Did The Union Army Really Murder 18 CS Soldiers In Forrest Retaliation

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ucvrelics

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I came across this article in the Confederate Veterans magazine and it blew my mind to read this. If this is indeed true then it would fall into the category of "War Crimes" I have read most everything written on NBF and this one doesn't ring any bells. Forrest never order 18 Union soldiers shot. So the question is did the Union Army really shoot these guys based on a rumor?

18 murdered.jpg
 
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diane

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The only thing like this I can think of - with the 18 number - happened during the Carolinas campaign and had absolutely nothing to do with Forrest. In November of 1862, Forrest was preparing to retake Nashville and was in middle Tennessee with a newly trained and organized brigade - this didn't happen so he embarked on his West Tennessee Raid. No killing of any prisoners in November because he didn't have any to kill!

However, much later Kilpatrick discovered 18 Union soldiers had been killed in two separate incidents and wrote Wheeler that he'd burn out everybody in his path if some explanation wasn't forthcoming, while Sherman wrote to Hampton demanding an explanation of exactly what had happened and he'd better be hearing from Hampton promptly as he intended to kill a like number of Confederates in retaliation. Hampton replied - truthfully as it came out later - that he didn't know what happened to the Federals but that Sherman shouldn't be surprised if somebody killed his 'foragers' during their depredations. Sherman answered Hampton shouldn't be upset - foraging was as ancient as war and a right...Well, Hampton didn't see it that way. He promised to kill two for each one Sherman killed and the whizzing war was on. I'm not exactly sure how this resolved - I believe Sherman just didn't kill anyone, which would have set off a most unpleasant exchange. Hampton meant what he said and didn't back down from much of anything.

As to Forrest executing prisoners, there's only one rather murky incident of that and that was during the Murfreesboro raid. At the time of the raid there were two scouts and two civilians accused of spying in the jail, sentenced to be executed. That event was interrupted by Forrest's raid, but the soldiers attempted to carry out their orders by shooting through the bars of the door. The four inside ran up to the wall and the soldiers couldn't lower their rifles enough to get them, and left. However, one came back and lit fire to the jail. After most of it was over, Forrest asked the men if it was true someone had tried to murder them. Yes, it was and the guy was present. "Point him out to me," said Forrest and one of the prisoners did. Later, there was a role call of the Union prisoners and this fellow didn't answer. "Pass on, " said Forrest, and that was all.
 

diane

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These veteran stories are wonderful - it's important to know how the war was remembered by the people who fought it. Perhaps this elderly gentleman had stories confused or had been told the story wrong in the first place. There were lots of rumors about Forrest, ninety percent of which weren't true! I wonder if anyone responded to his story?

Of course, when Sherman began his march through South Carolina, he and Wade Hampton regularly hissed and spit at each other. Sherman dearly loved to say see what you made me do and Hampton dearly loved to reply you wouldn't have done it if you weren't a hateful vandal in the first place!
 
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diane

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Interesting! I found a letter from H B Richards about sugar cane - apparently he was a sugar planter down there in Lagrange. This letter was written in 1882, 11 years before the one in question, and clear as a bell. By 1893, he was probably quite retired and thinking about old things - when an unanswered question came up. After his death, his wife was very active in the UDC there.

If what he says happened did indeed happen, then I would say somebody sure should have answered for it.
 

diane

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Its an account thirty years late. It's not that its impossible or improbable, but trying to link up actual incidents to Forrest seems quite daunting.
Forrest did try to keep a fairly accurate account of what he was doing and where he was - sometimes it was very fluid and then some records have been lost. Most of what we have about Forrest's campaigns from his viewpoint are in the Jordan and Pryor book, which was written with much use of Forrest's personal papers. However, less than 10 years later all those papers were gone for the most part as Forrest's home on President's Island burned down with everything in it.
 
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Joshism

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Keep in mind there are two questions here:

1. Did Forrest execute 18 Union prisoners in 1862?

2. Did the Union execute 18 Confederate prisoners in 1862 in retribution for a similar act they thought Forrest committed?

The answer to the second question is not dependent on the first.
 

wausaubob

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Lets think about that. 1893, anyone involved in these actions has probably passed away. Most of the nation has decided again and again to not penalize either Confederates or Yankees for mistakes made during the war.
By 1893 it is relatively inconsequential to make these types of accusations.
Then again, Americans telling a bit of a stretcher, is that odd?
 

ucvrelics

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Lets think about that. 1893, anyone involved in these actions has probably passed away.
Lets think about it. You were 25 to 30 when the war ended in 1865 add 30 years you were 55 to 60 in 1895. There were many CW Vets on both sides alive in 1893. The ranks of the UCV were over 48000 strong in 1910. The 1911 UCV reunion in Little Rock had over 106,000 members a guest in attendance and the last CS vets died on Dec 31 1951 at the age of 104.
 
