Was it Brownlow's fault that the KKK was formed

diane

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Thank you for adding this thread. I've never had any interest in the KKK personally but due to this thread, its content and questions asked, realized I've missed out on a lot of interesting material. As for the question posed by the OP, I do not have the answer personally, but can say at this point in my opinion, no better candidate has been put forth than Gov. Barlow. He was no doubt not a middle of the road character and was either loved or hated for his part during and after the war. I'm curious to see what else comes to light on the subject.

It's a good subject, but I didn't start the thread! It was split off something else regarding the KKK.
 

WJC

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Well, that would probably be six of one and half a dozen of the other. Getting Forrest recruited was the next best thing to getting Lee recruited, which they never did despite their claims.
Thanks for your response.
In the long run, what did Forrest gain? Perhaps Lee understood that no good can come of an activity that requires hiding behind masks....
 

leftyhunter

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Jim Bonek's interview with Nathan Bedford Forrest
"Then I suppose, general, that you think the oppression has become so great that your people should no longer bear it?"

"No," he answered, "it is growing worse hourly; yet I have said to the people, stand fast; let us try to right the wrong by legislation. A few weeks ago I was called to Nashville to counsel with other gentlemen who had been prominently identified with the cause of the confederacy, and we then offered pledges which we thought would be satisfactory to Mr. Brownlow and his legislature, and we told them that if they would not call out the militia we would agree to preserve order and see that the laws were enforced. The legislative committee certainly led me to believe that our proposition position would be accepted, and no militia organized. Believing this, I came home, and advised all of my people to remain peaceful, and offer no resistance to any reasonable law. It is true that I never have recognized the present government in Tennessee as having any legal existence, yet I was willing to submit to it for a time, with the hope that the wrongs might be righted peacefully."


"What are your feelings towards the federal government, general?"

"I loved the old government in 1861. I loved the old Constitution yet. I think it is the best government in the world, if administered as it was before the war. I do not hate it; I am opposing now only the radical revolutionists who are trying to destroy it. I believe that party to be composed, as I know it is in Tennessee, of the worst men on Gods earth-men who would not hesitate at no crime, and who have only one object in view-to enrich themselves." When aske the opionin of Jim Bonek, Forrest stated,"their has notbeen one in which served so valiently in the service of the Confederacy."

On Brownlow and the Ku-Klux

"In the event of Governor Brownlow calling out the militia, do you think there will be any resistance offered to their acts?" I asked.

"That will depend upon circumstances. If the militia are simply called out, and do not interfere with or molest anyone, I do not think there will be any fight. If, on the contrary, they do what I believe they will do, commit outrages, or even one outrage, upon the people, they and Mr. Brownlow's government will be swept out of its existence; not a radical will be left alive. If the militia are called out, we cannot but look upon it as a declaration of war, because Mr. Brownlow has already issued his proclamation directing them to shoot down the Ku-Klux wherever they find them, and he calls all Southern men Ku-Klux."

"Why, general, we people up north have regarded the Ku-Klux as an organization which existed only in the frightened imagination of a few politicians"


The Ku-Klux

"Well, sir, there is such an organization, not only in Tennessee, but all over the South, and its numbers have not been exaggerated."

"What are its numbers, general?"

"In Tennessee there are over 40,000; in all the Southern states they number about 550,000 men."

"What is the character of the organization; May I inquire?"

"Yes, sir. It is a protective political military organization. I am willing to show any man the constitution of the society. The members are sworn to recognize the government of the United States. It does not say anything at all about the government of Tennessee. Its objects originally were protection against Loyal Leagues and the Grand Army of the Republic; but after it became general it was found that political matters and interests could best be promoted within it, and it was then made a political organization, giving it support, of course, to the democratic party."

"But is the organization connected throughout the state?"

"Yes, it is. In each voting precinct there is a captain, who, in addition to his other duties, is required to make out a list of names of men in his precinct, giving all the radicals and all the democrats who are positively known, and showing also the doubtful on both sides and of both colors. This list of names is forwarded to the grand commander of the State, who is thus enabled to know are our friends and who are not."

