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Dated:  October 2, 2015

Battle of Fort Pillow
April 12, 1864

A General History of the Battle
Research of the Casualties of both sides

With Photos & Maps of Fort Pillow State Historic Park.   


Photos of Fort Pillow State Park       
   Organization & Regiments
Maps - Park and Battle    Union River Fleet

    A Brief History of Battle
Links to Casualty Rosters

Roster of Union Prisoners 
   Roster of Confederate Casualties
Roster of Union Casualties
 Stories and Antedotes
  Details on individuals who fought and died there.


Fort Pillow State Historical Park

Fort Pillow State Historic Park (external link)
    This Tennessee State Park is a 1,646-acre park located on Mississippi River about 60 miles north of Memphis, TN on Hiway 51 near Henning.  The park has an Intrepretive Center & Museum, a Nature Center, a lake, and campgrounds.  The hiking trails allow you to explore the three tiers of breastworks.  The park is a nice place to hike and fish and is covered with dense foilage in summer.

 Cannon inside the Inner Fort
   Photo of interior of inner breastworks of Fort Pillow.  The breastworks face away from the Mississippi River.
   Another water battery was positioned below the bluffs, next to the river.  The Union troops retreated to this position on the Battle of April 12.

  Another Photo taken from on top of the inner breastworks.   On other side, the earth sloped down to a moat, which served as temporary burial for the Union dead.  The trees would have been removed to allow a clear field of fire.  The Confederates had to hurry to bury them while  being shelled from a river boat.

   Remains of the outer breastworks of Fort Pillow.  These outer breastworks were part of the fort in 1862
   when it
was manned by approximately 10,000 Confederate troops.  This area is part of the Park's hiking trails.

The following photos show the restored embankment and moat of the Inner Fort.  This is the earthworks that the Confederates had to assault.  The second images shows the same wall from the the interior of the fort.  The wall was described as being too wide at the top so that the Union soldiers could not fire down at the Confederates without exposing themselves to sniper fire from surrounding bluffs.

Inner Fort Earthworks

Inner Fort

Interpretive Markers

   There are several interpretive markers around the park.  The markers were recently refurbished and more new, colorful signs were added around the park.  This is the inscription of the older markers.

Union Artillery 6 Pound James Rifles
At the right of the Battery of Fort Pillow these two middle embrasures or openings in the parapet were fortified with two 6 pounder rifles. These were manned by members of Battery D, 2nd U.S. Light Artillery (colored). During the final assault on the fort, all Union artillery was largely ineffective because the guns could not be depressed enough to fire upon the Confederates on the steep terrain below.

Union Artillery 10 Pound Parrotts
Several days before the battle the Union brought two 10 pound Parrotts to Fort Pillow. These pieces were placed outside the fort at the beginning of the battle, but were soon moved inside the fort where wooden platforms were hastily erected adjacent to two open embrasures. During the final assault on the fort, all Union artillery was largely ineffective because the guns could not be depressed enough to fire upon the Confederates on the steep terrain below.

Union Artillery 12 Pound Howitzers 
Location:  On the north end of the fort are two gun positions
At the time of the Battle of Fort Pillow, these two northern embrasures or openings in the parapet were fortified with 12 pound howitzers. This type of artillery was extremely effective in hilly country such as is found around Fort Pillow. During the final assault on the fort, all Union artillery was largely ineffective because the guns could not be depressed enough to fire upon the Confederates on the steep terrain below.

Inner Breastworks  Fort Pillow, 1862
This second line of breastworks is located between the long line of outer breastworks and the Union fort. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard ordered the construction of the inner breastworks because the outer breastworks were too long for the available garrison to defend. The inner breastworks were constructed during late March and April, 1862 and were designed to hold 3,000 men. Several circular depressions along the works suggest that mortars were emplaced here. During the early stages of the Battle of Fort Pillow several companies of the 13th Tennessee Cavalry (Union) held this position, but by mid-morning they were driven from the works by Forrest's troops.

Outer Breastworks Fort Pillow, 1861
The Confederates constructed this fortification, 3 miles in length, with ends terminating at the river bluff, as protection against an attack by land. The Outer Breastworks were designed by General Leonidas Polk and built by Captain Montgomery Lynch and Captain D. Wintter between August and early December, 1861. All trees were chopped down for a half mile outside the fort; these fallen trees were not removed however.

Confederate Sharpshooters
From several high elevations overlooking the fort, Confederate sharpshooters were able to fire upon any Union soldiers who showed themselves above the walls. Many of the Union officers, including the commander, Major Booth, were picked off by the sharpshooters prior to the final assault on the fort. Fired artillery shells and cannister shot have been in some of the sharpshooter positions, a result of attempts by the Union soldiers to dislodge the Confederates from their positions.

