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General Pillow- - History

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General Pillow

Gideon J. Pillow, born in Williamson County, Tenn., 8 June 1806, graduated from the University of Nashville in 1827. He became a successful criminal lawyer, practicing for a time with James K. Polk, and was active in national politics. Appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers in 1846, he served with General Taylor on the Rio Grande and with General Scott at Vera Cruz, Cerro Cordo, Contreras, and Chapultepec. At the beginning of the Civil War, he accepted a commission as Brigadier General in the Confederate Army. General Pillow fought at Belmont, Mo., in 1861 and was second in command at Fort Donelson in February 1862 when it fell to General Grant. He escaped but held no important command after that time. When the war ended, Pillow returned to his law practice until his death at Helena, Ark., 8 October 1878.

(SwStr; t. 38; 1. 81'a"; b. 17'1": dph. 3'S": n. 2 12-pdr.

General Pillow (Gunboat No. 20) was originally Confederate steamer B. M. Moore (see D4NFS II, 502) and served the South as a gunboat until she was captured on the Hatchee River, Tenn., by Pittsburg 9 June 1862. She was transferred to the Union Navy by the War Department; and after outfitting and repairs at Cairo, Ill., General Pillow departed Cairo 23 August for duty with the Mississippi Squadron, Lt. LeRoy Fitch in command.

General Pillow became part of the light draft squadron on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and for the next several months convoyed troop transports and fought guerrillas on the riverbanks. February 1863 saw her again at Cairo guarding mortar ships and ammunition barges, in addition to making occasional visits to Mound City Ill., and the mouth of the Tennessee River. She continued this duty until July 1865 when she was turned over to the Commandant of the Navy Station, Mound City, for disposal. General Pillow was sold at Mound City 26 November 1865 to Wetzel and Hallerburg.


A pillow is a support of the body at rest for comfort, therapy, or decoration. Pillows are used by many species, including humans. Some types of pillows include throw pillows, body pillows, decorative pillows and many more. [1] Pillows that aid sleeping are a form of bedding that supports the head and neck. Other types of pillows are designed to support the body when lying down or sitting. There are also pillows that consider human body shape for increased comfort during sleep. Decorative pillows used on people, couches or chairs are sometimes referred to as cushions. [2] [3]

In contemporary western culture, pillows consist of a plain or patterned fabric envelope (known as a pillowcase) which contains a soft stuffing, typically synthetic and typically standardized in sizes and shape. [4] Pillows have been historically made of a variety of natural materials and many cultures continue to use pillows made from natural materials in the world.

The word pillow comes from Middle English pilwe, from Old English pyle (akin to Old High German pfuliwi) and from Latin pulvinus. The first known use of the word pillow was before the 12th century. [5]

Gideon J. Pillow

According to Who Was Who in the Civil War, Gideon Johnson Pillow was “one of the most reprehensible men ever to wear the three stars and wreath of a Confederate general” (Sifakis 508). It was reported that during the January 2, 1863 Battle of Stones River, Pillow hid behind a tree instead of leading his men into the fray. His most famous action, however, is his roll in the loss of Fort Donelson.

Pillow had been President James K. Polk’s law partner. During the Mexican war, Polk appointed Pillow Brigadier General of Volunteers. Pillow managed to infuriate both Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott and narrowly missed being court-martialed for trying to take credit for victories at Churubusco and Contreras. Afterwards, he failed to win a Senate seat and was twice unable to win a nomination for Vice President.

At the war’s outbreak, Tennessee Governor Isham Harris made Pillow a major general in the Provisional Army of Tennessee. In July 1861 he became a brigadier general in the Confederate Army. He received the thanks of the Confederate Congress for his role in the December 1861 Battle of Belmont, MO (this was Ulysses S. Grant’s first battle). After Belmont, Pillow was briefly given command of Fort Donelson.

During the February 1862 assault at Fort Donelson, Pillow was initially successful in his attack on Grant’s forces. However, he decided to pull his men back into their trenches – losing all of the ground they had won that day. The commanding general, John B. Floyd, turned command over to Gideon Pillow. Pillow, in turn, gave command to Simon Bolivar Buckner. Buckner surrendered the fort to Grant.

Pillow commanded a brigade of Tennessee soldiers during the last day of Stones River. The division commander, Maj. Gen. John C. Breckenridge, was infuriated when he found Pillow hiding behind a tree instead of leading his men.

After Stones River, Pillow headed the Army of Tennessee’s Volunteer and Conscription Bureau. He was then appointed commissary General of Prisoners (1865). Following the war, Pillow practiced law once again – this time with Isham Harris. He died in Memphis of yellow fever.

History of Pillow

Pillows were originally used mainly by the wealthy, and have been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs. The difficulty of sophisticated dyes and sewing techniques led to the development of pillows as an art form, with highly decorated pillows becoming prized commodities first in China and Persia and later in Medieval Europe. In Tudor England, pillows became widely-used it was believed only women giving birth should use one. The Industrial Revolution saw the mass production of decorated textiles and decorated pillows. Traditional Chinese pillows are often hard boxes made from stone, wood, metal, or porcelain instead of stuffed fabric.
Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillow

The shape and contents of pillows have varied little over time. The wealthier Greeks rested their heads and feet upon richly embroidered cushions and bolsters. The Egyptians, regarding the head as the seat of life, lavished much attention, detail, and money on pillows for the dead. The Chinese, however, thought that soft pillows robbed the body of vitality, and their pillows were made of wood, leather, and ceramic materials. Some were even filled with herbal remedies to cure disease, turn white hair black, restore lost teeth, and inspire sweet dreams.

