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Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University



New book now available from the Center's Brian Wills: The River Was Dyed with Blood: Nathan Bedford Forrest and Fort Pillow
April 1864

'Fort Pillow'

Shortly following an unsuccessful assault on Fort Anderson at Paducah, Kentucky, in late March, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his troopers headed toward an isolated Federal fortification on the Mississippi River, for the purpose of “attending” to Fort Pillow. On the morning of April 12, this force of roughly 1,500 Confederates attacked a garrison of some 550-600 Federal troops under the command of Major Lionel Booth, including 262 U.S. Colored Troops. In the early phase of the fighting, a Confederate sharpshooter mortally wounded Booth, leaving Tennessee Unionist, Major William Bradford, in command. Forrest perfected his arrangements for subduing the garrison and called for the fort’s surrender, but Bradford made the fateful decision to continue the struggle. A final assault forced the defenders from the works, sending them reeling down a bluff toward the river and struggling to maneuver through the loess soil along the banks of the Mississippi, in the desperate search for escape or support from the gunboat New Era. Final casualty counts from the action at Fort Pillow reveal a loss of 14 killed and 86 wounded Confederates compared to 277-297 Federal dead or mortally wounded. Of this number 64 percent of those who perished were U.S.C.T., and stories of various atrocities, which ranged from the shooting, burning, or drowning these men and their Tennessee Unionist comrades, even as some of them reportedly attempted to surrender, have continued to the present day, prompting charges of a “Massacre” at Fort Pillow.

Upcoming Events

May 1 , 2014
Civil War Round Table of Cobb County Meeting
Location: KSU Center

October 11 , 2014
Fall Symposium
Location: KSU Center

October 24-26, 2014
'Seige to Surrender' Tour
Location: Petersburg, Five Forks, Appomattox, & more!

Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park Sesquicentennial Website

Click on the logo above to learn how to add your events to Georgia's comprehensive sesquicentennial calendar!