Retribution Shall As Surely Come~April 1864~15th to 18th

Retribution Shall as Surely Come~President Lincoln

Lincoln, Congress and General Grant become aware of the Fort Pillow atrocity. Northen papers such as the New York Times give the matter a great deal of coverage. Union officers and soldiers talk of revenge. Skirmishing increases as does the food shortage in the South. Spring and summer promise to be brutal.

Harper's Weekly cartoon depicts Confederate atrocities

Harper’s Weekly cartoon depicts Confederate atrocities

April 15– Friday– Camden County, Georgia– “Had a dish of boiled rice and dry corn bread for breakfast. Nothing on it. For dinner a soup made of the beef bone that Kate gave us with rice and corn bread. It is a rainy day and gloomy. My thoughts continually at the North. I am homesick and I wonder what is my duty in regard to going, whether it will be made plain to me. It seems as if I could not stay contentedly another year and what shall we live on if we go North? It is a question that we cannot solve. I can hardly wait for mail day to come, and yet we are disappointed week after week. Now that we have been favored with letters I want them to come thick and fast. How long the three last years have been. They seem like a vast uncomfortable dream. Once I wished for a ‘lodge in a vast wilderness.’ I have realized the fallacy of such a wish, and now I am led to say ‘Oh, Solitude, where are thy charms?’ Give me Society, Friendship and Love. So ‘divinely’ bestowed upon man. I did not appreciate the blessing when I had it and this is a deserved chastisement. May I receive it with profit. Mr. Fisher is planting corn. Sybil is scratching in the garden. My homemade shoes are too thin to admit of my going out in the wet and so I stay in and think so hard of home. Oh! such a longing to see the girls and partake of their northern comforts once more– how little can they realize our forlorn situation.” ~ Diary of Julia Johnson Fisher.

April 15– Friday– near Baton Rouge, Louisiana; near Presidio del Norte, New Mexico Territory; Camden, Arkansas; Greeneville, Tennessee; Bristoe Station, Virginia; Roseville, Arkansas; Milford, Virginia– Skirmishes, fire fights and bloody engagements.

April 16– Saturday– New York City– In two pieces about the Fort Pillow massacre, the New York Times describes Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest as a “guerrilla” rather than a regular army soldier and his troops as “a few thousand freebooters” while describing them as “fiends, bloodthirsty as devils incarnate” who “commenced an indiscriminate butchery of the whites and blacks” and calls on General Grant to investigate “his own responsible subordinates as well as these irresponsible rebels.”

Fort Pillow massacre

Fort Pillow massacre

April 16– Saturday– camp near Annapolis, Maryland– “I am first rate, we have had about 65 or 70 Recruits and we hear there are some 150 or 200 more in New York for us. General Grant and Burnside paid us a visit a few days ago, we had no review or any thing of that kind but the Regiment just fell in line and Grant rode along and looked at them and then went on about his business. We are getting quite a large force here and there is considerable speculation as to where we are going, but the general impression is that we will go back to North Carolina and through into Virginia. While Lee moves up from the front towards Richmond, but it seems to me time that something was underway if we are going to do much this Spring. I don’t see any signs of our leaving here for some time yet. We are having lots of drills, and have been kept pretty busy since we have been here.” ~ Letter from George Whitman to his brother Walt.

April 16– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– A report issued by the U S Commissary of Prisoners says that since the war’s start 121,937 Confederate prisoners have been exchanged for 110,866 Union prisoners. Another 29,229 rebels, including 8 Confederate generals, remain in Federal prisons and prison camps.

April 16– Saturday– Culpepper Court House, Virginia– “Julia [his wife] will start West in a few days and will stop at Covington on her way. She will remain at the house I purchased from Judge Dent until such time as she can join me more permanently. It is her particular desire to have Jennie go to St. Louis with her to spend the summer. I hope she can and will go. It has rained here almost every day since my arrival. It is still raining. Of course I say nothing of when the army moves or how or where. I am in most excellent health and well pleased with appearances here. My love to all at home.” ~ Letter from General Ulysses S Grant to his father.

General Grant

General Grant

April 16– Saturday– Camp Sedgwick, Virginia– “Tonight we had a very interesting religious meeting and about twenty took part in remarks or prayer.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

April 16– Saturday– Orange County Court House, Virginia– “We drawed [sic] four days rations of old bacon yesterday which outranks General Lee and three days rations of meal, one day’s ration of flour which is excellent and is quite a treat to us. Drew and I have had one good mess of biscuits, which tasted like Sunday morning at home when new wheat comes in. I love biscuits as well as ever and I reckon always will if I can get them. . . . The boys keep me busy sewing, and I cannot keep up. I reckon I shall have to put up a tailor’s shop when I get home. I found some old tent cloth the other day which makes excellent haversacks, and I make them and sell them at $2.00 a piece, but have to sell on credit. I have only made one yet. It is thick and hard sewing and rather slow making money but much better than doing nothing or trying to die with the blues and homesickness. Dissatisfaction is the worst complaint a soldier can have.” ~Letter of Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.