River Batteries.
Old River Chute
At the time of the Civil War, the Mississippi River ran at the base of the Chickasaw Bluffs. The water batteries were placed just up from the river bank. Today Cold Creek empties into Chute Lake, a remainder of the river's former channel, at the base of the buffs.


Organization of the Regiments
at the Battle of Fort Pillow


Confederate Regiments
Organization of Confederate forces
General Forrest's Cavalry Corps
During Forrest's West Tennessee Raid
First Division  - Gen. James R. Chalmers
     1st Brigade -  Col. J. J. Neely
     2nd Brigade - Col. Robert McCulloch

Second Division  -  Gen. Abraham Bufford
    3rd Brigade  - Col. A. P. Thompson
    4th Brigade  - Col. Tyree H. Bell 

Forces Sent to Attack Fort Pillow 
   Division commanded
        by Gen. James R.
  (~1500 men of Chalmers' Division)
Col. Bob McCulloch's Brigade (of Chalmers' Division)
     2 Missouri Cav   - Col Robert A. McCulloch
     Willis's Texas Cav - Lt-Col
Leonidas Willis
     5 Miss. Cavalry    - Lt. Col. Wiley M. Reed
8 Miss Cavalry    - Col. Wm L. Duff
     McDonald's Tenn Cav. Batln - Lt-Col
J. M. Crews

  Forrest's Escort (75 men)  - Col. Dew Wisdom
  Accompanied by General N. B. Forrest and staff
       Major Charles W. Anderson

(~1700 men of Bufford's Division)
Col Tyree H. Bell's Brigade  (of Bufford's Division)

    2 (22)Tenn Cav -
Col. C. R. Barteau
    16 Tenn Cavalry - Col. A. N. Wilson
    15 Tenn Cavalry - Col R. M. Russell
    18 Tenn Cav -  Col. John F. Newsom

    Walton's Artillery Battery
- 3 X Mountain Howitzers

Union Regiments

  6th US Heavy Colored Artillery
was refomred as the 11th US Colored Infantry Regiment.
     March 11, 1864 - Formed.  March 26, Companies 'A', 'B', 'C' & 'D' moved to Fort Pillow.
     April 26, 1864 - Renamed 7th US Colored Heavy Artillery.
     Feb 7, 1865  -  Survivors reformed as 11th US Colored Infantry Regiment.
     Dec 11, 1865  -  Mustered out of service.

   13th Tennessee Cavalry (US) was officially known as the 14th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment (US).  The regiment began organizing at Union City in October 1863.  In January 1864 it was ordered to Columbus, Kentucky and then to Paducah. 
On February 2, 1864, Major William F. Bradford, was placed in command and ordered to occupy Fort Pillow where he could continue to gather more recruits.  Regiment is not to be confused with the official 13th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment(US), raised in East Tennessee and commanded by Colonel John Miller.

   2nd US Colored Light Artillery was formed as the 1st Tennessee Battery, (African Descent) but was originally known as the Memphis Light Battery.  It was briefly attached to 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery Regiment (African Descent) as Co. "M".   Then on March 11, 1864, it was changed to Company "D" 2nd U. S. Light Artillery Regiment (Colored).  April 26, 1864 changed to Company "F".  A section of 40 men under the command of Lt. Alexander Hunter were sent to Fort Pillow.  The remaining section later took part in the defeat at Brices' Crossroads on June 10, 1864.

The following regiments had a few soldiers present at the Battle.

  7th Tennessee Cavalry (US) was originally formed as the 2nd West Tennessee Cavalry under the command of Colonel Isaac R. Hawkins.  A few soldiers from this regiment were at the Battle of Fort Pillow.

   6th Tennessee Cavalry (US) was also known as the 1st West Tennessee Cavalry under the command of Colonel Fielding Hurst.  There was at least one casualty from this regiment at the Battle of Fort Pillow.  One of the reasons for General Forrest's West Tennessee Raid in March-April 1864 was to try to hunt down Col. Fielding Hurst and his regiment, who were harrassing the civilians and holding towns for ransom.  The 6th Tennessee Cavarly narrowly escaped Forrest in a skirmish outside of Memphis.

   Stigalls Home Guard was also reported to have some soldiers at Fort Pillow.  The Home Guard were local militia who were armed by the US Government but not paid.  They were used as scouts and anti-partisan patrols.  On occassion the home guard might participate in a battle.  Six soldiers from this unit were reported as prisoners.

