| Fort Pillow |
Set in OTL
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
|Nationality:||United States (Confederate States, 1861-1865)|
|Date of Birth:||19th century|
|Affiliations:||Confederate Army (2nd Missouri Cavalry (C.S.))|
Matt Ward was a soldier with the Second Missouri Cavalry (C.S.) during the American Civil War. In April 1864, he participated in General Nathan Bedford Forrest's attack on the Union positions at Fort Pillow.
Ward and his friend Zach Bartlett were among the Confederate troops who entered Brownsville in the day prior to the attack. After their commander, General Robert McCulloch called out to the general population for a guide, Ward was approached by W.J. Shaw, a recent prisoner of Fort Pillow, who was happy to lead back the Confederates. After hearing Shaw out, McCulloch agreed that Shaw was perfect, and congratulated Ward for finding him. Things looked even more upbeat for the C.S. cause when General Forrest himself arrived in Brownsville to personally oversee the attack.
During the initial fighting, Ward was part of the left of the Confederate line, nearest to the Mississippi River, pushing north. In just a few short minutes, he was shot at, he shot back, and he witnessed the damage war could do to a person, when he saw a comrade with his lower jaw shot away. Despite this horror, Ward stayed in the fight. He even helped prevent the burning of one of two rows of barracks built outside the fort. Ward shot at and missed the torch-bearer, but the near-miss was sufficient to drive the Union soldier off, keeping the barracks intact and in Confederate hands.
Hours later, Ward was part of the direct assault on the fort itself. After successfully making it beneath the earthwork that protected the fort, but was also thick enough to protect attackers beneath it. Ward watched several soldiers pile on top of each other to create a makeshift human ladder without any bidding from their officers. Colonel Robert McCulloch came to oversee the venture. Soon, Confederate troops had crawled out of the earthwork. An officer, Ward didn't know who, ordered an attack.
Once inside the fort, Ward was surprised by how hard Federal troops fought, particularly the Negro troops. Ward was attacked by a black trooper, who wielded his rifle like a club. Ward was able to avoid the trooper's blows, and inflict a terrible bayonet wound to the colored soldier's chest. It wasn't immediately fatal, and the Negro kept fighting other Confederates. In the meantime, Ward watched another Negro surrender, only to be casually shot down by another Confederate.
Ward watched a counter-attack falter, and again waded into the fray. He saw the U.S. flag come down from its pole, signifying the garrison's defeat. As the Union troops began retreating, Ward and a group of Confederates took control of one of the twelve-pounders, and, after repositioning it, began firing on the New Era. The group fired the canon three times, and missed each time. This venture having failed, the group turned their attention to the survivors fleeing to the river. Ward himself was able to pick off one soldier.
As the fighting slowed down, more Federals attempted to surrender. Ward took the surrender of one (whom Ward also plundered), but wound up shooting another in a moment of confusion. Just as the battle appeared done, another group of Negroes began to fight back. Ward didn't participate in subduing that group, but as he moved around plundering, he did manage to capture William Bradford, the commander of the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry (U.S.), as well as the senior officer at Fort Pillow. Ward decided not to kill Bradford, but took him into custody. He stood guard while Bradford looked for the corpse of his brother, Theodorick, and was present when Nathan Bedford Forrest himself ordered that Bradford's brother be buried and that Bradford himself not be harmed. However, once Forrest had left, a lieutenant told Ward that should Bradford attempt to escape, Ward should shoot him in the belly.
Ward watched Bradford's make-shift funeral. He also shared the whiskey jug that Bradford had managed to put his hands on. In fact, Ward got very drunk with Bradford's help. Despite his drunkeness, Ward was able to stay on his feet for some time. He even forced Bradford to sing "O Susanna" and "Camptown Ladies", despite Bradford's personal loss. Crying, Bradford did. Only after the singing was done did Ward pass out.
Ward awoke to the arrival of General Forrest, Colonel McCulloch, and Captain Charles W. Anderson. To Ward's horror, Bradford was gone. Ward was able to explain part of what happened, and McCulloch figured out the rest: Bradford had been pretending to drink with Ward until Ward became completely drunk. As Ward was under McCulloch's command, McCulloch took full responsibility. Forrest realized just how clever Bradford was, and forgave Ward (and by extension, McCulloch). Forrest admitted that even he'd been blinded by his sympathy for Bradford's deceased brother. Forrest and his men realized that Bradford would be headed for Memphis, and began a pursuit.
Ward shook of his drunk the remainder of the night. The next morning, a truce was reached wherein the wounded Union troops would be evacuated on two steamers, the Silver Cloud and the Platte Valley. Ward helped carry at least one wounded soldier. He was actually invited aboard the Silver Cloud by a sailor named Cotton (although as he was rowing from the shore to the ship, he realized that he was doing Cotton's work for him). Once aboard, he and some of the Union sailors shared a drink and laughed over the cowardice of James Marshall, the captain of the New Era. Ward was briefly surprised, given the fact that he'd been shooting at men in blue the day before.
With the wounded evacuated, Ward and Anderson shared a brief conversation about the politics of the war. Anderson admitted that Ward did seem smarter than he'd been inclined to give him credit for. They ended their conversation on an optimistic note, believing that the C.S. still had the chance to win the war.