Confederate riverside outposts

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#1
Hello everybody, does anyone know about three or four small Confederate forts on the banks of the Mississippi River downstream from Fort Pillow but upstream of Memphis? I don't think they were upriver of Fort Pillow between it and Island No. 10 but it's possible I'm remembering it wrong. I do think they were in the stretch of river between Pillow and Memphis. And does anybody know what happened to them (presumably evacuated when Brig. Gen. Villepigue evacuated Fort Pillow)? Thanks in advance.
 

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DixieRifles

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#2
The one downstream was Fort Randolph. This was the first fort built to train volunteers from West Tennessee and it was opened BEFORE the State voted to seceed. It was known as the place where Nathan B. Forrest first went to enlist as a private.
Fort Randolph was built on the 2nd Chicksaw Bluff (Fort Pillow was on the 1st Bluff). It remained open for about 1 year and was ordered to be closed down and all the guns moved to Fort Pillow as that fort had more of a commanding view of the River.
The two forts were separated by the Loosahatchie River(as I recall).
There is little remaining there ---except one great treasure. There is a very rare brick Confederate magazine.

The entrance to the Magazine was a tunnel made of brick which is now missing. I'm standing in what is left of the tunnel. After entering and turning LEFT, you would walk into the first Magazine. Locals stole the bricks for their chimneys.
Magazine--1.jpg


One of two adjacent Magazines. The hole in the ceiling was made by Union troops by order of General Sherman to render the magazine useless.
Magazine--2.jpg
 

DixieRifles

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#3
The rooms had a rectangular floor plan with arched walls. There are two rooms side by side, with one a little smaller. The walls are made 6 or 7 bricks thick. This kept it cool but also allowed them to build a zig-zagged "chimney" inside the wall to keep fresh air in the rooms and yet prevent a hot ember from falling in with the powder.
 
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#4
Thanks DixieRifles, that's a beautiful magazine.

"This kept it cool but also allowed them to build a zig-zagged "chimney" inside the wall to keep fresh air in the rooms and yet prevent a hot ember from falling in with the powder."
That's a pretty good design, very smart. Was Fort Randolph the same place as Fort Wright, just two different names for it? Or were they their own, discrete forts?
 

DixieRifles

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#5
Was Fort Randolph the same place as Fort Wright, just two different names for it? Or were they their own, discrete forts?
Yes. One fort with two names.

Starting at Memphis, there was Fort Pickering. This was manned through-out the war as it garrisoned some of the men of the XVI Corps that protected Memphis and surrounding area.

Next one up the River, 6 miles from Memphis, is Fort Harris, located on the 3rd Chicksaw Bluff. Named after Tenn. Governor Harris. A newspaper reported on June 11, 1861, that the fort had 4 guns mounted and 10 or 12 ready to be mounted.

Next is Fort Wright and then Fort Pillow.

Further upstream in Kentucky, there was Island No. 10 and nearby Fort Bankhead(aka Fort Madrid) at New Madrid.

Then further up is Columbus and the nearby towns and forts of Bird's Point and Cairo. I visited the fort at Columbus and it is massive earthworks. I thought it was a fort and had a name but I can't find it. Across the River is Belmont which is the site of Grant's first battle.

Then you take the fork to stay on the Mississippi, and you reach Cape Girardeau.

BTW, Fort Hindman was in Arkansas on the Arkansas River. And Fort Pemberton was located near Greenwood, MS, at the convergence of the Tallahatchie and Yazoo River. My boyhood home over-looked the Tallahatchie River, about dozen miles from Fort Pemberton.

Source: Osprey book, American Civil War Fortifications (3); The Mississippi and River Forts.
 
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#7
The one downstream was Fort Randolph. This was the first fort built to train volunteers from West Tennessee and it was opened BEFORE the State voted to seceed. It was known as the place where Nathan B. Forrest first went to enlist as a private.
Fort Randolph was built on the 2nd Chicksaw Bluff (Fort Pillow was on the 1st Bluff). It remained open for about 1 year and was ordered to be closed down and all the guns moved to Fort Pillow as that fort had more of a commanding view of the River.
The two forts were separated by the Loosahatchie River(as I recall).
There is little remaining there ---except one great treasure. There is a very rare brick Confederate magazine.
My Dad used to tell me that he saw those magazines as a kid, when he'd ride with my Grandfather to deliver milk!!.....I should send him your pics! :smile:
Thanks for sharing!

The entrance to the Magazine was a tunnel made of brick which is now missing. I'm standing in what is left of the tunnel. After entering and turning LEFT, you would walk into the first Magazine. Locals stole the bricks for their chimneys.
View attachment 98118

One of two adjacent Magazines. The hole in the ceiling was made by Union troops by order of General Sherman to render the magazine useless.
View attachment 98119
 
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#9
So were (with the exception of Island No. 10 whose story I'm familiar with and its associated earthworks) all of these river forts evacuated around the same time, when Corinth fell to the Union and Fort Pillow was evacuated?

^And do you know where the other remaining preserved Confederate magazine is?
 
