Forrest, Nathan Bedford

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larry_cockerham

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Larry, During the retreat after the Hood debocle Forrest reatreated some but not all of his command accross the Duck River before it became to hazerdous to do so toward Columbia now in a position to defend Hoods shattered Army."I was ordered by General Hood to withdraw my command at 3 o'clock, which I did and went into camp at Columbia" (Wills pg 290) cont....During the crossing frustrations and bitterness of defeat caused this confrontation between 2 southern officers.As Forrest approached, hoping to cross after not being able to do so completely earlier, Cheatham,s battered infantry corps also arrived with the same intention. Both men expected to cross first. And when forrest insisted upon his right to do so, Cheatham a warrior himself said angrilly"I think not, sir .You are mistaken, I intend to cross now, and will thank you to move out of the way of my troops." Forrest's lost control and his passion took him. Forrest drew his pistol and said"If you area better man than I am , Gen Cheatham, your troops can crossahead of mine" soldiers within hearing raised their weapons to defend each. Fortunately S.D. LEE arrived on the scene, mediated they soon apologized and crossed. They say Forrest went but this differs from different reports of each ironicly (From Wills Pg 290) abreviated Ben
Forrest had first attempted to cross somewhat successfully (about 50%, because of the rising water) at Lillard's Mill about 15 miles upstream near his boyhood home. He had wagons, extra ammo, etc and 600 head of livestock. The remaining forces were brought to Columbia. Soon after the episode you described, Gen. Edward Hatch arrived and their famous discussion about the careless bombarding of civilians and wounded Union prisoners ensued. Hatch relented, like the gentlemen he was. Forrest got a few points from Hood as the remainder of the AOT left toward Lynville. Ben Cheatham, a crustly old soldier, led his troops (corps) to North Carolina, gave Sherman hell at Bentonville and returned home to Nashville where he rests in Mt. Olivet cemetery over on Lebanon Pike.
 

larry_cockerham

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I remember reading about that confrontation. Forrest, the more I know about him, the more I like him, I think along the way, he has become my favorite.
N.B. Forrest was a genuine, sincere soldier with a bit of compassion and plenty of cohones, a fact equalled by few commanders.
 

larry_cockerham

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Forrest after the crossing at Columbia was about to be put in command of the rear-guard force that would greatly enhance the life expectancy of Gen. Cheatham and about 30,000 other Confederate soldiers. A third star would arrive on Forrest's shoulders, at least on paper, about a month afterward.
 
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Nathanb1

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Forrest was certainly a contradiction--all these deeds of derring-do, so to speak, coupled with sentimental stuff like his first meeting with his wife, asking Emma Sansom for a lock of her hair.....crying over his horse (Roderick, right?)....and his sense of humor.....he is just endlessly fascinating, and I wish we knew more than we do. Maybe as all these primary sources come to light, we'll get more eyewitness accounts. I really do feel like there are lots of old documents squirreled away that were filed away at the end of the war or the early 20th C. and never looked at. Modern historians are doing a great job of identifying and utilizing them. Who knows what might emerge with the 150th anniversary of the war?
 

blueshawk1

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Part of the problem is he was in the western end. Yes, there's plenty out there about the western theater, but as we all know, the main focus is always around the ANV and the eastern theater and it's generals.
 

larry_cockerham

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Part of the problem is he was in the western end. Yes, there's plenty out there about the western theater, but as we all know, the main focus is always around the ANV and the eastern theater and it's generals.
Main focus only for those who refuse to look west. Aside from those regiments tucked around Lee in Virginia, the entire Confederate army fought, retreated and fizzled in the western theatre, not counting a final dance at Bentonville. That activity, from Vicksburg, to Shiloh, to Chattanooga to Atlanta and Nashville deserves a look from time to time. Grant and Sherman thought enough of the west to drop by for a while. Others may wish to see what happened. The activities of the western theatre from back country bushwhackers to four star generals walking around trying to figure out what happened, to the likes of Forrest and John Hunt Morgan. A much more interesting place and set of events. I've followed Marsh Robert and Stonewall through Virginia, Maryland and into Pennsylvania because my ancestors were there. The western theatre beats the east for interest, human experience and terrain, hands down. I ain't really trying to start an argument, but would be interested in some learned opinions, rather than folks like me.
 