"Can you, or are you at liberty to give me the name of the commanding officer of this State?"

"No, it would be impolitic."


Probabilities of a Conflict in Tennessee

"Then I suppose that there can be no doubt of a conflict if the militia interfere with the people; is that your view?"

"Yes, sir; if they attempt to carry out Governor Brownlow's proclamation, by shooting down Ku-Klux - for he calls all Southern men Ku-Klux - if they go to hunting down and shooting these men, there will be war, and a bloodier one than we have ever witnessed. I have told these radicals here what they might expect in such an event. I have no powder to burn killing negroes. I intend to kill the radicals. I have told them this and more, there is not a radical leader in this town but is a marked man, and if a trouble should break out, none of them would be left alive. I have told them that they are trying to create a disturbance and then slip out and leave the consequences to fall upon the negroes, but they can't do it. When the fight comes not one of them would get out of this town alive. We don't intend they shall ever get out of the country. But I want it distinctly understood that I am opposed to any war, and will only fight in self-defence. If the militia attack us, we will resist to the last, and, if necessary, I think I could raise 40,000 men in five days ready for the field."


Thinks the Ku-Klux beneficial

"Do you think, general, that the Ku-Klux have been of any benefit to the State?"

"No doubt of it. Since its organization, the leagues have quit killing and murdering our people. There were some foolish young men who put masks on their faces and rode over the country, frightening negroes, but orders have been issued to stop that, and it has ceased. You may say, further, that three members of the Ku-Klux have been court-martialed and shot for violations of the orders not to disturb or molest people."

"Are you a member of the Ku-Klux, general?"

"I am not, but am in sympathy and will co-operate with them. I know that they are charged with many crimes that they are not guilty of. A case in point is the killing of Bierfield at Franklin, a few days ago. I sent a man up there especially to investigate the case, and report to me, and I have his letter here now, in which he states that they had nothing to do with it as an organization."


The amnesty

"What do you think is the effect of the amnesty granted to your people?"

"I believe that the amnesty restored all the rights to the people, full and complete. I do not think the federal government has the right to disfranchise any man, but I believe that the legislatures of the States have. The objection I have to the disfranchisement in Tennessee is, that the legislature which enacted the law had no constitutional existence, and the law in itself is a nullity. Still, I would respect it until changed by law; but there is a limit beyond which men cannot be driven, and I am ready to die sooner than sacrifice my honor. This thing must have an end, and it is now about time for that end to come."

"An explanation of or excuse for the formation of the Ku-Klux organization made by its defenders, was that it was the natural result of the existence of the "Loyal Leagues," secret organizations of Union men. It is reasonable to suppose this may be correct."


https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Interview_with_Nathan_Bedford_Forrest

I will give the post a like because Forrest is a key historical figure especially in regard to the history of the Klan.
It would be intresting to see if Forrest was correct in stating that the Union League and GAR killed and terrorised anywhere close to the amount of people that the Klan and similar white supremacist organizations did.
@ForeverFree @Pat Young @Dedej might know.
I sm interested in the Klan because they are one of the first successful terrorist organizations and showed others that political terrorism can be very effective.
They also show counterinsurgency practioners that terrorism can be beaten but mot easily, cheaply or quickly.
Leftyhunter
 

M.Warren

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It would be intresting to see if Forrest was correct in stating that the Union League and GAR killed and terrorised anywhere close to the amount of people that the Klan and similar white supremacist organizations did.
Agreed, but I wouldn't even think of trying to answer that myself. As I said earlier, I've never had any interest in the KKK, they've never been known for anything good, or that I had any interest in being a part of, in my lifetime. This portion of subject is of interest though as it took place in my back yard, the same as the actions of Kirk, Blalock, a number of locale cavalry and home guard units I've spent years studying and tried to share all the information I could on a number of threads you and I have worked on together. It doesn't change my view of the KKK especially in modern times but it does make me wonder if a small part of what they stood for in the beginning may have been something a little less damaging than the evil racism and pure hate they've contributed to the world since then.
 

