April 12 is the 154th anniversary of the Civil War battle and massacre at Fort Pillow, located on the Mississippi River near Henning, Tennessee. It was a strategic location, held by United States (Union) forces just north of Memphis and controlling river access to and from St. Louis and the Ohio River Valley.
On April 16, 1864, the New York Times reported that rebel forces under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, after twice using a “flag of truce” to maneuver prior to attack, overwhelmed defenders. After taking the fort, “the Confederates commenced an indiscriminate butchery of the whites and blacks, including those of both colors who had been previously wounded.” Black women and children in the fort were also slaughtered. “Out of the garrison of six hundred, only two hundred remained alive.” In the same issue, the Times published an account of events from a “correspondent of the Union, who was on board the steamer Platte Valley at Fort Pillow.” This correspondent “gives even a more appalling description of the fiendishness of the rebels.”