|The risk to African American
soldiers was demonstrated at the Battle of Fort Pillow, TN 13 April 13, 1864.
The fort was attacked by Confederate troops under the command of General
Nathan Bedford Forrest.
could mount up and ride into the fort to restore order, an unknown number of
Union troops reportedly were shot down while attempting to surrender. A
Confederate officer noted that: "The wildest confusion prevailed among
those who had run down the bluff. Many of them had thrown down their arms
while running and seemed desirous to surrender while many others had carried
their guns with them and were loading and firing back up the bluff at us with
a desperation which seemed worse than senseless. We could only stand there
and fire until the last man of them was ready to surrender."
|In an interview after the
war, Forrest said:. "When we got into the fort the white
flag was shown at once. The negroes ran out down to the river; and although
the [white] flag was flying, they kept on turning back and shooting at my
men, who consequently continued to fire into them crowded on the brink of the
river, and they killed a good many of them in spite of my efforts and those
of their officers to stop them. But there was no deliberate intention nor
effort to massacre the garrison as has been so generally reported by the
|The Fort Pillow Massacre
continues to be debated, but similar occurrences at other battles seems to
confirm that surrendering troops were killed.
Fort Pillow became a rallying cry for African Americans for the remainder
of the war.