diane

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There are some serious questions about the above referenced article from the Cincinnati Commercial by Bonek. In fact, Forrest wrote the paper a letter denying most of what was in the interview, which was not much of an interview. Bonek had come to Tennessee to interview the general, who was indeed agreeable to be interviewed, but as it happened he had a migraine. Forrest had real head crushers and told the reporter he could not do the interview and whatever he did say to Bonek was said as he was heading home - he had to stop a few times to upchuck, too. When he saw the article, he was upset and in his letter said he did not know who the reporter had interviewed but it sure wasn't him! He further stated most of the information was made up of whole cloth by the reporter. I think he said some of it and regretted it later but what the article contained was sedition, insurgency, terrorist threats and things like that - Forrest would never have let those cats out of their bags no matter how sick he was. So there are questions about the article, but it did make a good base for Congressional questioning further down the line. Maybe Forrest was set up, maybe he wasn't. But there are some questions.

We do need to keep in mind the important fact that we're dealing with an outfit that has no archives or written records a researcher might peruse to see what the facts might be regarding Forrest and the klan. Many of the 'facts' regarding his participation/membership/leadership with the klan are many years down the road and well after Forrest's death - I always say, dead men tell no tales nor can they refute any. The klan was still held in romantic memory by many white Southerners at the time biographers like Wyeth were writing, not to mention powerful members still being alive. However, the only primary source connecting Forrest in any way to the klan is in John Morton's book The Artillery Of Nathan Bedford Forrest's Cavalry. In that, klansman Morton was giving Forrest the oath in an empty field out in the boonies, but Forrest interrupted him, saying, "You dam little fool! Don't you know I run the whole dam organization?" That delighted Morton, who never doubted it, and he set up a ceremony at a klan meeting - to which Forrest did not show up. He was counted in by them anyway. Never took the oath, never did the induction. So...he was very likely telling the truth when he told Congress he was not a member and never had been. But they were very keen to say he was among them, and he did sympathize with them. He never owned or wore any of their bed sheets and dunce hats, or rode around tormenting black people - which activity he firmly opposed - or anything else. There may possibly have been one time when a klan raid dumped a cargo of rifles in the Mississippi - they had been called for by the governor of Arkansas to deal with the klan there. The nighttime raid was lightning quick, very professional and had all the hallmarks of Forrest's style, and the leader was a tall man who had a chin beard, no mask. Might have been Forrest, might have been another tall man with a chin beard, but whoever it was knew Forrest's methods as well as Forrest did. No one was harmed nor was the other cargo or the barge, which was returned to the Mississippi side of the river.

Forrest's post-war life is murky in many places, this area being the deepest mud hole, and just about all we know of his connection to the klan is anecdotal - except for what he said to Congress. That does show he at least knew a whole good lot about it. Grand Wizard was not a rank but a code name based on Forrest's war nickname of Wizard of the Saddle. They have an Imperial Wizard and a Grand Dragon, but no Grand Wizard. We'll never know what his involvement with them really was but we do know he sympathized with them. And, Forrest was a leader by nature - there was never anything he was involved with he did not take a lead role in.

P S
I might add they claim Robert E Lee as theirs and that he wrote them a letter to the effect that he sympathized with them but his support had to be 'invisible' - hence, Invisible Empire. Robert E Lee would not have touched them with a telephone pole, let alone written them anything.
 