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I came across this article in the Confederate Veterans magazine and it blew my mind to read this. If this is indeed true then it would fall into the category of "War Crimes" I have read most everything written on NBF and this one doesn't ring any bells. Forrest never order 18 Union soldiers shot. So the question is did the Union Army really shoot these guys based on a rumor?

View attachment 199881
Another interesting find UCV.

I had never heard any of this either.
 

SWMODave

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Keep in mind there are two questions here:

1. Did Forrest execute 18 Union prisoners in 1862?

2. Did the Union execute 18 Confederate prisoners in 1862 in retribution for a similar act they thought Forrest committed?

The answer to the second question is not dependent on the first.
Respectfully, there seems to be a hop, skip and a jump over the first question that should be answered.

Did the Union actually execute 18 Confederate prisoners in 1862?

The OP and followup questions seem to be guiding us to the conclusion that the 18 prisoners being executed is not in question, only whether it was carried out in retaliation - I would respectfully disagree with that conclusion without secondary reliable sources.

The fact that the Forrest experts are having difficulty locating the 'crime' for which the retaliation was supposedly carried out for - opens the initial claim to more serious scrutiny. imo
 
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diane

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FWIW, Forrest didn't play the retaliation game. When he discovered some of his men had been tortured to death, he went through the proper procedure - filed a complaint with the Union authorities, sent them the gory details and who done it, and demanded they do something about it since it was in territory under Union control and it was their soldiers. That was repeated three or four times. With no action taken on the part of the Union, Forrest declared the miscreants (which was Hurst's unit) outlaws to be shot on sight. He didn't round up a like number of Union prisoners and threaten them, he went after the guilty parties and that was only when no one else would. He did the same thing when the partisan company raised by the Lamson brothers went renegade on him - he declared them outlaws to be shot on sight as well.
 
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Reminds me of Mosby's "Death Raffle" of course that was out of a hat and specifically against prisoners belonging to commands that had been involved in the murders of his men. Interesting that they'd simply be retaliating by killing 18 random rebel prisoners of any command, but stranger things have happened. That line towards the end about not wishing to renew old animosities but simply wanting to know is enough to convince me there's some truth to it. No grandiose claims of bravery or slander of butchery, simply a question that haunted someone for decades.
 
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I came across this article in the Confederate Veterans magazine and it blew my mind to read this. If this is indeed true then it would fall into the category of "War Crimes" I have read most everything written on NBF and this one doesn't ring any bells. Forrest never order 18 Union soldiers shot. So the question is did the Union Army really shoot these guys based on a rumor?
If the facts presented by H.B. Richards did indeed happen, then it was no "war crime" but an act of retaliation that was allowed under the international laws of war and used occasionally by both the Union and the Confederacy.
 
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If the facts presented by H.B. Richards did indeed happen, then it was no "war crime" but an act of retaliation that was allowed under the international laws of war and used occasionally by both the Union and the Confederacy.
Agreed to cite the Lieber Code (which to be fair was not yet in effect but its sentiments in the atmosphere)

Art. 27: The law of war can no more wholly dispense with retaliation than can the law of nations, of which it is a branch. Yet civilized nations acknowledge retaliation as the sternest feature of war. A reckless enemy often leaves to his opponent no other means of securing himself against the repetition of barbarous outrage

Art. 28: Retaliation will, therefore, never be resorted to as a measure of mere revenge, but only as a means of protective retribution, and moreover, cautiously and unavoidably; that is to say, retaliation shall only be resorted to after careful inquiry into the real occurrence, and the character of the misdeeds that may demand retribution.

Unjust or inconsiderate retaliation removes the belligerents farther and farther from the mitigating rules of regular war, and by rapid steps leads them nearer to the internecine wars of savages.


That being said, if this did happen and Union authorities did not declare it to Forrest's command or the rebel government in a way similar to Mosby's letter to Sheridan one could very easily make the argument that it was not done cautiously as a means of protective retribution and rather as revenge and thus "war crime". The code may not stipulate declaring an act of retaliation but if you don't inform the enemy I don't see how you can argue you did it for the purposes of motivating them to cease and desist future injustices. If they did declare it, finding such a letter may make a fun research project for someone with the time and interest.
 
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Where is the colaboration from any of the other 2-300 men that were supposedly lined up with Mr. Richards? If this did actually occur I'm sure that others would be only to happy to jump on the bandwagon. Way to many people involved not to have other accounts of this alleged incident being told over and over again. Sounds to much like sour grapes.
 
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