FOR THE MEETING TUESDAY, June 23, 2009
Meets Fourth Tuesday; January-November
Founded March 1964
Program at 7 p.m.
Jan Sarna, President
RMeadows@aaamissouri.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Dues $20 Per Year
VISIT THE BATTLEFIELDS WHEN YOU CAN...
WHILE YOU CAN
Cavalier, Nathan Bedford Forrest”
Don retired to Little Rock from
preaching in a number of churches in Arkansas to be closer to his
grandchildren. Don is a graduate from Ouachita Baptist University and
holds a Doctor of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological
Seminary. A long time history buff, Don has been a frequent speaker at
area Civil War Roundtables.
Forrest, born in 1821, was the
oldest child in a poor family of twelve children and became the head of
his family when his father died at age seventeen. He worked hard and at
age twenty he went into business with his uncle in Hernando,
Mississippi, just south of Memphis. When his uncle was killed during an
argument with four brothers, Forrest avenged his death by killing two of
the men and wounding the others with a knife. He went on to become a
successful businessman, plantation owner, and slave trader in Memphis.
By the time the war broke out in 1861, Forrest was self-made
He joined the Confederate Army
and fought with unequaled ferocity. In his farewell address at the
conclusion of the war, Forrest told his troops to be good citizens, as
they had been good soldiers. Unfortunately, carpetbaggers took
advantage of the plight of the post-war South and helped to destroy the
favorable resolution that Forrest had promised his men. He became
associated with the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to reverse the damage done
to the South by these northerners. In 1867 he was acclaimed the Grand
Wizard of the KKK, but he resigned his post after serving less than five
years. Forrest officially disbanded the Klan’s earliest charter in
retaliation for the group’s violent attacks on African-Americans. He
abandoned the Klan and made a remarkable speech on rebuilding race
relations at a convention in Memphis for an African-American civic
organization known as the “Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association
“on July 5, 1875. This group was a predecessor the NAACP. (Courtesy Civil
War Historian, January/February 2008)
Trader to Freedmen
Forrest's speech during a
meeting of the "Jubilee of Pole Bearers" is a story that needs to be
told. Gen. Forrest was the first white man to be invited by this group
which was a forerunner of today's Civil Right's group. A reporter of the
Memphis Avalanche newspaper was sent to cover the event that included a
Southern barbeque supper.
Miss Lou Lewis, daughter of a
Pole Bearer member, was introduced to Forrest and she presented the
former general a bouquet of flowers as a token of reconciliation, peace
and good will. On July 5, 1875, Nathan Bedford Forrest delivered this
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I
accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and
colored races of the Southern states. I accept it more 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. (Immense applause and
laughter.) 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 hand." (Prolonged
End of speech.
Nathan Bedford Forrest again
thanked Miss Lewis for the bouquet and then gave her a kiss on the
cheek. Such a kiss was unheard of in the society of those days, in 1875,
but it showed a token of respect and friendship between the general and
the black community and did much to promote harmony among the citizens
With no formal military
training, Nathan Bedford Forrest became one of the leading cavalry
figures of the Civil War. The native Tennesseean had amassed a fortune,
which he estimated at $1,500,000, as a slave trader and plantation owner
before enlisting in the Confederate army as a private in Josiah H.
White's cavalry company on June 14, 1861. Tapped by the governor, he
then raised a mounted battalion at his own expense.
His assignments included: lieutenant colonel, Forrest's
Tennessee Cavalry Battalion (October 1861); colonel, 3rd Tennessee
Cavalry (March 1862); brigadier general, CSA July 21, 1862); commanding
cavalry brigade, Army of the Mississippi (summer-November 20, 1862);
commanding cavalry brigade, Army of Tennessee (November 20, 1862 Summer
1863); commanding cavalry division, Army of Tennessee (summer 1863);
commanding cavalry corps, Army of Tennessee (ca. August -September 29,
1863); commanding West Tennessee, (probably in) Department of
Mississippi and East Louisiana (November 14, 1863 - January 11, 1864);
major general, CSA (December 4, 1863); commanding cavalry corps,
Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana January 11 - 28, 1864);
commanding District of Mississippi and East Louisiana, Department of
Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana January 27 - May 4, 1865); also
commanding cavalry corps, Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East
Louisiana January 28 - May 4, 1865); and lieutenant general, CSA
(February 28, 1865).
When the mass Confederate breakout attempt at Fort Donelson
failed, Forrest led most of his own men, and some other troops, through
the besieging lines and then directed the rear guard during the retreat
from Nashville. At Shiloh there was little opportunity for the effective
use of the mounted troops and his command again formed the rear guard on
the retreat. The day after the close of the battle Forrest was wounded.
After serving during the Corinth siege he was promoted to brigadier
general, and he raised a brigade with which he captured Murfreesboro,
its garrison and supplies.
