I received the following disturbing news of a rebel atrocity that occurred a few days ago at Fort Pillow in Tennessee. Reportedly, colored troops were killed after surrendering to forces under the command of Gen. Forrest. Gen. Sherman writes,
HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Nashville, Tenn., April 15, 1864.
General Brayman reports from Cairo the arrival of 50 wounded white soldiers from Fort Pillow, and that the place was attacked on the 12th, 50 white soldiers killed and 100 taken prisoners, and 300 blacks murdered after surrender. I don’t know what these men were doing at Fort Pillow. I ordered it to be abandoned before I went to Meridian, and it was so abandoned. General Hurlbut must have sent this garrison up recently from Memphis. So many are on furlough that Grierson and Hurlbut seem to fear going out of Memphis to attack Forrest. I have no apprehension for the safety of Paducah, Columbus, or Memphis, but without drawing from Dodge, I have no force to send over there, and don’t want to interrupt my plans of preparation for the great object of the spring campaign. I expect McPherson’s two divisions from Vicksburg to rendezvous at Cairo from furlought about the 20th, and I look for A. J. Smith up daily from Red River. Whenever either of these commands arrive I can pen Forrest up, but will take some time to run him down. Do you want me to delay for such a purpose, but shall I go on to concentrate on Chattanooga?
I don’t know what to do with Hurlbut. I know that Forrest could men him up in Memphis with 2,500 men, although Hurlbut has all of Grierson’s cavalry and 2,500 white infantry, 4,000 blacks, and the citizen militia, 3,000. If you think I have time I will send a division from Dodge to Purdy, and order A. J. Smith as he comes up to strike island to Bolivar, Jackson, &c., and some across by land to the Tennessee. This may consume an extra two weeks.
Corse was at Vicksburg ready to start up the Red River the 8th.
W. T. SHERMAN,
April 15, 1864-8 p.m.
Forrest must be driven out, with a proper commander in West Tennessee there is force enough now. Your preparations for the coming campaign must go on, but if it is necessary to detach a portion of the troops intended for it, detach them and make your campaign with that much fewer men.
Relieve Major General S. A. Hurlbut. I can send General Washburn, a sober and energetic officer, to take his place. I can also send you General L. C. Hunt to command District of Columbus. Shall I send Washburn? Does General Hurlbut think if he moves a part of his force the only enemy within 200 miles of him that the post will run off with the balance of his force?
If our men have been murdered after capture, retaliation must be resorted to promptly.
U. S. GRANT,
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 284-5
O.R., I, xxxii, part 3, p 366-7