Collecting Testimony as to Fort Pillow Affair~April 1864~23rd to 26th

Collecting Testimony as to the Fort Pillow Affair~ General Sherman

Federal military and government authorities are investigating the Fort Pillow atrocity. Confederate General Forrest is evasive. Another problem is developing– the prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Both sides are ready for serious warfare while soldiers and civilians write about religious faith, food and loved ones.

Fort Pillow

Fort Pillow

April 23– Saturday– Washington, D.C.– “I transmit to Congress a copy of a note of the 19th instant from Lord Lyons [Britain’s Minister to the United States] to the Secretary of State, on the subject of two British naval officers who recently received medical treatment at the naval hospital at Norfolk. The expediency of authorizing Surgeon Solomon Sharp to accept the piece of plate to which the note refers, as an acknowledgment of his services, is submitted to your consideration.” ~ Message from President Lincoln to Congress. The President also approves a joint proposal from the governors of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin regarding the number of troops they will supply to the Federal forces.

April 23– Saturday– Nashville, Tennessee– “Pursuant to your orders two officers are now engaged in taking affidavits and collecting testimony as to the Fort Pillow affair. They are ordered to send you direct a copy of their report and one to me. I know well the animus of the Southern soldiery, and the truth is they cannot be restrained. The effect will be of course to make the Negroes desperate, and when in turn they commit horrid acts of relation we will be relieved of the responsibility. Thus far Negroes have been comparatively well behaved, and have not committed the horrid excesses and barbarities which the Southern papers so much dreaded. I send you herewith my latest newspapers from Atlanta, of the 18th and 19th instant. In them you will find articles of interest and their own accounts of the Fort Pillow affair.The enemy will contend that a place taken by assault is not entitled to quarter, but this rule would have justified us in an indiscriminate slaughter at Arkansas Post, Fort De Russy, and other places taken by assault. I doubt the wisdom of any fixed rule by our Government, but let soldiers affected make their rules as we progress. We will use own logic against them, as we have from the beginning of the war. The Southern army, which is the Southern people, cares no more for our clamor than the idle wind, but they will heed the slaughter that will follow as the natural consequence of their own inhuman acts.” ~ Letter from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman to Secretary of War Edwin M Stanton.


fighting at Fort Pillow

fighting at Fort Pillow

April 23– Saturday– Camden County, Georgia– “We were surprised today by the arrival of Fred from Florida. The regiment have a furlough of a few days and then ‘on to Richmond’ is the word. It is thought that the crisis is near, that there the event must be decided.” ~ Diary of Julia Johnson Fisher.

April 24– Sunday– New York City– “No quarter was intended for them. The blacks and their officers were shot down, bayoneted and put to the sword in cold blood – the helpless victims of the perfidy by which they were overpowered, and of the savage, barbarous, brutal, devilish blood-thirstiness that burned in the hearts and impelled the arm of their victors, reveling in their fraudulently gotten victory. . . . Our informant – an officer in whose probity and moderation we have entire confidence – says he saw the charred remains of Negro soldiers mingled with the ashes of their tents. Their tents were fired, and they were prevented from escaping. They were deliberately burned to death! The spectacle, as presented to the eyes of our informant, was one that no human being, and no inhabitant of perdition, imagined within the range of human or inhuman possibilities on the face of the earth. The wounded, with great gashes in the head, and with limbs dissevered from the body, writhed and yelled with agony that terrified the horses, but made the rebel fiends in human shape laugh, and jest, and jeer.” ~ New York Times, reporting on the Fort Pillow massacre.

April 24– Sunday– New York City– “The conference for the settlement of the Dano-German imbroglio is now sitting in London. It is composed of the representatives of all those Powers which were parties to the Treaty of May, 1852.” ~ New York Times.


April 24– Sunday– Camp Sedgwick, Virginia– “Today at 2 PM a more peaceful scene was witnessed, for in its waters [Hazel Run] four Union soldiers were buried with their Lord in Baptism. . . . . In the evening our Chaplain preached in Hope Chapel and the Lord’s Supper was observed. I acted as one of the deacons . . . . About 40 officers and men took part . . . and all felt that it was indeed a Sabbath to our souls. May God bless us and keep us all in the paths of Righteousness for His name’s sake.” ~ Diary of Elisha Hunt Rhodes.

April 24– Sunday– Orange County, Virginia– “Our box came in yesterday evening and I received safely my shoulder of meat and flour of which I am very thankful, and glad to get. We had biscuits, lean meat and coffee for breakfast, to which I paid my respects with the greatest magnanimity. It took me but a little while to judge the cakes you sent me, and also to find them most excellent. Now if the Yanks will let us alone for awhile, I can enjoy my eatables to the utmost, but the weather is dry and pleasant now and a move I think will come off soon but I hope for the better and eat like rip while we stay here. I am sorry that you have so much weaving to do. I earnestly hope this war will end this year, and then the women will not have so hard a task.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier Marion Hill Fitzpatrick to his wife Amanda.

April 24– Sunday– Columbus, Georgia– A report in the local newspaper quotes a Confederate inspector to the effect that an additional stockade needs to be built at Camp Sumter (Andersonville prison) to relieve overcrowding, and that the inmate hospital, operating inside the stockade, should be relocated outside it.


