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Report of the Com. on the Ft. Pillow Massacre.


WASHINGTON, May 5. — The following is an extract from the report of the Committee on the Conduct of the War:

Although your committee were instructed to inquire only in reference to the attack, capture and massacre at Fort Pillow, they have deemed it proper to take some testimony in reference to the operations of Forrest and his command, immediately preceding and subsequent to that horrible transaction. It will appear from the testimony thus taken that the atrocities committed at Fort Pillow were not the result of passions excited by the beat of conflict, but were the results of a policy deliberately decided upon and unhesitatingly announced. Even if the uncertainty of the fate of those officers and men belonging to the colored regiments who have heretofore been taken by the rebels has failed to convince the authorities of our Government of this, the testimony herewith submitted must convince even the most skeptical that it is the intention of the rebel authorities not to recognize the officers and men of our colored regiments as entitled to the treatment accorded by all civilized nations to prisoners of war. The declaration of Forrest and his officers, both before and after the capture of Fort Pillow, as testified to by such of our men as have escaped after being taken by him — the threats contained by the demands for surrender made at Paducah, Columbus, and other places, the renewal of the massacre and the capture of Fort Pillow, the statements made by the rebel officers to the officers of our gunboats who received the few survivors at Fort Pillow — all this proves most conclusively the policy they have determined to adopt.

It was at Fort Pillow the brutality and cruelty of the rebels were most faithfully executed. [The committee then detailed at length the taking of Fort Pillow, and then proceed to say:] Then followed a scene of cruelty and murder without a parallel in civilized warfare, which needs but the tomahawk and scalping knife to exceed the worst atrocities ever committed by savages. The rebels commenced an indiscriminate slaughter, sparing neither age nor sick, white or black, soldier or civilians. The officers and men seemed to vie with each other in the work. Men, women and children wherever found, were deliberate shot down, beaten and hacked with sabres. Some of the children, not more than ten years old, were forced to stand up and face their murderers while being shot. The sick and wounded were butchered without mercy, the rebels even entering the hospitals, beating and dragging them out to shoot, or killing them as they lay there unable to offer the least resistance. All over the hillside the work of murder was going on; numbers of our men were collected together in lines or groups and deliberately shot. Some were shot while in the river, while others on the bank were shot and their bodies kicked into the water, many of them still living but unable to make exertions to save themselves from drowning. Some of the rebels stood upon the top of the hill or a short distance from its side and called to our men to come up to them and as they approached shot them down in cold blood, and if their guns or pistols missed, forced them to stand there until they were again prepared to fire. All around were heard cries of no quarter! no quarter! kill the d —— d niggers! shoot them down! All who asked for mercy were answered by the most cruel taunts and sneers; some were spared for a time only to be goaded under circumstances of greater barbarity.

No cruelty which the most fiendish malignity could devise was omitted by these murderers. One white soldier who was wounded in the leg so as to be unable to walk was made to stand up while his tormenters shot him. — Others who were wounded and unable to stand up were held up and again shot. One negro, who had been ordered by a rebel officer to hold his horse, was shot by him. When he remounted another, a mere child whom an officer had taken up behind him on his horse, was seen by Chalmers, who at once ordered him to put him down and shoot him, which was done. The rebels themselves had made a pretense of burying a great many of their victims, but they had merely thrown them into the trenches and ditches about the fort or the little hollows and ravines on the hill-side, covering them partially with earth. Portions of heads, faces, hands and feet were found protruding in every direction, and even when your committee visited the spot two weeks afterwards, although parties of men had been sent on shore from time to time to bury the disinterred and re-bury others, and were even even then engaged in the same work, we found evidences of this murder and cruelty still painfully evident. We saw the bodies, still some distance from the fort, of some six men who had been met fleeing from the hospital and beaten down.

These statements were obtained by them from eye-witnesses. Maj. Bradford was taken by five rebels — one of them an officer — led about fifty yards from the line of march, and deliberately murdered. In view of those assembled he fell, instantly killed by three musket balls, even while asking that his life might be spared, as he had fought them manfully and was deserving of a better fate. For this murder seems to have been that motive of the South — he was loyal to his Government.

The testimony herewith contains many statements by the rebels they did not intend to treat home-made Yankees, as they termed loyal Southerners, any better than negro troops. There is one circumstance connected with the events herein narrated which your committee cannot permit to pass unnotied. The testimony herewith submitted discloses this most shameful fact:

On the morning of the day succeeding the capture of Fort Pillow the gunboat Silver Cloud, No. 28, the transport Platte Valley, and the gunboat New Era, No. 7, landed at Ft. Pillow under a flag of truce for the purpose of receiving the few wounded there and burying the dead. While they were lying there the rebel Gen. Chalmers and other rebel officers came down to the landing and some went on the boats, notwithstanding the evidences of the rebel atrocity and barbarity with which the ground was covered. There were some of our army officers on board the Platte Valley so lost to every feeling of decency, honor and self-respect as to make themselves disgracefully conspicuous in bestowing civilities and attentions upon the rebel officers even while boasting of the murders they had there committed. Your committee were unable to ascertain the names of the officers. They are assured however by the military authorities that every effort will be made to ascertain their names and bring them to the punishment they so richly merit.

In relation to the reinforcement or evacuation of Fort Pillow, it would appear that the troops there stationed were withdrawn on the 28th of January last in order to accompany the Meridian expedition under Gen. Sherman. Gen. Hurlbut testifies that he never received any instructions to evacuate the post, and deeming it important to occupy it so that the rebels should not interrupt the navigation of river by planting artillery there. He sent some troops there about the middle of February, increasing their number afterwards, until the garrison amounted is nearly 600 men.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

(Signed,) B. F. WADE,
Adopted by the Committee as their report.

B. F. WADE, Chairman.