Forrest was no "Lost Cause" zealot in later life

Sagebrush

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"We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together." - Nathan Bedford Forrest - July 5, 1875. That is not the words of a "Lost Cause" zealot! Do you think the fact that he had a true spiritual conversion to Christ earlier that year may have had something to do with his change of heart?
 

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truthckr

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Of course finding GOD led to his change of heart. Bedford had a life long struggle with his temper and his vices. He's reviled as a slave trader, which he was, but I think that pales in comparison to his temper. More than one man met his end due to Forrest's temper, mostly justified.

But Bedford was not in his battle alone, his chief ally in his spiritual war was the love of his life, Mary. From all accounts Mary was a very pious and spiritual woman. There was probably never two people who were so different in background and temperment but who loved each other so completely. In my opinion they were more than likely soul-twins, the highest level of soul mate.

I think at the end of his life he was tired of all the blood shed and hatred. His mother and Mary had been praying for him since birth and GOD finally found a way into his bitter heart. If it happened to Bedford, it can happen to anyone.
 

diane

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Forrest told Major Anderson, his good friend, that he could not figure any way he had survived the war except through the prayers of his wife. He said she had always prayed for him and there were too many times he should have been dead to think her prayers weren't answered! He always called her his guardian angel.

In 1876, Forrest's health went downhill alarmingly fast with diabetic complications and a bout with malaria, probably from the water on President's Island where he had been farming. He visited Hurricane Springs, hoping for some relief but the doctors weren't reassuring at all. He spoke to a gathering of black people, telling them he would support them and help them and if he could serve them, he would do so, an astonishing thing for a former master to say to former slaves - many of those he spoke to had, at one time or other, been his property. He also dropped all lawsuits he had against people who had welshed on their bonds for his railroads - even though he was winning - so as to clear the board for his son and wife. His lawyer related what Forrest told him:

"My life has been a battle from the start. It was a fight to achieve a livelihood for those dependent upon me in my younger days, and independence for myself when I grew up to manhood, as well as the terrible turmoil of the Civil War. I have seen too much of violence, and I want to close my days at peace with all the world, and I am now at peace with my Maker."

Shortly before he died, he told the preacher who was with him, the minister of the Presbyterian church he'd finally been baptized into, that he felt a tremendous peace inside. "I finally believe God has forgiven me everything," he said.

Forrest's funeral was three miles long, attended by thousands, at least 3,000 of whom were black, and he was buried in Elmwood Cemetery with his troopers. At his request, he wore his Confederate uniform.

Source:
Generals in Blue and Gray: Davis's Generals, Volume 2 by Wilmer Jones.
A Battle from the Start by Brian Steel Wills.
 

bellaray

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Civil war, such as you have just passed through naturally engenders feelings of animosity, hatred, and revenge. It is our duty to divest ourselves of all such feelings; and as far as it is in our power to do so, to cultivate friendly feelings towards those with whom we have so long contended, and heretofore so widely, but honestly, differed. Neighborhood feuds, personal animosities, and private differences should be blotted out; and, when you return home, a manly, straightforward course of conduct will secure the respect of your enemies. Whatever your responsibilities may be to Government, to society, or to individuals meet them like men.​
The attempt made to establish a separate and independent Confederation has failed; but the consciousness of having done your duty faithfully, and to the end, will, in some measure, repay for the hardships you have undergone. In bidding you farewell, rest assured that you carry with you my best wishes for your future welfare and happiness. Without, in any way, referring to the merits of the Cause in which we have been engaged, your courage and determination, as exhibited on many hard-fought fields, has elicited the respect and admiration of friend and foe. And I now cheerfully and gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness to the officers and men of my command whose zeal, fidelity and unflinching bravery have been the great source of my past success in arms.​
I have never, on the field of battle, sent you where I was unwilling to go myself; nor would I now advise you to a course which I felt myself unwilling to pursue. You have been good soldiers, you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the Government to which you have surrendered can afford to be, and will be, magnanimous.​

—N.B. Forrest, Lieut.-General
Headquarters, Forrest's Cavalry Corps
Gainesville, Alabama
May 9, 1865[

A lot of Confederate leaders had friendships and associations with Northerners. Not everyone in the North was regarded as evil. In fact, many "evil slave-holders" in the South were transplanted Northerners.
 

