Numbers 24. Reports of Major General Codwallader C. Washburn, U. S. Army, transmitting correspondence with Major General Stephen D. Lee and Major General Nathan B. Forrest, C. S. Army.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WEST TENNESSEE,
Memphis, Tenn., June 20, 1864.
Colonel E. D. TOWNSEND,
Asst. Adjt. General, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
COLONEL: I have the honor to inclose copies of correspondence between Major-General Forrest and myself. As it pertains to the treatment of colored troops, I beg to request that the attention of the Secretary of War be specially called to it.
It gives me pleasure to state that the conduct of the colored troops ont he occasion of the late fight was of the most gallant character.
I am, colonel, your obedient servant,
C. C. WASHBURN,
[Inclosure Numbers 1.*]
HEADQUARTERS FORREST'S CAVALRY,
In the Field, June 14, 1864.
[Major General C. C. WASHBURN:]
GENERAL: I have the honor herewith to inclose copy of letter received from Brigadier-General Buford, commanding U. S. forces at Helena, Ark., addressed to Colonel E. W. Rucker, commanding Sixth Brigade of this command; also a letter from myself to General Buford, which I respectfully request you to read and forward to him.
There is a mater also to which I desire to call your attention, which until now I have not thought proper to make the subject of a communication. Recent events render it necessary, in fact demand it.
It has been reported to me that all the negro troops stationed in Memphis took an oath on their knees, in the presence of Major-General Hurlbut and other officers of your army, to avenge Fort Pillow, and that they would show my troops no quarter. Again, I have it from indisputable authority that the troops under Brigadier-General Sturgis, on their recent march from Memphis, publicly and in various places proclaimed that no quarter would be shown my men. As his troops were moved into action ont he 11th [10th] the officers commanding exhorted their men to remember Fort Pillow, and a large majority of the prisoners we have captured from that command have voluntarily stated that they expected us to murder them; otherwise they would have surrendered in body rather than taken to the bush after being run down and exhausted. The recent battle of Tishmongo Creek was far more bloody than it would otherwise have been put for the fact that your men evidently expected to be slaughtered when captured, and both sides acted as though neither felt safe in surrendering, even when further resistance was useless. The prisoners captured by us say they felt condemned by the announcement, &c., of their own commanders, and expected no quarter.
*Another copy of this letter, substantially the same in purport but differing slightly in phraseology, was forwarded by General S. D. Lee, and is no file. See p. 606.