At a distance of some three miles above Greenwood, Miss., is the only fort on the river that resisted the attack of the Federal forces during the war between the States. It is Fort Pemberton. The embankment stretches from river to river, from the Tallahatchie on one side to the Yazoo on the other, and even to one unacquainted with military defenses, the lines of the embankment are yet plainly visible to the eye as one passes the historic spot on the steamboats that now peacefully ply their trade on the river. The Tallahatchie river runs for a short distance here parallel with the Yazoo, and these forts were built as defenses by the Confederates against the Federals. It is not more than 300 yards from one river to the other at fort Pemberton. The army of the Confederates commanded by Gen. Loring was at Grenada, Miss., when orders were issued to the civil engineer in charge of the defenses to take a party of men, and on board the transport J. M. Sharp, Capt. B. W. Sturdevant commanding (who is now a large planter on the Tallahatchie river near Sharkeys), to proceed up the Tallahatchie river in search of a suitable place to build a fort and obstruct the river to prevent the Federals, under Gen. Washburn, from coming through the Yazoo pass from the Mississippi river and thence down Cold Water, the Tallahatchie and Yazoo Rivers to attack the Confederate stronghold, Vicksburg. In the language of W. A. Gillespie, of Greenwood, Miss., who was detailed by Gen. Loring to accompany the civil engineers, he says: "In March, 1863, we took on board a party of civil engineers and several hundred negroes, with overseers, and went up the Tallahatchie and Cold Water into the Yazoo pass, where we unloaded the overseers and negroes, who went to work cutting timber in the Yazoo pass to obstruct it and prevent the Federal fleet of gunboats and transports from coming down the river. The federals put out a cavalry force and drove us back. We then steamed down to the mouth of the Cold Water, where we landed, and the engineers, after examining the grounds failed to find a suitable location for a fort. We then steamed down the Tallahatchie, when I suggested that at the mouth of Clayton bayou would be a good location for breastworks. We got there in the afternoon and landing the engineers, overseers and negroes, went to work at once to erect Fort Pemberton, named in honor of the general commanding the department. The John M. Sharp was used to bring cotton bales to the fort, and they were rolled into the line and covered with dirt, and this covered with beef hides. An embankment was thrown up from one river to the other, while another embankment was thrown up below on the Yazoo river to prevent the Federals from flanking the fort, as they had cut a trail through the dense swamp with the intention of flanking Fort Pemberton, but, the water rising, their purpose was thwarted. Beside the embankment large rafts were constructed and sunk in the river above the fort. The famous vessel that had first opened the battle between the states at Sumter, the Star of the West, was scuttled and sunk just below the raft.

     "The Commercial Appeal correspondent gives the following account of this  sent by him to the Picayune October 18, 1887:

     "A party from Greenwood a few days since made a visit to Fort Pemberton, the famous boat that had once been fired into at Sumter in the beginning of the struggle that had tried men's souls, and had, after a number of changes, been scuttled and sunk in this small Southern river, was lying fully exposed to the eye of some who had reached man's estate, that were in swaddling clothes when these scenes were being enacted years before. The bow of the Star of the West was lying down-stream, with the stern resting on the bank in an angle of about 45 degrees, the wreck at this low stage of water was plainly visible for near its whole length, slightly careened, and in some places eight or ten feet out of the water. Relic hunters had been here before, and both wood and iron, brass and copper, had been cut and torn away to satisfy their insatiable appetite for a part of the boat that had passed through scenes of stirring events, and sailed in waters, both fresh and salt, to at length lie buried beneath the waves of this little Southern stream. Large posts of cedar three or more feet above the sand, dirt and rubbish, of the end on the bank, were still in a good state of preservation, and your correspondent, by the use of the sturdy blows of the ax, soon had in his possession several blocks of the beautiful and aromatic wood, that was as sound as the day it was first put into its place. Copper bolts and tacks, iron and brass nails and spikes were secured by dint of hard wood and delving in the mud and debris that lay in sheets on the frame of this historic craft. Each of the party secured such relics as they best could find or fancy covet. Dr. J. P. Henry, of Greenwood, has in his possession a bronze figure, about three feet high, of the Goddess of Liberty that once stood out proudly upon her prow as an emblem of the nation under which the Star of the West sailed. It is said that the hull of this boat lies buried in the sand and debris covering the boat, but has been sought for in vain."

     A. A. Stoddard, an old gentleman now living in Greenwood, is the man who, as an officer of the Confederate army, had charge of the detail to sink the boat. He says that holes were bored to quite a number in her hull and stopped up with pegs, one man being in charge of two pegs, that at a given signal each man drew the pegs he had in charge, and this historic boat soon sank to the bottom of the Tallahatchie river. On the secession of South Carolina, December 6, 1860, Maj. Anderson, in command of the defenses of the harbor, was called upon to surrender them to the State authorities. Instead of doing this, he abandoned the others and occupied Fort Sumter. This was considered an act of war by the Confederates and their troops, and they, under the command of Gen. Beauregard took possession of Forts Pickney and Moultrie and erected additional batteries. This aroused the North, and the attack on Fort Sumter and its fall began the war. It is a matter of note, also, that the first gun fired during the civil war was was discharged by Franklin J. Moses at the steamer  Star of the West, sent to supply Fort Sumter in 1861. Edmund Ruffin, an old Virginian, fired the first gun at Sumter. It is said that Moses is now a convict in the Massachusetts penitentiary, and it was stated in Southern papers after the war that Ruffin had committed suicide not long after the surrender of Fort Sumter.

     It is a historic fact that the army of the Union was repulsed at Fort Pemberton, and retired after its failure, back the way they came, through the Yazoo pass into the Mississippi river. The cotton bales that were used in making the fort were taken out but little damaged. A gentleman who lives near the fort had a piece of clay that he had very recently taken out of the fort, and which was part of the embankment near a gin-house that had been burned. The clay had hardened by the heat of the fire, the impression of the bagging that had wrapped the bales of cotton was indelibly stamped upon the clay. There are a number of relics that have come from the Star of the West in Greenwood and are treasured as of value. A part of the cedar wood and iron and brass spikes were carried from Greenwood and placed in the exhibit of the war department at the Columbian Exposition at Chicago. The Star of the West was built by the United States on the coast of California. The live oak and cedar that were used in her construction are still in a good state of preservation, the cedar being full of the aroma peculiar to that wood. After the attack at Fort Sumter by the Star of the West she was used by the Federals in their service until captured early in 1863 by Gen. VanDorn of the Confederate army, and entered the Mississippi by way of New Orleans, thence to Fort Pemberton on the Tallahatchie. The outline of the old fort is plainly visible at this day, and up to a few years ago the frame of the Star of the West was plainly seen when the water in the river ran low. I am told by a gentleman now living here that at one time Gen. Loring had decided to give up the struggle at Fort Pemberton on account of the difficulty in getting supplies of good for men and horses, but that this gentleman was given a detail of ten men and $10,000, who foraged the country and soon had plenty of meat and corn on hand. Greenwood is now a peaceful little city on the quiet waters of the Yazoo, but in 1863, in March stirring and important events were enacted there.

     I entered the war at the age of 16 and had 3 horses killed from under me, and did not receive a scratch.


(Father of Mrs. G. S. Pate)
 Greenwood, Mississippi.


Courtesy of Henry McCabe, Greenwood, Mississippi