Sagebrush

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Now, this raises a rather interesting and LOADED question. If a man such as Nathan Bedford Forrest could exhibit such a model of true spiritual conversion and Christian character, what does that say about those who are Southern Heritage zealots who profess Christianity and yet hold such resentment and express such venom for anything related to the Union?
 

AndyHall

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Forrest made a number of similar statements, including this letter, written together with Gideon Pillow, urging his fellow Confederate veterans to participate in Decoration Day (Memorial Day) activities in Memphis in 1875:

"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 the 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."

Now, having said that, I think it's really skating out onto thin ice, historigraphically, to necessarily attribute this to a religious conversion or redemption. Those are matters of the soul or conscience that we simply cannot know with any certainty. (As Sagebrush suggests, there are plenty of people today who make a big show of their pious Christianity, who aren't especially nice people.) A cynical person would also point out that, by this time, most of Forrest's postwar political goals of pushing back against Reconstruction and re-establishing something akin the to the social, political and racial status quo antebellum had been accomplished, so Forrest could well afford to make a public show of being magnanimous to both African Americans (e.g., his Pole-Bearers' speech) and to his former enemies.

Forrest is a fascinating character, but I'm not sure anyone can really fully understand him, and chalking it all up to a near-deathbed conversion and being filled with the Holy Spirit just strikes me as being a little too easy an explanation. YMMV.

Finally, the point about Forrest's public statements (whatever their origin) and the over-the-top rhetoric of some modern-day "heritage" folks is well taken. I've encountered very few memoirs or accounts by real Confederate veterans that are as full of anger and vitriol as expressed by some Confederate heritage folks today. The difference, I think, is that real Confederates didn't need to prove their bonafides, and today's make-believe Confederates never can.
 

truthckr

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Great question, I think a "true spiritual conversion" would require letting go of old prejudices, hatreds, and bitterness. It's my belief that all of this takes time and more than just lip service from the converted. I also think that not all professing Christians are truly "Christ-like."
 

truthckr

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Forrest made a number of similar statements, including this letter, written together with Gideon Pillow, urging his fellow Confederate veterans to participate in Decoration Day (Memorial Day) activities in Memphis in 1875:

In Memphis, last week, a number of Federal officers and soldiers participated at the decoration of Confederate graves. As a result, Generals [Gideon Johnston] Pillow and Forrest addressed a letter through the Memphis papers to surviving Confederate soldiers and veterans of 1812, Florida and Mexico, requesting them to participate in the Federal ceremonies on Sunday last [i.e., on Memorial Day]. From this letter the subjoined is extracted:
"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 the 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."

Now, having said that, I think it's really skating out onto thin ice, historigraphically, to necessarily attribute this to a religious conversion or redemption. Those are matters of the soul or conscience that we simply cannot know with any certainty. (As Sagebrush suggests, there are plenty of people today who make a big show of their pious Christianity, who aren't especially nice people.) A cynical person would also point out that, by this time, most of Forrest's postwar political goals of pushing back against Reconstruction and re-establishing something akin the to the social, political and racial status quo antebellum had been accomplished, so Forrest could well afford to make a public show of being magnanimous to both African Americans (e.g., his Pole-Bearers' speech) and to his former enemies.

Forrest is a fascinating character, but I'm not sure anyone can really fully understand him, and chalking it all up to a near-deathbed conversion and being filled with the Holy Spirit just strikes me as being a little too easy an explanation.

YMMV.
You are so very right in your statement, however I don't think any of us know how GOD works for and through our soul. It's my belief that the soul is a creation of GOD's and that he is forever seeking to improve his creation to perfection. In order to perfect this creation we are tested in diverse ways, sometimes we are tested by our foibles and sometimes by forgiving others their sins. Just a thought. Sorry for dragging my theology into the ACW.
 

