1861

Mid-April

When Governor Harris calls for another election to consider secession, Tennesseans take sides, the East tending to support the Union, the West leaning toward secession. In Memphis, banners proclaim:

  • We have exhausted argument; we now stand by our arms.
  • Secession our only Remedy.
  • Anti-Coercion, Southern Rights, and Southern Honor before Union.
  • A United South will prevent Civil War

1862

Battle of Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River in Henning, TN, leaving a controversy around the question of whether a massacre of surrendered African-American troops was conducted or condoned by Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Northern troops, assuming Forrest’s involvement, use the name as a rallying cry in later battles.

1863

Engagement at Stewartsborough.

1864

Forrest’s troops attack Fort Pillow, killing 221 of the fort’s garrison of 558, many of them black soldiers, and many of them, reportedly, after their surrender. Northern newspapers are aghast and run emotional stories for days, many calling it “the blackest deed of the war.”

Letter excerpt: Rebels “have a particular dislike for negro soldiers, they fell to & butchered them in cold blood after taking possession of the fort,”

– letter from an Ohio Union soldier.