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leftyhunter

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Agreed, but I wouldn't even think of trying to answer that myself. As I said earlier, I've never had any interest in the KKK, they've never been known for anything good, or that I had any interest in being a part of, in my lifetime. This portion of subject is of interest though as it took place in my back yard, the same as the actions of Kirk, Blalock, a number of locale cavalry and home guard units I've spent years studying and tried to share all the information I could on a number of threads you and I have worked on together. It doesn't change my view of the KKK especially in modern times but it does make me wonder if a small part of what they stood for in the beginning may have been something a little less damaging than the evil racism and pure hate they've contributed to the world since then.
Every terrorist group believes itis fighting for a good cause against a grievous injustice. I can think if at least three terrorist leaders that have won Noble Peace Prizes but that's modern politics.
Forrest is a complex character. All I know about him is from the biography from Jack Hurst. Apparently his views on race changed quite a bit towards the end of his life. Hurst argues that Forrest saw the Klan as the means to an end not as a permanent Democratic party paramilitariy.
Is Brownlow a good or bad guy might depend on future scholarship and changing political mores. As the South's demographics rapidly change so may very well be the public school history curriculum concerning Reconstruction.
Leftyhunter
 

AshleyMel

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There are some serious questions about the above referenced article from the Cincinnati Commercial by Bonek. In fact, Forrest wrote the paper a letter denying most of what was in the interview, which was not much of an interview. Bonek had come to Tennessee to interview the general, who was indeed agreeable to be interviewed, but as it happened he had a migraine. Forrest had real head crushers and told the reporter he could not do the interview and whatever he did say to Bonek was said as he was heading home - he had to stop a few times to upchuck, too. When he saw the article, he was upset and in his letter said he did not know who the reporter had interviewed but it sure wasn't him! He further stated most of the information was made up of whole cloth by the reporter. I think he said some of it and regretted it later but what the article contained was sedition, insurgency, terrorist threats and things like that - Forrest would never have let those cats out of their bags no matter how sick he was. So there are questions about the article, but it did make a good base for Congressional questioning further down the line. Maybe Forrest was set up, maybe he wasn't. But there are some questions.

I had seen that interview with Forrest before but didn't know the context! Thanks to this thread now I do! Anyways, with what little I did/do know about the man I always thought the interview seemed different than Forrest's regular cadence. I was thinking maybe it was because his health was in decline or maybe because of other variables I was not aware of. Who knows for sure? This does helps with that a little. Thanks so much!
 

diane

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I had seen that interview with Forrest before but didn't know the context! Thanks to this thread now I do! Anyways, with what little I did/do know about the man I always thought the interview seemed different than Forrest's regular cadence. I was thinking maybe it was because his health was in decline or maybe because of other variables I was not aware of. Who knows for sure? This does helps with that a little. Thanks so much!

I've always suspected it didn't sound like Forrest because it wasn't! I'm sure the reporter dolled up the language and all that...and, according to Forrest, more than dolled it up. He was busted up from the war and had developed migraines during the war - Grant and Lee had that happen, too. Could be all that gun smoke triggered it as well as the stress! But otherwise he was in good health. It was a little later his wife began to be worried about the sweet tooth he suddenly developed...and that proved to be something to worry about indeed.
 

nitrofd

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Every terrorist group believes itis fighting for a good cause against a grievous injustice. I can think if at least three terrorist leaders that have won Noble Peace Prizes but that's modern politics.
Forrest is a complex character. All I know about him is from the biography from Jack Hurst. Apparently his views on race changed quite a bit towards the end of his life. Hurst argues that Forrest saw the Klan as the means to an end not as a permanent Democratic party paramilitariy.
Is Brownlow a good or bad guy might depend on future scholarship and changing political mores. As the South's demographics rapidly change so may very well be the public school history curriculum concerning Reconstruction.
Leftyhunter
I find it hard to believe anyone could consider Brownlow a good guy,that just doesn't play.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Well, I will say you get awfully tired of seeing someone like Brownlow ( who, if we read about him today would be wearing a tin cooking pot, four hundred fake medals and writing books all about waiting for the Mother Ship ) venerated because he accidentally backed the right horse. I'm sorry but it can't be either/or. The last time I said Brownlow was a zealot and brutal bully, here on the forum, I got eviscerated. And goodness- really? His kind of abuse of power of is our worst fear, as Americans and it happened.

Leaving individuals to those who know history far more in depth than I can hope to, having one in the win column by making hash out of murderers in sheets just does not raise Brownlow to the level of Civil Rights hero. It's the single, redemptive act he seems to have pulled off. And you're just not sure it was out of concern for black citizens, either.
 