AndyHall

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It's my belief that the soul is a creation of GOD's and that he is forever seeking to improve his creation to perfection. In order to perfect this creation we are tested in diverse ways, sometimes we are tested by our foibles and sometimes by forgiving others their sins. Just a thought. Sorry for dragging my theology into the ACW.
Not a problem. We all bring our beliefs to the table on things like this. As a lapsed Baptist myself, I'm a great believer in the notion and power of redemption. I just want to be really careful about projecting that onto others, especially historical figures long since gone.
 

diane

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I don't think it was deathbed conversion, although it sometimes sounds like I do! This was something coming along for quite a while in his life, the racial issues as well. Forrest, right after the war, believed the blacks would discover they couldn't take care of themselves and 'come home'. Then, he saw they didn't. Even when persecuted they didn't seek white protection. They could be successful without white supervision. He'd always known blacks were human - he'd sold people better educated and more sophisticated than himself - he just believed any success they gained was due to white help. They weren't getting much of that after emancipation! But they did well when left alone. He had to question everything he'd believed about blacks all his life - which was a big challenge for a middle-aged man. But most of all, he wanted racial harmony. He knew the value of the black people to rebuilding the South, a South they now had a stake in - together it would heal. And, he was reading his Bible well before he was terminally ill. He noted that God was no respecter of persons - black or white was all the same to Him. The Southern preachers didn't teach that for the most part!

Well, I suppose if you want to connect this to hypocrites from our time - whatever heritage they espouse - you might want to get out a crate of oranges and a bushel of apples!
 

Sagebrush

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Forrest made a number of similar statements, including this letter, written together with Gideon Pillow, urging his fellow Confederate veterans to participate in Decoration Day (Memorial Day) activities in Memphis in 1875:

"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 the 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."

Now, having said that, I think it's really skating out onto thin ice, historigraphically, to necessarily attribute this to a religious conversion or redemption. Those are matters of the soul or conscience that we simply cannot know with any certainty. (As Sagebrush suggests, there are plenty of people today who make a big show of their pious Christianity, who aren't especially nice people.) A cynical person would also point out that, by this time, most of Forrest's postwar political goals of pushing back against Reconstruction and re-establishing something akin the to the social, political and racial status quo antebellum had been accomplished, so Forrest could well afford to make a public show of being magnanimous to both African Americans (e.g., his Pole-Bearers' speech) and to his former enemies.

Forrest is a fascinating character, but I'm not sure anyone can really fully understand him, and chalking it all up to a near-deathbed conversion and being filled with the Holy Spirit just strikes me as being a little too easy an explanation. YMMV.

Finally, the point about Forrest's public statements (whatever their origin) and the over-the-top rhetoric of some modern-day "heritage" folks is well taken. I've encountered very few memoirs or accounts by real Confederate veterans that are as full of anger and vitriol as expressed by some Confederate heritage folks today. The difference, I think, is that real Confederates didn't need to prove their bonafides, and today's make-believe Confederates never can.
Although greatly influenced by his mother and wife, and having been exposed to Christianity all his life, it never took root in him, but the seeds had been planted early on. This was no "deathbed conversion" on Forrest's part as he was converted 2 years prior to his death.
 

AndyHall

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Although greatly influenced by his mother and wife, and having been exposed to Christianity all his life, it never took root in him, but the seeds had been planted early on. This was no "deathbed conversion" on Forrest's part as he was converted 2 years prior to his death.
I said "near-deathbed" which was sloppy language. I meant that it came at the end of his life, which is not uncommon. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify.
 

bama46

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Now, this raises a rather interesting and LOADED question. If a man such as Nathan Bedford Forrest could exhibit such a model of true spiritual conversion and Christian character, what does that say about those who are Southern Heritage zealots who profess Christianity and yet hold such resentment and express such venom for anything related to the Union?
i believe only a few southerners "hate the union" as we have been accused of. We do dislike yankees tryin to tell us how we should live our lives, and we get mightily tired of folks tellin us we "hate the union" or we hate the US soldier... we are Americans, ya know
 