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#12
This matter of the Confederate riverside forts is getting even more confusing. Was Fort Wright formerly called Fort Pillow? Because that's how this article in the New York Times from April 1862 refers to it, saying: "Next came Island No. 10, an invulnerable position selected by BEAUREGARD himself, which was captured by the combined navy and army of FOOTE and POPE. Now they are fighting away at Fort Wright, or, as it was formerly called, Fort Pillow. It took them twenty-three days to reduce Island No. 10, and they have now been at work ten days upon Fort Wright. But we learn that matters are progressing there as finely as could be desired. FOOTE is throwing big shells night and day among the rebels, and POPE is getting things ready to cross the river, and take their works in the rear and by assault. Nobody need doubt of soon hearing that the fort has fallen, and that FOOTE and POPE have bagged some six, eight or ten thousand additional rebels. Ten miles below Fort Wright, and on the same side of the river, there are other formidable works, known as Fort Randolph. Then comes the real original Fort Pillow (??), and then Memphis."
http://www.nytimes.com/1862/04/24/news/the-western-soldiers-hewing-their-way.html

That is confusing as all hell!!
 
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#13
However I do think you're correct in saying that Fort Randolph and Fort Wright (at Randolph, Tenn.) appear to have been the same fort. This is from a thesis by Thomas Lee Anderson in which he talks about W.T. Sherman's orders to burn what was left of the ghost town of Randolph in response to a Confederate guerrilla attack on a Union packet boat on the Mississippi.

Anderson says:
"Following the opening salvos on Fort Sumter, in April 1861, a letter from an unnamed Tipton County resident appeared in the Memphis Appeal suggesting that state authorities send troops and artillery to Randolph. In the letter the author referred to Randolph as a “near deserted village that was once the mighty arch-rival of Memphis.” Randolph was, the writer claimed, the perfect place, high on the Chickasaw bluffs, from which to defend Memphis from an attack by Union forces on the Mississippi. Tennessee Governor Isham Harris promptly dispatched Lt. Col. Marcus Wright of the 154th militia regiment at Memphis to Randolph where, on the site of the “near-deserted village,” Fort Wright/Fort Randolph was constructed. Some of the town’s derelict buildings provided lumber for the construction of warehouses, while an underground powder magazine was dug out of the banks of the Mississippi (which you provided photos of above, thanks buddy!). By early May it was reported in the Memphis Daily Appeal that 400 men were in training at Randolph. At the end of May, soon-to-be Confederate Generals John Sneed and Gideon Pillow hosted a visit to Fort Wright from several Memphis-area ladies who were “sumptuously entertained.” During the summer of 1861 officials from the Confederate national government came to Tennessee to take control of the troops and the defenses. There was a great hue and cry from concerned citizens worried about the loss of local control, but they were mollified by both Confederate and Tennessee officials who assured them of convergent interests. In July Fort Wright was closed; the troops and equipment were moved upriver to Fort Pillow. Randolph became once again a near-deserted village along the Mississippi.
Sherman, says Walters, “exploded into action” when he heard the report of the attack on the Eugene. By nightfall on September 24, 1862, the Ohio Belle and the Eugene were filled with the Ohio 46th Volunteer Infantry along with a battalion of artillery. Sherman had suggested to Col. Walcutt, whom he placed in command of the expedition, that he send one boat past Randolph to see it would draw fire; if it did, Walcutt and his troops would know then what they were up against at Randolph. The flotilla reached the area before daybreak on September 25. The Ohio Belle landed Walcutt and his troops below Randolph while the Eugene steamed up the Mississippi as far as Fort Pillow without drawing any fire. Meanwhile Walcutt and his troops reached Randolph without resistance. They found no town, only a mostly deserted village with six houses and dozens of abandoned and derelict buildings left over from Fort Wright and from older projects at Randolph."
http://digitalcommons.wku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1088&context=theses


Which means there was no "Fort Randolph" there, that Fort Wright had been the only fort there and when it was abandoned there were no defenses remaining in the Randolph area. Certainly had there also been a Fort Randolph in addition to a Fort Wright then wouldn't at least some of Fort Wright's garrison have been moved there instead of Fort Pillow when Wright was abandoned? And Anderson makes no mention of the Union troops finding evidence of a second fort there, just a near-deserted village and the remains of the abandoned Fort Wright. So it sounds pretty certain that these "two" forts were really the same fort as you said.
 
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#14
So it appears then that going from north to south down the Mississippi River there was Fort Pillow, Fort Wright, Fort Harris and then Fort Pickering at Memphis. So does anybody know what was garrisoning these forts as of late May-beginning of June 1862? From what I understand Fort Wright was already abandoned by that time but what was at Pillow, Harris and Pickering? I think a Brig. Gen. Villepigue was in command at Fort Pillow but I don't know much of anything about the others.
 
