River Run Red by Andrew Ward

River Run Red by Andrew Ward

Author:Andrew Ward
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

A little before 5:00 p.m., Anderson disembarked from the Platte Valley and urged Chalmers to order the steamers to shove off, for he intended to burn what little remained of the post. Anderson assured Ferguson that Forrest’s command was miles off and that he could “depart at his leisure, and without fear of molestation.” Letting go their lines and lowering their white flags, the steamers chuffed and heaved back into the current.28

In the meantime, the Union hospital boat Red Rover had arrived on the scene. After the Platte Valley pulled away from the landing, Anderson signaled that he had discovered over a dozen more wounded Federals in the smoking ruins of the fort. So the Red Rover came in and brought them aboard, where “fleet Surgeon Ninian Pinkney, with his usual promptness, provided comfortable quarters for them,” the Argus reported, “and with his little army of assistant surgeons soon had their wounds dressed.”29

The New Era headed downriver to recover a coal barge that had broken loose during the fight and tow it to Flour Island, opposite Fulton. The Red Rover, with its cargo of “refugees, women and children,” headed south for Memphis under the Silver Cloud’s protection while the Platte Valley and the Lady Pike proceeded upriver to Cairo. Despite Anderson’s assurance of safe passage, the Platte Valley’s artillerists kept her nine guns primed all night.30

Saluting Ferguson, Anderson and his detachment of ten troopers slowly made their way back up to the fort, where he ordered his men to dismount and begin distributing tinder among the remaining buildings. As the Silver Cloud swung back into the stream, Anderson’s men piled hospital beds, bunks, and mattresses into teetering heaps and, kindling them with straw, put what remained of the ruined fort to the torch.

“We then mounted our horses,” recalled Anderson, “and bade Fort Pillow a lasting adieu.” Spurring their horses, Anderson and his escort, with Young still in their custody, hustled up the Ripley Road in hopes of catching up to their comrades.31

Major William Bradford had emerged from the massacre without so much as a scratch. Though Wyeth took it as “proof of the control that Forrest had over his men that he was not shot, even after the surrender,” it was not for want of trying. Whether he was unusually fleet or momentarily charmed, none of the hundreds of shots that were fired at him had so much as grazed him as he ran into and then out of the river, back up to the parapet, and into Forrest’s grudging custody. Bradford had given “his parole of honor that he would report again to the Confederates in their camp that night as soon as his brother was interred.” But here the story gets blurred.32

Some say he simply slipped away at this point, others that he did indeed return to rebel custody, only to escape that night. Dr. Fitch encountered him around 7:00 p.m. and remembered asking him why he had not surrendered the garrison.

“Because,” Bradford replied, “my name is not Hawkins,” meaning, of course, the hornswoggled Union commander at Union City.


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