Fort Pillow was located 60 miles North of Memphis Tennessee and was a fortress for the Union Army. The following is a letter from The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. (Ser. 1 v. 32 pt 3 p.364)
Hdqrs. US Colored Troops in Tennessee Memphis, Tenn., April 14, 1864
Hon. E. B. Washburne
My Dear Sir: Before this letter reaches you you will have learned of the capture of Fort Pillow and of the slaughter of our troops after the place was captured. This is the most infernal outrage that has been committed since the war began. Three weeks ago I sent up four companies of colored troops to that place under Major Booth, a most brave and efficient [officer], who took command of the post. Forrest and Chalmers, with about 3,000 devils , attacked the place on the 12th at 9 a.m. and succeeded after three assaults, and when both Major Boothe and Major Bradford, of the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, had been killed, in capturing the place at 4 p.m. We had, in all, less then 500 effective men, and one-third of whom were colored.
The colored troops fought with desperation throughout. After the capture our colored men were literally butchered. Chalmers was present and saw it all. Out of over 300 colored men, not 25 were taken prisoners, and they may have been killed long before this.
There is a great deal of excitement in town in consequence of this affair, especially among our colored troops. If this is to be the game of the enemy they will soon learn that it is one at which two can play.
The Government will no doubt take cognizance of this matter immediately and take such measures as will prevent a recurrence.
It is reported that Forrest will move on this place in a few days. I do not believe it. I am hurried and can write no more to-day. I am feeling dreadfully over the fate of my brave officers and men. Like all others, I feel that the blood of these heroes must be avenged. Forrest will probably try to get out of West Tennessee as soon as he can. We have re-enforcements coming in, and we shall soon be on his track. In haste, sincerely, your friend,
Alice Williamson Diary - Table of Contents
A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University.