  The list of prisoners included one solider from the following units.  These soldiers could have stopped at the fort during a transit down the river or were loaned to the fort to provide some special service such as quartermasters.
   7 Kansas Cavalry
2 Illinois Cavalry 2 Iowa Cavalry 52 Indiana Infantry  & Quartermaster Clerk

The 4 H’s in West Tennesse: 
Hawkins, Hatch, Hurst, Hurlbut

   Hurlbut, Stephen A.,  Major-GeneralCommander XVI Army Corps in West Tennessee
General Hurlbut distinguished himself at the Battle of Shiloh.  Placed in command of area around Memphis.  In January 1864, he was ordered to close down Fort Pillow when Sherman began to move on Atlanta.  He did but then re-opened it again in February, supposedly to use as a port to smuggle cotton.  Sherman had him relieved of command and assigned a desk job; but he was never court martialed.

   Hawkins, Isaac R., Lt.-ColonelCommander of 7th Tennesse (US) Cavalry
Surrendered at Union City on March 24, 1864, when surrounded by Col. Duckworth and 7th Tennesse (CS) Cavalry.  This battle was part of General Forrest's West Tennessee raid that culmunated in the Battle of Fort Pillow.  Lt.-Col. Hawkins had previously surrendered to General Forrest in 1862.  According to Regimental Losses in the American Cicil War, the 7th Tennessee Cavalry was one of four Union regiments with the largest number of prison deaths:  291 or 66%.  In comparison, the 13th Tennessee Cavalry(US) that surrendered at Fort Pillow lost 100+ deaths in prison.  Colonel Hawkins was exchanged.

   Hatch, Edward, Colonel  - Commanded cavalry brigade under General Hurlbut.
On 20 August,1863, Hatch commanded the 3rd Cavalry Brigade in John K. Mizner's cavalry division.  He brought relief troops to the second Battle of Collierville on November 11, 1863.  He was wounded in the chest at Moscow, Tenn on December 4, 1863, while fighting General Chalmers' division.  Promoted to Brig.-General on 27 April 1864.  After the War he accepted command of the all-Black 9th US Cavalry.

   Hurst, Fielding, Colonel  - Commander of 6th Tennessee (US) Cavalry
Col. Wiley Reed of 5th Mississippi Cavalry accused Hurst of extorting the citizens of Jackson, Tenn. and acts of murder. Forrest raid into West Tennessee was in retaliation to Hurst’s actions.  On March 29 near Bolivar, Neely’s Cavalry {13th Tenn or aka 14th} attacked the 6th Tennessee (US) Cavalry under Colonel Fielding Hurst and captured his entire wagon train, and routed and drove him back into Memphis.  Resigned on 10 Dec., 1864.

Brief History of the Battle
of Fort Pillow


   On March 16, 1864, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest launched a month-long cavalry raid into western Tennessee and Kentucky with 7,000 troops of his cavalry division. During this time, he sent various brigades and regiments on different attacks. He had also received reports of attrocities committed by Union cavalry. Based upon reports and his investigation, General Forrest announced that Col. Isaac Hawkins and his 7 Tennessee Cavalry(US) were operating as a band of thugs and they would not be treated as prisoners of war if captured.

 West Tennessee Raid - Summary
General Forrest operated mainly out of Jackson, TN, and sent out brigades and even individual regiments to attack Union positions and to carry out diversionary threats against the Union forces in Memphis.  The following is a chronology of battles and skirmishes.

  • March 24 – Union City, TN -  Col. Duckworth’s 7 Tennessee Cavalry(CS), supported by other units, captured a larger Union force comprising Col. Isaac Hawkins and his  7 Tennessee Cavalry(US) and some artillery.  Col. Hawkins and his 7 Tennessee Cavalry had surrendered to General Forrest earlier in 1862 but they were paroled.
  • March 25-26 – Paducah, KY – A brigade surrounded the fort at Paducah and occupied the town.  They could not take the fort due to naval artillery support provided by two gunboats. 
  • April 3 – Bolivar, TN -  A portion of General Chalmers’ cavalry division attacked and almost captured Col. Fielding Hurst and the 6 Tennessee Cavalry (US).  Col. Hurst escaped back to Memphis.  General Forrest had labeled this unit as an outlaw band who would not be treated as prisoners of war.
  • April 12 – Fort Pillow -  General Forrest commanded General James R. Chalmers to take a division and attack Fort Pillow.  Riding through the night in the rain, General Chalmers, accompanied by General Forrest, attacked the fort early in the morning of April 12th.
  • May 1 – General Forrest departed Jackson, TN, with the remainder of his command to return to Mississippi.  Before he left, he rode in a military funeral procession to honor one of his commanders, Col. Wiley Reid, who was killed at the Battle of Fort Pillow.
   After attacking the forts at Union City, TN and Paducah, KY, General Forrest made plans to attack Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River. The local citizens had complained of how the fort's troops had mistreated them and stole from them. General Forrest probably thought that Col. Fielding Hurst was there. 
   General Forrest ordered General James R. Chalmers to take two brigades to attack the fort.  General Chalmers along with Col. Robert McCulloch's brigade of 1500 men set out from
Jackson by way of Brownsville.  General Forrest and his escort caught up with General Chalmers at Brownsville.  Col. Tyree Bell's brigade of 1700 men left Eaton and rode 70 miles in thirty hours.  Together they pushed on through the night and rain to cover the 38 miles to Fort Pillow.
   They rode all night in the rain and arrived at the fort early on the morning of April 12, 1864. General Forrest also went along and eventually took over the command of the battle. The fort was defended by the 6 cannon and the tinclad gunboat "New Era". The Confederates moved 2 of mountain howizters of Walton's Battery to the landing south of the fort
and fired on the gunboat.  This caused the "New Era" to move upstream where it would be ready to pick up the troops from the fort.  However the bluffs prevented the gunboat from firing directly at the Confederate troops.
   General Forrest attempted to negotiate a surrender and offered to treat the black soldiers as prisoners of war. The commander of the fort, Major Bradford, had been killed by a sniper and his replacement, Major William Booth, had little experience in battle. Major Booth tried to stall the truce but General Forrest was concerned that more gunboats would be arriving.  He demanded an immediate answer when he saw smoke from a boat approaching from the north.  Major Booth rejected the surrender terms.
    General Forrest gave the command and the Confederates charged the fort and easily overran it. The Union defenders fled down the bluffs where they had hoped the "New Era" would rescue them. But the gunboat was being held back by small arms fire and the captain feared his boat would be captured.

