previous next


General Washburn to General Forrest.

headquarters District of West Tennessee, Memphis, Tenn., July 2, 1864.
Major-General N. B. Forrest, commanding Confederate Forces near Tupelo:
General: Your communications of the twentieth and twenty-third ult. are received. Of the tone and temper of both I do not complain. The desperate fortunes of a bad cause excuse much irritation of temper, and I pass it by. Indeed, I received it as a favorable augury, and as evidence that you are not indifferent to the opinions of the civilized world.

In regard to the Fort Pillow affair, it is useless to prolong the discussion.

I shall forward your report which you did me the favor to enclose, to my government, and you will receive the full benefit of it.

The record is now made up, and a candid world will judge of it. I beg leave to send you herewith a copy of the report of the Investigating Committee from the United States Congress on the affair. In regard to the treatment of Major Bradford, I refer you to the testimony contained in that report, from which you will see that he was not attempting to escape when shot. It will be easy to bring the perpetrators of the outrage to justice if you so desire.

I will add to what I have heretofore said, that I have it from responsible and truthful citizens of Brownsville, that when Major Bradford was started under an escort from your headquarters at Jackson, General Chalmers remarked that “he would never reach there.”

You call attention, apparently as an offset to this affair of Major Bradford, to outrages said to have been committed by Colonel Fielding Hurst and others of his regiment (Sixth Tennessee cavalry). The outrages, if committed as stated by you, are disgraceful and abhorrent to every brave and sensitive mind.

On receiving your letter I sent at once for Colonel Hurst, and read him the extract pertaining to him. He indignantly denies the charge against him, and until you furnish me the names of the parties murdered, and the time when, and the place where the offence was committed, with the names of witnesses, it is impossible for me to act. When you do that, you may rest assured that I shall use every effort in my power to have the parties accused tried, and if found guilty, properly punished.

In regard to the treatment of colored soldiers, it is evidently useless to discuss the question further.

Your attempt to shift from yourself upon me the responsibility of the inauguration of a “worse than savage warfare,” is too strained and far-fetched to require any response. The full and cumulative evidence contained in the Congressional Report I herewith forward, points to you as the person responsible for the barbarisms already committed.

It was your soldiers who, at Fort Pillow, raised the black flag, and while shooting, bayoneting, and otherwise maltreating the Federal prisoners in their hands, shouted to each other in the hearing of their victims that it was done “by Forrest's orders.”

Thus far I cannot learn that you have made any disavowal of these barbarities.

Your letters to me inform me confidently that you have always treated our prisoners according to the rules of civilized warfare, but your disavowal of the Fort Pillow barbarities, if you intend to make any, should be full, clear, explicit, and published to the world.

The United States Government is, as it always has been, lenient and forbearing, and it is not yet too late for you to secure for yourself and your soldiers a continuance of the treatment due to honorable warriors, by a public disclaimer of barbarities already committed, and a vigorous effort to punish the wretches who committed them.

But I say to you now, clearly and unequivocally, that such measure of treatment as you mete out to Federal soldiers will be measured to you again.

If you give no quarter, you need expect none. If you observe the rules of civilized warfare, and treat our prisoners in accordance with the laws of war, your prisoners will be treated as they ever have been, with kindness.

If you depart from these principles, you may expect such retaliation as the laws of war justify.

That you may know what the laws of war are, as understood by my government, I beg leave to enclose a copy of General Orders No. 100 from the War Department Adjutant-General's Office, Washington, April twenty-four, 1863.

I have the honor to be, sir,

Very respectfully yours,

C. C. Washburn, Major-General.

General Lee to General Washburn.

headquarters Department Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisian, Meridian, June 28, 1864.
Major-General C, C. Washburn, commanding Federal Forces at Memphis, Tennessee:
General: I am in receipt of your letter of the seventeenth inst, and have also before me the rely of Major-General Forrest thereto. Though that reply is full, and is approved by me, yet I deem it proper to communicate with you upon a subject so seriously affecting our future conduct and that of the troops under our respective commands.

Your communication is by no means respectful to me, and is by implication insulting to Major-General Forrest. This, however, is overlooked in consideration of the important character of its contents.

You assume as correct an exaggerated statement of the circumstances attending the capture of Fort Pillow, relying solely upon the evidence of those who would naturally give a distorted history of the affair.

No demand for an explanation has ever been

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
N. B. Forrest (5)
C. C. Washburn (3)
J. D. Bradford (3)
Fielding Hurst (2)
C. Washburn (1)
Henry B. Lee (1)
Chalmers (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 2nd, 1864 AD (1)
June 28th, 1864 AD (1)
April 24th, 1863 AD (1)
23rd (1)
20th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: