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After the War Memorials to Forrest Went Up While Ft. Pillow Victims Were Ignored

Discussion in 'Post Civil War History, The Reconstruction Period' started by Pat Young, May 4, 2017.

  1. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    The victims of the Fort Pillow Massacre were honored last month as part of an effort to rescue the memory of African Americans in the Civil War and Reconstruction. From the article covering the ceremony:

    It’s a chapter that is often missing from the history books.

    On April 12, 1864, Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest led his troops in overtaking the Union garrison of around 600 men at Fort Pillow and slaughtering them after they had surrendered.

    The killings, as described by historian Andrew Ward in his book, “River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War,” were so horrific that the blood from the bodies tainted the Mississippi River red.

    Half of those whose blood colored the river were African-American – and their deaths have been all but forgotten in the rush to build monuments and name parks after Forrest, who later founded the Ku Klux Klan, or to sanitize the atrocities through marginalizing the victims.

    Which is precisely what the ceremony – the second to be held – was designed to counteract.

    “We wanted to make sure that more African-Americans knew about Fort Pillow, and what can we do to rectify the discrepancies and the one-sidedness of the history,” Christian said, “because one of the things that we knew is that those who were vanquished, the losers, were able to write the history of the South.

    “They were also the ones, at the turn of the century, who were able to put all the monuments up. But while we will not necessarily take those markers down, it is important that we intersect those markers with what more accurately reflects that history.”



    http://www.commercialappeal.com/sto...african-american-ft-pillow-victims/100281168/
     

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  3. Pat Young

    Pat Young Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host Featured Book Reviewer

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    If taking down monuments is rewriting history, then what was never putting up monuments in the first place?
     
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  4. wausaubob

    wausaubob Captain

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    What do mean by sanitizing atrocities?
    Do mean that the democratic sympathizers pointed the country's attention to financial scandals run by Durant and Stanford, a commodities bubble on gold run by Gould and Fisk, and a syndicate of whiskey manufacturers that ran an organized scheme to bribe and intimidate Treasury officials, while the KKK was hanging and shooting people?
     
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  5. wausaubob

    wausaubob Captain

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    We not supposed to remember Fort Pillow. We are supposed to concentrate on Sherman's army going into the bedrooms of plantation women and stealing their letters and writing materials.
     
  6. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Sergeant Major

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    "On April 12, 1864, Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest led his troops in overtaking the Union garrison of around 600 men at Fort Pillow and slaughtering them after they had surrendered."

    Why can't they get the history right?

    "April 20, 1864.
    Lieut. Col. T. M. JACK, Assistant Adjutant-General:
    I arrived at this place this evening with 250 prisoners from Fort Pillow. Please send guard after them. Let me know when they will get here. General Gholson wishes to retain negroes captured to work on railroad. Will guard and be responsible for their safety.

    JOHN GOODWIN, Provost-Marshal, Forrest's Cavalry."

    http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/c...9&node=waro0059:2&view=image&seq=799&size=100

    About 100 (severely wounded) were turned over to the Union navy and another 100 managed to escape and were picked up by Union ships. Approximately two-thirds of the garrison survived.
     
  7. Student of Sherman

    Student of Sherman Sergeant

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    It still baffles me how this ignorant statement is thrown around at will in the news or wherever, when it pertains to Forrest. 6 Confederate Veterans founded the Klan in Pulaski TN, in 1865. Forrest was later asked to be the Grand Wizard. Once the group turned violent, destructive, and strayed away from the people they originally targeted (carpetbaggers & radical republicans) in the South, Forrest himself disbanded the group in 1869, and it wasn't heard from again until the early 1900's. On Oct. 20, 1869, Forrest even gave the order that all costumes and other regalia be destroyed and that Klan activity be ended totally.
     
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  8. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Sergeant Major

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    Some Confederate monuments were funded by the states (not a bad idea since it was the state that asked them to go off to war) but most were funded by individuals - the sons and daughters of Confederate veterans. If there are few monuments to the USCT, isn't that the fault of their descendants and the Federal government?
     
  9. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Sergeant Major

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    ...you forgot- burning down their house, killing their livestock and leaving them to starve.
     
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  10. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Major

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    I want to talk about the notion of "commemorative exclusion," which is a phrase I coined.

