150 years ago at Fort Pillow: “I saw the Union soliders, black and white, slaughtered….”

Just one of many accounts collected by Brigadier-General Mason Brayman after the battle of Fort Pillow, fought on April 12, 1864:

Cairo, Ill.,
April 23, 1864.
Elois Bevel, being duly sworn, deposes and says:

I am a citizen of Osceola, Ark. I was driven from my home by guerrillas. I arrived at Fort Pillow, Tenn., on the night of the 11th of April, 1864. I was at Fort Pillow during the engagement between the rebel forces under Forrest and Chalmers and the United States garrison at that place on the 12th of April instant, 1864. About sunup the alarm of rebels being in the fort was received at Major Booth’s headquarters. I took a position where I could see all that was done by the rebel and United States forces. Deponent further saith: I saw the contraband camps in flames at different points; could see the skirmishers of the rebels. Signals were given by Captain Bradford to Captain Marshall, of the Navy, commanding gun-boat No. 7, to shell them from post No. 1, which was in sight of the fort, which was done by Captain Marshall. About one hour after sunrise brisk skirmishing began. The bullets from rebel infantry caused me to move from where I was and take position behind a large stump near the fort where I could better see the rebels who swarmed the bluff. The rebels were here so near the gun-boat that the crew under Captain Marshall had to close their ports and use their small-arms. At 1 p.m. the firing on both sides ceased; a flag of truce was sent from the rebel lines to demand an unconditional surrender. While the flag of truce was approaching the fort I saw a battery of artillery moved to a better position by the rebels, and saw their sharpshooters approaching the fort from another quarter. At 2 o clock the fight began again; about fifteen or twenty minutes after I saw a charge made by about 2,000 on the breast-works, and near it on the bluff. Sharp fighting took place inside the fort of about’ five minutes’ duration. I saw their bayonets and swords. I saw the Union soldiers, black and white, slaughtered while asking for quarter; heard their screams for quarter, to which the rebels paid no attention. About 100 left the fort and ran down the bank of the bluff to the river, pursued by the rebels, who surrounded them. In about twenty minutes every one of them, as far as I could see, was shot down by the rebels without mercy. I left at this time, getting on the gun-boat. On Thursday, the 14th of April, I met Captain Farris, of Forrest’s command, about 6 miles from Fort Pillow, at Plum Point; his soldiers said they were hunting for negroes. I asked him if they took any prisoners at Fort Pillow. He said they took some of the Thirteenth Tennessee, who surrendered, but no others.

Elois Bevel.
Signed and sworn to before me this 23d day of April, A.D. 1864, at Cairo, Ill.

As indicated in the preface to his statement, Bevel was not at Fort Pillow as a soldier, but a civilian refugee.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 32, Part I, Serial 57, page 520.)


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