For centuries, people slept fairly upright with not only a pair of pillows on the bed but a large, cylindrical bolster as well. These bolsters, sometimes nearly the width of the bed, were stuffed with down or some other type of batting and closed up. They were placed against the headboard and were the foundation for the pillows. Then, a pair of pillows was placed upright against the bolster. The sleeper would prop himself up against these pillows, resulting in a sleeping position that was closer to sitting than reclining. Until about the mid-1800s it was thought this position was better for the body.

Other fancy pillows were found on beds of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Sometimes large, square pillows were placed within a decorative pillow cover and then placed against the pillows actually used for sleeping on a bed. These were often removed from the bed before sleep. Until cotton became easy to obtain around 1840, American women showed their needlework prowess by carefully hand weaving and sewing linen pillow cases and marking them with their initials and the number the case was within a set of pillow cases. As the American textile industry flourished throughout the 1800s, covers for pillows (which housed the stuffing) went from utilitarian linen to the sturdy cotton ticking, still seen on pillows and in fabric stores.

The traditional filler for pillows was, until recently, down and feather. However, as fabrics changed, so too did yarns. Synthetic polyester filling has replaced natural batts as it is has acceptable loft and shape retention, is relatively inexpensive, may be washed, and few people are allergic to it.

Americans usually have two or three pillows on their bed. Today, pillows are stuffed primarily with materials such as polyester (a synthetic), feathers, down, or a combination of the latter two. The least expensive pillows to manufacture are polyester, although they are the most durable, easily washed, and cause few allergic reactions. The most expensive is the pillow filled with goose down. Feathers are a moderately priced stuffing. Some higher-end pillows may be filled with a combination of goose feathers and down, and that ratio may be varied extensively according to price point (the more down, the more expensive). The pillow filling is distinguished by the tag on the pillow casing, which must be there by law in the event that the consumer may be allergic to the contents.

Pillows are still manufactured in great quantities in the United States. They are also produced outside the country, but pillows are generally not imported to the United States. Shipping is measured by volume and pillows are extraordinarily expensive to ship. Some manufacturers have tried to have pillows made out of the country—where labor is cheaper—and crush the pillows during transportation in order to save money. However, once the pillow is crushed, it is difficult for it to spring back to its original shape and much of its plushness is lost.

Types of pillows

A pillow is designed to provide both support and comfort to the area of the body resting upon it. The design of each pillow reflects the type of support that it is intended to provide.

Body pillows are as long as a full adult body, providing support to the head and neck at the top and to the knees and legs lower down. This type of pillow can be especially useful in providing support for those who sleep on their sides and for pregnant women.
Neck pillows support the neck by providing a deep area for the head to rest and a supportive area to keep the neck in alignment. These can also be known as cervical pillows.
Travel pillows provide support for the neck and head in a sitting position. Their convenient “U” shape fits around the neck and keeps the head from slipping into an uncomfortable and possibly harmful position during sleep.
A husband pillow (also known as a bedrest) is a large, high-backed pillow with two “arms”. It is conventionally used to prop oneself upright while in bed, as for reading or watching television.
Donut pillows are shaped like a donut, with a space in the middle to alleviate pressure on the tailbone area. These pillows are used primarily by individuals who have suffered an injury to the tailbone area or who suffer pain from hemorrhoids or another ailment of the colon.
Lumbar pillows are designed to support the inward curve of the lower back, filling the space created when in a sitting position. These pillows are generally used while driving or sitting for extended periods of time, such as in an office chair.
Spillow Pillow is a new type of body pillow that is naturally contoured to help alleviate lower back pain like the body pillow but shaped more like a spooning position. These pillows are used in bed during sleep.

Using a pillow under the knees while sleeping on the back can relieve low back pain by helping to reduce the curve of the lower back in this position.
Using a pillow between the knees while sleeping on the side can prevent the upper leg from pulling downward and creating a twist in the spine.

Some pillows may also provide additional aids to relaxation, such as a heating pad or aromatherapy. Sleeping without a pillow can cause discomfort and soreness for some people, but it seems completely healthy to sleep without a pillow.

Pillows have varied little since they were first used. They are now also made with blends of hypo-allergenic fibers so that even people with allergies or extremely sensitive skin are able to enjoy their comfort. In this age of therapeutic remedies, some pillows are reverting back to the Chinese method of including herbs to relieve aliments and give a better nights rest. Orthopedic pillows are also advancing rapidly. They are filled with or surrounded by foam (some even contain gel or water that can be heated or cooled) that is either already formed or forms around the head, to fully support the neck. These pillows help to relieve neck, back, and lumbar pain. Some help to keep the head elevated to relive congested lungs, sinus problems, and puffy eyes. One company even markets a pillow with an undetectable speaker built in that plugs into the headphone outlet in a stereo.

