The Massacre at Fort Pillow

April 30, 1864, page 284

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We give on page 284 a sketch of the horrible Massacre at Fort Pillow. The annals of savage warfare nowhere record a more inhuman, fiendish butchery than this, perpetrated by the representatives of the "superior civilization" of the States in rebellion. It can not be wondered at that our officers and soldiers in the West are determined to avenge, at all opportunities, the cold-blooded murder of their comrades; and yet we can but contemplate with pain the savage practices which rebel inhumanity thus forces upon the service. The account of the massacre as telegraphed from Cairo is as follows:

On the 12th inst. the rebel General Forrest appeared before Fort Pillow, near Columbus, Kentucky, attacking it with considerable vehemence. This was followed up by frequent demands for its surrender, which were refused by Major Booth, who commanded the fort. The fight was then continued up until 3 P.M., when Major Booth was killed, and the rebels, in large numbers, swarmed over the intrenchments.  Up to that time comparatively few of our men had been killed; but immediately upon occupying the place the rebels commenced an indiscriminate butchery of the whites and blacks, including the wounded.  Both white and black were bayoneted, shot, or sabred; even dead bodies were horribly mutilated, and children of seven and eight years, and several negro women killed in cold blood. Soldiers unable to speak from wounds were shot dead, and their bodies rolled down the banks into the river. The dead and wounded negroes were piled in heaps and burned, and several citizens, who had joined our forces for protection, were killed or wounded. Out of the garrison of six hundred only two hundred remained alive.  Three hundred of those massacred were negroes; five were buried alive. Six guns were captured by the rebels, and carried off, including two 10-pound Parrotts, and two 12-pound howitzers. A large amount of stores was destroyed or carried away.

During Reconstruction, Harper’s Weekly cartoonist Thomas Nast used Fort Pillow as a symbol of the violent barbarism of former-Confederates who dominated the Southern wing of the Democratic party. The artist particularly associated Fort Pillow with General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who had been in charge of Confederate troops at the massacre.


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