Historic Markers Across Tennessee

U.S. Colored Troops and the Battle of Fort Pillow / Remember Fort Pillow

Marker ID:  
Location: 3568 Townes Avenue, Memphis, TN
County: Shelby
Coordinates: N 35° 10.426    W 089° 56.448
  35.17376666    -89.9408
Style: Free Standing **
Waymark: None


U.S. Colored Troops and the Battle of Fort Pillow

Buried in Memphis National Cemetery are the remains of 248 mostly unknown Union officers and soldiers — including 109 graves representing the U.S. Colored Troops — who fell at nearby Fort Pillow. In the spring of 1864, the Union outpost, located on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, included some 600 soldiers and an unknown number of civilians. The garrison was composed of the 2nd U.S. Colored Light Artillery (35 men),the 6th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery (269 men), and the 13th Tennessee Cavalry (approx. 295 men). Early on April 12, 1,800 troops commanded by General Nathan B. Forrest attacked the fort. Though outnumbered three-to-one, the Federals defied Forrest's demand for surrender. Soon thereafter, the Confederates stormed the breastworks and took the fort.

Remember Fort Pillow

In most Civil War battles, the number of wounded exceeded the number of dead. But at Fort Pillow these numbers were reversed. By the morning of April 13, nearly half of all Union officers and soldiers had been killed or mortally wounded. U.S. Colored Troops sustained the greatest number of casualties, losing two-thirds of their number. Eyewitnesses reported that black soldiers were killed despite putting down their weapons and surrendering in what the North deemed a massacre. Additionally, wounded men were burned alive in hospital tents and buildings. The departing Confederates enslaved their black prisoners and transported their white captives to prison camps. Few men escaped to rejoin their regiments. For the remainder of the war, "Remember Fort Pillow” became the rallying cry of the nearly 179,000 African-American soldiers who fought to free the country from the scourge of slavery.

Erected in 2018 by W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Group Inc., USCT, Memphis ASLH,
Joe Williams, Descendants and other African Americans.