Lithograph, “The Fort Pillow Massacre,”

1892
This hand-colored lithograph depicts the
battle at Fort Pillow on April 12, 1864.
Confederate troops in the middle fire
into lines of unarmed African-American
troops and women on the right while a
wounded white Union officer begs for
mercy. On the left, Confederate troops
attempt to kill African-American civilians with knives. In the left upper
background, Confederate soldiers are
overtaking Union artillerymen standing
underneath a white flag of surrender. In
the center and right bottom foreground,
dying and wounded African-American
soldiers and a civilian are escaping into
the river.

Collections of the Kentucky Historical Society • Accession Number 1976.58.06 • 23 3/4” x 30 1/4” x 1”

Background Information
Fort Pillow was located on the Tennessee bank of the Mississippi River. Originally a Confederate-built fort, it fell
into Union hands in May of 1862. By 1864, though most battles were in the eastern part of the country, continuous raids by Confederate soldiers forced the Union to maintain an armed presence in the region. Fort Pillow was
garrisoned by one regiment of 262 African-American troops in addition to a unit of white cavalry, putting about
600 men at the fort.
In March of 1864, General Nathan Bedford Forrest led a division of Confederate cavalry, roughly numbering
1,500 men, on a raid through Tennessee that made its way as far north into Kentucky as Paducah. On the return
south, Forrest attacked Fort Pillow on April 12, 1864, quickly dominating the battle with nearly three times the
numbers of the Union force. Forrest demanded the fort surrender, and Major William Bedford, who had taken
command after Major Lionel F. Booth was killed, asked for an hour to discuss with his fellow officers. Fearing a
stalling tactic, Forrest denied the request, and gave Bedford 20 minutes. Bedford refused, and the Confederate
forces took Fort Pillow in a bloody, one-sided battle.
In the fight, 14 Confederate soldiers were killed and 86 wounded. The staggering loss on the Union side—between 277 and 297 killed, 100 wounded, and the rest captured—drew the attention of the federal government.
Of the 262 African-American troops, only about 20% were among the captured and living (to compare, about
60% of the white troops had been left alive), leading federal leaders and politicians to believe that it was a racebased massacre of unarmed prisoners. The Confederate government and those present at the battle denied any
unlawful killing, but it became clear through witness testimonies that a massacre had very likely occurred. Many
Confederate soldiers and citizens despised the idea of African-American soldiers and vowed that those who
were captured in battle would be either killed or sold into slavery. A good number of the 262 African-American
soldiers at Fort Pillow had been former slaves and were well aware of Confederate policy regarding captured
African Americans.

and a print was made by pressing the inked limestone onto a piece of paper. S. The limestone was moistened with a water-based solution. Lithography revolutionized the print-making world when German playwright and actor Alois Senefelder invented it in 1798. print styles of Currier and Ives and other printmakers contemporary to the Civil War.” Forrest would eventually go on to become the first Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. lithographs were made by drawing on a smooth limestone block with a greasy paint or wax crayon. Prints like “The Fort Pillow Massacre” were made at a time when Civil War veterans were entering an era of nostalgic remembrance. Congress increased the wages of African-American soldiers to $13 a month starting pay. Using the lithographic process. In the months following the massacre. as can be seen with this print. Kurz and Allison mainly produced commemorative prints of historic events but also did lithographs of family scenes and religious imagery. mirroring patriotic feelings rather than depicting actual scenes. . 1864. slaves in Kentucky were allowed to enlist regardless of whether or not they had their owners’ approval. and were also brightly colored to be more visually appealing. equal to that of white soldiers. The prints were generally highly inaccurate. and President Abraham Lincoln called on his advisors and secretaries to propose a response. Though made at a time when photography and detailed artwork had become more prevalent. On June 7. U.” or less realistic. a rarity at the time. Lithographs were often printed in one or two shades and hand-tinted to add the remaining color. Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Kurz and Allison strove to adhere to traditional “antiphotographic. Kurz and Allison published several prints that featured African Americans in combat. a printing firm established in Chicago in 1880 by Louis Kurz and Alexander Allison. “Remember Fort Pillow!” became a rallying cry for African-American troops. General Forrest and other Confederate soldiers denied any such incidents. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton suggested a complete end to prisoner exchanges because the South refused to treat African-American prisoners the same as whites. and tents housing wounded soldiers were burned down. though Forrest was reported as bragging that he had taught “the mongrel garrison” a lesson and that the river was “dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for 200 yards. On the 15th of June. African-American troops began to see better treatment from the Lincoln government. For the remainder of the war. Unlike previous printing processes that relied on engravings of a design in a printing block.A Congressional Committee investigated the massacre and discovered that terrible atrocities had occurred. News of the massacre outraged Northerners. Chase took a war-hawk approach and suggested that an equivalent number of Confederate prisoners of war be executed in retaliation. women and children had been killed. Oily ink was then rolled onto the stone and repelled by the water-based solution while adhering to the greasy or waxy drawing. prints could be mass-produced and sold inexpensively. Significance This lithographic print of the Fort Pillow massacre was published by Kurz and Allison. It was reported that several African Americans had been buried alive. which would adhere to the smooth limestone and be repelled by the grease or wax drawing.

awardspace. http://memory. http://ghead.Related Resources • Read the letter from U. Chase to President Abraham Lincoln regarding the Fort Pillow massacre on the Library of Congress website.com/ftpillow.loc.loc.civilwarhome.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId= mal&fileName=mal1/329/3290500/malpage. S.db&recNum=0] [transcription: http://memory. http://www.gov/cgibin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field%28DOCID+@lit%28d3290500%29%29 • Read the conflicting official battle reports of Union and Confederate officers on the online collection of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.com/kurz/ .htm • See other Kurz and Allison Civil War prints in this collection of Library of Congress images. Treasury Secretary Salmon P.