Visitors Guide to
Fort Pillow State
3122 Park Road
Fort Pillow State Park is scenically located in
Lauderdale County on the Chickasaw Bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.
This 1,642-acre park is rich with historical and archaeological significance
as well as providing visitors with opportunities recreational activities
such as hiking, fishing, and wildlife viewing as well as offering camping
The park is situated on the site of a Civil War fort. In 1861, the
Confederate Army built extensive fortifications here and named the site for
General Gideon J. Pillow of Tennessee. Because of its strategic location,
controlling traffic on the Mississippi River, the fort was attacked and
captured by the Union Army, which controlled it during most of the war. An
exception to this control occurred for less than one day immediately after
the Battle of Fort Pillow in 1864. On June 4, 1862 Confederate troops
evacuated Fort Pillow allowing the Union Army to take the site which left
the way clear for the capture of Memphis, Tennessee. In April 1864 the
Confederates retook the fort for one day after the Battle of Fort Pillow.
229 black and white Union soldiers out of 262 engaged in the battle were
killed by Southern troops under General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Confederate
records show about 200 prisoners were shipped south and "Remember Fort
Pillow!" became a battle cry among African-American soldiers for the
remainder of the Civil War.
In 1866, the Union Army created a cemetery for both Confederate and Union
soldiers south of the battle site. In 1867, they moved about 250 bodies of
Confederate and Union soldiers from that cemetery to the Memphis National
Cemetery. In 1973, the site was added to the National Register of Historic
Places and in 1974 it was declared a National Historic Landmark. The remains
of the earthworks of this fort are well preserved. Many of the beautiful
original breastworks remain in good condition. Extensive archaeological
study and excavations have allowed for reconstruction of the inner fort.
History buffs and visitors of all ages will enjoy exploring the history of
this fort through interpretive programs and tours.
The park has an Interpretive Center/Museum that is open from 8 am - 4 pm
daily year round with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and
Christmas Day. The museum closes daily from 11:30 am - 12:30 pm for lunch.
There is no entrance fee. Visitors will find displays of Civil War artifacts
and interpretive displays. A 12 minute video on the 1864 Battle of Fort
Pillow is shown by request. Tours of the museum and restored fortifications
are available upon request. The park’s staff provides many interpretive
programs. Most of these have been developed to enhance the understanding of
the American Civil War as it relates to the occupation of both Confederate
and Union forces at Fort Pillow. The programs include educational hikes to
the restored fortifications, museum tours, haversack displays, and
demonstrations on the life of a civil war soldier, weapon use, construction
of fortifications and more. Nature and recreational programs are presented
during the summer months or upon request.
Fort Pillow State Historic Park has a rustic campground with 32 campsites
designed primarily for tent camping. None of the sites are equipped for RVs.
There are no electrical or water hook-ups. Tent camp sites accommodate small
popups and RVs may park in front of a site. Each campsite has a
grill/campfire pad; a picnic table, and pea gravel for tent set-up, a roomy
forest setting, and full-service bathhouse. Back country camping is allowed
only at the designated site located on the Blue Chickasaw Bluff Trail. A
permit is required for the site.
Fort Pillow State Historic Park offers many recreational opportunities. The
park includes the 25-acre Fort Pillow Lake. A boat ramp is available to the
general public but there are no rental boats at the park. Only fishing boats
and canoes are allowed. The lake is stocked with bass, bream and crappie. A
valid Tennessee Fishing License is required. A picnic area overlooking Fort
Pillow Lake provides the visitor with tables, grills, restrooms and
playground. Visitors can engage in basketball, volleyball, horseshoes,
kickball, and wiffle ball.
The park provides sanctuary for deer, turkey, coyote, bobcat, and raccoons.
Many turtle species may be seen as well, including snapping, painted, and
mud turtles. Interpretive signs identify certain species and their habitat.
Visitors come to Fort Pillow for the 20 miles of trails, which cover almost
all of the 1,650 acres. The 20 miles of trails lead to the restored
fortification, several other inner forts and the outer breastworks that make
up Fort Pillow. Several cannons are on display throughout the museum, along
with other Civil War artifacts such as bullets, muskets and cannon balls.
The Anderson-Tully Wildlife Management Area borders the park on the north.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency manages this popular hunting and
fishing area. No hunting is allowed on park property.
The park is frequented by birders and is an
excellent location to observe a wide variety of forest birds in the summer
such as the Prothonotary Warbler, Mississippi Kite, Acadian Flycatcher, Wood
Thrush, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Northern Parulas. Large numbers of
congregating and migrating swallows can be seen in July and August.
Visiting Fort Pillow State
Park grounds: 8 am - sunset daily
Center/Museum: 8 am - 4 pm daily and year. The museum closes daily
from 11:30 am - 12:30 pm for lunch.
Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
There is no charge to visit the Fort Pillow
State Historic Park or the Interpretive Center/Museum.
The entrance to Fort Pillow State
is located off Crutcher Lake Road, From the intersection of Main
Street and Graves Avenue in Henning take Graves Road west (will turn
into TN-87) east for about 16 miles to Crutcher Lake Road. Take a
right (north) on Crutcher Lake Road and travel just about 1 mile to
the park entrance.
Learn more about the
Pillow State Park
The official website of Fort Pillow State Park.