The Fort Pillow Massacre, 1892
Chromolithograph, Kurz and Allison
Fray Angélico Chávez History Library
On April 12, 1864, the Union-held garrison of Fort Pillow on the Mississippi River in west Tennessee was overrun by Confederate troops. Approximately half of its 500 Union defenders consisted of “colored troops.” Though the exact order of events is unclear, the consensus of investigations that followed was that all but 14 of the Black soldiers, along with some of their families, were murdered following their surrender. By the war’s end, the massacre was but a footnote in the records of four years of death and destruction. Three decades later, the battle was commemorated in this lithograph published by Kurz and Allison, one of the few firms to portray Black soldiers in any of its scenes.
Besides the telling of a disturbing event in the war, this provocative print stands apart from other commemorative lithographs of the post-war period. Rather than supporting the national movement toward reconciliation and the glorification of a common, heroic struggle, nothing in this print suggests anything but tragedy.
Note: Representative image at left is often cropped for display purposes. Downloaded high-resolution images are not cropped.