General Nathan Bedford Forrest Commander of the Confederate Army of Tennessee

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#1
I am of the opinion that if Davis had appointed General Nathan Bedford Forrest to be in command of the Confederate Army of Tennessee after Missionary Ridge, Sherman and the Yankees would soon have been in full retreat for Ohio and points further North.
 

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#17
Lets see if we can find Davis's opinion of Forrest. It seems Forrest was a for lack of a better word a victim of Bragg. A better Question might be What if Forrest was given command instead of Bragg?

Murfreesboro proved to be just the first of many victories Forrest would win; he remained undefeated in battle until the final days of the war, when he faced overwhelming numbers. But he and Bragg could not get along, and the Confederate high command did not realize the degree of Forrest's talent until far too late in the war. In their postwar writings, both Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee lamented this oversight.

http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/chron/civilwarnotes/forrest.html

Mobile cavalry warfare

In December 1862, Forrest's veteran troopers were reassigned by Bragg to another officer, against his protest, and he was forced to recruit a new brigade, this one composed of about 2,000 inexperienced recruits, most of whom lacked even weapons with which to fight. Again, Bragg ordered a raid, this one into west Tennessee to disrupt the communications of the Union forces under General Grant, threatening the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Forrest protested that to send these untrained men behind enemy lines was suicidal, but Bragg insisted, and Forrest obeyed his orders. On the ensuing raid, he again showed his brilliance, leading thousands of Union soldiers in west Tennessee on a "wild goose chase" trying to locate his fast-moving forces. Forrest never stayed in one place long enough to be located, raided as far north as the banks of the Ohio River in southwest Kentucky, and came back to his base in Mississippi with more men than he had started with, and all of them fully armed with captured Union weapons. Grant was forced to revise and delay the strategy of his Vicksburg Campaign significantly.

Forrest continued to lead his men in smaller-scale operations until April of 1863, when the Confederate army dispatched him into the backcountry of northern Alabama and west Georgia to deal with an attack of 3,000 Union cavalrymen under the command of Col. Abel Streight. Streight had orders to cut the Confederate railroad south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, which would have cut off Bragg's supply line and forced him to retreat into Georgia. Forrest chased Streight's men for 16 days, harassing them all the way, until Streight's lone objective became simply to escape his relentless pursuer. Finally, on May 3, Forrest caught up with Streight at Rome, Georgia, and took 1,700 prisoners.

Forrest served with the main army at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 1820, 1863), where he pursued the retreating Union army and took hundreds of prisoners. Like several others under Bragg's command, he urged an immediate follow-up attack to recapture Chattanooga, which had fallen a few weeks before. Bragg failed to do so, and not long after, Forrest and Bragg had a confrontation (including death threats against Bragg) that resulted in Forrest's re-assignment to an independent command in Mississippi.
 

truthckr

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#18
I don't think N B Forrest would have been competent enough or even handed enough for command of an army group. That requires a special set of skills I don't think he possessed. I do think he may have been a competent corps commander, under a good army commander. Just my two cents worth.
 
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#19
:bounce: Wow! I'm surprised this hasn't gotten ugly yet!

Well, let's start with why Forrest could never have become commander of the Army of Tennessee in the first place. While both North and South had pronounced biases against those who hadn't been to West Point taking high command positions, the South's was much stronger. Forrest was very much a victim of that prejudice, combined with the South's class prejudices against a rags-to-riches, semi-literate slave dealer.

To that, we have to add that Forrest came from the cavalry, an arm of the service that didn't produce army commanders. Any such example of a man coming from cavalry to lead a combined arms field army on either side is invariably a man who started in infantry, went over to the cavalry, and then to the field command. They weren't all horse, and Forrest was.

It took Forrest almost the entire war to struggle up to the point of becoming a lieutenant general, and that entirely on merit. The idea that Davis or anyone would have vaulted him over the heads of so many other more senior generals, all of whom were more politically and socially acceptable, is ludicrous. It was just out and out impossible.

Another thing to think about is that Forrest's record shows the largest forces he led into battle were the size of large divisions/small corps... I'd need to look up the specific numbers, but my guess is he never had charge of a force much bigger than 10,000 effectives, and often less. I think Forrest would get the hang of running an infantry force, because he fought as dismounted infantry anyway, but he might not shift well into running a large field army.

In my mind, a more plausible scenario (and therefore more interesting) might go like this... let's say Bragg picked Forrest to run his cavalry instead of Joe Wheeler. Later on, Bragg wants to get rid of his insubordinate, but highly effective cavalry commander, so Forrest is sent to take charge of the MS and AL department much as Polk was. What might Forrest have done with a mixed force of about 20,000 infantry and cavalry from there? Starting in winter 1863?

It's still most unlikely, but not as much as the idea of Forrest taking over the AoT.
 
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#20
Afterthought -- following up on my idea, who likes the idea of Forrest vs. Sherman in the Meridian Campaign? :hungry:
 



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