Nathan Bedford Forrest and the Battle of Fort Pillow, 1864

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By Ed Kennedy 

Although just a minor tactical action in the greater scheme of the Civil War, the April 12, 1864 battle at Fort Pillow became a strategic issue. The effects of the battle unintentionally rose to the very highest levels of both the Union and Confederate governments. There were a number of issues that caused this seemingly minor battle to rise to national prominence.

Fort Pillow was built in 1861 on the eastern bank of the Mississippi River about forty miles north of Memphis, Tennessee. Abandoned by the Confederates and occupied twice by Union forces, Fort Pillow became a target for Confederate forces commanded by Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest in April 1864. In March 1864 two Union artillery units and a cavalry unit (a total of 557 soldiers) occupied the fort under the command of Major Lionel F. Booth. Second-in-command was Major William F. Bradford, Forrest’s fellow Tennessean from the same home county but fighting on the Union side. Bradford commanded the 13th Tennessee Cavalry (U.S.), a unit that was already notorious for its war crimes against West Tennessee citizens. Compounding the issue of the unit’s abuses were the Confederate deserters that had been incorporated into

Read more at the Confederate Society of America’s Sentry blog
(The opinions in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Southern Nation News or SN.O.)

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