By Jackie Murray
Fort Pillow, TN, the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, is located 60 miles north of Memphis, TN and is a bluff on the Tennessee side of the Mississippi River. On April 12, 1864, the Fort was occupied by 600 Union soldiers, nearly equal in number of black and white men. The Fort Pillow Massacre, as it has been called, occurred when at least 1,500 Confederate soldiers swarmed the fort and, after some time, the Union troops dropped their weapons and surrendered. Unfortunately, per survivor accounts, their surrender was denied with yells of “No Quarter!” The unarmed men were shot, stabbed, and robbed throughout the night. Some of the victims were nailed to buildings and burned. Others were buried and left for dead in mass graves, with some survivors of this atrocity digging themselves out to safety. The number of casualties has been reported to be almost 300 killed, drowned or missing. In 1867 the soldiers’ graves were moved to the Memphis National Cemetery.
Callie Herd, Vice President of WeAllBe Group Inc. (WeAllBe), in Memphis, TN, tells a story of a chance meeting with Professor Gene Tinnie at the National Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) Conference during 2015. Professor Gene Tinnie had concerns about how the African American soldiers were projected at the Fort Pillow Museum after a visit to the museum during the 2014 ASALH conference in Memphis. The concerns were presented to the Memphis Area Branch of ASALH (MAB). The President, Clarence Christian, decided that the MAB would perform a “trek” of Fort Pillow to allow the branch members to have an unbiased view of the museum. It was not until visiting the location of the Fort Pillow Massacre with members of MAB that Callie Herd described having a spiritual experience that gave her a deep-rooted desire to bring closure to the victims of the Fort Pillow Massacre. The branch was approached about having a local wreath laying ceremony on April 12, 2016 at the Memphis National Cemetery. MAB approved and provided their support. It was later agreed by both WeAllBe and MAB to organize a National wreath laying ceremony to be held on April 12, 2017. WeAllBe also agreed to spearhead and organize a grassroots commemorative project steering committee to include the help of the African American community. This allowed for inclusion of the African American community to give tribute to the soldiers. The overall goal of the project is to “remember the African American soldiers who were killed, wounded, missing in action or captured during the Fort Pillow Massacre along with the civilian men, women, and children who lost their lives [as well].”
Later, Ms. Herd was approached by Lyndon Comstock, national historical researcher and author who had researched and found the 109 graves that represent the African American soldiers who were located at the Memphis National Cemetery. This was an awesome discovery in that it allowed for the ceremony to be that more powerful with the team, along with the public, giving long deserved honors to the soldiers and civilians that fought and died so that other African Americans could be free.
Various activities are scheduled during April. There will be a Memorial Service on April 11th; a National Wreath Laying Ceremony on April 12th; a panel discussion and viewing of a documentary film on Fort Pillow; a play, and art show on March 31, 2017.
These events are free and open to the public. For further information email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit https://www.facebook.com/1864fortpillowmassacre/ to get additional information on the Fort Pillow Massacre.
Donate To The 2017 National Fort Pillow Massacre Memorial Wreath Laying Ceremony: