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Doc. 62.-Hoisting the Black flag — official correspondence and reports.

General S. D. Lee to General Cooper.

headquarters Department Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana, Meridian, June 30, 1864
General: I have the honor to transmit copies of correspondence between General Washburn, U. S. A., General Forrest, and myself, which I consider very important, and should be laid before the Department. It will be my endeavor to avoid, as far as is consistent with my idea of the dignity of my position, resorting to such an extremity as the black flag; and the onus shall be with the Federal commander.

I would like that the onus be put where it properly belongs, before the public, should the extremity arise. The correspondence is not complete yet, and the Department will be informed of the result at the earliest practicable moment.

I am, General, yours respectfully,

S. D. Lee, Lieutenant-General. General S. Cooper, A. and L G., Richmond, Va.

General Forrest to General Washburn.

headquarters Forrest's cavalry, in the field, June 14, 1864.
Major-General Washburn, commanding United States Forces, Memphis:
General: I have the honor herewith to enclose copy of letter received from Brigadier-General Buford, commanding United States forces at Helena, Arkansas, addressed to Colonel E. W. Rucker, commanding Sixth regiment of this command; also a letter from myself to General Buford, which I respectfully request you will read and forward to him. [722]

There is a matter also to which I desire to call your attention, which, until now, I have not thought proper to make the subject of a communication. Recent events render it necessary — in fact, demand it.

It has been reported to me that all the negro troops stationed in Memphis took an oath on their knees, in the presence of Major-General Hurlbut and other officers of your army, to avenge Fort Pillow, and that they would show my troops no quarter.

Again, I have it from indisputable authority that the troops under Brigadier-General Sturgis, on their recent march from Memphis, publicly and in various places proclaimed that no quarter would be shown my men. As his troops were moved into action on the eleventh, the officers commanding exhorted their men to remember Fort Pillow, and a large majority of the prisoners we have captured from that command have voluntarily stated that they expected us to murder them, otherwise they would have surrendered in a body rather than taken to the bushes after being run down and exhausted. The recent battle of Tishemingo Creek was far more bloody than it otherwise would have been but for the fact that your men evidently expected to be slaughtered when captured, and both sides acted as though neither felt safe in surrendering even when further resistance was useless. The prisoners captured by us say they felt condemned by the announcements, etc., of their own commanders, and expected no quarter. In all my operations since the war begun, I have conducted the war on civilized principles, and desire still to do so, but it is due to my command that they should know the position you occupy and the policy you intend to pursue. I therefore respectfully ask whether my men in your hands are treated as other Confederate prisoners, also the course intended to be pursued in regard to those who may hereafter fall into your hands.

I have in my possession quite a number of wounded officers and men of General Sturgis' command, all of whom have been treated as well as we were able to treat them, and are mostly in charge of a Surgeon left at Ripley by General Sturgis to look after the wounded. Some of them are too severely wounded to be removed at present. I am willing to exchange them for any men of my command you may have, and as soon as they are able to be removed will give them safe escort through my lines in charge of the Surgeon left with them.

I made such an arrangement with Major-General Hurlbut when he was in command of Memphis, and am willing to renew it, provided it is desired, as it would be better than to subject them to the long and fatiguing delay necessary to a regular exchange at City Point, Virginia.

I am, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

N. B. Forrest, Major-General

General Washburn to General Lee.

headquarters District of West Tennessee, Memphis, Tenn., June 17, 1864.
Major-General S. D. Lee, commanding Confederate Forces near Tupelo, Miss.:
General: When I heard that the forces of Brigadier-General Sturgis had been driven back, and a portion of them probably captured, I felt considerable solicitude for the fate of the two colored regiments that formed a part of the command, until I was informed that the Confederate forces were commanded by you. When I learned that, I became satisfied that no atrocities would be committed upon those troops, but that they would receive the treatment which humanity as well as their gallant conduct demanded.

I regret to say that the hope that I entertained has been dispelled by facts which have recently come to my knowledge.