    During the Jim Crow era, there was an obvious exclusion of African American "content" from public squares throughout the South, even as certain other aspects of Southern heritage were glorified. For example, in Louisiana, we have seen at least 2 monuments that have openly touted white supremacy, such as this one which commemorates the Colfax Massacre.

    View attachment 135415

    An excellent source for learning about this subject is W. Fitzhugh Brundage's book The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory. The book's Introduction chapter lays out many issues which are vital to know. I am excerpting several paragraphs from the book for review and discussion (I have broken them into shorter paragraphs for the sake of readability.

    This is from the very beginning of the book, and sets the stage for the rest of his study. Please forgive any typos; this is a lot to transcribe:

    In February 2000, the City Council of Richmond, Virginia, voted to change the names of two bridges that link the north and south banks of the James River. Since then the J. E. B. Stuart and Thomas J. “Stonewall" Jackson bridges have carried the names of Samuel Tucker and Curtis Holt, two local notables in the civil rights movement. The council’s decision outraged Jerry Baxley of the Southern Party of Virginia. “The Southern people are getting tired of being told they're not important," he fumed. He rebuked city officials for "taking away our heritage, our symbols.”

    Three years later and a thousand miles away, Shelby Foote pondered the definition of southern art at the opening of a new museum in New Orleans. "I am not aware that there is such a thing as southern art, at least did not if you're defining it by technique,” he explained.”If there's something distinct about it, it's subject matter and also inner heritage. All Southerners who try to express themselves in art", he announced, "are very much aware that they are party to a defeat, which is something most other Americans didn't feel until Vietnam.”

    Baxley, a polemical provocateur, and Foote, a noted man of letters and interpreter of all things southern, define “southern" heritage similarly. Both presume that the Confederacy was the crucible of southern identity and that white heritage and southern identity are synonymous. The adjective “southern" apparently does not apply to African-Americans who live south of the Mason-Dixon line. Moreover, by this definition, southerners have been unable to interpret the collapse of the Confederacy as anything other than defeat.

    When southern identity is assumed to be interchangeable with white identity, much more than semantics are at stake. White claims to power, status, and collective identity are advanced at the same time that black claims are undercut. Baxley and Foote are hardly unusual in the cultural privilege they assigned to whites. The logic of their comments rests on the presumption that the heritage of Southern African Americans merits little recognition and has had scant influence on the region’s culture.

    James Vardaman, an uncommonly zealous white supremacist and Mississippi's governor, made this claim at the dawn of the 20th Century. "The Negro," according to him, had never built any monuments "to perpetuate in the memory of... the virtues of his ancestors.” The black man, he proclaimed, had "never created for himself any civilization." Vardamans strident claims are unlikely to be widely endorsed today. Yet the substance of his message still informs the commonplace use of “southern," which implies that southern heritage is the exclusive property of whites.​

    - Continues -
    Alan
     
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  11. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Major

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    This is the continuation of the excerpt from W. Fitzhugh Brundage's book The Southern Past: A Clash of Race and Memory (p 9-10); it talks about how memory has been "contested" in the public space. These are two paragraphs that I have edited very slightly for readability:

    With the end of slavery, southern African-Americans' relationship to the past changed as profoundly as did that of Southern whites. If former slaves joined the ranks of the free with little more than their freedom, they also gained the capacity to celebrate their history and to participate in civic life in ways that had been impossible during slavery. Their nascent commemorative practices posed an unmistakable challenge to white understandings of the past. Indeed, the contest over the meaning of southern history after 1865 was waged not just between the North and the South, but also between white and black Southerners.

    When white southerners set about codifying their heroic narrative and filling the civic landscape with monuments to it, they were conscious that the rituals of black memory represented a form of cultural resistance. For a century after the Civil War, whites ensured that public spaces conspicuously excluded any recognition of the recalled past of blacks.

    African Americans created their own understanding of the past, but whereas white memory filled public spaces and made universal claims, the black counter memory was either ignored by whites or was largely invisible to them. Not until the 1960s did blacks command the political power necessary to insist on a more inclusive historical memory for the South. Only then did they of acquire the necessary leverage to displace white ideas about the past that had to cultural authority of tradition and habit.