"The Storming of Chapultepec - General Pillow's Attack"

The Rio Grande seems a natural international boundary between the United States and Mexico&mdashbut that wasn't a settled matter when Texas joined the Union in 1845. At the time, the Mexican government asserted that the Nueces River, more than 200 miles to the north of the Rio Grande, was the border between its nation and Texas. Growing frustrated with the boundary dispute, on January 13, 1846, U.S. President James Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor's army, stationed in Corpus Christi, to advance on the Rio Grande when Mexican troops crossed the river and attacked a U.S. patrol. The following May, Polk asked Congress to declare war. They did, and the two-year conflict known as the Mexican War (1846-1848) began.

This lithograph, The Storming of Chapultepec, by Carl Nebel, was produced in 1851. It commemorates the Battle of Chapultepec in Mexico City. The battle took place on September 12 and 13, 1847, and was led by General Gideon Johnson Pillow. General Pillow attacked the Chapultepec castle with his 2,500 soldiers, successfully navigating the western slope and storming its walls. Chapultepec fell and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's defensive front was greatly diminished.

The Mexican War ended in 1848 with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which established the United States' border with Mexico as we know it today.

Joins the Confederate Army

At the start of the Civil War, Forrest enlisted as a private in the Tennessee Mounted Rifles. As more men joined the outfit, Forrest personally purchased guns, uniforms and supplies to equip the unit. He was soon promoted to lieutenant colonel and placed in charge of raising and training his own battalion. In February 1862, Forrest and his troops were cornered by Union general Ulysses S. Grant at Fort Donelson, Kentucky. His command refused to surrender to Grant and Union forces charged in to take the fort. Forrest led 700 cavalrymen through the snow, past the Union lines, and escaped to Nashville where he coordinated evacuation efforts.

Two months later, in the aftermath of the Battle of Shiloh, at Fallen Timbers, Forrest was commanding the rear guard of the withdrawing Confederate troops. In an attempt to hit the enemy one more time, Forrest drove deep the advancing Union line far ahead of his own men and found himself surrounded by Union troops. After he emptied his two revolvers, he drew his saber and began slashing at the oncoming enemy. One soldier stuck his rifle into Forrest’s side and fired, lifting Forrest off his saddle and lodging a mini ball near his spine. Forrest regained control of his horse, remounted and took off. As Union forces shot after him, he reached down and grabbed an unsuspecting Union soldier and brought him up on the back of his horse, then dumping the man to the ground once he was in the clear.

Beginning in December 1862 and well into 1863, Forrest and his cavalry harassed General Ulysses S. Grant’s forces as they prepared for an attack on Vicksburg. Cutting off communication lines and raiding stores of supplies, Forrest relied on guerrilla tactics and never fully engaged the enemy&aposs superior forces. As a result, General Grant was forced to revise his strategy. Eventually, after a six-month siege, Vicksburg fell, but Forrest continued to attack boldly and retreat swiftly, frustrating one Union commander after the other and further expanding his reputation.


The deployment of black men as U.S. soldiers by the Union, combined with Abraham Lincoln's issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, profoundly angered the Confederates, who called it "uncivilized". [3] [4] [5] In response, the Confederacy in May 1863 passed a law stating that black U.S. soldiers captured while fighting against the Confederacy would be turned over to the state, where the captured would be tried, according to state laws. [6]

Fort Pillow, on the Mississippi River 40 mi (64 km) north of Memphis, was built by Confederate Brigadier General Gideon Johnson Pillow in early 1862 and was used by both sides during the war. With the fall of New Madrid and Island No. 10 to Union forces, Confederate troops evacuated Fort Pillow on June 4, in order to avoid being cut off from the rest of the Confederate army. Union forces occupied Fort Pillow on June 6 and used it to protect the river approach to Memphis.

The fort stood on a high bluff and was protected by three lines of entrenchments arranged in a semicircle, with a protective parapet 4 ft (1.2 m) thick and 6 to 8 ft (1.8 to 2.4 m) high surrounded by a ditch. (During the battle, this design proved to be a disadvantage to the defenders because they could not fire upon approaching troops without mounting the top of the parapet, which subjected them to enemy fire. Because of the width of the parapet, operators of the six artillery pieces of the fort found it difficult to depress their barrels enough to fire on the attackers once they got close.) A Union gunboat, the USS New Era, commanded by Captain James Marshall, was also available for the defense. [7]

On March 16, 1864, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest launched a month-long cavalry raid with 7,000 troopers into West Tennessee and Kentucky. Their objectives were to capture Union prisoners and supplies and to demolish posts and fortifications from Paducah, Kentucky, south to Memphis. Forrest's Cavalry Corps, which he called "the Cavalry Department of West Tennessee and North Mississippi", consisted of the divisions led by Brig. Gens. James R. Chalmers (brigades of Brig. Gen. Robert V. Richardson and Colonel Robert M. McCulloch) and General Abe Buford (brigades of Cols. Tyree H. Bell and A. P. Thompson).

