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Fort Pickering (Memphis, Tennessee)

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Title: Fort Pickering (Memphis, Tennessee)  
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Subject: Memphis riots of 1866, Memphis, Tennessee
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Fort Pickering (Memphis, Tennessee)

Fort Pickering
Memphis, Tennessee
United States (Union) Civil War
Site information
Controlled by Union
Site history
Built Circa 1810
In use 1862 to 1866 (Civil War service)
Garrison information
Garrison Strategic Command Post

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.

Plaque for Fort Pickering
Fort Pickering Memphis Tennessee


mound bunker entrance

This area had earthwork mounds built by ancient indigenous peoples and used by the historic Chickasaw people, a band led by Chief Chisca. The former fort site is located within what is now the Chickasaw Heritage Park.

In 1739, French colonists and militia built Fort Assumption here. In the Civil War it was the site of Confederate Fort Pickering. For the use as a fort, the Confederates dug out the top of the mound and placed artillery there. An ammunition bunker was dug into the side of the mound.

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 of 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.[2]


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