Report of Lieut. Mack J. Leaming,
Adjutant Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry,
The Battle of Fort Pillow.

ADJUTANT-GENERAL'S OFFICE, STATE OF TENNESSEE,
Nashville, Tenn., January 17., 1865.

Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.

        SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 31st ultimo, and, in accordance with the direction therein contained, to make the following report of the battle of Fort Pillow:
        On the 12th day of April, 1864, the Federal forces stationed at Fort Pillow, Tenn., consisted of one battalion of the Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored troops), one battery Second U. S. Light Artillery (colored troops), and the Thirteenth Regiment West Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry, which was then recruiting, having four companies mustered into the U.S. service and the fifth company ready for muster. The men composing this- company had been enlisted by Capt. John L. Poston, and repeated applications had been made to have them mustered into the U.S. service, but no mustering officer could be sent for that purpose. Our entire garrison numbered some 550 effective men, with six pieces of artillery, the whole under command of Maj. L. F. Booth, of the Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored troops). In addition to this force the U.S. gun-boat New Era, Captain Marshall, was stationed off Fort Pillow and participated !n the engagement, but owing to the high bluffs, and in consequence of the long range she was obliged to take with her guns but little assistance was rendered the garrison from this quarter.
        At 5.30 o'clock on the morning of the 12th of April, 1864, our pickets were attacked and driven in by the advance of the enemy, under command of General Forrest. Our garrison immediately opened fire on the advancing rebels from our artillery at the fort, while Companies D and E, of the Thirteenth West Tennessee Cavalry, were deployed as skirmishers, which duty they performed until about 8 a.m., when they were compelled to retire to the fort after considerable loss, in which Lieutenant Barr, of Company D, was killed.
        The firing continued without cessation, principally from behind logs, stumps, and under cover of thick underbrush and from high knolls, until about 9 a.m., when the rebels made a general assault on our works, which was successfully repulsed with severe loss to them and but slight loss to our garrison. We, however, suffered pretty severely in the loss of commissioned officers by the unerring aim of the rebel sharpshooters, and among this loss I have to record the name of our post commander, Maj. L. F. Booth, who was killed almost instantly by a musket-ball through the breast.
        Maj. W. F. Bradford, of the Thirteenth West Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry, being the next ranking officer, then assumed command of the garrison and directed the remainder of our operations.
        At about 11 a.m. the rebels made a second determined assault on our works. In this attempt they were again successfully repulsed with severe loss. The enemy succeeded, however, in obtaining possession of two rows of barracks running parallel to the south side of the fort and distant about 150 yards. The barracks had previously been ordered to be destroyed, but after severe loss on our part in the attempt to execute the order our men were compelled to retire without accomplishing the desired end, save only to the row nearest to the fort. From these barracks the enemy kept up a murderous fire on our men, despite all our efforts to dislodge him.
        Owing to the close proximity of these buildings to the fort, and to the fact that they were on considerably lower ground, our artillery could not be sufficiently depressed to destroy them, or even render them untenable for the enemy. Musketry and artillery firing continued, however, on both sides with great energy, and although our garrison was almost completely surrounded, all attempts of the enemy to carry our works by assault were successfully repulsed, notwithstanding his great superiority in numbers.
        At 3.30 p.m. firing suddenly ceased in consequence of the appearance of a white flag displayed by the enemy. The party bearing the flag was halted about 150 yards from the fort, when we were informed by one of the party that they had a communication from General Forrest to the commanding officer of the U.S. forces at Fort Pillow. I was ordered out, accompanied by Captains Bradford and Young, to receive this communication, which I took back to the fort while the party bearing the same remained for an answer. As nearly as I can remember the communication was as follows:

HEADQUARTERS CONFEDERATE CAVALRY,
Near Fort Pillow, Tenn., April 12, 1864.

Maj. L. F. BOOTH,
Commanding U. S. Forces at Fort Pillow:

        MAJOR: Your gallant defense of Fort Pillow has entitled you to the treatment of brave men. I now demand the unconditional surrender of your forces, at the same time assuring you that you will be treated as prisoners of war. I have received a new supply of ammunition and can take your works by assault, and if compelled to do so you must take the consequences.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. B. FORREST,
Major-General, Commanding Confederate Cavalry.

