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Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865) to John P. Usher

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05620 Author/Creator: Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Letter signed Date: 3 May 1864 Pagination: 1 p. 25.2 x 20.3 cm

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Summary of Content: Discussing the Battle of Fort Pillow, Tennessee, President Lincoln informs Usher, Secretary of the Interior, "it is now quite certain that a large number of our colored soldiers, with their white officers, were, by the rebel force, massacred after they had surrendered ... " Requests Usher's counsel regarding the government's course of action following the Fort Pillow events. The letter was also sent to the rest of the cabinet, including Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles (see GLC07698). Signed by Lincoln. Written on Executive Mansion stationery.

Background Information: The battle of Fort Pillow occurred on 12 April 1864. It is estimated that 560 Union troops fought 1,500-2,000 Confederate soldiers in the Battle of Fort Pillow, Tennessee. Most of the Union soldiers ...killed at Fort Pillow, both during and after the battle, were African American. Much historical controversy exists regarding the historical facts of the Battle of Fort Pillow. All cabinet members agreed that the Confederate government should be called on to avow or disavow the massacre. John Usher, Secretary of the Interior from 1863-1865, advised no retaliation against innocent Confederate hostages, but advised that orders be issued to commanders to execute the actual offenders if captured.See More

Full Transcript: Executive Mansion,
Washington, May 3d, 1864.
How. Secretary of the Interior
It is now quite certain that a large number of our colored soldiers, with their white officers, were, by ...the rebel force, massacred after they had surrendered, at the recent capture of Fort-Pillow. So much is known, though the evidence is not yet quite ready to be laid before me. Meanwhile I will thank you to prepare, and give me in writing, your opinion as to what course the Government should take in the case.

Yours truly
A. Lincoln

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People: Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865

Historical Era: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877

Subjects: Fort Pillow MassacreFortificationPresidentCivil WarMilitary HistoryUnion ForcesLincoln's CabinetBattleBattle of Fort Pillow (Fort Pillow Massacre)African American TroopsAfrican American HistoryConfederate States of AmericaDeathAtrocityMassacrePrisoner of WarSurrenderGovernment and Civics

Sub Era: The American Civil War

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