Nathan Bedford Forrest
Article abstract: Military significance: Forrest was one of the Confederacy’s most innovative cavalry commanders. He combined mounted and dismounted tactics.
On June 14, 1861, shortly after Tennessee seceded in the American Civil War (1861-1865), Nathan Bedford Forrest joined the Confederate army as a private. On July 10, 1861, Tennessee governor Isham G. Harris discharged him and appointed him lieutenant colonel to recruit a battalion of mounted rangers. Early in the war, leading this cavalry battalion, Forrest narrowly escaped from Fort Donelson when it fell to Union forces on February 16, 1862. Two months later at Shiloh, Forrest’s Seventh Tennessee cavalry blocked the Union Army from pursuing retreating troops of the Confederate army.
Throughout the war, Forrest and his men raided Union garrisons. He became a major general on December 4, 1863. On April 11, 1864, he led 1,500 troops in a successful attack on Fort Pillow. On June 10, 1864, he fought a successful battle against Union troops at Brice’s Crossroads in northern Mississippi. He was promoted to lieutenant general on February 28, 1865. He surrendered the Seventh Cavalry on May 9, 1865.
He returned to civilian life and in 1866 became the supreme Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Until his death in 1877, he operated a prison farm at President’s Island, southwest of Memphis, Tennessee.
Bearss, Edwin C. Forrest at Brice’s Crossroads and in North Mississippi in 1864. Dayton, Ohio: Morningside Press, 1979.
Hurst, Jack. Nathan Bedford Forrest. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.
Maness, Lonnie E. The Untutored Genius: The Military Career of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Oxford, Miss.: Z. Gild Bindery Press, 1990.