In December 1862 and January 1863 he led another raid, this time
in west Tennessee, which contributed to the abandonment of Grant's
campaign in central Mississippi; the other determining factor was Van
Dorn's Holly Springs raid. Joining up with Joseph Wheeler, Forrest took
part in the unsuccessful attack on Fort Donelson which resulted in
Forrest swearing he would never serve under Wheeler again.
His next success came with the capture of the Union raiding
column under Abel D. Streight in the spring of 1863. On June 14, 1863,
he was shot by a disgruntled subordinate, Andrew W. Gould, whom Forrest
then mortally wounded with his penknife. Recovering, he commanded a
division that summer and then a corps at Chickamauga. Having had a
number of disputes with army commander Braxton Bragg, Forrest was
humiliated by being placed under Wheeler again. His request for transfer
to west Tennessee was granted and he was dispatched there with a
pitifully small force. Recruiting in that area, he soon had a force
large enough to give Union commanders headaches. Sherman kept ordering
his Memphis commanders to catch him.
When Forrest captured Fort Pillow a controversy developed over
reports of a massacre of the largely black garrison. Apparently a
massacre did occur there are numerous Confederate firsthand accounts of
it. He defeated Samuel D. Sturgis at Brice's Crossroads and under
Stephen D. Lee fought Andrew J. Smith at Tupelo. He again faced Smith
during August 1864 and then provided the cavalry force for Hood's
invasion of middle Tennessee that fall. Finally the force of numbers
began to tell when he proved incapable of stopping Wilson's raid through
Alabama and Georgia in the final months of the war. His diminished
command was included in Richard Taylor's surrender.
Wiped out financially by the war, he resumed planting and became
the president of the Selma, Marion & Memphis Railroad, which he helped
to promote. He died, probably of diabetes, at Memphis on October 29,
1877, and is buried there.
Was Who In the War” by
In Jack Hurst’s biography on
Forrest, Hurst states that Forrest was the only soldier South or North
to join the military as a private and rise to the rank of lieutenant
general. Forrest disagreed with the teaching of West Point that held
that a commander should hold at least a third of his force in reserve.
In the battle of Sand Mountain, he even sent forward the quarter of his
force which normally held the horses of the others, ordering the animals
to be tied to bushes. “If we are whipped,” he explained tersely to a
skeptical subordinate, “we’ll not need any horses.”
Hurst continues by writing that
Forrest’s soldiers feared him more than the enemy, and with good reason.
Assaulting or shooting them with his own hands when they tried to run
from battles, he compelled them to run in the opposite direction. His
favorite military tactic was the charge, which he so trusted that he
employed it even on a charging enemy rather than simply await assault.
His aim, he said, was to get to the critical position “first with the
At age 55, Forrest was hardly
the same person that the South had known as the “Wizard of the Saddle”.
His illness caused his weight to drop to a meager 100 pounds. He had
accepted at last the Christian faith of his family’s women and begun to
sound repentant. Death of a Confederate Icon was near. Writers present
at his death and funeral noted many blacks among the thousands of
mourners who viewed his corpse and followed it to the cemetery. (PG 9
Little Rock and Jacksonville
The Civil War Preservation
Trust announces in its 2009
History Under Siege: A Guide to America’s Most Endangered Civil War
Battlefields, that Bayou Fourche in Little Rock and Reed’s Bridge in
Jacksonville are on the “At Risk Sites.” Further expansion of the Little
Rock National Airport threatens the Bayou Fourche site, while
development along Interstate 440 and Hwy 161 threatens Reed’s Bridge.
Thirty acres of Civil War battlefield land are destroyed every day. Will
these battlefields be next?
The Advertising and Promotion
Committee of Jacksonville has supported The Reed’s Bridge Battlefield
Preservation Society in part by funding a brochure about the battle and
a portion of the cost to purchase 2 cannons that will be placed at the 7
acre site. An additional $4000 is need within the next two months to
fund the purchase of the cannons. Contributions can be mailed to: Reed’s
Bridge Battlefield Preservation Society, 100 Veterans Circle,
Jacksonville, AR 72076
Thank you to Brian Brown and
his talk last month on Port Hudson! Our speaker in July will be Drew
Hodges, History professor at The University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Mary Anna Randolph Custis
His talk will be on Robert E.
Lee and his women. This includes his wife, Mary Custis as well as his
daughters, Annie, Mily, and Agnes.
Speakers for 2009
August Ken Barnes, History @
UCA Brooks-Baxter War
September C. Fred Williams @
UALR Albert Pike
October Mark Christ, Dept of
Historic Preservation Helena
November Bill Shea @ UAM TBA
Hope to see you Tuesday night
with Don Nall and Nathan Bedford Forrest!