Doc. 89. the murder of negro troops.
Okalona, Mississippi, June 14, 1864.There is but one fact significant above all others in connection with the recent victory of General Forrest--it is the first which has been won by the smaller over the larger force, where the inequality in numbers was so great that every participant in the struggle must have been conscious of the relative strength of the combatants. Strategy, Forrest's name, and confidence in their leader, won the day. The Yankees and negroes opposed Forrest in Middle  Tennessee, and came forth simply to slaughter the helpless, to plunder and desolate the country. Forrest's strength in the contest was about three thousand five hundred men. The number of negroes and whites is not accurately ascertained. Prisoners say that their force was twelve or fifteen thousand. Telegraphic despatches have given the general result of the battle, but many days must elapse before the details are known. Prisoners are constantly brought in by the country people. Very few negroes it seems have been captured. Perhaps not more than forty or fifty have appeared at headquarters. Most of them fled as soon as it was known that Forrest was on the battle-field. Those that were taken escaped. (?) The soldiers say that they “lost them.” You must know that most of Forrest's men are from Western Tennessee. Before the battle fugitives from the counties through which Sturgis and his troops were advancing, came into camp detailing incidents which made men shudder who are accustomed to scenes of violence and bloodshed. I cannot relate the stories of these poor frightened people. Robbery, rapine, and the assassination of men and women, were the least of crimes committed, while the “Avengers of Fort Pillow” overran and desolated the country. Rude unlettered men, who had fought at Shiloh, and in many subsequent battles, wept like children when they heard of the enormities to which their mothers, sisters, and wives had been subjected by the negro mercenaries of Sturgis. The mildest, most peaceable of our soldiers became madmen when they heard how the persons of their kinswomen were violated. The negroes were regardless of the age, condition, sex, or entreaties of their victims. In one instance, the grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter, were each, in the same room, held by the drunken brutes, and subjected to outrages by the bare recital of which humanity is appalled. A young wife, enciente, taken to a negro encampment, and, tied to stakes driven in the ground, was made to minister to the hell-born passions of a dozen fiends. Death, in his mercy came to her relief. A little boy, who sought to defend his mother, was brutally bayoneted. When their savage lusts were gratified, the victims here and there were burned in their dwellings. Insanity, in some cases, came to the relief of sufferings such as never before were inflicted upon human creatures by remorseless fiends in human shape. Terror, and the agony of hopeless shame, and famine, and fire, and blood, and the assassination of the helpless and unoffending, marked the progress of the “Avengers of Fort Pillow.” It is not strange that negro prisoners were “lost.” The whites who led them on and incited them to these damnable deeds, deserve a more terrible punishment. Yet we have sent three thousand of those white men to prison to be exchanged. Simple justice demands their instant execution by the hangman's rope. You have heard that our soldiers buried negroes alive at Fort Pillow. This is true. At the first fire after Forrest's men scaled the walls, many of the negroes threw down their arms and fell as if they were dead. They perished in the pretence, and could only be restored at the point of the bayonet. To resuscitate some of them, more terrified than the rest, they were rolled into the trenches made as receptacles for the fallen. Vitality was not restored till breathing was obstructed, and then the resurrection began. On these facts is based the pretext for the crimes committed by Sturgis, Grierson, and their followers. You must remember, too, that in the extremity of their terror, or for other reasons, the Yankees and negroes in Fort Pillow neglected to haul down their flag. In truth, relying upon their gunboats, the officers expected to annihilate our forces after we had entered the fortifications. They did not intend to surrender. A terrible retribution, in any event, has befallen the ignorant, deluded Africans.--Atlanta Appeal, July, 1864.