Fort Pillow State Historic Site



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State battlefield








The Battle-

(April 12th, 1864)


        The Battle/Siege of Fort Pillow has come down through history as one of the most atrocious and controversial actions of the Confederate war effort.  This battle, which would later become known as the Fort Pillow Massacre, served only to blight the reputation of C.S. General Nathan Bedford Forrest and strengthen the resolve of African-American soldiers during the war.  The controversial battle began on April 12th, 1864, when General Forrest, in command of around 1,500 Confederate soldiers, besieged the Union-held Mississippi River Fort Pillow. 
         Fort Pillow was one of many forts that were used to supply Federal gunboats patrolling the Mississippi, and it's capture would to some harm to Federal naval operations on the river.  The fort's garrison consists of two groups of men who were absolutely hated by Forrest and most Southerners: White southern men who had betrayed the South and joined the Union cause, and African-American soldiers who fought against their formal owners.  The Fort was commanded by U.S. Major William Bradford, who refused to surrender to Forrest and his greatly numbers.  Forrest ordered his men over the walls of the fort, but Forrest himself did not personally command the units.  
        What happened next would horrify Northerners:  Most of the Union garrisoned was killed, but it was the black soldiers who suffered the most from the enraged Confederates.  Almost half the garrison was put to death, with the casualties of the colored soldiers being disproportionately high.  In later years, the Committee on the Conduct of War would officially declare the battle a massacre.  For the next year of fighting, "Remember Fort Pillow" would become the battle cry for African-American soldiers.


The Battlefield-


Fort Pillow State Historic Site is located in Western Tennessee, on the Mississippi River.  The battlefield is located off of Highway 51, on Highway 87 West.

        Fort Pillow State Historic Site is owned and administered by the State of Tennessee.  The Fort is actually quite secluded, and occupies a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  As you enter the park, you drive by a series of impressive earthworks which were once used by the Union soldiers.  A small museum interprets the battle for visitors, and then a short walk through the forest and over a swinging bridge leads to the restored fort where so many soldiers lost their lives so many years ago.  The peaceful settings offer little insight into the horrors that were once experienced here.


Picture Gallery-


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