What makes Nathan Bedford Forrest Honorable?

truthckr

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 1, 2010
Messages
2,963
Location
Waynesboro, Virginia
#41
In my opinion, this is a rather silly discussion. By our 21st century standards, no one in the 19th century was honorable. Forrest did not attend the USMA or any other military school, where there was a "Code of Honor." He was raised by his parents to live and act according to a "Frontier Honor Code" This unwritten code was, as someone pointed out earlier, akin to John Wayne's lines from the movie "The Shootist."

He honored his mother, father, wife, and family by doing what was necessary to survive in a vastly different world than the one we live in today. This, unfortunately, led to his dealing in slaves. When he believed that his fellow ex-confederates and himself were in danger from Gov. Brownlow and other nefarious types, he may have joined the KKK; something not proven.

Some have claimed that Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and others were not honorable. They were all, including Forrest engaged in war. War in itself is not an honorable venture. Men on both sides were involved in activities that were much less than honorable.
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Joined
Jul 6, 2016
Messages
952
#42
Generally, when someone is arguing another's honor, there's a problem with presentism. For example, at one time it was considered perfectly honorable to whop the tar out of a fairly helpless senator in defense of family name - Brooks and Sumner. To me, it's perfectly cowardly to corner a guy behind his desk and give him brain damage while he has little chance to defend himself - yet, Brooks was hailed as an honorable man. An insult had been given the South and the Brooks' family name and he had given the guilty party the beating he deserved. Honorable? I don't think so but many of that time did - he got a load of canes in case he needed them for just such another occasion! In Forrest's day, there was little fluid about the matter of honor - it was a societal code, and it didn't always include what we might think it did or should have.
There is also an issue with people of that era not always agreeing on what is or isn't honorable. The caning of Sumner was also a good example of that, with opinions varying largely based on region. To white Southerners Brooks' act was honorable while to white Northerners the act was viewed as being shameful and cowardly.

Dan Sickles is another example of how views on what constituted honorable conduct could vary quick sharply from person to person. To some his killing of Philip Barton Key was nothing more than an act of cold-blooded murder while others saw the killing as a justified defense of his honor.
 

diane

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Messages
20,143
Location
State of Jefferson
#43
Very true. And there are numerous layers to some of these affairs. Pat Cleburne, for instance, was drawn into a duel that nearly killed him and in which he had no interest whatsoever - his friend was in a lot of trouble, though! So, he risked his life solely to help out his friend - never did fully recover from the chest wound he received. Cleburne's personal sense of honor said to help his friend, but his friend also made it societal - he ran into Cleburne's pharmacy screaming that someone was trying to kill him. Even if Cleburne's first instinct was to say you're on your own good buddy, he couldn't have said that once it was announced to the world. As it was, he ended up killing the only guy who came to the fight without a gun!
 

E_just_E

Brigadier General
Moderator
Joined
Sep 3, 2014
Messages
5,972
Location
Center Valley, PA
#44
Please stay on the topic of what makes N B Forrest honorable. Whole bunch of irrelevant posts were deleted. More will result in thread bans. If you would like to discuss other subjects, please open new threads in appropriate forums.

Posted as a moderator.
 

1NCCAV

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
494
#46
The duel went west with the Southerners, where it morphed into a variety of things.......
This is true. There were far more killings in the Old South than the Old West and to the extent that the West had a martial code it got it from the South. Some of this attitude may have come from the Scots-Irish, who were a might sensitive after their experience with the British, but much of it came from the French and Spanish and dispersed from the New Orleans area.

For example, pre-Civil War, there was quite a knife culture up and down the Mississippi between New Orleans and Memphis. It was a bit formalized among the French and Spanish dandies of New Orleans, but it was rough and ready among the river boat men. In a river front dive like Natchez Under the Hill, you could get cut up and thrown in the river pretty quick for a wrong word or even a glance.

I know I’m off topic, but it’s a little background about notions of honor for that time and place. Bedford Forrest came up in this environment.
 
Last edited:

1NCCAV

Corporal
Joined
Jul 23, 2016
Messages
494
#47
Last edited:
Joined
May 27, 2011
Messages
15,415
Location
los angeles ca
#48
I’ll add that his acknowledgment that he was flawed individual and his actions to improve himself, (in his case through accepting Jesus Christ as his lord and savior) makes him honorable. The softer, kinder more accepting Gen Forrest that addresses the Pole-Bearers and kisses the Black women in Public is often associated/presented as proof of his personal religious awaken. (he became “woke” as my generation would say :wink:, at least for 1870 standards)

Note I’m not claiming his religious views were right or wrong (that’s against the rules:redcarded:), simply stating that his religious awaken seems to have led him to be a better man. That acknowledgment of faults and will to improve (be through religion or other ways) is very honorable.
Got to give Forrest a little credit in kissing a black women in public. On American Tv their was no small controversy when Andy Williams briefly shock Lena Horne's hand in 1959. Per network standards of the time blacks and whites were not allowed to touch each other if they were of the opposite sex.
Leftyhunter
 