The first of the two significant engagements in the expedition was the Battle of Paducah on March 25, where Forrest's men did considerable damage to the town and its military supplies. Forrest had tried to bluff U.S. Col. Stephen G. Hicks into surrender, warning "if I have to storm your works, you may expect no quarter". [8] Hicks rejected the demand, as he knew that the fort could not be easily taken. [8]

Numerous skirmishes occurred throughout the region in late March and early April. Needing supplies, Forrest planned to move on Fort Pillow with about 1,500 [9] to 2,500 [10] men. (He had detached part of his command under Buford to strike Paducah again.) He wrote on April 4, "There is a Federal force of 500 or 600 at Fort Pillow, which I shall attend to in a day or two, as they have horses and supplies which we need." [11]

The Union garrison at Fort Pillow consisted of about 600 men, divided almost evenly between black and white troops. The black soldiers belonged to the 6th U.S. Regiment Colored Heavy Artillery and a section of the 2nd Colored Light Artillery (previously known as the Memphis Battery Light Artillery (African Descent)), under the overall command of Major Lionel F. Booth, who had been in the fort for only two weeks. Booth had been ordered to move his regiment from Memphis to Fort Pillow on March 28 to augment the cavalry, who had occupied the fort several weeks earlier. Many of the regiment were former slaves who understood the personal cost of a loss to the Confederates—at best an immediate return to slavery rather than being treated as a prisoner of war. They had heard that some Confederates threatened to kill any black Union troops they encountered. The white soldiers were predominantly new recruits from Bradford's Battalion, a Union unit from west Tennessee, commanded by Maj. William F. Bradford. [12]

Forrest arrived at Fort Pillow at 10:00 on April 12. By this time, Chalmers had already surrounded the fort. A stray bullet struck Forrest's horse, felling the general and bruising him. This was the first of three horses he lost that day. [13] He deployed sharpshooters around the higher ground that overlooked the fort, bringing many of the occupants into their direct line of fire. Major Booth was killed by a sharpshooter's bullet to the chest and Bradford assumed command. By 11:00, the Confederates had captured two rows of barracks about 150 yd (140 m) from the southern end of the fort. The Union soldiers had failed to destroy these buildings before the Confederates occupied them, and they subjected the garrison to a murderous fire. [ citation needed ]

Rifle and artillery fire continued until 3:30, when Forrest sent a note demanding surrender: "The conduct of the officers and men garrisoning Fort Pillow has been such as to entitle them to being treated as prisoners of war. I demand the unconditional surrender of the entire garrison, promising that you shall be treated as prisoners of war. My men have just received a fresh supply of ammunition, and from their present position can easily assault and capture the fort. Should my demand be refused, I cannot be responsible for the fate of your command." Bradford replied, concealing his identity as he did not wish the Confederates to realize that Booth had been killed, requesting an hour for consideration. [14] Forrest, who believed that reinforcing troops would soon arrive by river, replied that he would only allow 20 minutes, and that "If at the expiration of that time the fort is not surrendered, I shall assault it." [15] Bradford refused this opportunity with a final reply: "I will not surrender." Forrest then ordered his bugler to sound the charge.

The Confederate assault was furious. While the sharpshooters maintained their fire into the fort, a first wave entered the ditch and stood while the second wave used their backs as stepping stones. These men then reached down and helped the first wave scramble up a ledge on the embankment. All of this proceeded flawlessly and with very little firing, except from the sharpshooters and around the flanks. Their fire against the New Era caused the sailors to button up their gun ports and hold their fire. As the sharpshooters were signaled to hold their fire, the men on the ledge went up and over the embankment, firing now for the first time into the massed defenders. The garrison fought briefly, but then broke and ran to the landing at the foot of the bluff, where they had been told that the Union gunboat would cover their withdrawal by firing grapeshot and canister rounds. Because its gun ports remained sealed, the gunboat did not fire a single shot. The fleeing soldiers were subjected to fire both from the rear and from the flank. Many were shot down. Others reached the river only to drown, or be picked off in the water by marksmen on the bluff. [ citation needed ]

After the battle, a large number of African-American soldiers were massacred in one of the most controversial events of the war. Though most of the Union garrison surrendered, and thus should have been taken as prisoners of war, the soldiers were killed. The Confederate refusal to treat these troops as traditional prisoners of war infuriated the North, and led to the Union’s refusal to participate in prisoner exchanges. [16]

Although Confederate sources say that Forrest's forces kept firing in self-defense, [18] some historians and official Union reports emphasize that a deliberate massacre took place. Union survivors claimed that even though all their troops surrendered, Forrest's men massacred some in cold blood. Surviving members of the garrison said that most of their men surrendered and threw down their arms, only to be shot or bayoneted by the attackers, who repeatedly shouted, "No quarter! No quarter!" [19]

It was reported that women and children were killed, but this was disputed by Dr. C. Fitch, who was surgeon of the Fort Pillow garrison: "Early in the morning all of the women and all of the noncombatants were ordered on to some barges, and were towed by a gunboat up the river to an island before any one was hurt." [20] [ full citation needed ] This is supported by the testimony of Captain Marshall. He stated that all the women, children, and sick soldiers were removed to an island before the battle started. [17] The strongest evidence that the Confederates did not kill women and children is that no one reported seeing the bodies of women and children among the slain. [21]

The Joint Committee On the Conduct of the War immediately investigated the incident, which was widely publicized in the Union press. Stories appeared April 16 in The New York Times, New York Herald, New-York Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Cincinnati Gazette, and St. Louis Missouri Democrat, based on telegraph reports from Cairo, Illinois, where the steamer Platte Valley, carrying survivors, had called so that they could be taken to a hospital at nearby Mound City, Illinois, and those that had expired on the ship could be buried. [22] : 47–50 In their report, from which the previous quotes were taken, they concluded that the Confederates shot most of the garrison after it had surrendered.

