Captain John Young was a soldier in the Union Army during the American Civil War. In April 1864, Young was the provost marshal for Fort Pillow, and participated in the April 12 battle that took place there.
In the afternoon of April 12, despite the garrison's repeatedly driving off the Confederate attacks, the commander of the fort, Major William Bradford, ordered Young to store cartridges along the bank of the Mississippi River in the event the fort fell. Young was initially suspicious of Bradford's orders, but nonetheless complied.
Later, when Confederate Captain Walter Goodman approached with Nathan Bedford Forrest's surrender demand under a flag of truce, Bradford ordered Young to accompany Lt. Mack Leaming and Second Lt. Daniel van Horn to treat with Goodman. Young said nothing at the meeting, leaving all the conversation to Leaming and Goodman. Later, Young did meet again with Goodman and Forrest himself, to confirm that Forrest was indeed present. Young acknowledged he knew Forrest on sight.
After the fort fell, Young was captured. He was in the custody of General James Chalmers when Forrest's aide, Captain Charles W. Anderson, collected him as Anderson rode back to the fort in an effort to arrange for the transfer of wounded Union troops to any gunships that might be present.
Anderson and Young arrived as the gunboat Silver Cloud was bombarding the shore. Upon seeing Anderson's flag, the Silver Cloud's commander, Acting Master William Ferguson, cam ashore to treat. Anderson proposed that there be a ceasefire until five o'clock that day to allow the crew of the Silver Cloud to carry every survivor, white and black, aboard the ship. Ferguson accepted, although he was perturbed when he learned that no one, including Captain Young, knew how many men still lived.