previous next

The Fort Pillow Affair--Refutation of Federal Slanders — the Yankee accounts.

--Governor Isham G. Harris, of Tennessee, who accompanied the expedition of Forrest into West Tennessee, gives the following true version of the late attack upon Fort Pillow. In view of the perverted accounts of the Yankee papers, this official narrative of the whole proceeding will be found as interesting as it is necessary to vindicate the truth of history:

Arriving in the vicinity of Fort Pillow, General Forrest, having previously arranged his plans and issued his instructions for the attack, rapidly advanced his lines, and gained after a brief, sharp contest, the outer works of the enemy. Having possessed himself of this position, he threw forward a line of skirmishers in a sort of ravine between the outer works and the fort, which line was protected from the Federal sharpshooters by his reserve line in the outer defences.

He then sent in a flag of truce to the commander of the garrison, demanding the unconditional surrender of the fort and garrison, with all the stores and munitions, stating the advantage of his position, his determination to carry the fort, and announcing that it his demand was not complied with he did not feel certain that he himself would be able to control his men when they entered the fort, after having been forced to take the risk of assault.

Hearing, after the note was dispatched, and before an answer to it was received, that the Federals believed the demand for surrender a ruse de guerre, and that Forrest in person was not in command of the assailants, General Forrest himself rode up within hailing distance, announced to the enemy in person that he was General Forrest, and verbally demanded the surrender.

A reply was sent back, couched in defiant language, declining to accede to the demand.

The assault was commenced, and in five minutes after the bugle sounded the charge the fort was in possession of our men. Our advanced skirmishers went over the works pell mell, all around them, each man lifting his fellow by the leg, and mounting on the shoulders of their comrades until the fort was filled with Confederates.

Colonel Booth, commanding the garrison, was the first man killed, and not an officer of the negro regiments was left alive.

It is true that a few, black and white, threw down their arms, and made signs of surrender; but at the same time the men on each side of them still retained their arms and kept up a constant fire and show of resistance. In the heat, din and confusion of a fire at such close quarters there was no chance for discrimination. In less than five minutes after one men sealed the esplanade the fort was cleared of the enemy, the main body of whom fled to the edge of the river, leaving the fort colors still flying. At the river they still kept up the fire, until the number was fearfully reduced, and until, as Gen. Forrest states himself, he absolutely sickened to witness the slaughter. He ordered the firing to cease, and dispersed his staff along the lines with orders to that effect. It was next to impossible to effect an immediate cessation of the firing, the enemy themselves still fighting. Gen. Forrest rode up and down the lines, ordering the men to cease firing and finally stopped the carnage. The survivors of the garrison were all taken prisoners.

The maximum aggregate force of the Federal garrison was eight hundred. About five hundred were buried by General Forrest's men. About fifty of their wounded were paroled and sent upon a gunboat to Memphis. Two hundred prisoners were brought away, and among the number about thirty negroes.

There is not the semblance of a shadow of truth in the Federal exaggerations of wholesale slaughter. The above are substantially the facts of the capture, coming directly and officially from the prominent actors in the bloody drama.

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 Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (2)
Fort Pillow (Tennessee, United States) (2)
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.
Forrest (8)
Isham G. Harris (1)
Booth (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: