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of the coal-barges, another boat, better for the boat, they could not have been elevated to reach purpose, (The Cheek,) hove in sight. Finding I sharp-shooters on the high steep bluff outside the could get her ready quicker than the other, I had Fort. her brought alongside, and went aboard myself A very few sharp-shooters from the shore near with Captain Thornton, of my staff, and Captain the Fort could have prevented any landing, and Williams, the ranking officer of the batteries have taken the boat. We supposed the object
Before we could get the guns on board, a steam- of the rebels was rather to seize a boat, to effect a er with troops hove in sight, coming down the crossing into Arkansas, than to capture the Fort. river from Fort Pillow.
We had no means of knowing or suspecting that We could not distinguish at first whether they so strong a position as Fort Pillow had not been were Union or rebel soldiers.
properly garrisoned for defence, when it was in I asked Captain Pegram, of the Olive Branch, constant communication with General Hurlbut at if the story of the women turned out to be true, Memphis. and the rebels had the steamer, could his boat The Olive Branch had just left Memphis, Gensink her. Captain Pegram replied : “Yes, my eral Hurlbut's headquarters, where it had been boat can run right over her." I ordered him to during the previous night. If it had not been swing out into the stream to be ready for her. for the appearance of the Liberty, I should have When she approached, we saw United States in- attempted a landing at Fort Pillow in the small
fantry soldiers on board that had just passed the steamer. If any intimation had been given from Fort. She kept on going rapidly down with the the gunboat or the shore, I should have landed current, only hailing the Olive Branch: “All personally from the Olive Branch. The order right up there; you can go by. The gunboat is given to the contrary prevented it. lying off the Fort."
Coming from New Orleans, and having no This steamer was the Liberty. We then pro- knowledge of affairs in that military district, I ceeded up the river in the Olive Branch. Near could not presume that a fort, with uninterrupted Fort Pillow some stragglers or guerrillas fired water communication above and below, could posfrom the shore with musketry, aiming at the pi- sibly be without a garrison strong enough to hold lot-house
it for a few hours. I was then in the pilot-house, and, as we kept I write hastily, and omit, from want of time, to on, I observed that one of the two other boats I state subsequent occurrences at Fort Columbus have mentioned, which followed us at some dis and Cairo, except to say that, at Fort Columbus, tance, was compelled to put back. The Olive in front of which Buford then was demanding a Branch kept on to report to the gunboat on the surrender, I stopped, started to ride out to the station.
lines, met Colonel Lawrence, the commanding An officer came off from the gunboat, in a small Officer, coming in from the front of his headquarboat, and said he did not want any boat to stop ; | ters. Offered to remain, with the men on board. ordered us to go on to Cairo, and tell Captain Colonel Lawrence said he was in good condi(name not recollected) to send him immediately tion to stand any attack; could communicate four hundred (400) rounds of ammunition. There with General Brayman; had already taken four was no firing at the Fort at this time.
| hundred (400) infantry and one battery from the The Union flag was flying, and after we had L. M. Kennett, which had just preceded us, and passed the Fort we could see a “flag of truce" left six hundred (600) men, and another, or other outside the fortifications.
batteries, on board, which he did not need. He No signal of any kind was made to the boat declined the proffered assistance as not needed, from the Fort, or from the shore.
and immediately on arrival at Cairo I reported all No intimation was given us from the gunboat, the information in my possession to General which had the right to order a steamer of this Brayman, in command, who was about leaving description, other than the order to proceed to for Columbus. Cairo, to send down the ammunition.
Captain Thornton, Twelfth Maine volunteers, a From the fact that the Liberty had just passed gallant officer, distinguished for his bravery at down the river from the Fort with troops on Ponchitoula, where he was wounded and left in board; from her hailing us to go by, and contin- the hands of the enemy, was on board the Olive uing her course down the river without stopping ; Branch, and will take this communication to the that no signal was made the Olive Branch from committee. the Fort on the shore, and no attack was being I respectfully ask that he may be thoroughly made on the Fort at the time; that the officer of examined as to all the circumstances. the gunboat said he did not want any boats to I am conscious that a full examination will stop, and ordered the captain of the Olive Branch show that I rather exceeded than neglected my to go on, and have ainmunition sent down to him duty. by first boat, I considered and now consider that I have the honor to be, with great respect, your the captain of the Olive Branch was not only obedient servant, justified in going on, but bound to proceed.
G. F. SHEPLEY, The Olive Branch was incapable of rendering
Brigadier-General Commanding. any assistance, being entirely defenceless. If any Hon. D. W. Gooch. guns could have been placed in position on the or Committee on Conduct of the War
WASNington, D. C., May 9, 1864. our way down we met another boat, the Cheek, Captain Charles C. G. Thornton, sworn and which would answer our purpose better, and she examined.
was stopped. General Shepley ordered a section By the Chairman:
of a battery put on board of her, and directed Question. What is your rank and position in Captain Williams, commanding the battery, and the army?
myself, to accompany him up to Fort Pillow to Answer. I am a Captain, and aid on General reconnoitre. I suggested to General Shepley, or George F. Shepley's staff.
was on the point of suggesting to him, that perQuestion. Were you with General Shepley haps he had better not go himself, but send Cap. when he passed Fort Pillow, about the time of tain Williams and myself. The instant I sugthe capture of that place ?
gested that, he said: “No, I will go myself, and Answer. Yes, sir.
I personally ascertain the condition of affairs." He Question. Will you state what occurred there, asked the captain how many minutes it would and the reason, if any, why you did not stop take him to get his guns on board. He said he there to aid the garrison ?
I could probably get a couple of guns on in a few Answer. We were passengers on the boat Olive minutes. Branch, which left New Orleans on the sixth of Just then a steamer, which afterward proved to April, without troops. On arriving at Vicks- be the steamer Liberty hove in sight. We supburgh, parts of two batteries—a Missouri and an posed at first that she was the Mollie Able, which Ohio battery-were put on board. I do not know the captain of our boat said was due at Fort Pilthe exact number of men, but I should think that low just about that time, and that she was one perhaps there were one hundred and twenty men of the boats the rebels had captured, if the story with the two batteries. The men had no small- of the women was true. When we saw her comarms whatever--no arms but the guns of their ing we noticed that she was loaded with troops; batteries. We stopped at a place to take in wood, whether Union or rebel troops we could not tell. where we were told the guerrillas had just passed, The General said to our captain : “Can you run and we threw out pickets to keep from being sur-that boat down ?" He said: “If it is the Mollie prised. We were unable to arm those men with Able, I can run right over her." When she hove any thing whatever, and merely stationed them in sight we saw at once that there was no time to so that we should not be surprised, but have an put a battery on board the Cheek; General Shepopportunity of getting on board the boat and leave. ley then ordered the Cheek to move out of the Upon arriving within three miles-perhaps two way, and the captain of our boat to swing out, with and a half miles — of Fort Pillow, some women the intention of running this other boat down if on shore hailed us and told us that Fort Pil she should prove to be loaded with rebel soldiers. low was captured with two transports or steam- When the boat got nearer, however, we found ers, and motioned to us to return. The captain she had Union troops on board. As she passed of the boat turned about for the purpose of re- us our captain hailed her, and she replied: “All turning to Memphis, but General Shepley stopped right up there; you can go by. There is a gunit. Colonel Sears, the owner of the boat, who boat there.” We were then satisfied that every was on hoard, came to me and asked me to go thing was all right, as she had been allowed to to General Shepley and tell him the importance come down by them with so large a body of troops of our going back to Memphis; that it was dan- on board. gerous for us to proceed with so many passengers. We went up, and when within perhaps a mile The boat was a very large one, loaded with pas- of the place some rebel soldiers fired upon our sengers, every state-room being occupied by men, boat, probably aiming at the pilot-house. I stood women, and children.
