This Week in the Civil War - #806
On April 12, 1864 1500 cavalry troops of Nathan Bedford Forrest captured Fort Pillow, Tennessee on the Mississippi River. Pillow was garrisoned by 557 Union troops, including 262 Negro soldiers. Forrest’s cavalry quickly overran the fort; later Union testimony acknowledged that the fort capitulated quickly, with the victorious Confederates then indiscriminately killing many of their black captives. Confederate military and civilian authorities denied the allegations, proclaiming the charges were simply “hysterical propaganda” by the North. In truth, 231 Union troops were killed, 100 wounded, and 226 captured at Fort Pillow. There was much confusion about the attack, and there were legitimate casualties and, no doubt, some abusive actions after the fort’s capitulation. The very words “Fort Pillow” would for many years after the war taint race relations in the United States.