From statements that have been made to me by colored soldiers who were eye-witnesses, it would seem that the massacre of Fort Pillow had been reproduced at the late affair at Bryce's Cross-roads. The detail of the atrocities there committed I will not trouble you with. If true, and not disavowed, they must lead to consequences too fearful to contemplate. It is best that we should now have a fair understanding upon this question, of the treatment of this class of soldiers. If it is contemplated by the Confederate government to murder all colored troops that may by the chance of war fall into their hands, as was the case at Fort Pillow, it is but fair that it should be freely and frankly avowed. Within the last six weeks I have, on two occasions, sent colored troops into the field from this point. In the expectation that the Confederate government would disavow the action of their commanding General at the Fort Pillow massacre, I have forborne to issue any instructions to the colored troops as to the course they should pursue towards Confederate soldiers that might fall into their hands; but seeing no disavowal on the part of the Confederate government, but, on the contrary, laudations from the entire Southern press of the perpetrators of the massacre, I may safely presume that indiscriminate slaughter is to be the fate of colored troops that fall into your hands. But I am not willing to leave a matter of such grave import, and involving consequences so fearful, to inference, and I have therefore thought it proper to address you this, believing that you would be able to indicate the policy that the Confederate government intend to pursue hereafter on this question.

If it is intended to raise the black flag against that unfortunate race, they will cheerfully accept the issue. Up to this time no troops have fought more gallantly, and none have conducted themselves with greater propriety. They have fully vindicated their right (so long denied) to be treated as men. [723]

I hope that I have been misinformed in regard to the treatment they have received at the battle of Bryce's Cross-roads, and that the accounts received result rather from the excited imaginations of the fugitives than from actual fact.

For the government of the colored troops under my command, I would thank you to inform me, with as little delay as possible, if it is your intention, or the intention of the Confederate government, to murder colored soldiers that may fall into your hands, or treat them as prisoners of war, and subject to be exchanged as other prisoners.

I am, General, respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

C. C. Washburn, Major-General, commanding.

General Washburn to General Forrest.

headquarters District of West Tennessee, Memphis, Tenn., June 19, 1864.
Major-General N. B. Forrest, commanding Confederate Forces:
General: Your communication of the fourteenth instant is received. The letter to Brigadier-General Buford will be forwarded to him.

In regard to that part of your letter which relates to colored troops, I beg to say that I have already sent a communication on the subject to the officer in command of the Confederate forces at Tupelo.

Having understood that Major-General S. D. Lee was in command there, I directed my letter to him — a copy of it I enclose. You say in your letter that it has been reported to you that all the negro troops stationed in Memphis took an oath on their knees, in the presence of Major-General Hurlbut, and other officers of our army, to avenge Fort Pillow, and that they would show your troops no quarter.

I believe it is true that the colored troops did take such an oath, but not in the presence of General Hurlbut. From what I can learn, this act of theirs was not influenced by any white officer, but was the result of their own sense of what was due to themselves and their fellows who had been mercilessly slaughtered.

I have no doubt that they went into the field, as you allege, in the full belief that they would be murdered in case they fell into your hands. The affair of Fort Pillow fully justified that belief. I am not aware as to what they proclaimed on their late march, and it may be, as you say, that they declared that no quarter would be given to any of your men that might fall into their hands.

Your declaration that you have conducted the war, on all occasions, on civilized principles, cannot be accepted; but I receive with satisfaction the intimation in your letter that the recent slaughter of colored troops at the battle of Tishemingo Creek resulted rather from the desperation with which they fought than a predetermined intention to give them no quarter.

You must have learned by this time that the attempt to intimidate the colored troops by indiscriminate slaughter has signally failed, and that, instead of a feeling of terror, you have aroused a spirit of courage and desperation that will not down at your bidding.

I am left in doubt, by your letter, as to the course you and the Confederate Government intend to pursue hereafter in regard to colored troops, and I beg you to advise me, with as little delay as possible, as to your intentions.

If you intend to treat such of them as fall into your hands as prisoners of war, please so state; if you do not so intend, but contemplate either their slaughter or their return to slavery, please state that, so that we may have no misunderstanding hereafter. If the former is your intention, I shall receive the announcement with pleasure, and shall explain the fact to the colored troops at once, and desire that they recall the oath they have taken; if the latter is the case, then let the oath stand, and upon those who have aroused this spirit by their atrocities, and upon the Government and people who sanction it, be the consequences.

In regard to your inquiry relating to prisoners of your command in our hands, I have to state that they have always received the treatment which a great and humane Government extends to its prisoners. What course will be pursued hereafter towards them must, of course, depend on circumstances that may arise. If your command, hereafter, does nothing which should properly exclude them from being treated as prisoners of war, they will be so treated.

