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Forrest's genius and his savagery into the context of his time chronicling his rise from frontiersman to slave trader private to lieutenant general Klansman to eventually New South businessman and racial moderate Unflinching in its analysis and with extensive new research Nathan Bedford Forrest is an invaluable and immensely readable addition to the literature of the Civil W Author is way too apologetic of Forrest He was a slave trader but he was kind to his slaves He killed several men in personal altercations throughout his life but each time it was self defense He was the butcher of Fort Pillow but the press blew it out of proportion He was the first grand wizard of the KKK but they were really of a political organization at that point Either Forrest was one of the unluckiest misunderstood men of his era or he was a sadistic racist Hurst argues the formerOverall well written and interesting subject matter However not nearly enough critical analysis to call it a definitive biography

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Nathan Bedford Forrest A Biography

Amid the aristocratic ranks of the Confederate cavalry Nathan Bedford Forrest was untutored all but unlettered and regarded as no than a guerrilla His tactic was the headlong charge mounted with such swiftness and ferocity that General Sherman called him a devil who should be hunted down and killed if it costs 10000 lives and bankrupts the treasury And in a war in which offi Normally I don t like biographies that much because most people do not have such exciting lives throughout General Nathan Bedford Forrest was an exception He started out as a slave trader enlisted as a private after Fort Sumter but uickly rose to the rank of general commanding Confederate cavalry in Tennessee and Mississippi He typically won battles in which his side was grossly outnumbered never neglecting to put the skeer on his enemyWith no West Point or other significant schooling Forrest was an original When attacked from two sides he would think nothing of dividing his forces and have each attack in opposite directions His cavalry operated as dragoons who used horses for mobility but fought as infantry At Brice s Crossroads he did the unthinkable He had an artillery charge that completely flummoxed the Union forces Even now I cannot imagine what THAT looked likeUnfortunately Forrest was associated for the rest of his life with the massacre at Fort Pillow He grew disgusted when his negotiations for a truce were running into what he considered bad faith At this point he ordered his men to kill every God damned one of them Most of the Union forces were black soldiers in uniform and they were likely to be killed than the whites After Appomattox Forest became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan though he repudiated the organization and tried unsuccessfully to build a railroad between Memphis and Selma But the Fort Pillow taint plus local envy from his fellow Memphis citizens led to the project being abandonedIn the end Forrest wasted away and died of advanced diabetes twelve years after the warJack Hurst has done a creditable job in his Nathan Bedford Forrest A Biography There was no uestion but that Forrest was a bad ass But according to Civil War historian Shelby Foote he is one of the two greatest geniuses the war produced the other being Abraham Lincoln