Nathanb1

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i believe only a few southerners "hate the union" as we have been accused of. We do dislike yankees tryin to tell us how we should live our lives, and we get mightily tired of folks tellin us we "hate the union" or we hate the US soldier... we are Americans, ya know
Great minds think alike. I am getting really, really tired of it. Especially after just looking at my little cousin's photo--he's 2nd year at West Point--with his grandfather, ALSO wearing his West Point ring. Really? They're both from the South.So much for hating the U.S. soldier. I have two former students currently serving and a couple more who are out of the service. Many of my beloved classmates I saw at our 40th reunion recently served our country-in a time when it was definitely not popular to do so.

Now, this raises a rather interesting and LOADED question. If a man such as Nathan Bedford Forrest could exhibit such a model of true spiritual conversion and Christian character, what does that say about those who are Southern Heritage zealots who profess Christianity and yet hold such resentment and express such venom for anything related to the Union?
I would ask the same thing of the folks around here who "who profess Christianity and yet hold such resentment and express such venom for anything related to the South." Just to paraphrase something I've wondered regularly after reading posts on this forum.

I'm feeling like Auntie Em again.
 

Lee

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i believe only a few southerners "hate the union" as we have been accused of. We do dislike yankees tryin to tell us how we should live our lives, and we get mightily tired of folks tellin us we "hate the union" or we hate the US soldier... we are Americans, ya know

Well said and Thank Yew.............
 

bellaray

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Now, this raises a rather interesting and LOADED question. If a man such as Nathan Bedford Forrest could exhibit such a model of true spiritual conversion and Christian character, what does that say about those who are Southern Heritage zealots who profess Christianity and yet hold such resentment and express such venom for anything related to the Union?
Your question is valid and reasonable.

Below is a letter written by Lincoln

Dr. Theodore Canisius Springfield, May 17, 1859
Dear Sir: Your note asking, in behalf of yourself and other german citizens, whether I am for or against the constitutional provision in regard to naturalized citizens, lately adopted by Massachusetts; and whether I am for or against a fusion of the republicans, and other opposition elements, for the canvass of 1860, is received.
Massachusetts is a sovereign and independent state; and it is no privilege of mine to scold her for what she does. Still, if from what she has done, an inference is sought to be drawn as to what I would do, I may, without impropriety, speak out. I say then, that, as I understand the Massachusetts provision, I am against it's adoption in Illinois, or in any other place, where I have a right to oppose it. Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them. I have some little notoriety for commiserating the oppressed condition of the negro; and I should be strangely inconsistent if I could favor any project for curtailing the existing rights of white men, even though born in different lands, and speaking different languages from myself.
As to the matter of fusion, I am for it, if it can be had on republican grounds; and I am not for it on any other terms. A fusion on any other terms, would be as foolish as unprincipled. It would lose the whole North, while the common enemy would still carry the whole South. The question of men is a different one. There are good patriotic men, and able statesmen, in the South whom I would cheerfully support, if they would now place themselves on republican ground. But I am against letting down the republican standard a hair's breadth.
I have written this hastily, but I believe it answers your questions substantially. Yours truly A. LINCOLN


Notice in the Letter....Lincoln recognizes Massachusetts...is INDEPENDENT and SOVEREIGN, and he states that he will not scold her for what she does....however later in the letter, he is for fusion, so long as it is on REPUBLICAN GROUNDS...Lincoln did not say Constitutional grounds...BUT he specifically states HIS POLITICAL PARTY. He later appeals to good men in the SOUTH...so long as it is in concordance with HIS POLITICAL PARTY.

In Lincoln's own writing, Statehood, Sovereignty, and Independence are all contingent upon his political Party, and every other component of Government takes a backseat to "Republican grounds"

In a nut shell the "Union" by his reasoning was the Republican Party, and that is exactly what he projected in his speeches and writings.
 


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