Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Justin McGregor

I brushed aside the flap of the tent. Inside, my friend and commanding officer, Isaac Guion, was scraping the dry nib of a feather pin across parchment.

“Don’t go wearing that out. Good good feathers are hard to come by out here.” I joked.

“What?” He asked, confused. “Oh. The pen. I was trying to figure out what to say in my report.”

“How about, ‘Spanish left, burned down fort, moved next door, still smell’? Accurate enough.”

Isaac gave me a disapproving frown. “The general would appreciate the brevity. The wit would be lost on him, though.”

“You were supposed to secure the eastern bank of the river, and you did it. Did it without firing a shot or getting anyone – me most of all – killed in the process.”

“Spanish are still here, though.”

“On their side of the river.” I reminded him, as I dug through his footlocker. “My father had a saying, ‘When in doubt, do the only reasonable thing. Drink tonight and worry about it in the morning.’”

I drug a bottle of bourbon from his things and pulled the cork out with my teeth.

“Wasn’t your father a minister?”

“Oh, yes. His church was very popular.”

Memphis Note
Isaac Guion was the commander of a contingent of US soldiers sent south from what is now present-day Cincinnati to claim the Spanish fort, Assumption, on the east banks of the Mississippi as property of the newly born United States of America. Problem being, the Spanish were still occupying the fort. To his surprise, when his force arrived on the Memphis bluffs, the fort was burned to the ground and the Spanish had fled across the river.

Steve Cook

When the sound woke me from sleep, I first thought it was thunder. But when it it did not cease, I leapt from bed to see what it was.

Out in the street, I was not the only one that had heard the noise or shared the notion to investigate. Sleepy citizens in their nightclothes blinked into the mist and pre-dawn light. The deep, resonant noise grew steadily louder. As I walked further into the street, my fathered called anxiously after me from the house.

All at once, a great host of men mounted on horseback galloped up the street. They did not stop for anything, sending animals and people, myself included, diving for the safety of the gutters. There must have been hundreds of them, thousands even.

They wore Confederate grey, which set some men to cheering for liberation and others to pelting them with rocks. One man took at shot at them with a rusty hunting rifle, and then another man shot him in the back with a pistol because of it.

It was at this juncture that I suddenly realized that I had no desire to die a virgin, and promptly retreated to my father’s house.

Memphis Note
Nathan Bedford Forrest’s raid on Memphis took place early on a late August morning during the later part of the Civil War. He lead 2000 mounted calvary into the city, challenging the 6000 man Union garrison. It was not an attempt to retake the city, but rather an attempt to harass Union forces, secure more supplies, gain intelligence and assassinate a few key targets. Nearly all of these goals were left unachieved, save for the supply run. The raid would be the last major military action in Memphis during the Civil War.

Matthew Trisler

When they got back to camp after patrol, the tar fires were already roaring. Thick, black smoke rolled in to the air, and an unmistakable smell filled their noses. The effluvium from the fires was supposed ward off malaria from bogs all around the city.

Murphy and Luther broke off from the rest of their company and headed toward the weathered canvas tent they slept in.

“I hate that stink,” Luther said dropping his pack to the ground.

“Yep, but it’s much preferred to crappin’ my guts out while a fever burns the rest of me.” Replied Murphy, doing the same.

Luther grunted a half-hearted agreement as he peeled one of his boots off.

“Pshoo!” Murphy exclaimed at the smell coming from Luther’s boots. “You carryin’ a dead skunk in those?

“That odor ain’t nothin‘ more than the evidence of a hard day’s work, you sissy.” Luther growled defensively.

“Hell, Luther, those ain’t boots. They’re our own personal tar fire. Ain’t no way we’re catchin’ anything with those stink pots in here. ‘Course, the stench might suffocate us before the dawn.”

“Don’t worry ‘bout the boots. I might be the one doin’ the suffocatin’ you don’t shut your trap.”

Memphis Note
In addition to yellow fever, malaria was a constant threat during the summer months as mosquitoes spawned in the stagnant water swamps around Memphis. During the Civil War, when there were large numbers of soldiers sleeping outdoors, the disease was kept at bay by burning tar fires. The horrible stink apparently repelling the disease carrying mosquitoes.

Scott Brown

The general looked down from his open office window at the Irving Block prison in disgust.

An enlisted man was embarrassingly drunk in the yard below. Through a series of overly loud protestations, he was attempting to convince his commanding officer otherwise. These being what had drawn the general to the window in the first place.

“What an absolute disgrace,” He grumbled back to his staff. “Everyday the whole of my troop is bifurcated between the sober and the drunk. I’m left at half force at any given moment.”

He shut the window and turned back to the half dozen officers gathered in his office.

“These are the fighting men sent here to ensure the future of the union, and they’re more of a threat to this city than any rebel raid or negro riot. Something must be done.”

The officers looked at each other, knowing anyone might get stuck with the responsibility if they opened their mouth.

“At my father’s factory, he forbade any man under his employ to drink.” Said a young, unaware officer. “To keep productivity up.”

“Then that’s just what you’ll do.”

“Sir?” Responded the officer, suddenly aware of his blunder.

“You’ll keep them from drinking.”

Memphis Note
After the Union occupation of Memphis during the Civil War, there wasn’t a whole lot for the troops to do. The city was concerned with keeping up trade and normal life, plus most of the Confederate loyalists had fled before the occupation. So, the soldiers found another way to occupy themselves. They drank. Oh, God, did they drink. They drank so much that beer was banned, and then the sale of any spirits. For most of the occupation, Memphis was a dry town. Which, interestingly enough, this was remarked to be one of the safest periods in Memphis history.

Lindsey Turner

It had been storming hard for days. The inside of the stockade was the only part of Fort Assumption that wasn’t soaking wet, and to say it was dry would be a gross over exaggeration.

Through the door burst a group of green troops, freshly sent up from New Orleans to join in the war against the Chickasaw. The veterans inside barely even acknowledged their presence.

But, much to everyone’s surprise, a young rifleman walked up to a group of veterans playing cards in the corner and opened his mouth.

“What are you playing?” He asked the men.

“It’s like other card games, but with house rules.” Answered the man dealing out cards to the table.

“Could you teach me if I wanted to play?”

“You’ll pick it up, don’t worry.”

“Well, if it’s your game, how do I know you’re not going to cheat me?”

“Do you see the money on the table?”


“This money is ours. Do you see anyone rolling on the ground in unbearable agony crying out for their mother, a knife shanked into their ribs?”


“Then we are not cheating. Now ante up or go the hell away.”

And sure enough, he did.

Memphis Note
Fort Assumption was the main French outpost on the bluffs of the Mississippi, it was used for exploration and to wage war against the Indians. But, it was not what you’d expect of a military outpost. It had a reputation for being the most drunken, debauched outposts on the French frontier. Which makes since, when you realize that it was the place Memphis was founded on.