A letter from one of Forrest's own sergeants, Achilles V. Clark, writing to his sisters on April 14, reads in part:

Our men were so exasperated by the Yankee's threats of no quarter that they gave but little. The slaughter was awful. Words cannot describe the scene. The poor deluded negros would run up to our men fall on their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. The whitte [sic] men fared but little better. The fort turned out to be a great slaughter pen. Blood, human blood stood about in pools and brains could have been gathered up in any quantity. I with several others tried to stop the butchery and at one time had partially succeeded but Gen. Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued. Finally our men became sick of blood and the firing ceased. [22] : 44

A 2002 study by Albert Castel concluded that Forrest's troops had killed a large number of the garrison "after they had either ceased resisting or were incapable of resistance". [23] Historian Andrew Ward in 2005 reached the conclusion that an atrocity in the modern sense occurred at Fort Pillow, but that the event was not premeditated nor officially sanctioned by Confederate commanders. [24]

Recent histories concur that a massacre occurred. Historian Richard Fuchs, the author of An Unerring Fire, concludes, "The affair at Fort Pillow was simply an orgy of death, a mass lynching to satisfy the basest of conduct—intentional murder—for the vilest of reasons—racism and personal enmity." [25] Ward states, "Whether the massacre was premeditated or spontaneous does not address the more fundamental question of whether a massacre took place . it certainly did, in every dictionary sense of the word." [26] John Cimprich states, "The new paradigm in social attitudes and the fuller use of available evidence has favored a massacre interpretation. . Debate over the memory of this incident formed a part of sectional and racial conflicts for many years after the war, but the reinterpretation of the event during the last thirty years offers some hope that society can move beyond past intolerance." [27]

Lieutenant Daniel Van Horn of the 6th U.S. Heavy Artillery (Colored) stated in his official report, "There never was a surrender of the fort, both officers and men declaring they never would surrender or ask for quarter." [28] Another officer of the unit, however, and the only surviving officers of Bradford's Battalion, attested to the characterization that unarmed soldiers were killed in the act of surrendering. Confederate Sergeant Clark, in a letter written home shortly after the battle, said that "the poor, deluded negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees, and with uplifted hand scream for mercy, but were ordered to their feet and then shot down." [29] This account is consistent with the relatively high comparative casualties sustained by race of the defenders.

Forrest's men insisted that the Union soldiers, although fleeing, kept their weapons and frequently turned to shoot, forcing the Confederates to keep firing in self-defense. [19] Their claim is consistent with the discovery of numerous Union rifles on the bluffs near the river. [30] The Union flag was still flying over the fort, which indicated that the force had not formally surrendered. A contemporary newspaper account from Jackson, Tennessee, states that "General Forrest begged them to surrender", but "not the first sign of surrender was ever given". Similar accounts were reported in both Southern and Northern newspapers at the time. [31]

Historian Allan Nevins wrote that although the interpretation of the facts had "provoked some disputation":

Northerners, however, saw only one side. They read headlines announcing "Attack on Fort Pillow—Indiscriminate Slaughter of the Prisoners—Shocking Scenes of Savagery" dispatches from Sherman's army declaring "there is a general gritting of teeth here" reports from the Missouri Democrat detailing the "fiendishness" of rebel behavior and editorials like that in the Chicago Tribune condemning the "murder" and "butchery". [32]

The New York Times reported on April 24:

The blacks and their officers were shot down, bayoneted and put to the sword in cold blood. . Out of four hundred negro soldiers only about twenty survive! At least three hundred of them were destroyed after the surrender! This is the statement of the rebel General Chalmers himself to our informant. [33]

The river was dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.

General Ulysses S. Grant quoted Forrest's dispatch in his Personal Memoirs and commented: "Subsequently, Forrest made a report in which he left out the part which shocks humanity to read." [34] [35]

John Fisher, in his book They Rode with Forrest and Wheeler, wrote, "Grant refers here to two reports from Forrest to his superior officer, Leonidas Polk: (1) a hasty, exuberant report dated April 15, 1864, dashed off three days after the attack on Fort Pillow, describing the success of Forrest's recent operations in West Tennessee, and (2) a well-defined, detailed, and comprehensive report of the action at Fort Pillow only dated April 26." [36]

At the time of the massacre, General Grant was no longer in Tennessee, but had transferred to the east to command all Union troops. [37] Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, Commander of the Military Division of the Mississippi, which included Tennessee, wrote:

The massacre at Fort Pillow occurred April 12, 1864, and has been the subject of congressional inquiry. [38] No doubt Forrest's men acted like a set of barbarians, shooting down the helpless negro garrison after the fort was in their possession but I am told that Forrest personally disclaims any active participation in the assault, and that he stopped the firing as soon as he could. I also take it for granted that Forrest did not lead the assault in person, and consequently that he was to the rear, out of sight if not of hearing at the time, and I was told by hundreds of our men, who were at various times prisoners in Forrest's possession, that he was usually very kind to them. He had a desperate set of fellows under him, and at that very time there is no doubt the feeling of the Southern people was fearfully savage on this very point of our making soldiers out of their late slaves, and Forrest may have shared the feeling. [39]