WJC

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The Radical Republicans were far less interested in healing the wounds of the Civil War than extracting a pound of flesh from Southerners. To the horror of many Southerners, Governor Brownlow sought to give rights to slaves who had been freed.
Thanks for posting this article.
What is your opinion? Were "Radical Republicans were far less interested in healing the wounds of the Civil War than extracting a pound of flesh from Southerners"?
Frankly, though there is much not to like about Brownlow, the author seems to be simply repeating Lost Cause dogma....
 

nitrofd

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Thanks for posting this article.
What is your opinion? Were "Radical Republicans were far less interested in healing the wounds of the Civil War than extracting a pound of flesh from Southerners"?
Frankly, though there is much not to like about Brownlow, the author seems to be simply repeating Lost Cause dogma....
The radical republicans if they would have hung them all.
 

diane

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Thanks for posting this article.
What is your opinion? Were "Radical Republicans were far less interested in healing the wounds of the Civil War than extracting a pound of flesh from Southerners"?
Frankly, though there is much not to like about Brownlow, the author seems to be simply repeating Lost Cause dogma....

For the most part, imho, Reconstruction wasn't near as bad for the South as 'Lost Cause' dogma would have one believe - however, the radical Republicans did run amok after Lincoln was no longer present to ride herd on them. I think in many states the Reconstruction was deemed awful simply because the freedmen tried to make something of themselves. They proved to be progressive-minded, eager to change things and make life good for everybody. Think they scared their former masters - it meant that everything those gentlemen thought they knew about 'the sable sons of Africa' was wrong and that they were the backward troglodytes.

Brownlow, however, was a nut.
 

M.Warren

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Thanks for posting this article.
What is your opinion? Were "Radical Republicans were far less interested in healing the wounds of the Civil War than extracting a pound of flesh from Southerners"?
Frankly, though there is much not to like about Brownlow, the author seems to be simply repeating Lost Cause dogma....
I'm absolutely sure Brownlow was nothing but radical, full of hate, and had no interest in forward progress.
 
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uaskme

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***edit by Lnwlf: quote of deleted material***

No, we cant predict such things. Lincoln's, Grant's, Sherman's, Custer's and others will also be reviewed under a different set of social parameters. Might be surprised how all that goes. No one today can understand the events that took place 150 years ago. People who lived back then didnt understand it.

The Southern Democrats didn't invent Voter Suppression. The Yankees were pretty good at it too.
 
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leftyhunter

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No, we cant predict such things. Lincoln's, Grant's, Sherman's, Custer's and others will also be reviewed under a different set of social parameters. Might be surprised how all that goes. No one today can understand the events that took place 150 years ago. People who lived back then didnt understand it.

The Southern Democrats didn't invent Voter Suppression. The Yankees were pretty good at it too.
Sounds like an interesting thread on the politics forum "compare and contrast Northern vs Southern voter suppression with an emphasis which side was the most violent and for the longest time period".
Leftyhunter
 

Borderruffian

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For the most part, imho, Reconstruction wasn't near as bad for the South as 'Lost Cause' dogma would have one believe - however, the radical Republicans did run amok after Lincoln was no longer present to ride herd on them. I think in many states the Reconstruction was deemed awful simply because the freedmen tried to make something of themselves. They proved to be progressive-minded, eager to change things and make life good for everybody. Think they scared their former masters - it meant that everything those gentlemen thought they knew about 'the sable sons of Africa' was wrong and that they were the backward troglodytes.

Brownlow, however, was a nut.
But the argument can be mad that some of the harsher aspects of reconstruction gave life to the Lost Cause.
 

diane

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But the argument can be mad that some of the harsher aspects of reconstruction gave life to the Lost Cause.

That's true, I think. That's why I suggest that men like Forrest would have lived peacefully and in accordance with their surrender terms if men like Brownlow hadn't been given free rein. When Forrest found himself going to court and the judge hearing his case was Fielding Hurst...well, that kind of gave him that sinking feeling!
 
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