        To this communication I was ordered to make the following reply, which I placed in a sealed envelope, addressed to Major-General Forrest, and delivered to the party in waiting:

HEADQUARTERS U.S. FORCES,
Fort Pillow, Tenn., April 12, 1864.

Maj. Gen. N. B. FORREST,
Commanding Confederate Cavalry:

        General: Yours of this instant is received, and in reply I have to ask one hour for consultation and consideration with my officers and the officers of the gun-boat.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. F. BOOTH,
Major, Commanding U.S. Forces.

        Desiring to conceal from the enemy the fact of the death of Major Booth and cause him to believe that he was still in command, it was deemed not only proper but advisable that I append his name to the communication.
        I again repaired to the fort, where I had been but a few minutes when the party bearing the white flag again made its appearance with a second communication. and I was again sent out to meet the same. This time, just as an officer was in the act of handing me the communication, another officer galloped up and said, "That gives you twenty minutes to surrender; I am General Forrest." This I took back to the fort, the party remaining as before for an answer. It read as follows:

HEADQUARTERS CONFEDERATE CAVALRY,
Near Fort Pillow, April 12, 1864.

Maj. L. F. BOOTH,
Commanding U. S. Forces at Fort Pillow:

        MAJOR: I do not demand the surrender of the gun-boat; twenty minutes will be given you to take your men outside the fort and surrender. If in that time this demand is not complied with I will immediately proceed to assault your works, and you must take the consequences.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. B. FORREST,
Major-General, C. S. Army.

        After a short consultation with the officers of the garrison, it was unanimously voted not to surrender. In accordance with this decision I was ordered to write and deliver to the party in waiting the following communication:

HEADQUARTERS U.S. FORCES,
Fort Pillow, Tenn., April 12, 1864.

Maj. Gen. N. B. FORREST,
Commanding Confederate Cavalry:

GENERAL: I will not surrender.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. F. BOOTH,
Commanding U. S. Forces, Fort Pillow.

