Fort Pickering (Memphis, Tennessee)

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Fort Pickering
Memphis Tennessee
United States United States (Union) Civil War
Site information
Controlled by Union
Site history
Built 1862
In use 1862 to 1866
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.

The Union Army occupied Memphis from 1862 on, using it as a supply base for its troops in the region and downriver. It had a huge store of material here. The city was surrounded by plantations, with some 45,000 slaves recorded in the five-county area in 1860. Thousands of African-American slaves escaped from the plantations, coming to the Union lines for protection and freedom. Contraband camps were set up near the fort, and some former slaves and free blacks built cabins outside the fort, in an area then beyond the city limits.

From 1860 to 1865, the black population in Memphis rose from 3,000 to 20,000 persons.