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1864 April 23: Battle of Mansfield and First News of the Fort Pillow Massacre

April 23, 2014

Following is the “Latest News” column from the April 23, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.  The third paragraph is about the Fort Pillow Massacre, which we will hear more about in coming weeks.  The fifth paragraph is about the Battle of Mansfield, also known as the Battle of Sabine Crossroads.  It took place on April 8, 1864, in De Soto Parish, Louisiana. Confederate forces commanded by General Richard Taylor attacked Union forces commanded by General Nathaniel P. Banks a few miles outside the town of Mansfield, near Sabine Crossroads. The Union forces held their positions for a short time before being overwhelmed by Confederate attacks. The battle was a decisive Confederate victory that stopped Banks’ Red River Campaign.


Owing to the telegraph wires having been down recently, below Hastings, there is not much news in our late St. Paul dailies.

The Army of the Potomac, it is said, is getting ready for a gigantic stride on Richmond.  At present it is mud bound, but will move as soon as the weather will permit.

Columbus, Kentucky, twenty miles from Cairo, was captured by the rebel Gen. Forest [Nathan B. Forrest], recently.  Fort Pillow was defended by four hundred white and two hundred colored soldiers, who were compelled to surrender.  As they had previously threatened no quarter was shown and after the surrender, the most inhuman butchery took place that has occurred since the commencement of the war.  Wounded soldiers were bayoneted and shot, dead bodies were mutilated, and wounded negroes were piled together with dead bodies in huts and burned.  All the exquisite barbarities, for which the rebels are so justly celebrated, were adopted.  Out of the six hundred in the Fort, four hundred were killed outright.  The rebels captured six guns and a large amount of plunder.  After this achievement, Forest [sic] retired in the direction of Brownsville.

Paducah was attacked recently by a raiding  party of two hundred.  After a short stay, they were shelled out of town by the fort and gunboats.

Gen. Banks has been badly defeated in Louisiana.  It has been known that the objective point of his expedition was Shreveport, La., on the Red River, in the Northwest part of the State, but it appears that he met the enemy and was defeated at Grand Encore, just above Natchitoches, and some fifty miles on a line below Shreveport.  Gen. Banks lost about 2,000 men, and several pieces of cannon, and was compelled to retreat in much disorder.  Gen. A. J. Smith, with his Vicksburg heroes afterwards came up and administered a severe check to the rebels, getting back, as the report says, many of our cannon, and capturing a large number of rebel prisoners.  It is evident however, that on the whole our forces were badly defeated.

Atlas plate 50-6 Red River Expedition

Red River Expedition, 1864, plate 50, map 6¹

Two of Lee’s [Robert E. Lee] scouts were captured a day or two since at Culpepper [sic], a third escape.  They were disguised as teamsters.  A halter awaits them.

It is reported that Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant ] has decided to send to the front such men in the invalid corps as are able to bear arms and return to their homes those disabled from active service in the field.

Brigadier General Prince [Henry Prince] has been ordered to the command of the military district of Paducah, Columbus and Cairo.

Gen. Frank Blair will soon take command in the field.  [Francis P. Blair]

A party of guerillas [sic] made a raid upon a cotton plantation at Tensas, Louisiana, 40 miles below Vicksburg, captured a large number of males and negroes, and carried off Mr. W. R. Allison, of Mattoon, Ill.  After getting to a safe distance, they compelled him to dig his own grave, then shot him and made the negroes bury him.  This may be relied upon.  Guerillas [sic] along the river are determined that abandoned plantations shall not be worked by Northern men.

The steamer Eclipse, from Cincinnati reports seeing about 200 guerillas [sic] at Hurriden Island, 40 miles above Southland, where she was fired into.

The steamer Liberty was also fired into opposite Shawneetown.  No damage done.

1.  From the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, published under the direction of Redfield Proctor, Stephen B. Elkins, and Daniel S. Lamont, Secretaries of War, by George B. Davis, Leslie J. Perry, Joseph W. Kirkley, Board of Publication ; compiled by Calvin D. Cowles (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1891-1895). Available in Special Collections, UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center (E 464 .U6), or digitally at Ohio State University’s eHistory.

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