        This I delivered to General Forrest in person, who broke open the envelope in my presence, and after a hasty perusal of its contents re-folded it, when we simply saluted and each went our way.
        During the cessation of firing on both sides, in consequence of the flag of truce offered by the enemy, and while the attention of both officers and men was naturally directed to the south side of the fort where the communications were being received and answered, Forrest had resorted to means the most foul and infamous ever adopted in the most barbarous ages of the world for the accomplishment of his design. Here he took occasion to move his troops, partially under cover of a ravine and thick underbrush, into the very position he had been fighting to obtain throughout the entire engagement, up to 3.30 p.m. Consequently, when the final decision of the garrison had been made known, the rebel charge was immediately sounded; when, as if rising from out the very earth on the center and north side, within 20 yards of our works, the rebels received our first fire, wavered, rallied again and finally succeeded in breaking our lines, and in thus gaining possession of the fort. At this juncture, one company of the Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery, colored troops, rushed down the bluff, at the summit of which were our works, and many of them jumped into the river, throwing away their arms as they fled.
        Seeing that through a gross violation of the rules of civilized warfare the enemy had now gained possession of our works, and in consequence that it would be useless to offer further resistance, our men threw down their arms and surrendered. For a moment the fire seemed to slacken. The scene which followed, however, beggars all description. The enemy carried our works at about 4 p.m., and from that time until dark, and at intervals throughout the night, our men were shot down without mercy and almost without regard to color. This horrid work of butchery did not cease even with the night of murder, but was renewed again the next morning, when numbers of our wounded were basely murdered after a long night of pain and suffering on the field where they had fought so bravely. Of this display of Southern chivalry, of this wholesale butchery of brave men, white as well as black, after they had surrendered, and of the innumerable barbarities committed by the rebels on our sick in hospitals and the bodies of our dead, I do not deem it necessary further to speak, inasmuch as the Committee on the Conduct of the War has made a full and accurate report of the same, in which the barbarities practiced by the rebels at Fort Pillow are shown to have been horrid in the extreme, and fully confirming even the most seemingly exaggerated statements.
        The fate of Maj. William F. Bradford, for a while involved in some degree of doubt and obscurity, seems now to be clearly established. Subsequent events show beyond a reasonable doubt that he. was brutally murdered the first night of his capture.
        Of the commissioned officers of the Thirteenth West Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry (now the Fourteenth Regiment), all were killed save First Lieut. Nicholas D. Logan, of C Company, who died in prison at Macon, Ga., on 9th June, 1864, and myself, the adjutant of the regiment.
        The rebels were very bitter against these loyal Tennesseeans, terming them "home-made Yankees," and declaring they would give them no better treatment than they dealt out to the negro troops with whom they were fighting.
        At about 10 a.m. the day following the capture of the fort, while the U.S. gun-boat No. 28 from Memphis was shelling the enemy, who, at the same time was engaged in murdering our wounded, Forrest sent a flag of truce to the commander granting him from that time until 5 p.m. to bury our dead and remove the few surviving wounded, he having no means of attending to them. This proposition was accepted, and under it myself with some 59 others, all that were left of the wounded, were carried on board the transport Platte Valley and taken to Mound City, Ill., where we received good care and medical treatment in the U.S. general hospital at that place. But one commissioned officer of the garrison besides myself lived to get there, and he (Lieutenant Porter) died soon afterward from the effect of his wound.
        Of the number, white and black, actually murdered after the surrender I cannot say positively; however, from my own observation, as well as from prisoners who were captured at Fort Pillow and afterward made their escape, I cannot estimate that number at anything less than 300.
        From what I could learn at the time of the fight, as well as from escaped prisoners since then, relative to the Confederate loss in the attack and capture of Fort Pillow, I am confident that 500 men in killed and wounded would not be an overestimate. The Confederate forces engaged, as nearly as I could ascertain, numbered some 7,000 men, under command of Generals Forrest, Chalmers, and McCulloch.
        The bravery of our troops in the defense of Fort Pillow, I think, cannot be questioned. Many of the men, and particularly the colored soldiers, had never before been under fire; yet every man did his duty with a courage and determined resolution, seldom if ever surpassed in similar engagements. Had Forrest not violated the rules of civilized warfare in taking advantage of the flag of truce in the manner I have mentioned in another part of this report, I am confident we could have held the fort against all his assaults during: the day, when, if we had been properly supported during the night by the major-general commanding at Memphis, a glorious victory to the Union cause would have been the result of the next day's operations.
        In conclusion, it may not be altogether improper to state that I was one of the number wounded, at first considered mortally, after the surrender; and but. for the aid soon afterward extended to me by a Confederate captain, who was a member of an order to which I belong (Free Masonry), I would in all probability have shared the fate of many of my comrades who were murdered after having been wounded. This captain had me carried into a small shanty, where he gave me some brandy and water. He was soon ordered to his company, and I was carried by the rebels into the barracks which they had occupied during the most of the engagement. Here had been collected a great number of our wounded, some of whom had already died. Early the next morning these barracks were set on fire by order of a rebel officer, who had been informed that they contained Federal wounded. I was rendered entirely helpless from the nature of my wound, the ball having entered my right side, and ranging downward, grazed my lung. and deeply imbedded itself in my nip (where it still remains) out of easy reach of surgical instruments. In this condition I had almost given up every hope of being saved from a horrible death, when one of my own men, who was less severely wounded than myself, succeeded m drawing me out of the building, which the flames were then rapidly consuming.
        As to the course our Government should pursue in regard to the outrages perpetrated by the rebels on this as well as on a number of occasions during the existing rebellion, I have only to express my belief that some sort of retaliation should be adopted as the surest method of preventing a recurrence of the fiendish barbarities practiced on the defenders of our flag at Fort Pillow.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant.
MACK J. LEAMING,
Lieut. and Adjt. 14th Tennessee Vol. Cav., late 13th Regt.

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