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Nathan Bedford Forrest

By John T. Marck

He was the son of a poor, backwoods blacksmith, born on July 13, 1821 in Bedford City, Tennessee. By the age of sixteen, he was forced to take on the responsibility for his large family, but, Forrest was resourceful, making the best of sparse resources. To help provide for his family, he became a successful planter and slave trader by 1861.

In 1861 Forrest joined the Confederate army, enlisting as a private. He was promoted on July 21, 1862 to brigadier general, and by December 4, 1863, he was a major general. When the war ended he had attained the rank of lieutenant general. Although he had no formal military education, he did offer phenomenal abilities in military tactics and strategic operations. He had a simple theory on war, saying "War means fightin' and fightin' means killin'." In his application of this theory he soon became the most feared of all the Confederate cavalry commanders.

Having successfully escaped from Fort Donelson as well as his outstanding performance at the Battle of Shiloh, gained Forrest a reputation of distinction early in the war. He had developed certain riding tactics that made his cavalry an excellent striking force. Numerous times throughout the war, Forrest and his men would strike behind enemy lines. These raids accomplished much more than one would have expected considering the limited resources he had. Forrest further proved his success at the Battle of Brice's Cross Roads, where he inflicted one of the worst defeats in history to the U.S. Army.

After the war ended, Forest spent his life farming as well as other business endeavors. Union General William T. Sherman said of Forrest, "After all, I think Forrest was the most remarkable man our Civil War produced on either side."

Nathan Bedford Forest died on October 29, 1877 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.