Capture of Fort Pillow 12 April 1864


Map Code: Ax01804

Fort Pillow is notorious for the apparent massacre of its garrison by the Confederate troops of Nathan B. Forrest. What is clear is that the mortality rate was shockingly high, and that the mortality rate of the black defenders thrice that of their white comrades. On the afternoon of 12 April, the Fort’s commander, Major William Bradford, had refused Forrest’s request to surrender. Forrest unleashed an artillery barrage from hills encircling the Fort. The Confederates then swarmed the Fort, resulting in the defenders fleeing to the embankment of the Mississippi River and the hoped-for sanctuary of the gunboat New Era moored there. What then ensued has been hotly disputed ever since. It is clear many were mown down by relentless sharpshooting, but Confederate accounts insisted the enemy neither surrendered nor relinquished their arms. Other accounts maintain black soldiers were cold-bloodedly executed. Post-War, Forrest became first Grand Wizard of the Ku-Klux-Klan.

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