought for the Union in the Civil War. Although most were illiterate ex-slaves, several thousand were well educated, free black men from the northern states

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The Civil War

The Civil War
Introduces young readers to the harrowing true story of the American Civil War and its immediate aftermath. A surprisingly detailed battle-by-battle account of America's deadliest conflict ensues, culminating in the restoration of the Union followed by the tragic assassination of President Lincoln
The Fort Pillow Massacre, April 12, 1864
The Fort Pillow Massacre, April 12, 1864
12 in. x 9 in.
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Engraved Silver Tone / Gold Tone Finish and Wooden Grips - Replica of Revolver Used by Both USA / Union and CSA / Confederate Forces
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Take command of either Confederate or Union troops and command them to attack from the trees, rally around the general, or do any number of other realistic military actions. The AI reacts to your commands as if it was a real Civil War general, and offers infinite replayability. The random-scenario generator provides endless variations on the battles

Civil War History Colored Book Titles


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The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union
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A House Divided: The Antebellum Slavery Debates in America, 1776-1865

An excellent overview of the antebellum slavery debate and its key issues and participants. The most important abolitionist and proslavery documents written in the United States between the American Revolution and the Civil War

Black Confederates
It was illegal for Blacks to carry arms until March of 1865, and numerous Confederate Government documents attest to the illegality of using slaves and free Blacks in that capacity
War in Kentucky: From Shiloh to Perryville by James Lee McDonough
By mid 1862, Union gains in the Mississippi Valley and in Tennessee and Kentucky had brought the Confederacy to a point of strategic crisis. This valuable addition to the growing literature on the Civil War in the West tells how the Union then failed to press home its advantage while the Confederacy failed to force Kentucky into the Confederacy. The climax of these events was the little-known Battle of Perryville, in which a greatly inferior Southern force under Braxton Bragg managed a draw against Don Carlos Buell's Union army but also effectively terminated the Confederate invasion of Kentucky. McDonough has researched thoroughly and written clearly, making this book informative and accessible to a wide range of Civil War students.
The Shipwreck of Their Hopes: The Battles for Chattanooga
Cozzens follows up his magisterial account of the Battle of Chickamauga, This Terrible Sound (1992), with an equally authoritative study of the Chattanooga campaign that followed it. Braxton Bragg (who sometimes seems unfit to have been at large on the public streets, let alone commanding armies) failed to either destroy or starve out the Union Army of the Cumberland. In due course, superior Northern resources and strategy--not tactics; few generals on either side come out looking like good tacticians--progressively loosened the Confederate cordon around the city. Finally, the Union drove off Bragg's army entirely in the famous Battle of Missionary Ridge, which was a much more complex affair than previous, heroic accounts make it. Like its predecessor on Chickamauga, this is such a good book on Chattanooga that it's hard to believe any Civil War collection will need another book on the subject for at least a generation.

Sources:
U.S. National Park Service
U.S. Library of Congress.
City of Alexandria Virginia


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