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Fort Pillow Massacre, by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, May 5, 1864

The congressional joint committee quickly investigated the Fort Pillow incident. Senator and Committee Chairman Benjamin Wade of Ohio and Representative Daniel Gooch of Massachusetts traveled to Tennessee, Illinois, and Kentucky to interview 50 witnesses and issued a report within three weeks. Many newspapers reprinted the report, which concluded that the engagement at Fort Pillow ended in a massacre.

U.S. Senate Library

Fort Pillow Massacre, by the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, May 5, 1864

The Fort Pillow Massacre

After Confederate victories early in the Civil War, some members of Congress wanted greater involvement in military policy and strategy. In December 1861 Congress created a Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War to investigate the Union effort. One investigation concerned the Fort Pillow Massacre in Tennessee. On April 12, 1864, Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest led an attack that ended in a slaughter targeting African Americans among the surrendering Union troops. The committee’s widely published report made the Fort Pillow Massacre a rallying cry in the North.

I saw one of the rebels and told him I would surrender. He said, “We do not shoot white men.” . . . He ordered me away; he kept on shooting the negroes

Sergeant Henry F. Weaver, Fort Pillow Massacre, May 6, 1864