Brig. Gen. George F. Shepley, commander of the District of Norfolk and Portsmouth for the Union army, wrote to Rep. Daniel W. Gooch, chairman of the Committee on Conduct of the War, in response to charges he had failed to act in defense of Fort Pillow.
Shepley replied in a nine-page letter that he had been on the Olive Branch on his way out of New Orleans where he had served for two years as military governor of Louisiana.
He noted that it as a passenger steamer, with private cargo, no troops and no munitions. When the vessel stopped at Vicksburg, soldiers, horses, wagons and baggage were put on board. However, the soldiers had no small arms.
As the vessel approached Fort Pillow, the crew was informed of a rebel attack there and the captain sought to turn back to Memphis. Shepley explained the actions he took to assess the needs at Fort Pillow and how the Olive Branch was told it was not needed at Pillow. In addition, a vessel with troops aboard passed by and continued, without offering any expression of need for assistance.
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