I thank you for your offer to exchange wounded officers and men in your hands. If you will send them in, I will exchange man for man, so far as I have the ability to do so.

Before closing this letter, I wish to call your attention to one case of unparalleled outrage and murder that has been brought to my notice, and in regard to which the evidence is overwhelming.

Among the prisoners captured at Fort Pillow was Major Bradford, who had charge of the defence of the fort after the fall of Major Booth.

After being taken prisoner, he was started, with other prisoners of war, in charge of Colonel Duckworth, for Jackson. At Brownsville they rested over night. The following morning two companies were detailed by Colonel Duckworth to proceed to Jackson with the prisoners.

After they had started, and proceeded a very short distance, five soldiers were recalled by Colonel Duckworth, and were conferred with by him; they then rejoined the column, and after proceeding about five miles from Brownsville the column was halted, and Major Bradford taken about fifty yards from the roadside and deliberately shot by the five men who had been recalled by Colonel Duckworth, and his body left unburied upon the ground where he fell.

He now lies buried near the spot, and, if you desire, you can easily satisfy yourself of the truth of what I assert. I beg leave to say to you that [724] this transaction hardly justifies your remark, that your operations have been conducted on civilized principles; and until you take some steps to bring the perpetrators of this outrage to justice, the world will not fail to believe that it had your sanction.

I am, General,

Your obedient servant,

C. C. Washburn, Major-General, commanding.

General Forrest to General Washburn.

headquarters Forrest's cavalry, Tupelo, June 20, 1864.
Major-General C. C. Washburn, commanding U. S. Forces, Memphis, Tenn.:
General: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt (per flag of truce) of your letter of the seventeenth instant, addressed to Majbr-General S. D. Lee, or Officer commanding Confederate forces near Tupelo. I have forwarded it to General Lee, with a copy of this letter.

I regard your letter as discourteous to the commanding officer of this department, and grossly insulting to myself.

You seek by implied threats to intimidate him, and assume the privilege of denouncing me as a murderer and as guilty of the wholesale slaughter of the garrison at Fort Pillow, and found your assertion upon the exparte testimony of (your friends) the enemies of myself and country. I shall not enter into the discussion, therefore, of any of the questions involved, nor undertake any refutation of the charges made by you against myself; nevertheless, as a matter of personal privilege alone, I unhesitatingly say that they are unfounded and unwarranted by the facts. But whether those charges are true or false, they, with the question you ask as to whether negro troops, when captured, will be recognized and treated as prisoners of war, subject to exchange, etc., are matters which the Governments of the United States and Confederate States are to decide and adjust, not their subordinate officers. I regard captured negroes as I do other captured property, and not as captured soldiers; but as to how regarded by my government, and the disposition which has been and will hereafter be made of them, I respectfully refer you, through the proper channel, to the authorities at Richmond. It is not the policy or the interest of the South to destroy the negro, on the contrary to preserve and protect him, and all who have surrendered to us have received kind and humane treatment.

Since the war began I have captured many thousand Federal prisoners, and they, including the survivors of the “Fort Pillow massacre,” “black and white,” are living witnesses of the fact that, with my knowledge or consent, or by my order, not one of them has ever been insulted or in any way maltreated.

You speak of your forbearance in not giving your negro troops instructions and orders as to the course they should pursue in regard to Confederate soldiers that might fall into their (your) hands, which clearly conveys to my mind two very distinct impressions. The first is, that in not giving them instructions and orders you have left the matter entirely to the discretion of the negroes as to how they should dispose of prisoners. Second, an implied threat to give such orders as will lead to “consequences too fearful” for contemplation. In confirmation of the correctness of the first impression (which your language now fully develops), I refer most respectfully to my letter from the battle-field, Tishemingo Creek, and forwarded you by flag of truce on the fourteenth instant. As to the second impression, you seem disposed to take into your own hands the settlements which belong to, and can only be settled by, your government; but if you are prepared to take upon yourself the responsibility of inaugurating a system of warfare contrary to civilized usages, the onus as well as the consequences will be chargeable to yourself.

Deprecating, as I should do, such a state of affairs; determined, as I am, not to be instrumental in bringing it about; feeling and knowing, as I do, that I have the approval of my government, my people, and my conscience as to the past, and with the firm belief that I will be sustained by them in my future policy, it is left with you to determine what that policy shall be, whether in accordance with the laws of civilized nations or in violation of them.