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Elennsar

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Main focus only for those who refuse to look west. Aside from those regiments tucked around Lee in Virginia, the entire Confederate army fought, retreated and fizzled in the western theatre, not counting a final dance at Bentonville. That activity, from Vicksburg, to Shiloh, to Chattanooga to Atlanta and Nashville deserves a look from time to time. Grant and Sherman thought enough of the west to drop by for a while. Others may wish to see what happened. The activities of the western theatre from back country bushwhackers to four star generals walking around trying to figure out what happened, to the likes of Forrest and John Hunt Morgan. A much more interesting place and set of events. I've followed Marsh Robert and Stonewall through Virginia, Maryland and into Pennsylvania because my ancestors were there. The western theatre beats the east for interest, human experience and terrain, hands down. I ain't really trying to start an argument, but would be interested in some learned opinions, rather than folks like me.
As an Eastern theater student, I think there's something to be said for both halves. Terrain is probably more interesting in "the West" due to the sheer expanse that covers, human experience is a toss up.

But I will second the main focus part. Lee and his army may be more popularly recognized, but the complaint about how the Western theater is overlooked is losing validity as time moves on. More people who claim to know about the war will look westward than at Gettysburg.
 

blueshawk1

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Lee and his army may be more popularly recognized, but the complaint about how the Western theater is overlooked is losing validity as time moves on.
That's what I meant, generally, for the casual reader or person hearing about the war, it's the end that's "out there" the most. I haven't counted, so I'm not claiming this as fact, but I would guess there's way more books about the eastern end, and in general CW books, way more is spent on that end as well.
Fortunately, for the person who develops more of an interest in the war than the general history that might be taught in primary education, there is plenty of info out there for those who are interested in focusing more on the western end.

Anyway, Forrest really opened that door for me. While reading about him back when, it opened my eyes and my interest more to that side of it all.
 

Elennsar

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That's what I meant, generally, for the casual reader or person hearing about the war, it's the end that's "out there" the most. I haven't counted, so I'm not claiming this as fact, but I would guess there's way more books about the eastern end, and in general CW books, way more is spent on that end as well.
Its true (I haven't counted but its been noted by those who have), but its becoming increasing less prelevant as the Western theater fans get stronger. The general CW books may take longer to update, I'm not sure.

Fortunately, for the person who develops more of an interest in the war than the general history that might be taught in primary education, there is plenty of info out there for those who are interested in focusing more on the western end.

Anyway, Forrest really opened that door for me. While reading about him back when, it opened my eyes and my interest more to that side of it all.
Makes sense. If I can ask without derailing the thread, what were you reading that involved him that sparked the interest?
 
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larry_cockerham

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I was born in western North Carolina and moved to Raleigh where I remained until 1978 when I was 31 years old, having never heard of Nathan Bedford Forrest. After moving to Nashville, I stumbled into a Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting where folks were always talking about Forrest. (They still do.) When I realized that I was living so near the land where he roamed during the war and that he was indeed a local legend, I began reading. Ill-conceived attacks such as were more prevalent on this forum a few years ago, but have since moderated, spurred me to inquire if the guy was really that much of a screw-up. After 30 years of investigation, he and his brothers are still quite interesting and seem to draw a crowd when discussed. I found that an ancestor had been under his protection for a couple of weeks in 1864 and that another was helping to assist his demise during the same period and it all happened within an hour's drive from my house. Learning details about his character and his efforts to survive and protect the men serving under him have left me an unabashed fan. He was Tennnessee frontier tough.
 

blueshawk1

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Makes sense. If I can ask without derailing the thread, what were you reading that involved him that sparked the interest?
I think it was the Wills book "Battle From The Start", at least that's the first one that comes to mind that dealt completely with a western general and theater. But it almost seems to me there was something else earlier on that I can't recall now - maybe if I look over my books later, it will jog my memory on that - I would almost think it was the same source that got me interested in reading about Forrest (so I really should remember right off).
 

LiveVegan

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I know you weren't asking me but I remember the first book I read that sparked my interest. It was really my first taste of CW history. Being from IL, every reenactment and history book was northern slated and I didn't realize it til I was older. I read something about Forrest and Fort Pillow. What I was reading just kinda screamed "BIAS" and I went to the library. I had a hell of time finding a non-biography that wasn't written out in the typical biased manor. I grabbed a couple books written by northern viewpoints and a couple southern and compared the 2 to try and get more complete facts. The more I read about Forrest the more intriqued I became.

