FC: Ft. Pillow | 2012
3: For Pillow is a fortress built originally by General Gideon Pillow at the beginning of the Civil War. It is located approximately 60 miles north of Memphis, Tennessee. Its original purpose was to serve as a defense of the Mississippi River and the city of Memphis.
4: This historical marker tells a brief history of the fort and its purpose.
5: The original outer earthworks span approximately three and one half miles in circumference. The fort was constructed to hold a garrison of some twenty thousand soldiers. Much of the original earthwork perimeter can still be seen today. It attests to the enduring quality of the work the soldiers were able to complete with simple digging tools.
7: The interpretive museum contains displays which explain Fort Pillow's strategic importance to the both the Union and Confederate Forces. This map shows how the fortress served as a key defense of Western Tennessee along with Ft. Donelson and Island Number Ten on the Mississippi River near New Madrid, Missouri.
8: A model of the battlefield.
9: In April of 1864 the fort was attacked by General Nathan Bedford Forrest and approximately 1,600 cavalry. The fort was lightly defended with about 600 Union soldiers, half of which were African Americans serving in the 6th United States Colored Troops Heavy Artillery (USCT). The Confederates surprised the Union forces and quickly gained the high points above the main fortress on the river bluff. General Forrest sent a message to the commanding Union officer , William Bradford, demanding unconditional surrender. Bradford refused the terms of surrender and a Confederate charge up the hill quickly routed the defenders, sending them fleeing down the bluff toward the river.
13: The primary difficulty in defending the fort was the inability to aim the defending cannons in a downward position to fire at attackers coming up the hill. This was due to the depth of the earthworks. Soldiers were forced to stand on the parapet, exposing themselves to enemy fire. from the surrounding hilltops.
15: The attack resulted in heavy casualties for the Union. Nearly half the garrison was killed including the commanding officer, Lionel F. Booth. Many of the defenders were shot even after dropping their weapons. The black troops suffered the most casualties. Of the 300 USCT troops present, only 58 survived the battle. The Confederate forces lost only 14 men killed and 86 injured. The dead were buried nearby but were later moved to establish the National Cemetery in Memphis.
16: Mississippi River
19: General Forrest's account of the battle.
20: Bluff overlook from the main fortress.