This week 150 years ago in the Civil War opens with Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard ordering his troops to abandon Fort Pillow in Tennessee and, soon after, nearby Memphis.
Federal forces have recently seized the nearby northeast Mississippi rail junction of Corinth, prompting Beauregard’s move. His forces remove guns and supplies from Fort Pillow as they begin their withdrawal.
Union forces occupying Corinth essentially control a key railroad line, several rail links between Memphis and other points in the South.
On June 6, 1862, Union gunboats and rams on the Mississippi River open up the naval battle of Memphis before dawn, approaching from just north of that city. In an hour and a half of fighting, the Union sinks or captures all but one of the Confederate vessels – mostly converted river steamers – that are seeking to defend Memphis.
Spectators line the riverbanks, watching the battle that opens with long-range volleys from the federal attackers. The fight descends into chaotic attempts at close range by opposing ships to ram rival vessels.
The Confederate fleet is defeated. Soon after, the Union flag is raised in Memphis as the city surrenders.