on the after-part of the deck at the time. The Question. How many passengers, non-combat. General was in the pilot-house looking out. The ants, do you suppose you had on board ?
shots did not take effect or amount to any thing. Answer. Perhaps one hundred and fifty, but we went on up, and found no firing at the Fort. that is a mere guess. When Colonel Sears urged We stopped at the gunboat, as all boats are reme to ask General Shepley to go back to Mem- quired to do which pass. An officer came on phis, I told him I should do nothing of the kind; board from the gunboat and said to the captain that if he wished General Shepley to allow the boat of our boat: “I want you to proceed immediateto go back, he might see hiin about it himself. ly to Cairo, and send down four hundred or five He did so, but General Shepley positively refused hundred rounds of ammunition; and order all to go. He ordered the captain of the Olive Branch boats back that may be coming down; we want to hail a boat which came in sight, and direct her no boats here." We talked the matter over, and to come alongside. General Shepley then said: came to the conclusion that the object of this “I will have a section of the battery put on this Fort Pillow affair was not to capture the Fort, boat, and will go up and reconnoitre." The boat but to capture more of our boats, if possible, in was called the Hope, I think. There is a point order to get across the river. That was merely just below where the rebels, if they had a bat- our supposition, as we knew nothing about the tery, might bring it to bear on us. General Shep-battle. There was no firing at the Fort at that ley consented to have the Hope go below that time, and our boat went on up the river in obepoint with the boat we were on, in order to have dience to the orders of the gunboat, as it had a this section of a battery put on board of her. Onlright to give that order.
We had proceeded but a little way before we impossibility for us to have taken those cannon discovered a flag of truce at the Fort, as it was up to Fort Pillow, as we had no infantry to cover reported to me; I did not see it myself, but it our landing ; and half a dozen sharp-shooters undoubtedly was there. We passed on a short could have undoubtedly captured our boat had distance further, and then noticed that our flag we attempted it. at the Fort was down; we had seen it flying as Question. If I understand you, General Shepwe passed the Fort. I went to the stern of our ley had no opportunity to relieve Fort Pillow any boat, and with a glass looked carefully at the way ? Fort. After a time I discovered that the gun. Answer. He went on board the boat a mere boat had steamed up a little ways, as I supposed passenger, with no arms. We did not know any for the purpose of firing upon the right flank of troops were coming on board. Those two porthe rebels. We could see a line of fire or smoke tions of batteries, with their guns, were ordered in the woods, which we supposed to be from the to report at Cairo. The gunboat was lying right, musketry of the rebels. We then saw a flag by the side of us, and its fire was of no account, raised up on a pole at the Fort, I should think and, of course, ours would not have been. ten or twelve feet high. I supposed that our By Mr. Gooch: flag had been shot away, and they were raising Question. Would it have been possible for you it again. The guns from the Fort at that time to have used your batteries from the boat with were pretty heavy, while the fire of the enemy any effect upon the rebels ? appeared to be from musketry. I have no doubt Answer. No, sir; it would have been an utter now that that was the rebel flag that was raised impossibility to have done so. If we had gone after the Fort was taken.
