Historic Markers Across Tennessee



Confederate States of America



Marker ID:  
Location: 125 North Front Street, Memphis, TN
County: Shelby
Coordinates: N 35° 8.658    W 090° 3.566
  35.1443    -90.05943333
Style: Mounted **
Waymark: None
 



Text:

When Southern states seceded from the union in 1861, the Mississippi River became not only a vital commercial waterway, but also a strategic route through the heart of the Confederacy. The river proved to be the South's greatest weakness At the onset, Confederate officials believed that Mississippi's mouth was well-protected by forts below New Orleans, Louisiana and that any Union attack would come from the north. Columbus, Kentucky, just below Cairo, Illinois was heavily fortified with a giant chain stretched across the river to block Union vessels. Columbus was not seriously challenged, but Union victories inland had outflanked the position, and it was evacuated in early 1862. New Madrid, Missouri and nearby Island No. 10 then became the northernmost Confederate defenses, but they were captured a few months later, in April, 1862. The same month, a Union fleet entered the mouth of the Mississippi from the Gulf of Mexico.

The Confederacy was highly confident that Forts Jackson and St. Philip, below New Orleans, could repel any invasion, and half of their River Defense Fleet was sent north to Memphis to protect the Memphis-Charleston Railroad. The Union fleet fought past the rebel forts in Louisiana, destroying all but one of the remaining confederate vessels, and undefended New Orleans surrendered May 1, 1862.

After New Madrid and Island No. 10 had fallen, Fort Pillow and the small River Defense Fleet were Memphis' only protection. Local hopes rose when Confederate boats sank two Union vessels in an attack at Fort Pillow, but the retreat of Confederate forces from Corinth, Mississippi, after the Battle of Shiloh, left both Fort Pillow and Memphis outflanked. Fort Pillow was abandoned, and a federal flotilla steamed down river for the Battle of Memphis on June 6, 1862. At the citizens of Memphis watched from the bluff, Union gunboats and rams took an hour and a half to sink, burn, or capture seven of the eight Rivers

Defense steamers. The defenseless city immediately surrendered. After the easy victories at Memphis and New Orleans, the Union forces were unable to complete their capture of the lower river for more than a year. Fortified Vicksburg proved to be a nearly impregnable position and surrendered only after a 7-week siege, on July 4, 1863. The Civil War continued for tow more years, but Union control of the river divided the Confederacy, and proved to be a major turning point in the conflict. The war officially ended April 1865.