Article on Forrest-Bragg confrontation


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Tin cup

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One will never know for sure.
I do not believe the confrontation happened.
If evidence (other than "He said" that "He said") was out there, it would have come to light by now. The myth of the confrontation is something some just refuse to give up, because it makes Forrest look bigger, than he really was.

Kevin Dally
 

diane

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That's a neatly done article and it's always good to revisit what you think you know. Re-examination is a healthy thing. I've read the extra things that Wyeth wrote after he wrote Forrest's first bio, and Mathes is on the print-the-legend side of the board. Looking at what folks have said in their old age, after the parties involved are long dead and have become famous is always important.

We'll look at my favorite admiral, Nelson. One story: at a fancy dinner his loving wife was carefully cracking walnuts for her one-armed husband and putting them in a glass. This she gently pushed over to his plate. Cruelly and irritably he slapped the glass away so hard it broke and poor Fanny ran crying from the room. Lady Spencer, the one who tells the story, came to sit with her and she spilled her guts about her marriage situation. Well...literally centuries later, this story was revisited and a new version came out - Nelson was also blind in one eye, the side his wife was sitting on, and he simply did not see the glass. No mean intention at all! His wife was, however, pretty touchy about the girl friend and made her own assumption. Lady Spencer's story was always accepted as gospel because she was Lady Spencer, wife of the First Lord of the Admiralty, without taking into consideration that she hated Nelson. Period. Even when he was behaving himself! She considered him a glory-seeking little rooster with no thought of the lives of his men, not to mention he might be after her husband's job.

Is it the same with Forrest and Bragg? Always that possibility. However, I don't think it was all fluff. Forrest and Bragg had some words of some kind to judge by what happened directly after. Bragg wasn't scared of anybody - even Forrest who generally meant it when he said he was going to kill you - but he was also rather devious. So was Forrest. This was a way to get what they both wanted! And that seems to have been the outcome of the whole matter. Whether it went down exactly the way Dr Cowan remembered - and Wyeth was right to initially consider him reliable - well, we have to decide to believe or not believe Dr Cowan. Embellishment could be there. But - if the incident or something like it did not occur, the events following it must have some other cause. That's not answered in the article.

It is true, however, that Forrest did not dislike Bragg until the last part of the war - and then it was because Bragg was not winning when he could, or settling his command as he should have. Forrest was a disciplinarian the same as Bragg but with considerably more success in the personality department - he followed the rule book, too, but not with the rigidity of a martinet. Forrest was never a part of the group of generals seeking to remove Bragg - even Longstreet got pulled into that hog wallow - and most of his 'beef' with Bragg was the subordinate officers Forrest often had to deal with, like being under Wheeler. There are few if any stories of Forrest bucking Bragg before the last of the war, and only one then. It was a win-win for the both of them!
 

ucvrelics

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This story just keeps getting bigger, like the story my Grand Pappy would tell about how our GG Grand Pappy "Kilt 30 yankees at Shiloh before he was Kilt" Come to find out it was only 10. :D I believe that the answer lies in Gen Joe Wheeler who was Forrest superior officer at that time. Plus this was not the first dust up that Forrest as well as others had with Gen Bragg. Bragg was probably THE worst Gen the South had.
 

diane

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:laugh: That worked the other way around, too - if you told Forrest you were going to kill him, you'd better be prepared to try real hard! The one guy who ambushed him when he was a constable escorting a witness to court used a shot gun. He got the witness with one barrel but when he shifted the other barrel to Forrest there was a gun in his nose. "You better be sure," said Forrest, "for it is my turn next!" The shooter thought better of it - as he explained to the judge, he didn't shoot because he didn't think it would take care of Forrest. Yes, indeedy, he would take you with him when he went!
 

Lazy Bayou

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I do not believe the confrontation happened.
If evidence (other than "He said" that "He said") was out there, it would have come to light by now. The myth of the confrontation is something some just refuse to give up, because it makes Forrest look bigger, than he really was.

Kevin Dally
You're still at it aren't you. Just for the record I do believe the confrontation happened.
 