   The Confederates caught the retreating Union soldiers in a cross fire from both sides of the bluff and from on top of the bluff. Many did not surrender. However there were many who did and they were shot. There were many accusations of wanton killing after the fort fell. It is hard to say when the fort surrendered as no one was in command.


Maps of Fort Pillow

   A topographical map of Fort Pillow State Historical Area.  This map shows how rough the bluffs are in this area.  The Mississippi River has diverted its course over the last 150 years and a small lake remains where it once was.
The Inner Fort is denoted by the RED trenchworks.  The Interpretive Center and the Nature Center are outlined in Purple.  The main road enters the park from the south side and passes the Nature Center and an overlook and winds around the lake before ending at the Interpretive Center.   From there, the
Inner Fort is reached by hiking.  However, there is an alternate entrance, noted in Purple, that crosses the bluffs.  There is a parking spot next to where the hiking tail comes out of the woods and re-enters it.  This is a much shorter hike.  You can take the foot trail straight up the last bluff or follow the dirt road that winds around to the front of the Inner Fort.  The park has hiking trails that goes back to the lake and to the outer trenches

Topographical Map of Fort Pillow Park
Map Grid Coordinates   - - enter following grid coordinates into Google Map
                Intrepretive Center:   35.6406  -89.8361                                     Inner Fort:  35.6447  -89.8381

Map of West Tennessee - Advance to Fort Pillow
     The Confederate brigades began to move to Fort Pillow on Sunday April 10.  Bell's Brigade was at Eaton and did not start until after dark and stopped for 1 hour at dawn.  General Chalmers and McCulloch's brigade were based around Brownsville.  Bufford took his Kentucky brigade back to Paducah to collect the horses they missed in the previous attack.

Map West Tennessee

  A Map of the Battle of Fort Pillow
  The Inner Fort is marked with Union Flag with the two outer earthworks in Green.  Map depicts the positions for the final assault by the two Confederate Brigades and Anderson's & Barteau's flanking forces.  The Confederate artillery were placed at the lower left edge of this map near the Landing to fire at the gunboat New Era, which moved further up stream.

Map of Battle

 Union River Fleet
at the Battle

The following ships were involved in the battle or the relief of Fort Pillow or were traveling past the fort on the days of April 12 - 15. 






April 12-15



New Era






Egaged in Battle


Liberty No. 2








Olive Branch





Pass & Arty











M. R. Cheek








Silver Cloud





North from Memphis

Stopped after battle


Platte Valley



Mail steamer


North from Memphis

Transferred WIA to Mound City, IL


Red Rover













Southbound Arrived 14th








Southbound Arrived 14th

Up river


Lady Pike







Madison Packet Co

Tin     -  Tinclad, a light gunboat protected by timber and light armor.
Civ     -  Civilian ship, maybe under contract by the US government.
    SideW  - Side wheeler
    SternW - Stern wheeler
     Hosp    - Hospital ship

Source:  Tinclads in the Civil War  , By Myron J. Smith. 
       Chapter 8, pages 184- 192 describe the Battle of Fort Pillow.


Return to Top of Page

Go to Fort Pillow Confederate Casualties for complete list of 100 Confederate casualties at the Battle of Fort Pillow.

Go to List of Union Prisoners and Casualties
for a list of ~580 Union casualties at the Battle of Fort Pillow.

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