Battle of Fort Pillow
Part of the American Civil War
Date April 12, 1864
Location Lauderdale County, Tennessee
Result Confederate victory
34StarsUnited States CSAConfederate States
Commanders and leaders
USArmySealLionel F. Booth
USArmySealWilliam Bradford
CSA battle flagN. B. Forrest
CSA battle flagJames Chalmers
Detachments from three units (approx. 600)
Second U.S. Colored Light Artillery
Sixth U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery
Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry (U.S.)
1st Division, Forrest's Cavalry Corps (1,500 – 2,500)
Casualties and losses
574 (277–297 killed) 100 (14 killed, 86 wounded)
The Battle of Fort Pillow was a conflict in the American Civil War that took place on April 12, 1864. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked Fort Pillow with between 1500 and 2000 men. The fort was lightly defended by the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry (U.S.) and the Sixth U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, both of which were relatively green units unprepared for the fierce battle which followed, and by the USS New Era, a gunboat whose role in the battle was largely neutralized by topography.

Confederate forces easily defeated the US garrison in the fort's outer perimeter, and Forrest sent the fort's commander, Major William Bradford (though he thought he was speaking with Major Lionel F. Booth, a misconception which Bradford used to his advantage) an offer to receive the garrison as prisoners of war if they surrendered, as their situation had clearly become hopeless.

Bradford, expecting reinforcements, stalled Forrest for as long as possible before finally refusing to surrender. (During the ceasefire called for Bradford's and Forrest's correspondence, the reinforcements had arrived by gunboat but found that Forrest's men had positioned themselves in such a way that left the Union forces unable to land, possibly in violation of the rules of warfare.) Forrest threatened that he would not answer for the conduct of his troops in that case. When Confederate forces breached the fort's inner perimeter and drove Union forces down to the banks of the Mississippi River, where they drove the New Era away right when it could have become truly useful.

As their situation became hopeless, many of the Union soldiers, Tennessee Tories and United States Colored Troops, attempted to surrender. Some succeeded, others were massacred. Many more fought to the death. And after the battle, many survivors were massacred by Confederate forces.

Forrest, realizing that the battlefield was untenable, abandoned Fort Pillow the next day after allowing two gunboats from the U.S. Navy to evacuate Union survivors.

Literary commentEdit

The Battle of Fort Pillow is also referenced by several characters in the alternate history of The Guns of the South, where it apparently happened as in OTL, unaffected by the Point of Divergence.

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