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General Washburn to General Lee.

headquarters District of West Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee, July 3, 1864.
Lieutenant-General S. D. Lee, commanding Department Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, C. S. A., Meridian, Miss.:
General: Your letter of the twenty-eighth ult, in reply to mine of the seventeenth ult., is received.

The discourtesy which you profess to discover in my letter I utterly disclaim. Having already discussed at length, in a correspondence with Major-General Forrest, the Fort Pillow massacre, as well as the policy to be pursued in regard to colored troops, I do not regard it necessary to say more on those subjects. As you state that you fully approve of the letter sent by General Forrest to me in answer to mine of the seventeenth ult., I am forced to presume that you fully approve of his action at Fort Pillow.

Your arguments in support of that action confirm such presumption. You state that the “version given by me and my government is not true, and not sustained by the facts to the extent I indicate.” You furnish a statement of a certain Captain Young, who was captured at Fort Pillow, and is now a prisoner in your hands. How far the statement of a prisoner under duress and in the position of Captain Young should go to disprove the sworn testimony of the hundred eye-witnesses who had ample opportunity of seeing and knowing, I am willing that others shall judge.

In relying, as you do, upon this certificate of Captain Young, you confess that all better resources are at an end.

You are welcome to all the relief that that certificate is calculated to give you. Does he say that our soldiers were not inhumanly treated? No. Does he say that he was in a position to see in case they had been mistreated? No. He simply says that “he saw no ill treatment of their wounded.” If he was in a position to see and know what took place, it was easy for him to say so.

I yesterday sent to Major-General Forrest a copy of the report of the Congressional Investigating Committee, and I hope it may fall into your hands. You will find there the record of inhuman atrocities, to find a parallel for which you will search the page of history in vain. Men — white men and black men — were crucified and burned, others were hunted by bloodhounds; while others, in their anguish, were made the sport of men more cruel than the dogs by which they were hunted.

I have also sent to my government copies of General Forrest's reports, together with the certificate of Captain Young.

The record in the case is plainly made up, and I leave it. You justify and approve it, and appeal to history for precedents.

As I have said, history furnishes no parallel. True, there are instances where, after a long and protracted resistance, resulting in heavy loss to the assailing party, the garrison has been put to the sword, but I know of no such instance that did not bring dishonor upon the commander that ordered or suffered it.

There is no Englishman that would not gladly forget Badajos, nor a Frenchman that exults when Jaffa or the caves of Dahra and Shelas are spoken of. The massacre of Glencoe which the world has read of with horror for nearly two hundred years, pales into significance before the truthful recital of Fort Pillow.

The desperate defence of the Alamo was the excuse for the slaughter of its brave survivors after its surrender, yet that act was received with just execration, and we are told by the historian that it led more than anything else to the independence of Texas.

At the battle of San Jacinto the Texans rushed into action with the war cry, “Remember the Alamo,” and carried all before them.

You will seek in vain for consolation in history, pursue the inquiry as far as you may.

Your desire to shift the responsibility of the Fort Pillow massacre, or to find excuses for it, is not strange. But the responsibility still remains where it belongs, and there it will remain.

In my last letter to General Forrest I stated that the treatment which Federal soldiers received would be their guide hereafter, and that if you give no quarter you need expect none. If you observe the rules of civilized warfare I shall rejoice at it, as no one can regret more than myself a resort to such measures as the laws of war justify towards an enemy that gives no quarter.

Your remark that our colored soldiers “will not be regarded as prisoners of war, but will be retained and humanely treated,” indicating that you consider them as of more worth and importance than your own soldiers who are now in our hands, is certainly very complimentary to the colored troops, though but a tardy acknowledgment of their bravery and devotion as soldiers; but such fair words can neither do justice to the colored soldiers who were butchered at Fort Pillow after they had surrendered to their victors, nor relieve yourself, General Forrest, and the troops serving under you, from the fearful responsibility now resting upon you for those wanton and unparalleled barbarities.

I concur in your remarks that if the black flag is once raised, there can be no distinction so far as our soldiers are concerned. No distinction in this regard as to color is known to the laws of war; and you may rest assured that the outrages we complain of are felt by our white soldiers, no less than by our black ones, as insults to their common banner, the flag of the United States.

I will close by a reference to your statement that many of our colored soldiers “are yet wandering over the country, attempting to return to their masters.” If this remark is intended for a joke, it is acknowledged as a good one; but, if stated as a fact, permit me to correct your mismisapprehensions

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