April 24– Sunday– Camden, Arkansas; Decatur, Alabama; Middletown, Virginia; Pineville, Louisiana– Skirmishes and bloody affairs. Also, Federal troops are snooping around Ringgold, Georgia.

April 25– Monday– Washington, D.C.– “Reverses in North Carolina are bad at this time. The death of Flusser is most unfortunate. I presume the blame of the disasters will be attributed to the Navy, which, in fact, is merely auxiliary to the army. Letter-writers and partisan editors who are courted and petted by the military find no favor with naval men, and as a consequence the Navy suffers detraction. Burnside’s army corps passed through Washington, to-day, whites, blacks, and Indians numbering about 30,000. All the indications foreshadow a mighty conflict and battle in Virginia at an early day.” ~ Diary of Gideon Welles.

April 25– Monday– Orange County, Virginia– “I have no war news, no doubt we are having the calm that always precedes the storm, and the silence of the cannon which now prevails will only make its roaring the louder in the future. We have been successful at all points this spring of which you need have heard through the medium of [the] press so I have no war news that would interest you. I have something of more importance to write, new of more profound character. God has visited us in this part of his vineyard in the outpouring of his holy spirit and many are returning to the Lord. Christians who have back-slid is again returning to the field of Christ, sinners are being converted and the word of God doth run and is glorified among us, thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our lord Jesus Christ, now henceforth and for evermore, Amen. Eleven joined the church night before last. I am thankful to say that this good work is not confined to our brigade but as far as I can tell is through this army. I think it is one of the best signs of our success that can be given. Again I say, thank God.” ~ Letter from Confederate soldier W R Stilwell to his wife Molly.

April 25– Monday– Nashville, Tennessee– “The officers of the Army of the Tennessee have complained bitterly that in all matters pertaining to the railroad they were slighted, and there were some grounds, not intentional on your part, but calculated to raise a prejudice, that after they had come to the relief of the Army of the Cumberland they were denied bread or any facilities from the road. Some even thought you shared this feeling, and had refused them even a passage to or from Nashville. This resulted from the fact that the conductors and your guards were familiar with your passes, and were not with those of Logan or other commanders of that wing. This made my transportation order manifestly just, putting all department commanders on a just equality. We have increased the daily cars from about 80 to from 130 to 190. If I can get the average to 150 the road will supply us, and make an accumulation.” ~ Letter from Union General William Tecumseh Sherman to Union General George Thomas regarding use of the railroad by soldiers.


General William Tecumseh Sherman

General William Tecumseh Sherman

April 25– Monday– near Jackson, Tennessee– “Much having been said in the Northern press in regard to the massacre at Fort Pillow, I shall forward you by next courier copies of all the correspondence in regard to the demand for surrender and a statement of all material facts; an extra copy of same will also be sent you, with a request to forward to the President. Captain Young, the provost-marshal at Fort Pillow, now a prisoner, can corroborate all the facts, as he was the bearer of the enemy’s flag of truce, and it would be well to have him taken care of on that account.” ~ Preliminary report for Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

April 25– Monday– Shelby County, Tennessee– “Miss Annie Perdue, Sister and Brother all sent through the lines today, banished. Washburn countermanded Hurlbut’s order and sent them by land, instead of River. Miss Annie came over to see us, and get me to go over the creek for her. Father is rather afraid, but I will try it in the morning– though I expect not, Father has just left my room, and says he is afraid for me to go– I am so unhappy about the trouble I have got in-oh! what is to become of me, what is my fate to be– A poor miserable exile.” ~ Diary of Belle Edmondson.

April 25– Monday– Camden County, Georgia– “Fred left today. Last evening we had a letter from Julia and $80.00 for me– $35.00 of which I lent Fred and $10 to Gussie. Mr. Fisher is very impatient for his passport. The weather is now becoming Summer like, berries are ripening and the forest is looking fresh and beautiful.” ~ Diary of Julia Johnson Fisher.

April 26– Tuesday– New York City– The New York Times carries a detailed copy of the testimony of an eye witness, Mr Edward Benton, given to Union General Rosecrans about “the terrible ferocity of the rebels” at Fort Pillow.

 April 26– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– “Your generous remittance of $75 for the wounded & sick was duly received by letter of 21st & is most acceptable. So much good may be done with it. A little I find may go a great ways. It is perhaps like having a store of medicines– the difficulty is not so much in getting the medicines, it is not so important about having a great store, as it is important to apply them by rare perception, honest personal investigation, true love, & if possible the inspiration & tact we in other fields call genius. The hospitals here are again full, as nearly all last week trains were arriving off & on from front with sick. . . . My friend, you must accept the men’s thanks, through me. I shall remain here among the soldiers in hospital through the summer, with short excursions down in field, & what help you can send me for the wounded & sick I need hardly say how gladly I shall receive it & apply it personally to them.” ~ Letter from Walt Whitman to Lucia Jane Russell Briggs.


President Lincoln

President Lincoln

April 26– Tuesday– Washington, D.C.– Photographers from Matthew Brady’s studio work in the White House to take several studies of President Lincoln in his office.

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