I am, General, yours,

Very respectfully,

N. B. Forrest, Major-General.

General Forrest to General Washburn.

headquarters Forrest's cavalry, in the field, June 23, 1864.
Major-General C. C. Washburn, commanding District of West Tennessee, Memphis, Tenn.:
Your communication of the nineteenth inst. is received, in which you say “you are left in doubt as to the course the Confederate government intends to pursue hereafter in regard to colored troops.”

Allow me to say that this is a subject upon which I did not and do not propose to enlighten you. It is a matter to be settled by our governments through their proper officers, and I respectfully refer you to them for a solution of your doubts.

You ask me to state whether “I contemplate either their slaughter or their return to slavery.” I answer that I slaughter no man except in open warfare, and that my prisoners, both white and black, are turned over to my government to be dealt with as it may direct. My government is in possession of all the facts as regards my official conduct, and the operations of my command since I entered the service, and if you desire a proper discussion and decision, I refer you again to the President of the Confederate States. I would not have you understand, however, that in a matter of so much importance I am indisposed to place at your command and [725] disposal any facts desired, when applied for in a manner becoming an officer holding your rank and position, for it is certainly desirable to every one occupying a public position to be placed right before the world, and there has been no time, since the capture of Fort Pillow, that I would not have furnished all the facts connected with its capture, had they been applied for properly, but now the matter rests with the two governments. I have, however, for your information, enclosed you copies of the official correspondence between the commanding officers at Fort Pillow and myself; also copies of a statement of Captain Young, the senior officer of that garrison, together with (sufficient) extracts from a report of the affair by my A. D. C., Captain Chas. W. Anderson, which I approve and endorse as correct.

As to the death of Major Bradford, I knew nothing of it until eight or ten days after it is said to have occurred.

On the thirteenth (the day after the capture of Fort Pillow) I went to Jackson, and the report I had of the affair was this: Major Bradford was, with other officers, sent to the headquarters of Colonel McCulloch, and all the prisoners were in charge of one of McCulloch's regiments. Bradford requested the privilege of attending the burial of his brother, which was granted, he giving his parole of honor to return. Instead of returning, he changed his clothing and started for Memphis. Some of my men were hunting deserters and came on Bradford just as he had landed on the south bank of the Hatchie, and arrested him. When arrested, he claimed to be a Confederate soldier belonging to Bragg's army, that he had been on furlough, and was then on his way to join his command.

As he could show no papers he was believed to be a deserter, and was taken to Covington, and not until he was recognized and spoken to by citizens did the guards know that he was Bradford.

He was sent by Colonel Duckworth, or taken by him to Brownsville.

All of Chalmers' command went from Brownsville via La Grange, and as all the other prisoners had been gone some time, and there was no chance for them to catch up and place Bradford with them, he was ordered by Colonel Duckworth or General Chalmers to be sent south to me at Jackson.

I knew nothing of the matter until eight or ten days afterwards I heard that his body was found near Brownsville. I understand that he attempted to escape and was shot. If he was improperly killed, nothing would afford me more pleasure than to punish the perpetrators to the full extent of the law, and to show you how I regard such transactions.

I can refer you to my demand upon Major-General Hurlbut (no doubt upon file in your office) for the delivery to Confederate authorities of one Colonel Fielding Hurst and others of his regiment, who deliberately took out and killed seven Confederate soldiers, one of whom they left to die after cutting off his tongue, punching out his eyes, splitting his mouth on each side to his ears, and cutting off his privates. I have mentioned and given you these facts in order that you may have no further excuse or apology for referring to these matters in connection with myself, and to evince to you my determination to do all in my power to avoid the responsibility of causing the adoption of the policy which you have determined to press. In your letter you acknowledge the fact that the negro troops did take an oath on bended knees to show no quarters to my men, and you say further “you have no doubt they went to the battle-field expecting to be slaughtered,” and admit, also, the probability of their having proclaimed on their march that no quarters would be shown us. Such being the case, why do you ask for the disavowal on the part of the commanding General of this department or the government, in regard to the loss of life at Tishemingo Creek? That your troops expected to be slaughtered, appears to me, after the oath they took, to be a very reasonable and natural expectation. Yet you who sent them out, knowing and now admitting that they had sworn to such a policy, are complaining of atrocities, and demanding acknowledments and disavowals on the part of the very men you sent forth sworn to slay whenever in your power.

