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[Detail] Photographic Print of Tilton C. Reynolds, undated

Historical Research Formulating Questions and Marshalling Information about The Fort Pillow Massacre

With the recruitment of African American soldiers in the Union army after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Confederacy threatened to give no quarter to captured black soldiers or their officers. Following the battle of Fort Pillow, April 12, 1864, on the banks of the Mississippi River in western Tennessee, a massacre occurred. That massacre has been the subject of numerous historical interpretations. 

Based on the information above, what questions do you have about the Fort Pillow Massacre?  Develop at least three questions that you would like to have answered. For example, one question might be: Who was killed in the Fort Pillow massacre?  Use print or Internet resources to answer your questions and identify different perspectives on the massacre. Write a brief synopsis of the information you gathered.

Read Tilton's letter to his mother written from Brandy Station, Virginia, on April 23, within two weeks of the Fort Pillow massacre. 

…We expect to move one day [?] and when we go we will do Something you can bet high on that—what think you of the Fort Pillow Slaughter & was that not awful—it makes my blood curdle to think of it.  My God why do not the north raise up and crush those miserable hirelings at once.  My opinion is that we should show no quarter whatever in time of action but Masacre every Bloody Traitor as fast as an opportunity presented itself…

From "Letter from Tilton C. Reynolds to Juliana Smith Reynolds, April 23, 1864"

Re-examine Tilton's negative comments regarding African Americans in his January 1863 letter to his mother.

  • How rapidly did news of the Fort Pillow massacre circulate in the Union ranks?
  • To what extent do you think the slaughter of African American troops effected a change in attitude from Tilton's January 1863 remarks on emancipation?
  • What evidence can be found in researching Fort Pillow that Northern sentiment regarding the enlistment of African American troops shifted following the massacre?

Marshalling Information about Bounties Paid to Soldiers

Unless the reader is an expert on the historical event, era, or figure covered in a particular document, the document may raise many questions. For example, in a letter to his mother written on March 21, 1864, Tilton wrote, "I sent you my Certificate the other day so you could get the Local Bounty if they are paying any and I heard they were. If they aint do not give up the Certificate but let them draft a man in my place." 

Does this quote raise any questions? For example, do you know what a Certificate and Local Bounty are?  Research the use of state, county, and municipal bounties paid to volunteers and re-enlistees in the North during the Civil War.

  • Why did state and local communities offer bounties for enlistment?
  • What was the federal government's policy toward bounties?
  • Are bounties used today in recruiting for soldiers? Are there any techniques that you would consider similar to bounties?