April 16– Saturday– Camden County, Georgia– “The day dawns upon us more cheerily out of doors but the weather is still cold for the season. Had another corn cake and boiled rice for breakfast but Grace came over from Kate’s with a piece of drum fish and a bunch of radishes for dinner which was a great luxury. Providence does not leave us to starve in the wilderness. Yet like the Israelites we are continually murmuring. We have had lettuce twice from our garden. All the vegetables are backward and hard to keep from frost. Crows, ground moles, hens and other things too numerous to mention. We plant and raise here under great difficulties. At supper we were obliged to fall back upon the rice and corn.” ~ Diary of Julia Johnson Fisher.

April 17– Sunday– New York City– The New York Times presents a little more information about events at Fort Pillow and assures readers that more information will be provided in coming days.

April 17– Sunday– Washington, D.C.– “We are embarrassed by state banks, state laws, and local issues and interests. The other day a determined effort was made in New York to run gold up to 200, but was promptly met by a free sale by the Government of gold and exchange, and the movement failed. It was aided by this very bad news from Fort Pillow, not so bad from the loss of men, but from the question of retaliation raised by the massacre of Negro troops. We all feel that we must either disband Negro troops or protect them. It is fearful to think about the measures that may be necessary, but what else can we do? An investigation will be made by the Secretary of War and by Congress, and if the rebels are determined to massacre prisoners, then a new and terrible stage of this war will be commenced.” ~ Letter from Senator John Sherman to his brother, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.

April 17–Sunday– Culpepper Court House, Virginia– General Grant, now aware of the events at Fort Pillow, demands that prisoner exchanges be balanced and include black Federal troopers among those exchanged on an equal basis. A failure to do so would “be regarded as a refusal on their part to agree to the further exchange of prisoners, and [would] be so treated by us.” This demand is refused by the Confederates.

April 17– Sunday– Orange County Court House, Virginia– “You must be of good cheer – I hope this campaign may, by God’s blessing, end the war– The news from Louisiana is very cheering – it is said Banks got a bad whipping & that he sent over 7000 wounded to Baton Rouge. Be of good cheer my love and try and not exert yourself too much. Many kisses for you all – the children must learn much this spring and summer.” ~ Letter from Confederate officer Jedediah Hotchkiss to his wife Sara.

April 17– Sunday– Memphis, Tennessee– Union officers say that if the government fails to take retributive steps against the Confederacy for the atrocity at Fort Pillow, they will consider it their duty to shoot every man of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s command they meet and take no prisoners. Soldiers, black and white, threaten to shoot Confederate prisoners who served under Forrest and who are now in Irvin Prison.


April 17–Sunday– Savannah, Georgia–Due to a severe food shortage, a bread riot erupts among the citizens as women, some armed, defy soldiers and demonstrate, demanding bread. In desperation some women seize food and their leaders are arrested by the soldiers.

April 17– Sunday– Camden County, Georgia– “On Sabbath mornings we look with great impatience for the mail. Today a letter came from Fred. He was in good spirits– he had found a pair of saddle bags containing clothing and had found also a pretty girl from Virginia. He was before Palatka in Florida and expecting a battle daily. . . . No satisfactory news in the papers. A dish of lettuce and eggs was added to our corn cake at noon which relished nicely. Last night was very cold, a frost in some places.” ~ Diary of Julia Johnson Fisher.

April 17– Sunday– off the coast of Velasco, Texas– The British ship Lily, trying to run the blockade, is seized by a Union warship.

April 17– Sunday– Beaver Creek, North Carolina; Red Mount, Arkansas; Ellis Ford, Virginia; Plymouth, North Carolina; Holly Springs, Mississippi; Limestone Valley, Arkansas; on the Mississippi River 35 miles below Memphis, Tennessee– Skirmishes and minor engagements.

April 18– Monday– New York City– “I suppose we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that New York is a grand, commercial, money-making center of the universe, and that learning and science are exotics which cannot be acclimatized.” ~ Diary of George Templeton Strong.

April 18– Monday– Philadelphia, Pennsylvania– Birth of Richard Harding Davis, journalist and author. His articles on travel, foreign wars, sports and politics will make him the most widely known reporter of his time and be collected in a series of best-selling books. He will author ten volumes of short stories and seven popular novels as well as five successful plays. [Dies April 11, 1916.]


President Lincoln

President Lincoln

April 18– Monday– Baltimore, Maryland– “There is another subject upon which I feel that I ought to say a word. A painful rumor, true, I fear, has reached us, of the massacre, by the rebel forces at Fort Pillow, in the west end of Tennessee, on the Mississippi River, of some three hundred colored soldiers and white officers, who had just been overpowered by their assailants. There seems to be some anxiety in the public mind whether the Government is doing its duty to the colored soldier, and to the service, at this point. At the beginning of the war, and for some time, the use of colored troops was not contemplated; and how the change of purpose was wrought I will not now take time to explain. Upon a clear conviction of duty I resolved to turn that element of strength to account; and I am responsible for it to the American people, to the Christian world, to history, and in my final account to God. Having determined to use the Negro as a soldier, there is no way but to give him all the protection given to any other soldier. . . . We are having the Fort Pillow affair thoroughly investigated; and such investigation will probably show conclusively how the truth is. . . . If there has been the massacre of three hundred there, or even the tenth part of three hundred, it will be conclusively proved; and being so proved, the retribution shall as surely come. It will be matter of grave consideration in what exact course to apply the retribution; but in the supposed case it must come.” ~ President Lincoln in a speech at the Sanitary Fair.

soldiers of the 33rd U S Colored Troops

soldiers of the 33rd U S Colored Troops

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