I will, in all candor and truth, say to you that I had only heard these things, but did not believe them; indeed, did not attach to them the importance they deserved, nor did I know of the threatened vengeance as proclaimed along the line of march until the contest was over. Had I and my men known it, as you admit it, the battle of Tishemingo Creek would have been noted as the bloodiest battle of the war. That you sanctioned this policy is plain, for you say now “that if the negro is treated as a prisoner of war, you will receive with pleasure the announcement, and will explain the facts to your colored troops, and desire (not order) that they recall the oath; but if they are to be either slaughtered or returned to slavery, let the oath stand.” Your rank forbids a doubt as to the fact that you and every officer and man of your department is identified with the policy and responsible for it, and I shall not permit you, notwithstanding by your studied language in both your communications you seek to limit the operations of your unholy scheme, and visit its terrible consequences alone upon that ignorant, deluded, but unfortunate people, the negroes, whose destruction you are planning in order to accomplish ours. The negroes have our sympathy, and so far as consistent with safety will spare them at the expense of those who are alone responsible for the inauguration of a worse than savage warfare. Now, in conclusion, I demand a plain, unqualified answer to two questions, and then I have done with further correspondence with you on this subject This matter must be settled. In battle and on [726] the battle-field do you intend to slaughter my men who fall into your hands? If you do not intend so to do, will they be treated as prisoners of war?

I have over two thousand of Sturgis' command prisoners, and will hold every officer and private hostage until I receive your declarations, and am satisfied that you carry out in good faith the answers you make, and until I am assured that no Confederate soldier has been foully dealt with from the day of the battle of Tishemingo Creek to this time. It is not yet too late for you to retrace your steps and arrest the storm.

Relying as I do upon that Divine power which in wisdom disposes of all things — relying also upon the support and approval of my government and countrymen, and the unflinching bravery and endurance of my troops, and with a consciousness that I have done nothing to produce, but all in my power, consistent with honor and the personal safety of myself and command, to prevent it, I leave with you the responsibility of bringing about, to use your own language, “a state of affairs too fearful for contemplation.”

I am, General,

Yours, very respectfully,

N. B. Forrest, Major-General.

Official Memoranda.

Cahaba hospital, Cahaba, Alabama, May 11, 1864.
Colonel H. C. Davis commanding Post Cahaba:
Colonel: I herewith transmit you, as near as my memory serves me, according to promise, the demand made by Major-General Forrest C. S. A., for the surrender of Fort Pillow, Tennessee:

Major Booth, commanding U. S. Forces, Fort Pillow, Tennessee:
I have force sufficient to take your works by assault. I therefore demand an unconditional surrender of all your forces. Your heroic defence will entitle you to be treated as prisoners of war, but the surrender must be unconditional. I await your answer.

Forrest, Major-General, commanding.

headquarters United States forces, Fort Pillow, Tennessee, April 12, 1864.
Major-General Forrest, commanding Confederate Forces:
General: Your demand for the surrender of United States forces under my command, received. I ask one hour for consultation with my officers and the commander of gunboat No. 7, at this place. I have the honor to be

Your obedient servant,

L. F. Booth, Major, commanding U. S. Forces.

Major L. F. Booth, commanding United States Forces:
I do not demand the surrender of the gunboat No. 7. I ask only for the surrender of Fort Pillow, with men and munitions of war. You have twenty minutes for consideration. At the expiration of that time if you do not capitulate, I will assault your works.

Your obedient servant,

Forrest, Major-General, commanding.

headquarters United States forces, Fort Pillow, Tennessee, April 12, 1864.
Major-General Forrest, commanding Confederate Forces:
General: Your second demand for the surrender of my forces is received. The demand will not be complied with.

Your obedient servant,

L. F. Booth, Major, commanding U. S. Forces, Fort Pillow

I give you the above for your own satisfaction from memory. I think it is true in substance. My present condition would preclude the idea of this being an official statement.

I am Colonel, your obedient servant,

John T. Young, Captain Company A, Twenty-fourth Missouri Inf. Vols.

Captain J. T. Young to Major-General Forrest.