in and stopped five minutes there, the rebels We proceeded on up to Columbus. Before could have captured us without the least trouble we arrived there we noticed that there was heavy in the world. The question may be asked why firing there. On our arrival there we saw a we offered assistance at Columbus and not at great many troops, and they remarked from the Fort Pillow. The fort at Columbus is clear in shore that there was hot work there. General back from the river, and there were infantry Shepley told me to accompany him, and went up troops there to protect our landing. But Colonel to Colonel Lawrence's headquarters, but was Lawrence said he did not expect the fight to octold he was at the front. General Shepley or- cur for some time, even if there was any fight at dered two horses to be prepared for us to go to all, which he did not expect. the front, to see Colonel Lawrence. Just as the Question. At Columbus you could have landhorses were ready, and we were about starting, ed your batteries under the protection of your Colonel Lawrence came over and rode down to his forces there? headquarters. He told us that it was all right; that Answer. Yes, sir. there had been some skirmishing; that Buford had Question. And you could not have done that come there and demanded a surrender of the Fort, at Fort Pillow ? but he had refused to surrender. General Shepley Answer. No, sir; for at Fort Pillow we should told him that he had portions of two batteries on have been right under the Fort, and could have hand, and asked him if he wanted them; told been easily reached. This was all stated to him how they came there, and that they were General Brayman, and I was quite surprised ordered to Cairo as a portion of the Seventeenth when I heard of the testimony in regard to the corps. Colonel Lawrence said that he had taken matter. four hundred troops from the Luther M. Kennett, and, I think, one battery. The Luther M. Kennett had just preceded us as we passed by
Doc. 2. Fort Pillow. Colonel Lawrence said that he did
THE RETURNED PRISONERS. not need the batteries of General Shepley. General Shepley inquired particularly about the con IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES. dition of attairs, and told Colonel Lawrence what
May 9, 1864. Mr. Wade submitted the following had occurred at Fort Pillow. After ascertaining
Report. The Joint Committee on the Conduct that there was nothing to be done by us down
and Expenditures of the War submitted the folthere we proceeded to Cairo. On our arrival there General Shepley called upon General Bray
lowing Report, with the accompanying Testiman and told him the substance of what occur
mony. red; the condition of things as we left, the flag On the fourth instant your Committee recoming down, and the fear that the Fort had sur-ceived a communication of that date from the rendered. We did not know then that the Fort Secretary of War, inclosing the report of Colohad surrendered, though we know yow it had. nel Hoffman, Commissary General of prisoners,
The caissons and artillery had been hoisted on dated May third, calling the attention of the our boat by means of what they call a derrick, Committee to the condition of returned Union I think, and were piled up, closely packed all prisoners, with the request that the Committee round. It would, therefore, have been impossi- would immediately proceed to Annapolis and ex. ble for us to have removed those cannon for amine with their own eyes the condition of those several hours. It took us several hours to land who have been returned from rebel captivity. them at Cairo; and it would have been an utter The Committee resolved that they would comply with the request of the Secretary of War on the small pieces of corn-bread, made in many infirst opportunity. The fifth of May was devoted stances, as the witnesses state, of corn and cobs by the Committee to concluding their labors upon ground together, and badly prepared and cooked ; the investigation of the Fort Pillow massacre. of, at times, about two ounces of meat, usually On the sixth of May, however, the Committee of poor quality, and unfit to be eaten ; and occaproceeded to Annapolis and Baltimore, and ex- sionally a few black, worm-eaten beans, or someamined the condition of our returned soldiers, thing of that kind. Many of our men were comand took the testimony of several of them, to- | pelled to sell to their guards, and others, for gether with the testimony of surgeons and other what price they could get, such clothing and persons in attendance upon the hospitals. That blankets as they were permitted to receive of testimony, with the communication of the Secre- that forwarded for their use by our Government, tary of War, and the report of Colonel Hoffman, in order to obtain additional food sufficient to is herewith transmitted.