Casualty figures vary according to the source. In 1908, Dyer gave the following statistics of Union casualties: 350 killed and mortally wounded, 60 wounded, 164 captured and missing, 574 aggregate. [40]

Confederate casualties were comparatively low (14 killed and 86 wounded), and Union casualties were high. Of the 585 to 605 Union men present, 277 to 297 were reported as dead. Jordan in the mid-20th century suggested the Union deaths were exaggerated. [30] Historians agree that defenders' casualties varied considerably according to race. Only 58 (around 20%) black soldiers were marched away as prisoners, whereas 168 (about 60%) of the white soldiers were taken prisoner. Not all of the prisoners who were shot were black Major Bradford was apparently among those shot after surrendering. [41] Confederate anger at the thought of black men fighting them and their initial reluctance to surrender (many of the black troops believed they would be killed if they surrendered in Union uniform) resulted in a tragedy. [ citation needed ]

The Confederates evacuated Fort Pillow that evening, and so gained little from the battle except causing a temporary disruption to Union operations. Union forces used the "Fort Pillow massacre" as a rallying cry in the following months. [42] For many, it strengthened their resolve to see the war to its conclusion. [ citation needed ]

On April 17, 1864, in the aftermath of Fort Pillow, General Grant ordered General Benjamin F. Butler, who was negotiating prisoner exchanges with the Confederacy, to demand that black soldiers be treated identically to whites in the exchange and treatment of prisoners. He directed that a failure to do so would "be regarded as a refusal on their part to agree to the further exchange of prisoners, and [would] be so treated by us." [43]

This demand was refused Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon in June 1864 wrote:

I doubt, however, whether the exchange of negroes at all for our soldiers would be tolerated. As to the white officers serving with negro troops, we ought never to be inconvenienced with such prisoners. [44]

The Union already had established a policy to discourage killing and enslaving prisoners of war. On July 30, 1863, before the massacre, President Abraham Lincoln wrote his Order of Retaliation:

It is therefore ordered that for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery[,] a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works, and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war. [45]

This policy did not lead to any action, but the threat of action led the Confederate army tacitly to treat Union negro soldiers as legitimate soldiers, rather than insurrecting slaves, for the remainder of the war. [46] Nevertheless, the same merciless behavior was exhibited by Southern troops after the Battle of the Crater in July 1864, where surrendering black soldiers were shot rather than taken prisoner. [42]

On May 3, 1864, Lincoln asked his cabinet for opinions as to how the Union should respond to the massacre. [47] Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase recommended for Lincoln to enforce his Order of Retaliation of July 30, 1863. [48] Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles wanted to wait for the congressional committee to obtain more information. Welles expressed concerns in his diary: "There must be something in these terrible reports, but I distrust Congressional committees. They exaggerate." [49] Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton and Attorney General Edward Bates wanted to retaliate. [50] [51] Secretary of the Interior John P. Usher wrote that it was "inexpedient to take any extreme action" and wanted the officers of Forrest's command to be held responsible. [52] Postmaster General Montgomery Blair wanted the "actual offenders" given the "most summary punishment when captured". Blair cited page 445 of the book International Law or, Rules Regulating the Intercourse of States in Peace and War, written by Henry W. Halleck (the Union Chief of Staff), as justification for retaliation. [53] Secretary of State William H. Seward wanted the commanding general of the Union army to confront the commanding general of the Confederate army about the allegations. [54]

Welles wrote of the cabinet meeting on May 6:

Stanton fell in with my suggestion, so far as to propose that, should Forrest, or Chalmers, or any officer conspicuous in this butchery be captured, he should be turned over for trial for the murders at Fort Pillow. I sat beside Chase and mentioned to him some of the advantages of this course, and he said it made a favorable impression. I urged him to say so, for it appeared to me that the President and Seward did not appreciate it. [55]

Lincoln began to write instructions [ clarification needed ] to Stanton but took no subsequent action because he was "distracted" by other issues. [56]

Fort Pillow, preserved as the Fort Pillow State Historic Park, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974. [57]

The remains of the killed were moved to Memphis National Cemetery in 1867. 109 of the graves have been identified. As the signage at the Fort Pillow site makes little reference to the black soldiers killed, a wreath-laying ceremony, with color guard and 21-gun salute, was held on April 12, 2017, at the Cemetery to commemorate them. [58]

James Lockett compared the Confederacy's policy toward colored Union troops—"no quarter"—with the lynching and other violence against blacks subsequent to the war. In Southern minds, according to this writer, just as slaves could not be voters or office-holders, they could not be soldiers either, and thus were not treated, at Fort Pillow and elsewhere, as surrendering soldiers. [59]

Numerous novelists have included the Fort Pillow story, including Frank Yerby's The Foxes of Harrow, James Sherburne's The Way to Fort Pillow Allen Ballard, Where I'm Bound Jesse Hill Ford, The Raider and Charles Gordon Yeager, Fightin' with Forest. [60]

Fort Pillow

Fort Pillow reminds us that during time of war, horrible things happen that we can hardly imagine during time of peace. A military victory for the Confederacy, the capture of Fort Pillow is one of the most controversial engagements of the Civil War. During this virtual tour, we’ll give you a brief summary of what happened there.