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#15
OK I've found out a little more about these riverside forts. Fort Pillow as of April 1862 appears to have been armed with "twenty-two 32-pounders, smooth bore; six 32-pounders, rifled; four 10-inch and three 8-inch columbiads. Five of the smooth-bore 32-pounders are mounted on the intrenchments. The six rifle guns are old pattern light 32-pounders, and will certainly explode after a few rounds; consequently will keep them in reserve with a few rounds for each, and take precautions to avoid casualties if they burst. ... I have about sixty days' rations on hand for 5,000 men, and will increase it as rapidly as possible to double that amount."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;idno=waro0011;node=waro0011:2;view=image;seq=397;size=100;page=root

As for Fort Wright, as of mid-September 1861 it had eighteen 32-pdrs. arranged in four batteries.
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar&cc=moawar&idno=waro0004&node=waro0004:2&view=image&seq=416&size=100
Do you think a few months later in April-May 1862 Fort Wright would still have had the same armament?

Fort Harris (here mistakenly called by Bushrod Johnson "Fort Harrison") seems to have had four guns of some sort but Johnson says they were removed to Fort Pillow.
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar&cc=moawar&idno=waro0004&node=waro0004:2&view=image&seq=416&size=100
So was this the end of Fort Harris then?

Fort Pickering seems to have had a four-gun redoubt on the larger of two Indian mounds and a three-gun redoubt on the smaller Indian mound for a total of seven guns.
http://www.northamericanforts.com/East/tn-west.html#pickering

Does all that sound correct? Fort Rector on the Arkansas shore I have no idea what it had unfortunately.
 
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#16
Now I've found out this bit of information:
"Fort Harris and Fort Rector (on the Arkansas side opposite Ft Harris) had been abandoned much earlier and played no part in the defense of the city."
http://2lostsoulsotheroad.blogspot.com/2010/10/on-road-again-101-32010.html

"Much earlier" than when Memphis was directly threatened it means. So I don't have to worry about Fort Harris or Fort Rector, which is a good thing since I could find next to nothing about Fort Rector.

This source here

https://books.google.com/books?id=IRlWAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA265&lpg=PA265&dq=Fort+Pillow+78+miles+Memphis&source=bl&ots=DtJMuAtSuJ&sig=vbrg-Y3oyyYgdxK24TyGibaNof4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBw5LSxrTMAhUHZCYKHUP8ApMQ6AEIVzAJ#v=onepage&q=Fort Pillow 78 miles Memphis&f=false

on page 267 says that Fort Wright was abandoned by the Confederates on 31 May 1862 but I don't know if it is correct considering that it also claims that Fort Pillow was evacuated by the rebels on 6 June 1862 when the Official Records seem to indicate that Fort Pillow was abandoned on 3 June 1862.
 
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#18
Regarding Fort Pickering at Memphis, in reading the after-action reports relevant to the naval engagement at Memphis and the Union occupation/Confederate evacuation of the city, they give me the impression that Fort Pickering was not manned at that time. All the Union reports talk extensively about the naval battle of course but none mention receiving any fire from shore. Surely if the fort was manned it would have participated in the battle to some degree and somebody on the Union side would have noticed it. Moreover, one Union officer's report specifically says "I had no expectation that they [rebel gunboat fleet] would make a stand at Memphis, which was represented to be entirely unfortified." http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;idno=ofre0023;node=ofre0023:3;view=image;seq=159;size=100;page=root

(Additionally the History of the Confederate States Navy by John Thomas Scharf says on page 262 that "The city of Memphis, being without defences of any kind, was surrendered to the federal authorities").

The message from the mayor of Memphis in reply to the demand to surrender the city also says basically the same thing, saying "In reply I have only to say that the civil authorities have no resources of defense, and by the force of circumstances the city is in your power."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;idno=ofre0023;node=ofre0023:3;view=image;seq=145;size=100;page=root
and again in a second message in response to the news that the Union was about to raise the U.S. flag on the post office and custom house in Memphis which says "our reply to you is simply to state, respectfully, that we have no force to oppose the raising of the flags you have directed to be raised over the custom-house and post-office." http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;idno=ofre0023;node=ofre0023:3;view=image;seq=153;size=100;page=root

Also M. Jeff Thompson's (Confederate) report includes the following passage, where he says that Commodore Montgomery, in command of the tiny rebel gunboat/ram fleet at Memphis, had "requested two companies of artillery to be sent aboard at daybreak. (All of my men were at the depot, awaiting transportation to Grenada.) I at once ordered the companies to hold themselves in readiness. At the dawn of day I was awakened with the information that the enemy were actually in sight of Memphis. I hurried on board to consult with Montgomery. He instructed me to hurry my men to Fort Pickering Landing, and sent a tug to bring them up to the gunboats, which were advancing to attack the enemy. I hastened my men to the place indicated, but before we reached it our boats had been either destroyed or driven below Fort Pickering, and I marched back to the depot to come to this place [Grenada] to await orders. ... It is impossible now to report the casualties [from the naval engagement at Memphis], as we were hurried in our retirement from Memphis, and none but those from the Lovell escaped on the Tennessee side of the river."
http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;idno=waro0010;node=waro0010:3;view=image;seq=931;size=100;page=root

In that statement Thompson mentions Fort Pickering by name but makes no mention of it getting involved in the naval battle or even of it still being manned. From all of the above information I am drawing the tentative conclusion that at the time Memphis was threatened Fort Pickering had already been abandoned beforehand.
 

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