sustain life; thus, by endeavoring to avoid one The evidence proves, beyond all manner of privation, reducing themselves to the same desdoubt, a determination on the part of the rebel titute condition in respect to clothing and coverauthorities, deliberately and persistently practised ing that they were in before they received any for a long time past, to subject those of our sol. from our Government. When they became sick diers who have been so unfortunate as to fall in and diseased in consequence of this exposure their hands to a system of treatment which has and privation, and were admitted into the hospiresulted in reducing many of those who have tals, their treatment was little, if any, improved survived and been permitted to return to us to a as to food, though they doubtless suffered less condition, both physically and mentally, which from exposure to cold than before. Their food no language we can use can adequately describe. still remained insufficient in quantity and altoThough nearly all the patients now in the Naval gether unfit in quality. Their diseases and Academy Hospital at Annapolis, and in the West wounds did not receive the treatment which the Hospital in Baltimore, have been under the kind- commonest dictates of humanity would have est and most intelligent treatment for about three prompted. One witness, whom your Committee weeks past, and many of them for a greater examined, who had lost all the toes of one foot length of time, still they present literally the ap- from being frozen while on Belle Isle, states that pearance of living skeletons, many of them being for days at a time his wounds were not dressed, nothing but skin and bone; some of them are and that they had not been dressed for four days maimed for life, having been frozen while ex- when he was taken from the hospital and carried posed to the inclemency of the winter season on on the flag-of-truce boat for Fortress Monroe. Belle Isle, being compelled to lie on the bare In reference to the condition to which our men ground, without tents or blankets, some of them were reduced by cold and hunger, your Commitwithout overcoats or even coats, with but little tee would call the attention to the following exfire to mitigate the severity of the winds and tracts from the testimony. storms to which they were exposed.
One witness testifies : The testimony shows that the general prac. I had no blankets until our Government sent tice of their captors was to rob them, as soon as us some. they were taken prisoners, of all their money, Question. How did you sleep before you revaluables, blankets, and good clothing, for which ceived those blankets ? they received nothing in exchange except, per- Answer. We used to get together just as close haps, some old worn-out rebel clothing hardly as we could, and sleep spoon-fashion, so that better than none at all. Upon their arrival at when one turned over we all had to turn over. Richmond they have been confined, without Another witness testifies : blankets or other covering, in buildings without Question. Were you hungry all the time? fire, or upon Belle Isle, with, in many cases, no Answer. Hungry! I could eat any thing in shelter, and in others with nothing but old dis- the world that came before us; some of the boys carded army tents, so injured by rents and holes would get boxes from the North with meat of as to present but little barrier to the wind and different kinds in them; and, after they had storms. On several occasions, the witnesses say, I picked the meat off, they would throw the bones they have arisen in the morning from their rest- away into the spit-boxes, and we would pick the ing-places upon the bare earth, and found seve-bones out of the spit-boxes and gnaw them over ral of their comrades frozen to death during the again. night, and that many others would have met the In addition to this insufficient supply of food, same fate had they not walked rapidly back and clothing, and shelter, our soldiers, while prison. forth, during the hours which should have been ers, have been subjected to the most cruel treatdevoted to sleep, for the purpose of retaining ment from those placed over them. They have sufficient warmth to preserve life.
| been abused and shamefully treated on almost In respect to the food furnished to our men by every opportunity. Many have been mercilessly the rebel authorities, the testimony proves that shot and killed when they failed to comply with the ration of each man was totally insufficient all the demands of their jailers, sometimes for in quantity to preserve the health of a child, violating rules of which they had not been ineven had it been of proper quality, which it was formed. Crowded in great numbers in buildnot. It consisted usually, at the most, of twolings, they have been fired at and killed by the
Vol. VIII.-Doc. 6
sentinels outside when they appeared at the conclusion, expressed by so many of our released windows for the purpose of obtaining a little soldiers, that the inhuman practices herein refresh air. One man, whose comrade in the sery- ferred to are the result of a determination on the ice, in battle and in captivity, had been so fortu- part of the rebel authorities to reduce our soldiers nate as to be among those released from further in their power, by privation of food and clothing, torments, was shot dead as he was waving with and by exposure, to such a condition that those his hand a last adieu to his friend; and other who may survive shall never recover so as to be instances of equally unprovoked murder are dis- able to render any effective service in the field. closed by the testimony.
