BORN: Chapel Hill,Tennessee July 13,1821 DIED: Memphis,Tennessee October 29,1877
A body of literature has grown from the unlikely questions: "Did General Nathan Bedford Forrest, CSA, really say that the rule of success in war was 'Git thar fustest with the mostest' ?"
The question persists despite repeated denials and affirmations, and cannot be finally solved. General Forrest was evidently given as brief training in letters as to formal military tactics.
Here is a sample letter, written from Corinth, Mississippi, May 23, 1862, to D.C. Trader of Memphis:
Sir Your note of the 21 is to hand I did not fully understand the contents and ask for information--this amount you ask for--is it a publick contrabution or is it my dues due the log [lodge] I wish you would give me the amt due the log from me as you did not state it in your notice or the amount asked for.
I had a small brush with the enemy on yesterday I succeeded in gaining their rear and got in their entrench- ments 8 miles from hamburg and 5 behind farmington and burned a portion of their camp at that place they was not looking for me and I taken them by surprise they run like Suns of Biches I captured the Rev. Dr. Warren from Illanoise and one fine sorel stud this army is at this time in front of our entrinchments I look for a fite soon and a big one when it comes off cant you come up and take a hand this fite will do to hand down to your childrens children I feel confidant of our success.
In a sharp little fight at Lexington, Kentucky, in December, 1862, General Nathan Bedford Forrest took the town for the Confederacy, drove out some Illinois cavalry and nabbed their colonel, a Peoria intellectual who was to become celebrated as the leading American agnostic, Robert G. Ingersoll. The young heretic was discovered in a hiding place under the porch of a house, and was ousted by his captors with much difficulty.
He never lost a battle in which he was in total command of all his forces.
He personally killed 31 Yankees and had 29 horses shot out from under him.
He had a 12 star version of the confederate flag that him and only him flew in the war.
At Fort Pillow, Tennessee, on April 12, 1864, troopers under Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest quickly defeated its Federal defenders. Fierce fighting left 204 out of 262 black soldiers dead or so badly wounded that they were not taken prisoner. Testimony from Federal survivors strongly supported charges of a deliberate massacre. When General Forrest demanded surrender from Maj.William F. Bradford he refused, so confederates stormed the works. Forrest reported that 14 of his men were killed, and 86 were wounded. Among defenders of the Fort 100 were wounded and 255 were killed and equal number were captured. Of the 262 blacks who were engaged, less than 60 were taken prisoner. Led by Benjiman F. Wade, members of the Committee on the Conduct of the War conducted a formal investigation. Some of the testimony they gathered is suspect; as early as the aftermath of First Bull Run, the same committee published atrocity reports that have never been substantiated. Regardless of where the truth lies, there is little doubt that the action of Confederates at Fort Pillow can be branded as "uncivilized." Whether there was concerted action leading to planned mass murder remains an open question......
He was not amused when he learned the identity of a civilian taken prisioner at Holly Springs, Miss. in December of 1862. Because Forrest was barely able to scribble a few common words, no written record of his order has survived. His oral command probably was brief and to the point: "Pass that woman through the lines and waste no time!" His captive, Julia Grant, is believed to have been the only wife of a Union Major General to be taken prisoner by a Confederate force.
Last words:"Call my Wife" shortly thereafter he died from complications due to diabetes.He is buried at Forrest Park,in Memphis, Tennessee.