    Contestation over Southern history for most of the past century and a half seldom took the form of knock-down, drag-out public confrontations. Such battles did happen occasionally, but usually only within the black or white community. While African Americans did challenge the competing memory of whites, they usually were unable to provoke any overt white response. Whites could not acknowledge acts of dissent without at the same time admitting the depth of black opposition to their power. Keen to preserve the "smooth surface" of their ephemeral power, southern whites urgently wanted to keep the social fact of black resistance out of public sight. White's responses to the black memory during much of the period since the Civil War consequently were oblique.

    Only at the very end of the 20th Century did the contests between whites and blacks over the South’s past become volatile and distinctly public. Nonetheless, black and white southerners have been locked in an ongoing struggle over the past since at least the Civil War.​

    - Alan
     
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  12. Bee

    Bee Captain Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017

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    I believe this really gets at the heart of the matter. Advocasy was strong at the time for certain groups, and not so much for others.
     
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  13. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Major

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    As noted in my above posts, the phenomenon of commemorative exclusion is a serious historical problem in the memorialization of the black experience in the Civil War. Jim Crow has been officially dead for half a century, but there are still not as many monuments commemorating the Civil war experience of African Americans as I believe there should be. There are a number of reasons for this:

    a) Ignorance of the history. In the South especially, a large emphasis has been placed on the Confederacy in education. I often hear comments from parents about how their kids are being taught about the blacks experience during the war, and I continue to be frustrated by what I hear.

    One thing I hear time and again is that today's students are being taught that Lincoln simply "freed the slaves," with the implication that African Americans were bystanders to emancipation, as opposed to being agents of their own liberation. The idea of black agency is common in the works of war scholars, but either it's not in the history books, or it's not being taught in an engaging manner by teachers, or students are not listening (or a combination of the above). And the idea that negroes were just bystanders to history, people who sat around waiting for Lincoln to do something for them, is not that attractive or memorable a subject.

    Of course, students grow up to be adults. I wonder how much the averageMemphis-area resident, black or white, knows about the African American Civil War experience in the city and surrounding areas.

    b) Africans Americans, as noted in previous comments, have been somewhat overwhelmed with other pressing issues. It's hard to devote time and effort to such "trivial" matters as civil war commemoration. But of course, when that is ignored, we have people like former Mississippi governor James Vardaman saying that "the Negro" had never built any monuments "to perpetuate in the memory of... the virtues of his ancestors.”

    c) African American are a minority in the South, and earn less and own less than whites. They are less able to fund monuments or other cultural objects or enterprises.

    d) Southern African American history is not considered to be an aspect of Southern heritage (see post #9 above), and so support for commemorating Southern heritage will sometimes not include a focus on African Americans and the Civil War. This was of course overwhelmingly true before the Civil Rights movement.

    e) A major focus of African American commemoration has been on the Civil Rights experience. The Civil Rights movement was a lived experience for many southern African Americans, and had a huge impact on the quality of their own lives. There is no downside to the commemoration of the Civil Rights movement. It's just that the black Civil War experience lacks that same energy and attention.

    In the specific case of Ft Pillow, we can add another reason: the subject matter is controversial. Forrest + racial atrocity + modern day race relations in the Memphis area = commemorating Ft Pillow is a hard sell for many people. I have actually met people who have mentioned the desire to create a memorial to this event. We'll see what happens.

    - Alan
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
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  14. 19thGeorgia

    19thGeorgia Sergeant Major

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    ...but not much has been done in the post-Jim Crow era (last 50 years +/-).
     
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  15. wausaubob

    wausaubob Captain

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    Bummer. War was not a glorious adventure in which the men went off to a distant theater and did great things.
    War was hell and involved privation and unbelievable personal hardship.
    Maybe encouraging war and daring the Yankees to fight was erroneous?
    So maybe Jefferson Davis stuck in Richmond should have been willing to take the consequences of his actions in November 1864 before Sherman ever thought of marching without logistical support to Savannah?
     
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  16. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Major

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    First things first. African American history is American history. People of all backgrounds should be interested in furthering the accurate commemoration of US history. All Americans should ensure that the history we see in the public space is correct, fair, and balanced.

    But I am happy to report that in the last 20 years, throughout the country, there have been many "commemoration entrepreneurs" who have advanced the cause of memorializing the black Civil War experience via various commemoration projects across the country. I don't know the details of all the various commemoration projects, and it's not like there's a database where we can get this information. I can only share some anecdotes.