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Cers prided themselves on their decorum Forrest habitually issued surrender or die ultimatums to the enemy and often intimidated his own superiors After being in command at the notorious Fort Pillow Massacre he went on to haunt the South as the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux KlanNow this epic figure is restored to human dimensions in an exemplary biography that puts both Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of the most remarkable soldiers to emerge during the War Between the States He was brilliant and intrepid and he commanded the respect and fear of Confederates and Federals alike His exploits prompted Union Maj Gen William T Sherman to remark That devil Forrest must be hunted down and killed if it costs ten thousand lives and bankrupts the federal treasury Years later after hostilities had ceased Sherman saidI think Forrest was the most remarkable man our Civil War produced on either side To my mind he was the most remarkable in many ways In the first place he was uneducated while Jackson and Sheridan and other brilliant leaders were soldiers by profession He had never read a military book in his life knew nothing about tactics could not even drill a company but had a genius of strategy which was original and to me incomprehensible There was no theory or art of war by which I could calculate with any degree of certainty what Forrest was up to He seemed always to know what I was doing or intended to do while I am free to confess I could never tell or form any satisfactory idea of what he was trying to accomplishEually notable was his meteoric rise through the ranks When the war began in 1861 Forrest enlisted as a private By the war s end in 1865 he was a lieutenant general The small force of mounted infantry under his command spent the war fighting battles taking Union prisoners freeing Confederate prisoners capturing supplies and threatening enemy supply lines across Tennessee Kentucky Mississippi Alabama and Georgia On than one occasion Forrest bested a numerically superior Union force The uintessential example is the Battle of Brice s Cross Roads in 1864 which saw Forrest outnumbered greater than two to one Yet he emerged the decisive victorBut Forrest was also deeply flawed a volatile personality a slave trader an early member of the Ku Klux Klan In the present day he is largely remembered for two reasons his presence at the Fort Pillow massacre and his post war involvement in the first iteration of the Ku Klux Klan These incidents are understandably concerning to the modern reader but a certain mythology has grown up around them and has made understanding them all the difficult The 1994 film Forrest Gump wrongly credits Forrest with starting the Ku Klux Klan I also recently read a book by an author who claims the general was a cofounder of the Ku Klux Klan These inaccuracies do nothing to facilitate understanding the man or learning from his life warts and all The strength of Hurst s book is that he doesn t seek to conceal anything about Forrest He makes an extensive case for the military genius of this self taught general But he also addresses the fact that Forrest was engaged in the buying and selling of human flesh and that he had a deep antipathy at one time for blacks Hurst puts these things in historical context One of the most distorting attitudes that contemporary historians indulge is presentism the idea that people who lived in former times must conform to modern ideologies or they must be condemned even expunged from our memories Forrest lived in an era when the great majority of white Americans North and South held deep prejudices against blacks His attitudes were not unusual for his time This does not excuse his words or deeds but it does help us gain a better understanding of them Hurst helps the reader in that regardThere is a certain muddleheadedness among those people who insist that Forrest was a misanthrope who should be erased from history In actuality Forrest broke with the Ku Klux Klan as the organization became increasingly violent and he ultimately became a defender of Southern blacks In 1874 in the wake of the murder of four black men Forrest even offered his services to the governor of Tennessee pledging that he would exterminate the white marauders who perpetrated the atrocity In 1875 the Independent Order of Pole Bearers Association an organization dedicated to the advancement of black Southerners in society invited Forrest to give a speech After being gifted a bouuet of flowers the general saidLadies and gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states I accept it particularly as it comes from a colored lady for if there is any one on God s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself I came here with the jeers of some white people who think that I am doing wrong I believe I can exert some influence and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations and shall do all in my power to elevate every man to depress none I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices in stores on farms and wherever you are capable of going I have not said anything about politics today I don t propose to say anything about politics You have a right to elect whom you please vote for the man you think best and I think when that is done you and I are freemen Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office I did not come here to make you a long speech although invited to do so by you I am not much of a speaker and my business prevented me from preparing myself I came to meet you as friends and welcome you to the white people I want you to come nearer to us When I can serve you I will do so We have but one flag one country let us stand together We may differ in color but not in sentiment Many things have been said about me which are wrong and which white and black persons here who stood by me through the war can contradict Go to work be industrious live honestly and act truly and when you are oppressed I ll come to your relief I thank you ladies and gentlemen for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in handThis speech drew the ire of whites across the South but the general stood by his words In the last years of his life Forrest became a Christian repented of prior wrongdoing and found assurance of forgiveness in the Gospel When he died in 1877 over 10000 people attended his funeral including 3000 blacksHurst s biography is masterful and it deals fairly with all of the above The book steers far from the fallacious deconstruction and psychologizing that characterize so many modern biographies Hurst rather presents the life story of a flawed man who lived in a trying time who exhibited great moral courage in some situations who failed to find it in others and who eventually found redemption

10 thoughts on “Nathan Bedford Forrest A Biography

  1. says:

    Normally I don't like biographies that much because most people do not have such exciting lives throughout General Nathan Bedford Forrest was an exception He started out as a slave trader enlisted as a private after Fort Sumter but uickly rose

  2. says:

    This book is exactly the reason that I love Non Fiction because this is a real story It's true And while the details might h

  3. says:

    This book is a little painful to read reviewNathan Bedford Forrest was the only soldier to rise from the rank of private to general during the US Civil War At once a soft spoken gentleman of marked placidity and a

  4. says:

    I enjoyed this bio mostly because the author did not show any bias against his subject I do not like supposed bio's that editorialize about the individual it is about instead of just writing the person's story Jack

  5. says:

    Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of the most remarkable soldiers to emerge during the War Between the States He was brilliant and intrepid and he commanded the respect and fear of Confederates and Federals alike His

  6. says:

    More Civil War history for me after my trip to Shiloh TN which I had spent 4 days touring during the 155th Anniversary of the battleThis book my brother picked up and then ended up not having room in his bag so he lent it to me to read first and get back when we meet up this summer againI'm glad he did Forest was not the great Cavalry General

  7. says:

    As a Confederate general I find Nathan Bedford Forrest fascinating and uite intimidating I have been interested in reading a bio on him for uite some time This book captures much of that menacing mystiue of this fiery Calvary officer and his post war life of becoming the first Grand Wizard of the KKK The introduction of this bio is excellent Where this bio fails is in the methodical details which bombard the reader and d

  8. says:

    I couldn’t wait for it to be over This man was satanic and a useful idiot for the Democratic Party He became a Christian after he butchered an insane number of blacks either himself or through his subordinate soldiers He was stat

  9. says:

    Author is way too apologetic of Forrest He was a slave trader but he was kind to his slaves He killed several m

  10. says:

    Great Cavalry officer superb tactician Had 29 horses shot out from under him was wounded 4 times and killed 30 Union troops in combat A man of courage and volatile temper After the war he became the first grand wizard of the klan but later he tried to disband the organization and spoke against it's hatred