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Battle Of Fort Pillow Essay

1420 words - 6 pages

The American Civil War is still referred to by historians as one of the bloodiest stains on the nation’s sociopolitical landscape. From beginning to end, the normal fanfare of atrocities that any war brings such as poverty, starvation, and bloodshed were made more gruesome by the reality that neighbors were fighting neighbors and brothers raising arms against one another. Caught between both sides was an entire race of people; though there were many political ideologies involved, the issue of slavery and the rights of African Americans lit the fuse and kept the fire burning. Incidents involving the terrorizing of black Americans were numerous throughout the course of the Civil War, though ...view middle of the document...

The request was refused and what ensued was a bloodbath with particular care and cruelty taken to exterminate as many African Americans as possible long after Union troops had surrendered. Though exact numbers remain elusive to this day, the estimation is that the fort contained nearly 600 Union troops with roughly half that number being African American. Of the total losses, the black troops were decimated to less than a quarter of their original number. This count does not include civilian casualties of African American women and children that were also at the fort.# While the sheer number of dead compared with the timeline of events would seem to indicate and obvious needless slaughter, even the basic question of whether the Ft. Pillow incident constituted as an actual massacre has been a subject of great debate.# No matter how one categorizes the event, the carnage at Ft. Pillow can really only be understood and explained against the greater backdrop of the wartime Southern states and the atmosphere preceding April 12th, 1864.
Though most people may point to the Emancipation Proclamation and the inclusion of blacks into the Union military as stoking the flames of racism and Southern hatred of the Federalist, these sentiments began even before the war. In a speech given to a New York audience in 1863, Union Gen. Andrew J. Hamilton presented that more than one hundred fifty hangings that took place in the state of Texas in 1860 were carried out primarily due to the victims being Unionists. Hamilton himself had been Attorney General of Texas at the time and had sided with the Union once was broke out.# Hamilton’s testimony was only one of several such incidents, including a Grayson county family who had moved to Texas from a Northern state and as such were Union sympathizers. After the husband had been conscripted into the Confederate force, his wife was heard commenting that she hoped for a Union taking of Texas so her husband might come home. The Provost Marshall had the woman taken from her home and hanged in front of her family.# Clearly, the idea of Union separatism allowed for a general attitude of “no quarter” that was blind to race, gender, or social position long before Ft. Pillow. Texas was not the only southern state to encourage and enforce this disposition; embitterment toward Union sympathizers was spread across the Confederacy and struck the hardest in areas of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
While these states were considered part of the South, they were divided with a considerable amount of support for the Union. Yet still, media such as the Lynchburg Republican published a statement noting, “We should ask no quarter at the hands of the vandal Yankee invaders…our motto should be an entire extermination of everyone who has set foot upon our sacred soil.”# This sentiment was echoed in other newspapers repeating the slogan of “no quarter”. Not only was the Southern attitude one of showing no mercy but also...

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