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Historic Diaries: Emily Quiner, 1863

July 4, 1863: Arrival at Memphis

Editor's Note:

Fort Pillow: This was a Confederate fort captured by Union forces in June 1862, located 40 miles north of Memphis. Memphis itself was not only the fifth largest city in the Confederacy, but was also an important railroad hub. It fell to the Union on June 6, 1862, only two days after Confederate troops had left Fort Pillow. The fort would later become infamous when on April 12, 1864, Confederate troops did not acknowledge surrender of Union soldiers, but continued their fire, showing particular brutality towards black troops. When the firing ceased, half the Union soldiers had been killed -- 64% of the African-American troops and 31% of the white Union troops.


New Madrid and Island No. 10: These were Confederate posts on the Mississippi that had been captured by Union forces in March and April 1862. They were located further north than Fort Pillow, so Emily would have passed them first as she descended to Memphis.


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Independence Day! And we floating down the Mississippi! Who would have thought it, on such an errand too? It was very warm this morning. I sat down immediately after breakfast and wrote a long letter home to be mailed at Memphis. After this we went up to the pilot house and had a good view of Fort Pillow which we passed about ten o'clock. It looks like a very strong point indeed. Very high banks surrounded by a high board railings with one or two guns visible from the river, is all that meets the eye now. Hardly a vestige remains of what must have been a formidable looking place. We passed Island No. 10 in the afternoon. It is garrisoned by Negro troops. New Madrid is also quite a large place on the river, which has been the scene of a hard fought battle. A lady who came down from Cairo with us, and who is commandant at New Madrid, got off here.


In a short time after this, we got a view of Memphis from a point in the river which is about four miles from the city, where the Mississippi bends in an abrupt curve. It looked beautiful in the light of the setting sun, and was quite a welcome sight to us, when a few moments after we found ourselves approaching the scene of our future labors. It is situated on high banks overlooking the river, and has many fine public buildings. We went immediately to a boarding house on our arrival, and retired to rest, or rather to try to rest for the house being nearly full, four of us had only a single room with a bed and a lounge as sleeping accommodations. We had quite a celebration on board the steamer today. The gentlemen got a flag and unfurled it in the cabin and then drew up resolutions, sang songs, and had a general good time. Jenny & I were appointed as committee with these gentlemen to draw up resolutions...

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