Report of Capt. William T. Smith, Sixth U.S.
Colored Heavy Artillery, of the capture of Fort Pillow.
MARCH 16-APRIL 14, 1864.--Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee and Kentucky.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXII/1 [S# 57]
CAMP SIXTH U.S. HEAVY ARTILLERY (COLORED),
April, 15, 1864.
Lieut. GEORGE MASON,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.
SIR: I have the honor to make the following statement in regard to the battle of Fort Pillow. I was not in the battle, but arrived there after the fort was captured, and by conversation with officers that were engaged in the same and prisoners I learned the following particulars:
On the morning of the 12th of April, at daybreak, the pickets were attacked, and without resistance, which should have been made, nastily returned to the fort. Major Booth, of the Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored), was in command. He had made all disposition that was in his power with the small force that was under his command, and when the enemy charged his rifle-pits they were repulsed, and every time they met with the same; and while Major Booth was passing among his men and cheering the same to fight he was struck in the head by a bullet and killed, after which the command retired inside of the fort, when the enemy sent in a demand for the surrender of the fort immediately, which demand was refused; and while consulting under the flag of truce the enemy advanced his lines by crawling up on our breast-works. After the refusal they charged our works, and again were repulsed. They then sent in another demand for surrender, which again was refused. They then stormed the fort, and succeeded by their treachery in entering the same, and they then commenced an indiscriminate slaughter of the command. The fort never was surrendered. I passed over the field of battle under the flag of truce (which was out to bury our dead), and I there saw men who were shot after they had thrown down their arms and were in hiding-places that they had selected after the fort was taken. A captain of one of the gun-boats informed me that the rebel General Chalmers told him they did not intend to show any mercy to the garrison of Fort Pillow when they attacked the same. When I went over the field I was under the escort of Colonel Greer, who informed me that it was the hardest battle that he was ever in--the most strongly contested. The appearance of a great many of the dead men's bodies showed to me conclusively that they were murdered.
The following is a list of the killed and wounded, as I have learned from reports: Major Booth, Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored), killed; Major Bradford, Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, reported murdered; Captain Bradford, Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, killed; Captain Carson, Sixth U.S., killed; Lieut. John D. Hill, Sixth U. S., killed; Lieut. P. Bischoff, Sixth U.S., killed; First Sergeant Weaver, Company C, Sixth U. S., killed: Sergeant-Major Hennessey, Sixth U.S., murdered under flag of truce; Capt. Charles J. Epeneter, wounded and prisoner; Lieut. Thomas W. McClure, wounded and prisoner; Lieutenant Lippett, wounded and in our hands: Sergt. Melville Jenks, reported killed.
I am, very respectfully,
W. T. SMITH,
Captain Company C, Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery
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