Confederate reenactors at Fort Pillow

The first thing you should ask yourself about a fort — any fort — is “why was this here, as opposed to being somewhere else?” Fort Pillow is on the western edge of Tennessee, about 40 miles north of Memphis. During the war, control of the Mississippi River was crucial to the South, because the Confederate government realized that cities along the river such as Memphis, New Orleans, and Vicksburg (Mississippi) were vulnerable (the Union Navy was much more formidable than the Confederate Navy). Fort Pillow was built because there is a bluff here which, at that time, towered over the Mississippi River. From the fort, troops could see, and fire upon, boats coming from both directions.

As you can see from this point on the south part of the Fort Pillow bluff, the Mississippi River has moved since the Civil War. And now there are trees everywhere.

If you come to Fort Pillow State Historic Park today, you have to imagine some of this, because several things have changed since 1864. For one thing, the Mississippi River has actually shifted a few miles to the west (this happened naturally). For another, the large bluff on which the fort sits is entirely overgrown with trees. When the fort was in active use, all trees had been cut down.

It is about a mile walk from the visitor center to the remains of the inner fort

The fort was originally built by Confederate engineers and slaves in 1861. It consisted of a small inner fort surrounded by three stages of semicircular earthworks (or, another way of putting it, three long walls of dirt meant to protect the people inside from invaders).

These boy scouts are studying a model of what the fort looked like at the Fort Pillow State Historic Park visitor center.

The entire project was bigger than you will probably visualize a walk all the way around the outer line of earthworks was a 13-mile hike. In fact, the fort’s immense size was a mistake in March 1862 a Confederate general estimated it would take 15,000 troops and a large number of guns to properly defend it.

The interior of the visitor center

With the Union Navy advancing along the Mississippi River, the Confederate Army abandoned Fort Pillow in June 1862. For the next two years the fort was occupied by a relatively small cadre of various union troops. With General Sherman’s Union Army working its way through Chattanooga into Georgia, and with General Lee’s Confederate Army protecting Richmond, there was no sign that Fort Pillow would ever be attacked again. By 1864 the fort was being held by 600 troops. About half were white and half black, and the Union troops were commanded by Major Lionel Booth.

By the spring of 1864 the war in Tennessee was going badly for the Confederate cause. About the only consistent winner on the battlefield in Tennessee was a small army of cavalry troops (troops that fought on horseback) under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. In April of that year, Forrest decided to attack Fort Pillow. Although the reasons for this decision are open to speculation, Forrest’s army needed food, supplies, ammunition, and guns that they knew that they would find at the fort, and they also felt like they could score a military victory there.

Confederate troops attacked at 6 a.m. on April 12, 1864, moving to the scene on horseback, then dismounting and attacking like infantry soldiers. Against the poorly designed and defended fort, the relatively inexperienced Union troops were no match to Forrest’s 1,600 battle-hardened Confederates. Among the people killed during the early fighting was Union Major Booth after he was shot and killed command of the fort fell to Major William Bradford.

At 2 p.m. that day, Forrest sent a letter to the fort demanding the Union commander to surrender. Bradford refused to do so for reasons that we aren’t sure about today it is possible that he felt like his men still had a chance because of the presence on the river of a small U.S. Navy gunboat called the USS New Era. After a cease fire that lasted about half an hour, the fighting resumed, and in a short time Confederate forces began scaling the fort’s innermost walls.

This sketch of the “Fort Pillow Massacre” was
published in a northern newspaper in 1894

To this day, people argue about what happened then.

A New York Times article
published in 1864.

According to Northern newspapers, and according to a U.S. Congressional hearing into the events, Confederate troops continued to kill Union soldiers as they attempted to surrender — especially the ones that were black. “The blacks and their officers were shot down, bayoneted and put to the sword in cold blood — the helpless victims of the perfidy by which they were overpowered,” the New York Times reported. Because of such accounts, the incident became known as the Fort Pillow Massacre. “Remember Fort Pillow” thus became a rallying cry for many in the North, and for black Americans who heard the story.

Forrest’s men, on the other hand, later maintained that the Union troops kept their weapons and continued to fire as they fled down the embankment in the direction of the Mississippi River and the U.S. Navy gunboat. This refusal to surrender, they insisted, is what caused so many of them to be killed.

People also argue about General Forrest’s role in what took place. Some believe that he told and encouraged his men to shoot Union soldiers even after they tried to surrender, especially ones that were African American. Other accounts claim that he screamed at his men to stop firing at surrendered troops.

The Mississippi River near Fort Pillow

When the fighting had ceased that day, about 20 Confederates had died. Meanwhile nearly 300 Union troops were killed, and about two-thirds of those were black. In fact, African-American soldiers had a 63 percent casualty rate that day — which is unbelievable even by Civil War standards — making Fort Pillow one of the saddest days in African American history.

If you want to know more about Fort Pillow, we recommend reading the following:

  • From Civil War fort to State Park: A History of Fort Pillow State Historic Area by Strickland and Huebner (for sale at Fort Pillow State Historic Park)
  • “Remember Fort Pillow! Politics, Atrocity Propaganda, and the Evolution of Hard War,” in Black Flag Over Dixie: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in the Civil War
  • “The Fort Pillow Massacre: A Fresh Examination of the Evidence,” in Civil War History 4 (1958)

Or find another book or article in the library. We do not recommend that you research this subject on the Internet, because there is a lot of misguided information about this particular event on line.

