After black soldiers were massacred at Fort Pillow by the eventual founder of the KKK, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, there was a cry from black soldiers to “Remember Fort Pillow.” The Fort Pillow Massacre, which took place in Tennessee on April 12, 1864, more than 300 black soldiers were murdered, after most of the Northern garrison surrendered. They should have been treated as prisoners of war, but instead was murdered by racist bigots. The southern army and good old Robert E. Lee refused to treat black soldiers as prisoners of war. This infuriated black troops and was the attitude of Texas Confederates as witnessed by the historical record.
The North actively recruited blacks into the Northern army after Frederick Douglas and others convinced Lincoln and the war department to let blacks fight for their freedom. The South, near the end of the war, and when it was apparent that they would be crushed along with their slave society, thought about recruiting blacks to fight for the Confederacy. However, Texas bigots would have none of that! Texas racists would not want blacks in grey uniforms under any circumstance. In 1864 and 1865, Texas newspapers blasted the idea of blacks serving in the army of the slave owners. The editor of the Galveston Weekly News issues this quote, “We think it is a matter of regret that any suggestion should ever have been made in high official quarters, that any emergency can arise to compel the South to an abandonment of the foundation principle upon which the institution of slavery exists.”
Everything in Texas has always been bigger—including the hatred! African Americans fought in Texas in blue uniforms near Brownsville and across the nation. Blacks fought even harder after the murders at Fort Pillow as they realized that they would be executed if captured. This racist method of war was but an extension of the slave owner’s code to kill any black that raised a hand against a white person. In Texas, an infamous racist by the name of John “RIP” Ford made it clear at the beginning of 1865 that he intended to remove “Yankee” troops and called all others “ruthless enemies,” which included “abolitionists and negroes.” This racist scoundrel was lionized by the Texas legislature some years back as a “hero.”
Ford was particularly upset when he found out that black Union soldiers were stationed near Brownsville and were being made available to attack the pro-slavery Texas rebels. These blacks were from the 62nd and 87th United States Colored Troops (USCT). These black soldiers would prevent a rout of Union forces at the Battle of Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, dubbed the last Battle of the Civil War on May 13, 1865. Seeing blacks fully armed sent fear across Texas, while the cowardly Confederate slave owners would not do their own fighting but used poor whites to do their dirty work.
The Texas rebels, and indeed the Southern confederate forces, often employed the “Rebel Yell” to intimate the Union forces. Some bozo even made a recording of it after the Civil War. It did no good against black troops that were determined to gain their freedom. Yelling by a bunch of yahoos would not stop fighters determined to gain their liberty. At the Battle of Palmito Ranch it was the black soldiers that held a line of retreat that prevented the hated “RIP” Ford from completely crushing the federal army. Despite all of the yelling and tactics of Colonel “RIP” Ford, he was unable to deliver a final blow to the Union troops because of the heroic action of the black soldiers providing fire as they retreated. Though many would claim that the Texas rebels won that battle it was not the case. The Texas rebels did not win a complete victory as they had to end the battle that was carried on for some nine miles as Union forces retreated. Union forces left the field of battle but were not completely defeated as claimed. The rebels were simply too exhausted to continue—too much hollering I suppose!
In a show of spirited resistance, the black soldiers fired thunderous rounds into the air as they left the field, indicating that they still had the spirit of the fight within them. This symbolic firing of weapons by the black troops, even though they were forced to retreat showed the rebel forces that blacks were more than willing to fight against the racist system. These former slaves showed the courage that was needed for slavery to be destroyed. Accustomed to telling big lies, as they do here in Texas, about the confederate dead, John “RIP” Ford claimed that none of his men were killed, but historians place the number at about thirty, approximately the same number of Union soldiers.