Last edited:
Joined
May 27, 2011
Messages
15,415
Location
los angeles ca
#49
This is a thread that was created to support the claim presented by someone from the discussion:

Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue - Memphis Tennessee - 2012

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/nathan-bedford-forrest-statue-memphis-tennessee-2012.148689/
Forrest while the head or at least symbolic head of the Ku Klux Klan did state that the Klan had outlived it's usefulness. Forrest unlike Jubal Early was not an advocate of the " Lost Cause".
As @uaskme points out Forrest killed Yankees. Yet Forrest post war bore no grudges and was friends with Yankees who killed Confederate's.
Does that make Forrest a heroic figure deserving of a monument?
Not IMO.
Forrest was not the worse of the ex Confederate's for he did support black voting rights which few ex Confederate generals did.
Leftyhunter
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2018
Messages
224
Location
Nashville, TN
#50
Certainly the things that are dishonorable would be: owning slaves, being an active slave trader, capturing run away slaves, the Massacre at Fort Pillow, joining and becoming the leader of Ku Klux Klan, and suppressing black voter rights to name a few.

I like that he may have had a change of heart towards the end of his life. He renounced the Klan, and made a speech about racial reconciliation at Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association.

I don't know if the later efforts outweigh a lifetime of villainy, though.
 

uaskme

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Messages
1,667
#52
It is All Sujective. Most View Southerners as a Class Dishonorable because they were, Southerners. Yankees won the War which to many seems to wipe their Sins away because of the Perception it Made the World Better. We will never know what would of happened if the South had of Won or if you the War had never been fought. It certainly didn’t end Racial Conflict. Whatever gains made during the War, Native Americans and and some others Lost. Another Race War extended Militarily for Decades. Native Americans fear wasn’t the KKK but the Federal Government. White Supremacy swept over the Hispanics. And so it goes.
 
Joined
May 27, 2011
Messages
15,415
Location
los angeles ca
#53
Certainly the things that are dishonorable would be: owning slaves, being an active slave trader, capturing run away slaves, the Massacre at Fort Pillow, joining and becoming the leader of Ku Klux Klan, and suppressing black voter rights to name a few.

I like that he may have had a change of heart towards the end of his life. He renounced the Klan, and made a speech about racial reconciliation at Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association.

I don't know if the later efforts outweigh a lifetime of villainy, though.
Admittedly Forrest only has to overcome a low bar relative to his peers to be " honorable".
Leftyhunter
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
75
#54
In my opinion, this is a rather silly discussion. By our 21st century standards, no one in the 19th century was honorable. Forrest did not attend the USMA or any other military school, where there was a "Code of Honor." He was raised by his parents to live and act according to a "Frontier Honor Code" This unwritten code was, as someone pointed out earlier, akin to John Wayne's lines from the movie "The Shootist."

He honored his mother, father, wife, and family by doing what was necessary to survive in a vastly different world than the one we live in today. This, unfortunately, led to his dealing in slaves. When he believed that his fellow ex-confederates and himself were in danger from Gov. Brownlow and other nefarious types, he may have joined the KKK; something not proven.

Some have claimed that Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and others were not honorable. They were all, including Forrest engaged in war. War in itself is not an honorable venture. Men on both sides were involved in activities that were much less than honorable.[/QU


The way I see it is like drug dealers in the inter city today. Except slavery was legal selling drugs is illegal.
 

archieclement

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Messages
3,328
Location
mo
#55
Admittedly Forrest only has to overcome a low bar relative to his peers to be " honorable".
Leftyhunter
the majority of what he included as dishonorable was in fact legal and not dishonorable in his day, the one that remains is Fort Pillow...which wouldn't reflect on him unless he actively encouraged and condoned it, which from what I've read is still disputed by modern historians...….wouldn't be much a lifetime of villainy to overcome...……..
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2018
Messages
224
Location
Nashville, TN
#58
the majority of what he included as dishonorable was in fact legal and not dishonorable in his day, the one that remains is Fort Pillow...which wouldn't reflect on him unless he actively encouraged and condoned it, which from what I've read is still disputed by modern historians...….wouldn't be much a lifetime of villainy to overcome...……..
If he didn't condone or encourage it he'd still be guilty of dereliction of duty. He was responsible for those men under his command.
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2017
Messages
75
#59
You can only love general Forrest who challenged union general Kilpatrick to a duel, when Kilpatrick accused Forrest of lying about the fort pillow incident.

I just wished he was fighting for the blue side.
 

archieclement

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Messages
3,328
Location
mo
#60
If he didn't condone or encourage it he'd still be guilty of dereliction of duty. He was responsible for those men under his command.
As was Major Bradford who refused to surrender while he still had command and control, instead to fight a hopeless battle, utterly losing all command and control, and no longer could order a cease fire of his own men to surrender...……. When you have some surrendering while others are still fighting because you've allowed your command to become scattered up and down the bluff and up and down the river, with others in the river trying to escape instead of surrendering......, not a good thing in any conflict....Or is he exempt somehow from the responsibility of the welfare of his men and maintaining command and control to be able to order an orderly surrender?

Just curious if we are considering some dereliction of duty...…...
 
Last edited:

Similar threads




(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top