    0.jpg
    Dr. Frank Smith, at right, in front of the African American Civil War Monument in Washington, DC

    In the case of the African American Civil War Memorial in Washigton, DC, many African Americans did provide financial support. The main person behind the installation of the monument was Dr Frank Smith, an African American, a former member of the District of Columbia City Council, and current head of the African American Civil War Museum that is next door to the monument. I know Dr Smith, and have provided many hours of volunteer support to the Museum. To me, his efforts in erecting this monument and the museum make him a hero in terms of commemorating the African American Civil War Experience. Many other persons, including Gen Colin Powell, had some role in this project, and helped raise funds for it.

    Of note: Several (most?) of the Board of Directors of the African American Civil War Museum (who have engaged in fundraising duties) are African American. I presume they provided financial support for the monument as well.

    USCT-closeup.jpg
    This is the United States Colored Troops Memorial Statue in St Mary's County (southern Maryland). It was installed in mid-2012. The monument project was initiated by the Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions (UCAC) Monument Committee, which I believe is a majority African American organization. On the website which discusses the monument, the UCAC and their partner, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), are identified as the main sponsors for the project.

    african-american-monument-vicksburg.jpg


    This is the African American Monument in Vicksburg National Military Park. In 1999, former Vicksburg Mayor Robert M. Walker, who is African American, proposed the placement of the monument in Vicksburg National Military Park. The city of Vicksburg, which is 60% black, provided $25,000 in funding. The state of Mississippi and others contributed to the project.

    nashville-colored-troop-memorial.jpg
    This is the United States Colored Troops National Monument, in Nashville National Cemetery. This article, from Civil War News.com, discusses how the monument came to be built:

    The nine-foot cast bronze statue, created by Middle Tennessee artist Roy Butler, is one of a very few “freestanding monuments to African American soldiers in the country and the only one in a national facility,” according to Norm Hill (who is African American - ForeverFree), chairman of the Tennessee Historical Commission.

    The project was coordinated by the African American Cultural Alliance of Nashville. The funds for the $80,000 project came from a variety of area contributors, while the Tennessee Historical Commission contributed $15,000.

    “This was a grassroots effort which included church contributions, individual citizens, businesses and other Civil War groups including the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV),” said Hill. “This isn’t about North or South. That was then. Today this is about honoring our fallen soldiers.”

    The idea for the memorial came up a few years ago during Black History Month at a Nashville university. Kwame Leo Lillard of the African American Cultural Alliance had longed for such recognition for years.

    “I wanted us to never forget those men, most who fled slavery to fight and die for freedom,” he told the crowd. The contribution of the USCTs to the war deserves greater visibility, especially the role of the Tennesseans in the conflict, he pointed out.​

    As discussed above, African American involvement in these projects was not merely substantial, it was essential: I don't know if these monuments would exist today if not for the efforts of the blacks folks who I am happy to identify by name. I don't know the financial history of all of the African American monument projects, but I suspect that African Americans had a substantial role in most of them.

    A list of monument to black Civil War soldiers is here. Most of these were created in the past 25 years - that is, after the successes of the Civil Rights movement enabled the commemoration of African American history to be placed into the unsegregated public square.

    Of course, more needs to be done. The commemoration of African American history in the South is 100 years behind where it might be if not for the conditions of Jim Crow. African Americans, to put it kindly, have a lot of competing issues and problems to deal with. One problem is that the history of the black Civil War experience has been invisible, not just in the public space, but also in US history books, until recently. The result is that, unfortunately, many African Americans don't even know they have a history to commemorate.

    The bottom line is that African Americans must push back against their marginalization in history books and the public space, and avoid cynicism and despair concerning their ability to move forward. I want to share a piece by Norman Hill, who was (and might still be) a member of the Tennessee Historical Commission, the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, and a United States Colored Troops re-enactor. Hill wrote this after visiting historic sites in Tennessee with content related to African Americans in the 19th century. I found this piece interesting and thought-provoking. (Thanks to the people at the Eagle News newspaper for granting permission to re-print this piece, which I cited on my blog):

    I participate as a member of the Historic Commission of the State of Tennessee consisting of gubernatorial appointees from all the Grand Divisions. I am traveling today with the Historic Commission, visited the 13th US Colored Troops (USCT) exhibit at the Clement museum in Dickson, Tennessee, and the “Promised Land settlement” in Dickson, Tennessee.

