Nathan Bedford Forrest
Nathan Bedford Forrest "The Wizard Of The Saddle” His tactics on the battlefield are still studied by military academies today
“I wish none but those who desire to be actively engaged. Come on boys, if you want a heap of fun and to kill some yankees”
- 29 horses shot from under him, killed or seriously wounded at least thirty enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, and had been himself wounded four times.
- In the motion picture Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks’s character Forrest Gump states that he was named after a “General Forrest”
- Forrest’s victory at Brice’s Cross Roads became the subject of a class taught at the French War College by Marshal Ferdinand Foch before World War I.
- His mobile campaigns were studied by the German general Erwin Rommel, who as commander of the Afrika Korps in World War II, emulated his tactics on a wider scale, with tanks and trucks.
Not only did he lack formal military training, but had very little formal education in his youth. Forrest was the eldest, and the head of seven brothers and three sisters. His father, a blacksmith, died while Forrest was still a young man, necessitating that he forego a formal education and help to raise the family. As a young business man, Forrest overcame his lack of schooling, entering the war as a private with an estimated wealth of a million and a half. During the war, he was an avid reader, scanning the newspapers daily to keep abreast of military information.
Years after the war, General Sherman said, "I think Forrest was the most remarkable man the civil war produced on either side. His opponents were professional soldiers, while he had no military training. He was never taught tactics yet he had a genius for strategy that was original and to me incomprehensible. I couldn’t calculate what he was up to, yet he always knew my intentions."
His lack of education became most noticeable in his poor spelling and punctuation of personally written dispatches and reports. The words such as “skeer,” “git” and “thar” were some examples. Described as urbane and polished in his mannerisms, most of the grammatical distortions in his speech were products of his staff officers and their leg-pulling tales of Forrest. However, in anger or excitement, his no nonsense approach to the English language would become evident. Once, having received a soldier’s repeated request for leave, Forrest responded in writing: “I have told you twict goddamit No!”
He continued to be surrounded by controversy for the remainder of his life. He continued to be active in civic and political events until his health declined prior to his death. On May 14, 1875 he presence was conspicuous at a reunion of the Seventh Cavalry in Covington. Requested to make a speech, he did so from horseback. “…Comrades, through the years of bloodshed and weary marches you were tried and true soldiers. So through the years of peace you have been good citizens, and now that we are again united under the old flag, I love it as I did in the days of my youth, and I feel sure that you love it also….It has been thought by some that our social reunions were wrong, and that they would be heralded to the North as an evidence that we were again ready to break out into civil war. But I think that they are right and proper, and we will show our countrymen by our conduct and dignity that brave soldiers are always good citizens and law-abiding and loyal people.”
Colorized photo by Stacey Palmer thecivilwarparlor tumblr.com