Baldy Guy & George Guy
Baldy Guy & George Guy

Baldy Guy (1841-1911) and his brother George Guy (1845-1928) both fought in the Battle of Memphis at Fort Pickering in Memphis, Tennessee during the Civil War.

Organized March 11, 1864, their unit from the
1st Alabama Infantry (African Descent) was Attached to 1st Colored Brigade, District of Memphis, Tennessee, 16th Corps, to April 1864.

Fort Pickering, Post and Defenses of Memphis, District of West Tennessee to June 1864.

The 1st Alabama Infantry (African Descent) would later be renamed the
55th Regiment United States Colored Volunteer Infantry Troops.


 
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Fort Pickering was built as a strategic command post for the Union army during the Civil War, and stretched nearly 2 miles along the south Memphis bluffs from where DeSoto Park (Chicasaw Heritage Park) is located, all the way to Beale Street.  It was outfitted with 55 guns and included structures needed to serve the large number of troops living in Memphis and those passing through.  The Indian mounds were hollowed out and artillery was placed there, along with an ammunition bunker which was dug into the side of the mound.  Buildings included a hospital, rail depot, water works and a saw mill.    The fort was decommissioned and demolished in 1866.







 
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Memphians were not happy with Fort Pickering, especially when a "colored" regiment was established at the fort.  The regiment was  made up of ex-slaves and free-men.  Suddenly here were some of their ex-servants ordering them around.  Not the best of times!  Indeed, an African-American soldier from Fort Pickering figured prominently in the beginnings of the Memphis Race Riot of 1866.  It's no wonder that when the Fort was decommissioned in 1866,  Memphians wanted all traces of it removed - brick by brick.  And they did a good job.  (Could this be when Memphis learned  the art of demolition?)







 
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Memphis - Military Hospital
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Office of the Freedman's Bureau Memphis, Tennessee






 
The location of Fort Pickering .  There is no trace of the Fort, today.
The location of Fort Pickering . There is no trace of the Fort, today.
In June of 1862, a fleet of Union gunboats quickly defeated the Confederate fleet in the Battle of Memphis.  From then on, Memphis became an occupied city during the Civil War.  As such, the first order of business for the Union army was the construction of a new Fort Pickering on the Memphis bluffs.  It was a major fortification which included a number of structures needed to serve the large number of troops who would be passing through.   However Fort Pickering defenses were never put to the test and the Union army held Memphis throughout the war.  After Fort Pickering was demolished in 1866, all traces of the fort were removed and  Memphis forgot about it - until 2007, when there was interest about the possibility of finding Civil War remnants still around.  Trenches were excavated and archaeologists were able to identify two cisterns, brick foundation piers, and particularly, evidence of the defensive parapet and ditch.  Further excavations found very few actual Civil War items.  They had been thorough in the demolition of 1866.  The items that were found were mostly  evidence of an earlier residential area of  a young Memphis.


 
An early drawing of Fort Pickering
An early drawing of Fort Pickering
Fort Pickering was built in Memphis Tennessee by the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. It was taken over by the Union Army to provide control of the Mississippi River south of the city. 


 
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 Sherman's Lookout, Fort Pickering, Memphis, Tennessee
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Map of the city of Memphis  including Fort Pickering and Hopefield Ark.
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(Fort Pickering) at Memphis Tennessee 1864.
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The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis
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The First Battle of Memphis was a naval battle fought on the Mississippi River immediately above the city of Memphis on June 6, 1862, during the American Civil War. The engagement was witnessed by many of the citizens of Memphis. It resulted in a crushing defeat for the Confederate forces, and marked the virtual eradication of a Confederate naval presence on the river. Despite the lopsided outcome, the Union Army failed to grasp its strategic significance. Its primary historical importance is that it was the last time civilians with no prior military experience were permitted to command ships in combat. As such, it is a milestone in the development of professionalism in the United States Navy.[1]





 

The Second Battle of Memphis was a battle of the American Civil War occurring on August 21, 1864, in Shelby County, Tennessee.[1] At 4:00 a.m. on August 21, 1864, Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest made a daring raid on Union-held Memphis, Tennessee, but it was not an attempt to capture the city, which was occupied by 6,000 Federal troops. The raid had three objectives: to capture three Union generals posted there; to release Southern prisoners from Irving Block Prison; and to cause the recall of Union forces from Northern Mississippi. Striking northwestward for Memphis with 2,000 cavalry, Forrest lost about a quarter of his strength because of exhausted horses. Surprise was essential. Taking advantage of a thick dawn fog and claiming to be a Union patrol returning with prisoners, the Confederates eliminated the sentries.

Galloping through the streets and exchanging shots with other Union troops, the raiders split to pursue separate missions. One union general was not at his quarters. Another, General Cadwallader C. Washburn escaped to Fort Pickering dressed in his night-shirt. Forrest took Washburn's uniform, but later returned it under a flag of truce.[2] According to Memphis legend, Confederate cavalrymen rode into the lobby of the luxurious Gayoso House Hotel seeking the Yankee officers.[3] A street in Memphis is named "General Washburn's Escape Alley" in commemoration of the ordeal.[4] The attack on Irving Block Prison also failed when Union troops stalled the main body at the State Female College. After two hours, Forrest decided to withdraw, cutting telegraph wires, taking 500 prisoners and large quantities of supplies, including many horses.

Although Forrest failed in Memphis, his raid influenced Union forces to return there, from northern Mississippi, and provide protection. Union General Hurlbut was quoted afterward as saying, "There it goes again! They superseded me with Washburn because I could not keep Forrest out of West Tennessee, and Washburn cannot keep him out of his own bedroom!"






 

During the Civil War a Union Fleet consisting of seven gunboats and rams, were led by flag officer Davis and Colonel Ellet to Fort Pickering. They arrived just outside Memphis at 4:00am on June 6, 1862. A naval battle soon started between the Confederate and the Union army which lasted one and a half hours. This battle was witnessed by several Confederate citizens. After the battle all but one Confederate boat was smashed, and the remaining Confederate troops retreated further south. This was an important victory of the war, and using newly recruited black troops; the Union army enlarged and expanded several areas of the fort. "The newly constructed fort stretched nearly 2 miles along the south Memphis bluffs from where DeSoto Park (Chicasaw Heritage Park) is located, all the way to Beale Street. It was outfitted with 55 guns and included structures needed to serve the large number of troops living in Memphis and those passing through. The Indian mounds were hollowed out and artillery was placed there, along with an ammunition bunker which was dug into the side of the mound. Buildings included a hospital, rail depot, water works and a saw mill."[1]

However, Fort Pickering defenses were never put to the test and the Union army held Memphis throughout the war. By 1864 the fort continued to serve as a major Union staging area throughout the Vicksburg Campaign.

After Fort Pickering was demolished in 1866, all traces of the fort were removed and Memphis forgot about it - until 2007, when there was interest about the possibility of finding Civil War remnants still around. Trenches were excavated and archaeologists were able to identify two cisterns, brick foundation piers, and particularly, evidence of the defensive parapet and ditch. Further excavations found very few actual Civil War items. They had been thorough in the demolition of 1866. The items that were found were mostly evidence of an earlier residential area of a young Memphis.