Cahaba, Alabama May 19, 1864.
Major-General Forrest, C. S. A.:
General: Your request, made through Judge P. T. Scroggs, that I should make a statement of the treatment of the Federal dead and wounded at Fort Pillow, has been made known to me. Details from Federal prisoners were made to collect the dead and wounded. The dead were buried by their surviving comrades. I saw no ill treatment of their wounded on the evening of the battle, or next morning. My friend, Lieutenant Leaming, Adjutant Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, was left wounded in the sutler's store near the fort, also a Lieutenant Sixth U. S. Artillery; both were alive next morning and sent on board U. S. transport, among many other wounded. Among the wounded were some colored troops — I don't know how many.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Jno. T. Young, Captain Twenty-fourth Missouri Volunteers.
P. S.--I have examined a report said to be made by Captain Anderson (of) A. D. C. to Major-General Forrest, appendix to General Forrest's report, in regard to making disposition of Federal wounded left on the field at Fort Pillow, and think it is correct. I accompanied Captain Anderson on the day succeeding the battle to Fort Pillow, for the purpose above mentioned.

John T. Young, Captain Twenty-fourth Missouri Volunteers. A true copy: Samuel Donalson, Lieutenant and A. D. C.
Official: Henry B. Lee, A. D C.


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 [728] made either by yourself or your government, a course which would certainly recommend itself to every one desirous of hearing truth; but, on the contrary, you seem to have been perfectly willing to allow your soldiers to labor under false impressions upon a subject involving such terrible consequences. Even the formality of parades and oaths have been resorted to for the perpose of inciting your colored troops to the perpetration of deeds which, you say, “will lead to consequences too fearful to contemplate.”

As commanding officer of this Department I desire to make the following statement concerning the capture of Fort Pillow--a statement supported in a great measure by the evidence of one of your own officers captured at that place.

The version given by you and your government is untrue, and not sustained by the facts to the extent that you indicate.

The garrison was summoned in the usual manner, and its commanding officer assumed the responsibility of refusing to surrender after having been informed by General Forrest of his ability to take the fort, and of his fears as to what the result would be in case the demand was not complied with.

The assault was made under a heavy fire, and with considerable loss to the attacking party.

Your colors were never lowered, but retreated from the fort to the cover of the gunboats, with arms in their hands, and constantly using them.

This was true, particularly of your colored troops, who had been firmly convinced by your teachings of the certainty of their slaughter in case of capture. Even under these circumstances many of your men — white and black — were taken prisoners.

I respectfully refer you to history for numerous cases of indiscriminate slaughter, even under less aggravated circumstances.

It is generally conceded by all military precedents that where the issue has been fairly presented, and the ability displayed, fearful results are expected to follow a refusal to surrender.

The case under consideration is almost an extreme one.

You had a servile race armed against their masters, and in a country which had been desolated by almost unprecedented outrages.

I assert that our officers, with all these circumstances against them, endeavored to prevent the effusion of blood; and, as evidence of this, I refer you to the fact that both white and colored prisoners were taken, and are now in our hands.

As regards the battle of Tishemingo Creek, the statements of your negro witnesses are not to be relied on. In this panic they acted as might have been expected from their previous impressions. I do not think many of them were killed — they are yet wandering over the country, attempting to return to their masters.

With reference to the status of those captured at Tishemingo Creek and Fort Pillow, I will state that, unless otherwise ordered by my government, they will not be regarded as prisoners of war, but will be retained and humanely treated, subject to such future instructions as may be indicated.

Your letter contains many implied threats; these you can of course make, and you are fully entitled to any satisfaction that you may feel from having made them.

It is my intention, and that also of my subordinates, to conduct this war upon civilized principles, provided you permit us to do so; and I take this occasion to state that we will not shrink from any responsibilities that your actions may force upon us.

We are engaged in a struggle for the protection of our homes and firesides, for the maintenance of our national existence and liberty; we have counted the cost and are prepared to go to any extremes; and although it is far from our wish to fight under the “black flag,” still, if you drive us to it, we will accept the issue.

Your troops virtually fought under it at the battle of Tishemingo Creek, and the prisoners taken there state that they went into battle with the impression that they were to receive no quarter, and I suppose with the determination to give none.

I will further remark that if it is raised, so far as your soldiers are concerned, there can be no distinction, for the unfortunate people whom you pretend to be aiding are not considered entirely responsible for their acts, influenced as they are by the superior intellect of their white brothers.

I enclose for your consideration certain papers touching the Fort Pillow affair, which were procured from the writer after the exaggerated statements of your press were seen.

I am, General, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

S. D. Lee, Lieutenant-General, commanding.

Enclosure in the foregoing.