And your Committee accordingly ask that this The condition of our returned soldiers as re- reportwith the accompanying testimony, be gards personal cleanliness, has been filthy almost printed with the report and testimony in relation beyond description. Their clothes have been so to the massacre of Fort Pillow, the one being, in dirty and so covered with vermin, that those who their opinion, no less than the other, the result received them have been compelled to destroy of a predetermined policy. As regards the astheir clothing and re-clothe them with new and sertions of some of the rebel newspapers, that clean raiment. Their bodies and heads have our prisoners have received at their hands the been so infested with vermin that, in some in- same treatment that their own soldiers in the stances, repeated washings have failed to remove field have received, they are evidently but the them; and those who have received them in most glaring and unblushing falsehoods. No one charge have been compelled to cut all the hair can for a moment be deceived by such statefrom their heads, and make applications to de- ments, who will reflect that our soldiers, who, stroy the vermin. Some have been received with when taken prisoners, have been stout, healthy no clothing but shirts and drawers and a piece men, in the prime and vigor of life, yet have died of blanket or other outside covering, entirely des- by hundreds under the treatment they have retitute of coats, hats, shoes or stockings; and the ceived, although required to perform no duties of bodies of those better supplied with clothing have the camp or the march; while the rebel soldiers been equally dirty and filthy with the others, many are able to make long and rapid marches, and to who have been sick and in the hospital having offer a stubborn resistance in the field. had no opportunity to wash their bodies for weeks. There is one feature connected with this invesand months before they were released from cap-tigation, to which your Committee can refer with tivity.
pride and satisfaction; and that is the uncomYour Committee are unable to convey any ad- plaining fortitude, the undiminished patriotism cquate idea of the sad and deplorable condition exhibited by our brave men under all their prividof the men they saw in the hospitals they visited; tions, even in the hour of death. and the testimony they have taken cannot con- Your Committee will close their report by vey to the reader the impressions which your quoting the tribute paid these men by the chapCommittee there received. The persons we saw, lain of the hospital at Annapolis, who has minis. as we were assured by those in charge of them, tered to so many of them in their last moments, have greatly improved since they have been re- whe has smoothed their passage to the grave by ceived in the hospitals. Yet they are now dying his kindness and attention, and who has performdaily, one of them being in the very throes of ed the last sad offices over their lifeless remains. death as your Committee stood by his bedside | He says: and witnessed the sad spectacle there presented. “There is another thing I would wish to state. All those whom your Committee examined stated All the men, without any exception among the that they have been thus reduced and emaciated thousands that have come to this hospital, have entirely in consequence of the merciless treat- never in a single instance expressed a regret (notment they received while prisoners from their withstanding the privations and sufferings they enemies; and the physicians in charge of them, have endured) that they entered their country's the men best fitted by their profession and expe- service. They have been the most loyal, devoted, rience to express an opinion upon the subject, and earnest men. Even on the last days of all say that they have no doubt that the state- their lives they have said that all they hoped for ments of their patients are entirely correct. was just to live and enter the ranks again and
It will be observed from the testimony, that meet their foes. It is a most glorious record in all the witnesses who testify upon that point state reference to the devotion of our men to their that the treatment they received while confined country. I do not think their patriotism has at Columbia, South-Carolina, Dalton, Georgia, ever been equalled in the history of the world.” and other places, was far more humane than that All of which is respectfully submitted. they received at Richmond, where the authorities
B. F. WADE, of the so-called Confederacy were congregated,
Chairman. and where the power existed, had the inclination
WAR DEPARTMENT, not been wanting, to reform those abuses and
WASHINGTON City, May 4, 1864. secure to the prisoners they held some treatment Sır: I have the honor to submit to you a rethat would bear a public comparison to that ac-port made to this department by Colonel Hoffcorded by our authorities to the prisoners in our man, Commissary General of prisoners, in regard custody. Your Committee, therefore, are con- to the condition of Union soldiers who have, unstrained to say that they can hardly avoid thel til within a few days, been prisoners of war at