    Even as we visited the historic African American settlements, we were distracted by rebel flags and auto horns sounding “Dixie.” The implications were quite clear that the old guard is not going away.

    Many black and white historians agree that it is our challenge to fill the void of our own silence, and recognize the legacy we have inherited. We should be cautious not to spend our valuable time and resources counteracting every Rebel flag, or worse to hide away and hope that we are not noticed. Visual opposition is necessary, but it must not be our only course of opposition.

    It is time to put aside the fear of our past, and face the promise of our future. We must celebrate and promote the opening of the Bradley Museum because it is our legacy. We must also celebrate the “Promised Land Settlement” in Dickson County. Their representative visited and supported our Bradley Festival and we should return and support their efforts.

    Monuments and memorials such as Bradley Museum, Promised Land, and Freedom Hill in Gallatin are a part of an even larger renaissance of Black culture and History that has included the USCT Museum in Washington, DC, and the recent CBS Broadcast “Who do you think you are” featuring Vanessa Williams’ family history and revealing a USCT relative, as well as one of the first Black members of the Tennessee Legislature.

    All over the Middle East, people are pushing back years of fear and suppression to express their desire for freedom. We are not immune from the implications and we must participate in our own re-awakening.

    We are fortunate to be alive to witness and participate in the revival of our own Heritage and Pride.​

    The monuments I noted earlier in the post are part of the revival. I hope that people of all backgrounds and histories can take part in this. The road from being the lowly, as Harriet Beecher Stowe put it, to being acknowledged on a monument in the public space is steep in its climb, but ultimately, it is beneficial for us all. This is a revival where everyone can fit under the tent.

    - Alan
     
  17. Yulie

    Yulie Corporal

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    Thanks for posting this. I had intended to do an AAR on the Event thread I started. Time got away from me. The rider-less horse and taps were very emotional moments. A lot took place that was not captured in the Commercial & Appeal commentary. All that took place over the two week period made me proud and profoundly happy that these soldiers finally got an official military ceremony and tribute.

    One of best outcomes is that the graves of those massacred at Fort Pillow are now recognized at the Memphis National Cemetery. The entire activities focused on the African American soldiers buried at the National Cemetery and those who survived. The civilian casualties were also highlighted as one descendant family's oral history accounts for their ancestors being killed. The day prior to the cemetery ceremony, Descendants visited Fort Pillow and had a mini-ceremony. Two wreaths were placed and white carnations and rosemary tossed in the ditch where the soldiers and civilians were originally buried in 1864.

    I visited the MNC on April 14, 2014 (after the first ceremony at Ft. Pillow) and no one at the office could tell me where the graves were located. I was told by a descendant that they were buried near a flag pole at the front entrance. I looked there but could not find any indicators for the graves. There are a lot of Unknowns and Spanish-American War soldiers buried in that location. I belatedly realized that the current entrance from the side-street was not the original entrance. The 1800s entrance was no longer accessible due to the over pass. That said, those at the office can now provide the grave numbers and the location. Like so much from our past, the original records existed but one had to dig deep to find them. There is speculation that the graves are multiple burials.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2017
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  18. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Major

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    To be sure, the commemoration of Nathan Bedford Forrest has been hotly contested in recent years. Elected officials in the city of Memphis have tried to remove a statue of Forrest from a park near downtown Memphis, but the Tennessee Historical Commission rejected the move.

    I attended a symposium on the Memphis Massacre of 1866 last year, and it's clear that Ft Pillow and Forrest are sensitive topics for many residents of the area. How that will translate into memorialization projects remains to be seen.

    - Alan
     
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  19. GreyGhost75

    GreyGhost75 Cadet

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    General Forrest was cleared by a Congressional Committee of any wrongdoing at Fort Pillow.

    People tend to forget that he was probably the finest tactical commander that the War produced on either side.
     
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  20. Yulie

    Yulie Corporal

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    ASALH's Memphis Branch and WeBeAll are spearheading a historical marker for the Memphis National Cemetery. There are things in the works. One being an introductory meeting with the Shelby County Historical Commission took place during the week of activities. All this will hopefully highlight interest to get a monument at Fort Pillow proper.
     
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  21. Bee

    Bee Captain Asst. Regtl. Quartermaster Gettysburg 2017

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    There is a whole forum devoted to NBF -- it has a thread devoted to Ft. Pillow too
     
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