Cahaba, Albama, May 16, 1864.
I was one of the bearers of the flag of truce, on the part of the United States authorities, at Fort Pillow. A majority of the officers of the garrison doubted whether General Forrest was present, and had the impression that it was a ruse to induce the surrender of the fort. At the second meeting of the flag of truce, General Forrest announced himself as being General Forrest; but the officers who accompanied the flag, being unacquainted with the General, doubted his word, and it was the opinion of the garrison, at the time of the assault, that General Forrest was not in the vicinity of the fort. The commanding officer refused to surrender. When the final assault was made, I was captured at my post, inside the works, and have been treated as a prisoner of war.

John T. Young, Captain, Twenty-fourth Missouri Volunteers. F. W. Underhill, First Lieutenant Cavalry.


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 [730] by informing you that most of them have returned to their respective commands, their search for their late “masters” having proved bootless; and I think I do not exaggerate in assuring you that there is not a colored soldier here who does not prefer the fate of his comrades at Fort Pillow to being returned to his “master.”

I remain, General,

Yours, very respectfully,

C. C. Washburn, Major-General.

Captain J. T. Young to General Washburn.

Memphis, Tennessee, September 13th, 1864.
Major General C. C. Washburn, commanding District West Tennessee:
General: I have the honor to address you in regard to certain papers forwarded you by Major-General Forrest, of the so-called Confederate army, signed by me under protest, whilst a prisoner of war at Cahaba, Alabama. I would first call your attention to the manner by which these papers were procured. About twenty-seventh April last, all Federal prisoners (except colored soldiers) were sent to Andersonville and Macon, Georgia, myself among the number. About ten days after my arrival at Macon prison, a Confederate Captain, with two men as guard, came to that prison with an order for me to return to Cahaba. I appealed to the officer in command to know why I was taken from the other officers, but received no explanation. Many of my friends among the Federal officers who had been prisoners longer than myself felt uneasy at the proceedings, and advised me to make my escape going back, as it was likely a subject of retaliation. Consequently I felt considerable uneasiness of mind. On returning to Cahaba, being quite unwell, I was placed in hospital, under guard, with still no explanation from the military authorities. On the day following, I was informed by a sick Federal officer, also in hospital, that he had learned that I had been recognized by some Confederate as a deserter from the Confederate army, and that I was to be court-martialed and shot. The colored waiters about the hospital told me the same thing, and although I knew that the muster-rolls of my country would show that I had been in the volunteer service since first May, 1861, I still felt uneasy, having fresh in my mind Fort Pillow, and the summary manner the Confederate officers have of disposing of men on some occasions. With the above impressions on my mind, about three days after my return to Cahaba I was sent for by the Provost Marshal, and certain papers handed me, made out by General Forrest for my signature. Looking over the papers, I found that signing them would be an endorsement of General Forrest's official report of the Fort Pillow affair. I of course returned the papers, positively refusing to have anything to do with them. I was sent for again the same day, with request to sign other papers of the same tendency, but modified. I again refused to sign the papers, but sent General Forrest a statement, that although I considered some of the versions of the Fort Pillow affair, which I had read in their own papers, said to be copied from Federal papers, exaggerated, I also thought that his own official report was equally so in some particulars.

Here the matter rested about one week, when I was sent for by Colonel H. C. Davis, commander of post at Cahaba, who informed me that General Forrest had sent P. T. Scroggs to see me, and have a talk with me about the Fort Pillow fight. I found the Judge very affable and rather disposed to flatter me; he said that General Forrest thought that I was a gentleman and a soldier, and that the General had sent him (the Judge) down to see me and talk to me about the Fort Pillow fight; he then went on to tell over a great many things that were testified to before the Military Commission, which I was perfectly ignorant of, never having seen the testimony. He then produced papers which General Forrest wished me to sign. Upon examination, I found them about the same as those previously shown me, and refused again to sign them, but the Judge was very importunate, and finally prevailed on me to sign the papers you have in your possession, pledging himself that if I wished it they should only be seen by General Forrest himself, that they were not intended to be used by him as testimony, but merely for his own satisfaction.

I hope, General, that these papers signed by me, or rather extorted from me while under duress, will not be used by my government to my disparagement, for my only wish is now, after three years service and over, to recruit my health, which has suffered badly by imprisonment, and go in for the war.

I have the honor to be, General,

Your obedient servant,

John T. Young, Captain Company A, Twenty-fourth Missouri, Infantry.

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