Forrest, Nathan Bedford

Forrest, Nathan Bedford,

1821–77, Confederate general, b. Bedford co., Tenn. (his birthplace is now in Marshall co.). At the beginning of the Civil War, Forrest, a wealthy citizen of Memphis, organized a cavalry force, which he led at Fort Donelson (Feb., 1862) and Shiloh (April). He assumed command of a cavalry brigade in the Army of Tennessee (June) and in July captured a large Union garrison at Murfreesboro. He was made a brigadier general. With a newly recruited command he effectively cut Grant's communications in a raid through W Tennessee (Dec., 1862). After foiling a Union attempt to cut the railroad between Chattanooga and Atlanta (May, 1863), Forrest participated in the Chattanooga campaign until trouble with Braxton Bragg led him to accept a command in N Mississippi. He was promoted to major general (Dec., 1863); captured Fort PillowFort Pillow,
fortification on the Mississippi River, N of Memphis, Tenn.; built by Confederate Gen. Gideon Pillow in 1862. Evacuated by the Confederates after the fall of Island No. 10 to the north, the fort was occupied by Union troops on June 6, 1862. Confederate Gen.
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 (Apr., 1864); defeated a superior force at Brices Cross Roads, Miss. (June); and held Gen. Andrew Jackson Smith to a drawn battle at Tupelo, Miss. (July). These Union failures against Forrest caused Sherman, then advancing on Atlanta, much concern for his communications. Forrest commanded all the cavalry under John Bell HoodHood, John Bell,
1831–79, Confederate general in the American Civil War, b. Owingsville, Ky. He resigned from the army (Apr., 1861) and entered the Confederate service 1862. He fought in the Peninsular campaign and at the second battle of Bull Run (Aug.
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 in that general's Tennessee campaign (Nov.–Dec., 1864) and was promoted to lieutenant general (Feb., 1865). He surrendered shortly after his defeat at Selma, Ala., in April. After the war he engaged for a time in railroading and also was important in the activities of the Ku Klux KlanKu Klux Klan
, designation mainly given to two distinct secret societies that played a part in American history, although other less important groups have also used the name.
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. Forrest, probably the greatest Confederate cavalryman, is one of the most interesting figures of the war.


See biographies by J. A. Wyeth (1899, repr. 1959), E. W. Sheppard (1930), R. S. Henry (1944), and A. N. Lytle (rev. ed. 1960).

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Forrest, Nathan Bedford

(1821–77) soldier; born in Bedford County, Tenn. With little formal education, he became a wealthy livestock dealer, planter, and slave trader. When the Civil War commenced, he enlisted as a private, but by October 1861 he was a lieutenant colonel in command of his own troop of cavalry. He participated in many of the early battles including Shiloh, but soon began to operate on his own, using his cavalry as a "strike force." His motto was the phrase attributed to him: "Git there fustest with the mostest." Aggressive and daring—he stabbed a would-be assailant to death after taking a near-fatal gunshot wound—he struck hard and often at Union lines in Tennessee and Kentucky from 1862–64; troops under his command carried out an infamous massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tenn. After the war, he had to rebuild his fortune through planting and railroading. He served as grand wizard of the newly organized Ku Klux Klan (1867–69) but resigned in protest of some of its tactics.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.