Fort Pillow State Historic Park is in Lauderdale County.

Today, because of how the river has moved, it can be hard to understand why the fort was important during the Civil War. But on this map (on display at the Fort Pillow State Historic Park visitor center) you can see why it was so important:

Pillow Facts and History You Didn’t Already Know

Did you know that the history of the pillow can be traced by to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia? If not, then you may want to read to rest of this.

Sure you already know that pillows can go on your couch or bed. And you already know that you can lay your head on them and rest or even sleep in comfort with the right pillow. But did you know that the history of the pillow can be traced by to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia? If not, then you may want to read to rest of this.

When man invented the wheel, it was made of stone and the carts that used this wheel provided for a very bumpy ride. The first pillows invented weren’t very comfortable either. Pharaoh’s of Egypt were buried with pillows in their tombs made out of wood, with curvature cut out that would fit their heads and neck.

The Chinese also made their own versions of pillows. These were constructed out of jade, porcelain, bronze, wood, and bamboo. One can only wonder why organic materials such as cotton or wool weren’t used for the first pillows. Even using a pet that likes to sleep 16 hours a day would be a better replacement for some of these first rock hard pillows.

But, according to Chinese mythology hard pillows were preferred because they help both with blood circulation and to keep the ancient demons away. Beautyrest, Tempur-Pedic and those comfortable pillows you steal from hotel rooms would have to overcome years of cultural bias before putting these hard pillow myths to rest.

The Greek and Romans did it right back then. With their hedonistic tendencies that some say led to the downfall of Rome, the people were into luxury and the pleasure of the self. So, instead of rocks, stones or metal, the Greeks and Romans used reeds, straw and the all-time favorite of the rich, feathered down.

These Europeans did not believe that there Pillow Pets were going to come to life at night and eat them as they slept. No, they believed in gorging themselves in tryptophan-laced foods and plenty of wine to put them out for a good night’s sleep.

And, yes a comfortable pillow was part of this experience as well. Eat, drink, sleep, repeat was the norm for many living in this culture.

Now, in the 1800’s pillows had become common place. Every Tom, Dick and Harriet homesteading in the U. S. had some form of pillow to aid them in a quality sleep at night. Back then the stuffing in the pillows had to be changed frequently because of mold, mildew and other issues.

And in the 1900’s pillows started to become mass produced and compete in the marketplace. Today there are many different kinds of pillows including those that use memory foam, hypo-allergenic materials, duck down, goose down and Hugh Downs.

So, you see, you’ve learned something about pillows today. Sleep well tonight, and by all means, don’t let those nasty bed bugs bite.

Kevin Blevin writes about the history of pillows plus funny pillowcases for a humorous shopping site that he owns, runs and manages.

Pillows Throughout The Ages

A quick Google search for “pillows” will return almost a billion page results and over 30,000 shopping results. Pillows are a universal part of our lives and there are more options than there have ever been, each with its own claim of support and comfort. While the idea of pillows being a soft place to rest your head is not a new concept, it certainly wasn’t its original purpose.

So far as we know, the earliest pillows date back over 9,000 years to Mesopotamia, or modern day Iraq. Formed from stone, the top was carved in a half-moon shape to support the neck. The idea obviously wasn’t comfort, at least not immediate comfort. The basic function of the pillow was to keep the head off the ground and prevent insects from crawling into mouths, noses, and ears. Ancient Egyptians and Chinese also used similar pillows, though each culture had its own reasons for them.

The Egyptians believed that the head was an important spiritual and life center for the body, so pillows and headrests were created to hold and protect it. Most of these pillows, while similar to the Mesopotamians in their curved top, were carved out of wood and reserved mainly for wealthy individuals.

Chinese porcelain pillow, Song Dynasty (960–1279)

The Chinese on the other hand, created ornately decorated pillows from many materials including wood, stone, bamboo, and even porcelain, bronze, and jade. Though they had the knowledge and ability to create soft pillows, they believed that such pillows stole energy and vitality from the body while one slept and were ineffective at keeping demons away.

Ancient Greeks and Romans used pillows more similar to those we know today–cloth filled with materials such as feathers or straw. By the Middle Ages in Europe, however, pillows had fallen out of favor with many. Many men viewed pillows as a sign of weakness, and their use was primarily limited to pregnant women.

While they did make a resurgence after the Middle Ages, pillows did not become nearly as universal as they are today until the industrial revolution. The improvements in technology made mass production of textiles possible, meaning everyone could sleep with a pillow at night and could even afford decorative pillows for chairs and couches, something that earlier would have been seen as a symbol of high status.

Pillows were created for children to use as weapons.

For such a simple idea, it’s amazing to see that the pillow is still changing – new materials and shapes arise constantly, claiming to provide more support and a better night’s sleep than your old pillow. Though few people likely base their purchases on how well a pillows protects their ears from insects anymore, the pillow has been an important piece of human culture throughout much of our history and continues to be today.

Eric Palmer is a writer and designer living in Denver, CO, he writes on various topics including health and tips on how to fall asleep.



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