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Southern Deadly Revenge for the Emancipation Proclamation

In the early morning hours of April 12, 1864, a force of 1,500 Confederate cavalrymen commanded by General Nathan Bedford Forrest attacked 600 Union soldiers at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. They weren’t just any Union soldiers. More than half were blacks, most of them ex-slaves – a fighting force that most rebel soldiers had never seen before. Although black soldiers fought in a handful of engagements in 1862 and 1863, their presence in combat was still relatively new.

The fight did not last long. Union Commander Callow, who was white, made several serious mistakes, including refusing to surrender. His strength was quickly overwhelmed. Soon the massacre began – the deliberate shooting by Confederates, enraged at the presence of blacks, unarmed soldiers trying to surrender or had already surrendered. The carnage did not stop on the battlefield. The wounded and the sick were massacred in hospital tents. By the time the last prisoner was executed, nearly half of the Fort Pillow garrison was dead, the vast majority of them black.

The significance of the murders quickly became clear.

In its early years, the Civil War had been seen as an attempt to reconstitute the Union. Lincoln had said it over and over and most northerners approved of the idea. Most were not abolitionists. Most were deeply uncomfortable with the idea of ​​former slaves suddenly mingling with whites.

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