Report of Lieut. Daniel Van Horn, Sixth U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery, of the capture of Fort Pillow.
MARCH 16-APRIL 14, 1864.--Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee and Kentucky.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXII/1 [S# 57]
HDQRS. SIXTH U.S. HEAVY ARTILLERY (COLORED),
Fort Pickering, Memphis, Tenn., April 14, 1864.
Lieut. Col. T. H. HARRIS,
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle and capture of Fort Pillow, Tenn.:
At sunrise on the morning of the 12th of April, 1864, our pickets were attacked and driven in, they making very slight resistance. They were from the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry.
Major Booth, commanding the post, had made all his arrangements for battle that the limited force under his command would allow, and which was only 450 effective men, consisting of the First Battalion of the Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery, five companies of the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, and one section of the Second U.S. Light Artillery (colored), Lieutenant Hunter.
Arrangements were scarcely completed and the men placed in the rifle-pits before the enemy came upon us and in ten times our number, as acknowledged by General Chalmers. They were repulsed with heavy loss; charged again and were again repulsed. At the third charge Major Booth was killed, while passing among his men and cheering them to fight.
The order was then given to retire inside the fort, and General Forrest sent in a flag of truce demanding an unconditional surrender of the fort, which was returned with a decided refusal.
During the time consumed by this consultation advantage was taken by the enemy to place in position his force, they crawling up to the fort.
After the flag had retired, the fight was renewed and raged with fury for some time, when another flag of truce was sent in and another demand for surrender made, they assuring us at the same time that they would treat us as "prisoners of war."
Another refusal was returned, when they again charged the works and succeeded in carrying them. Shortly before this, however, Lieut. John D. Hill, Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery, was ordered outside the fort to burn some barracks, which he, with the assistance of a citizen who accompanied him, succeeded in effecting, and in returning was killed.
Major Bradford, of the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, was now in command. At 4 o'clock the fort was in possession of the enemy, every man having been either killed, wounded, or captured.
There never was a surrender of the fort, both officers and men declaring they never would surrender or ask for quarter.
As for myself, I escaped by putting on citizens clothes, after I had been some time their prisoner. I received a slight wound of the left ear.
I cannot close this report without adding my testimony to that accorded by others wherever the black man has been brought into battle. Never did men fight better, and when the odds against us are considered it is truly miraculous that we should have held the fort an hour. To the colored troops is due the successful holding out until 4 p.m. The men were constantly at their posts, and in fact through the whole engagement showed a valor not, under the circumstances, to have been expected from troops less than veterans, either white or black.
The following is a list of the casualties among the officers as far as known: Killed, Maj. Lionel F. Booth, Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored); Maj. William F. Bradford, Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry; Capt. Theodore F. Bradford, Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry; Capt. Delos Carson, Company D, Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored); Lieut. John D. Hill, Company C, Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored); Lieut. Peter Bischoff, Company A, Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored). Wounded, Capt. Charles J. Epeneter, Company A, prisoner; Lieut. Thomas W. McClure, Company C, prisoner; Lieut. Henry Lippett, Company B, escaped, badly wounded; Lieutenant Van Horn, Company D, escaped, slightly wounded.
I know of about 15 men of the Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored) having escaped, and all but 2 of them are wounded.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, &c.,
DANIEL VAN HORN,
2d Lieut. Company D, Sixth U.S. Heavy Artillery (colored).
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