Report of Capt. John G. Woodruff, One hundred and thirteenth Illinois Infantry, 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]
April 15, 1864.
Commanding U. S. Forces, Cairo, Ill.
GENERAL: In compliance with your request last evening, I make the following report concerning the capture of Fort Pillow:
Arrived in sight of Fort Pillow on Wednesday, the 13th, about 9 a.m., at which time the gun-boat No. 28, which escorted us up, opened fire on the fort. After firing about 10 shots a flag of truce appeared at the fort, when she ran in and signaled for the Platte Valley (our boat) to turn back, which we did (we having run by the fort without molestation). I went on shore, and while our men were engaged carrying the wounded on board the boat I with other officers, on invitation from General Chalmers, visited the fort. We saw the dead bodies of 15 negroes, most of them having been shot through the head. Some of them were burned as if by powder around the holes in their heads, which led me to conclude that they were shot at very close range.
One of the gun-boat officers who accompanied us asked General Chalmers if the most of the negroes were not killed after they (the enemy) had taken possession, Chalmers replied that he thought they had been, and that the men of General Forrest's command had such a hatred toward the armed negro that they could not be restrained from killing the negroes after they had captured them. He said they were not killed by General Forrest's or his orders, but that both Forrest and he stopped the massacre as soon as they were able to do so. He said it was nothing better than we could expect so long as we persisted in arming the negro.
Chalmers said that all of his forces would be out of the place by 3 o'clock of that day, and that the main body was already moving. He also said to the officers, myself included, that Forrest's command would never fire on transport steamers. Chalmers told me they took about 25 negroes as prisoners. We saw two bodies of negroes burning.
The above is all I know of the affair which is of importance.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
JOHN G. WOODRUFF,
Captain Company G, 113th Illinois Infantry.
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