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gjpratt

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I am away from my library so this post is a little short of details, but I recently found a very small footnote to the Bragg encounter that may be tangentially related. Whatever happened, Forrest did take an extensive furlough after Chickamauga. And his absence caused rampant rumors and speculation among his troopers. There is a mention in, IIRC, the Dyer diary (a member of Forrest's escort) of a rumor that Forrest was going to join a Confederate privateer. At least one Forrest author has cited this diary entry as evidence of the craziness of camp rumors. However, for many years I have researched the life and military career of one of Forrest's obscure Colonels, James Howard Edmondson. He is the brother of the Memphis spy, Belle Edmondson. Forrest personally assigned him to command the 11th Tennessee Cavalry in early 1863 until the duly elected commander returned from a combat wound in June or July 1863 (a story in itself). Edmondson and Forrest were close both before and after the war. Edmondson had the honor of being an active pallbearer at Forrest's funeral. In August, 1863, Edmondson purchased a steamer, the Charlotte Clark, for blockade running and applied for a Letter of Marque. With this context, I do not think it is much of a reach to conclude that Forrest was so disenchanted with his relationship with Bragg and future role under his command that he seriously considered joining his old friend on the high seas. Enter Jefferson Davis and his successful intervention.

I am writing an article on Edmondson and his role as Colonel of the 11th Tennessee during Forrest's pursuit of Abel Streight for NS Trader. My interest in him dates back to my acquisition of an archive of his letters and military papers that I was fortunate enough to find at a show about the same time Edmondson family papers emerged that led to the publication of Belle Edmondson's diary.

As usual, Diane had an earlier post on the Forrest forum with her usual thoroughness and mastery of detail: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/officers-of-forrests-11th-tn-cavalry-in-close-confinemet.127780/#post-1400968
 

diane

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Very informative post, gjpratt! One thing that's not really much discussed in Forrest lore is what he was really feeling and what he was really thinking of doing, because after the fall of Vicksburg and the defeat of Lee at Gettysburg he knew the Confederacy was done. There were several times when his officers and staff gathered to ask him what he was going to do - after Gettysburg was the first. Forrest replied then he was not going home but would fulfill his obligations to fight for the Confederacy as it was a matter of duty and of honor. The cause for doubts, imho, were than they knew Forrest believed the cause for which he had fought so hard was ended and that he did not have confidence in his superiors - something might be salvaged but not by this bunch! The rumor mill that generated around Bragg poisoned the whole of the army, so the men were understandably concerned. There were various propositions brought to him by various factions both military and civilian, which shows that a large percentage of people had a great deal of confidence in him and some even expressed a desire for him to do a storming of the Tuileries type of coup. Some had approached Lee with this agenda and he backed off a mile! Forrest was next in line. He was a strong leader, the people loved him, his men would fight for him and he was extremely bright. If we can't have Lee, let's take Forrest. Unlike Lee, Forrest did not toss the ideas aside like they were rattlers, he entertained some. Trans-Mississippi? How viable would that be? Mexico? Cuba? And, as you say, the high seas? Australians, English, French - there were lots of sympathizers. I think, ultimately, the deciding factor was Mary Ann. If Forrest had not been married, there might have been some very interesting events in his life!

Forrest's leave after Chickamauga was really necessary. He had asked for one earlier and been denied, so he took it when Bragg offered him a vacation to see his wife in Georgia. He wasn't expecting Bragg to snitch his troops from him while he was gone, but in a way he kind of expected something like that. Again, he'd been visiting his wife and family always came to the fore with him. His iron constitution was giving way - he had bouts of boils, fever, a recurrence of the old typhoid, migraines, fainting spells and general exhaustion. Just before he was offered the leave he had come into a train station to send a telegram - the station was full of wounded from both sides. Forrest had some sort of sudden event and had to take up one of the beds himself. What this was I haven't been able to find out, but strongly suspect he just passed out. He'd done that before in his tent - plop, right on his face beside the desk - and at Brice's Crossroads, where he went to sleep on his horse and it walked into a tree, knocking him off. He didn't wake up when he hit the dirt...so he wasn't asleep, he was out cold!
 

James N.

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Kevin Dally
WHAT are you accusing me of? You have a problem towards me I don't know about?

Kevin Dally
I think that many members here who like myself are of the pro-Confederate "persuasion" historically speaking, therefore traditionally hate Braxton Bragg and conversely worship NBF and want desperately for Cowan's account to be true - but Alas! I tend to also be skeptical. When it was repeated as a "quote" by Forrest in a less-than-scholarly book I recently reviewed here https://civilwartalk.com/threads/commanding-the-storm-civil-war-battles-in-the-words-of-the-generals-who-fought-them-by-john-richard-stephens.160636/ I cited its inclusion as an example of the work's general unreliability.
 
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Tin cup

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Not a "Forrest" fan myself, but I believe that he's big enough, without adding "myth's" to make him look bigger!:thumbsup:

Kevin Dally
 

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