U.S. Colored Troops and the Battle of Fort Pillow(Continued on other side)
Buried in Memphis National Cemetery are the remains of 248 mostly unknown Union officers and soldiers including 109 graves representing the U.S. Colored Troops who fell at nearby Fort Pillow. In the spring of 1864, the Union outpost, located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, included some 600 soldiers and an unknown number of civilians. The garrison was composed
of the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery (35 men),the 6th US
Colored Heavy Artillery (269 men), and the 13th Tennessee Cavalry
(approx. 295 men). Early on April 12, 1,800 troops commanded
by General Nathan B. Forrest attacked the fort. Though
outnumbered three-to-one, the Federals defied Forrest's demand for surrender. Soon thereafter, the Confederates stormed the
breastworks and took the fort.
Remember Fort Pillow
(Continued from other side)
In most Civil War battles, the number of wounded exceeded the number of dead. But at Fort Pillow these numbers were reversed. By the morning of April 13, nearly half of all Union officers and soldiers had been killed or mortally wounded. U.S. Colored Troops sustained the greatest number of casualties, losing two-thirds of their number.
Eyewitnesses reported that
black soldiers were killed despite putting down their weapons and surrendering in what the North
deemed a massacre. Additionally, wounded men were burned alive in hospital tents and buildings. The departing Confederates enslaved their black prisoners and transported their white captives to prison
camps. Few men escaped to rejoin their regiments. For the remainder of the war, "Remember Fort Pillow" became the rallying cry of the nearly 179,000 African-American soldiers who fought to free the country from the scourge of slavery.