[begin soapbox] This basic concept of writing inaccurate history books for children still bugs the heck out of me. Unfortunately, history is history and regardless if we like the facts, they shouldn't be "modified". But thats another topic. :tongue: [end soapbox]

Anyway, in my long winded way, I'm saying I got my interest in Forrest because of Fort Pillow.
 
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Nathanb1

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I first became interested in Forrest as a child of about 9 or 10 because of a series of fictional books written back in the 1930's-40's by a man named Alfred Leland Crabb, who featured him prominently in the stories (pre-and post-war). As an adult, I saw The Civil War and was intrigued by Shelby Foote's comments and the episode centered around Forrest. Then I kept hearing all these horrible things about Ft. Pillow and thought I had to find out for myself. As I often say, to know him is to "love" him :smile:.....he was no angel, but he certainly wasn't the "crumb" one of my friends labeled him. He's endlessly fascinating.
 

larry_cockerham

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When the facts are presented, Bedford Forrest does about as well now as he did in battle.
 

diane

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My interest in Forrest was sparked when I read Shelby Foote's trilogy - Foote, of course, being a huge admirer of the general could hardly keep from making him the hero of the western theater! I'm exaggerating but he did plant the seed and that was a nice thing. I found out I had ancestors in his escort and cavalry units which was probably the biggest surprise of my life - one of those happy things the unexpected rarely is!

Some of my favorite quotes from Forrest:

At Shiloh, when he personally observed Buell's forces debarking and tried to find an officer to tell it to, he finally located Hardee around the wee hours. Hardee, sleepy and in his nightshirt, yawned and told the colonel to go back to bed as a senior officer was no doubt handling the situation. Forrest said, "They are receiving reinforcements by the thousands, and if this army does not move and attack them between this and daylight,and before other reinforcements arrive, it will be whipped like hell before ten o'clock tomorrow."

At Trenton he discovered a saber made of Damascus steel and decided to keep it. Noticing it was only sharp at the tip, he ordered an aide to sharpen the whole length as well as part of the back. The aide, knowing his commander was a civilian soldier, quietly told him that cavalry sabers were meant mainly for directing troops, not really for fighting, and were mostly ceremonial in nature. "Dam such nonsense," replied Forrest. "War means fighting. Fighting means killing. Turn the grindstone."

Before a minor skirmish (I believe it might have been Guest Hollow early in the war) Forrest's scouts reported a company of Federals not far away. The scout reported that they were unaware of Forrest's presence and relaxing at mealtime. Immediately Forrest ordered his troops to mount up for a surprise attack. They protested, "But we haven't eaten yet. Can't we have supper then make the attack?" Forrest growled, "NO! Kill the Yankees and eat their supper!"
 
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diane

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blueshawk1,

Indeed so - a happy 189th! He was sure born under all the 'signs'. Friday the 13th, one of a set of twins, left-handed. I wonder if there was a full moon and a black cat around!
 
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unionblue

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I found this quote by Forrest, provided by Andy Hall, over on the Civil War Crossroads forum, hosted by Brooks Simpson:

"However much we differed with them while public enemies, and were at war, we must admit that they fought gallantly for the preservation of the government which we fought to destroy, which is now ours, was that of our fathers, and must be that of our children. Though our love for that government was for a while supplanted by the exasperation springing out of a sense of violated rights and conflict of battle, yet our love for free government, justly administered, has not perished, and must grow strong in the hearts of brave men who have learned to appreciate the noble qualities of the true soldier.

Let us all, then, join their comrades who live, in spreading flowers over the graves of these dead Federal soldiers, before the whole American people, as a peace offering to the nation, as a testimonial of our respect for their devotion to duty, and as a tribute from patriots, as we have ever been, to the great Republic, and in honor of the flag against which we fought, and under which they fell, nobly maintaining the honor of that flag. It is our duty to honor the government for which they died, and if called upon, to fight for the flag we could not conquer.

--Nathan Bedford Forrest, on Decoration (Memorial) Day, 1875.
 
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