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Nathan Bedford Forrest

February 10, 2011 by staff 

Nathan Bedford Forrest, A new civil war is brewing in Mississippi on a proposal to a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard on the license plates of the state. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, notorious for leading a massacre of black Union soldiers and leader of the KKK in its infancy, appears on the plates in 2014 if the group Sons of Confederate Veterans gets what he wants.

The organization sponsors a series of specialty plates over the next four years to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The plate this year offers the last house of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. State Chapter of the NAACP was highly critical of the call to honor Forrest, who led several battles in Mississippi during the war. Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877) was a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. He is remembered both as an autodidact, a leading innovator of cavalry during the war and as a leading advocate of the South in the years after the war. It was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a secret vigilante organization that launched a reign of terror against blacks and Republicans during Reconstruction in the South.

A cavalry commander and soldiers in the war, Forrest is one of the most unusual war. Less educated than many of his fellow officers, Forrest amassed a fortune before the war as a farmer, real estate investor, and slave trader. He was one of the few army officers to join either as a soldier and being promoted to general officer and division commander at the end of the war. Although Forrest lacked formal military education, he had a knack for strategy and tactics. He created and established new doctrines for mobile forces, earning the nickname The Wizard of the Saddle.

He has been accused of war crimes at the Battle of Fort Pillow to allow the forces under his command to carry out a massacre of hundreds of black and white of the Union Army prisoners Southern Unionist. In there postwar writings, Confederate president Jefferson Davis and Gen. Robert E. Lee have both expressed their conviction that the Confederate high command had failed to fully utilize the talents of Forrest.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was born into a poor family in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. He was the first blacksmith William Forrest twelve children with his wife Miriam Beck. After the death of his father, Forrest became the head of the family at the age of 17. In 1841, Forrest went into business with his uncle Jonathan Forrest in Hernando, Mississippi. His uncle was killed in 1845 during an argument with the Matlock brothers. In retaliation, Forrest shot and killed two of them with his pistol two-shot and wounded two others with a knife were thrown at him. One of the wounded men survived and Matlock served under Forrest during the Civil War.

Forrest became a businessman, a farmer who owned several cotton plantations in the Delta of Tennessee, and a slave owner. He was also a slave trader with a business based on Adams Street in Memphis. In 1858, Forrest (a conservative Democrat) was elected alderman for the city of Memphis. Forrest defended his mother and put his younger brothers to university. When the American Civil War began in 1861, he was a millionaire and one of the richest men in the South, having amassed a “personal fortune which he said was worth $ 1.5 million.

Before the Civil War

“Forrest was well known as a speculator Memphis and Mississippi player. He was for some time the captain of a boat, which connected Memphis, Tennessee, and Vicksburg, Mississippi. As his fortune grew he engaged in speculation plantation, and became the nominal owner of two plantations near the landing Goodrich, above Vicksburg, where he worked a few hundred or more slaves, “according to his obituary.” He was known for his knowledge as a man of obscure origin and weak associations, a clever speculator, trader Negro, and duelist, but a man of great energy and raw courage. ”

There were conflicting reports about what happened at Fort Pillow. Only 90 of about 262 American soldiers survived the battle color. The losses are also high among the defenders of the White Fortress, with 205 of about 500 survivors. Forrest Confederate forces were accused of submitting to the brutality of the captured soldiers, the allegations that some were burned to death.

Forrest’s men had set fire to the barracks with soldier’s wounded Union within the Union. The report of the Union Lieutenant Daniel Van Horn said that the law was due to orders made by the Union Lieutenant John D. Hill. Van Horn also said, “There never was a surrender of the place, the officers and men declaring they would surrender or ask for quarter.”

These claims have been directly challenged in letters written by Confederate soldiers of their own family, which describes the blind brutality of the troops in the South.

After the cessation of hostilities, Forrest has transferred the 14 most severely wounded United States Colored Troops (USCT) to the U.S. Steamer Silver Cloud. He sent 39 USCT captured from higher command.  [via wikipedia and various online blogs]

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