Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography

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9780394551890: Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography

Amid the aristocratic ranks of the Confederate cavalry, Nathan Bedford Forrest was untutored, all but unlettered, and regarded as no more than a guerrilla. His tactic was the headlong charge, mounted with such swiftness and ferocity that General Sherman called him a "devil" who should "be hunted down and killed if it costs 10,000 lives and bankrupts the treasury." And in a war in which officers prided themselves on their decorum, Forrest habitually issued surrender-or-die ultimatums to the enemy and often intimidated his own superiors. After being in command at the notorious Fort Pillow Massacre, he went on to haunt the South as the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Now this epic figure is restored to human dimensions in an exemplary biography that puts both Forrest's genius and his savagery into the context of his time, chronicling his rise from frontiersman to slave trader, private to lieutenant general, Klansman to -- eventually -- New South businessman and racial moderate. Unflinching in its analysis and with extensive new research, Nathan Bedford Forrest is an invaluable and immensely readable addition to the literature of the Civil War.
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Review:

Nathan Bedford Forrest was the only soldier to rise from the rank of private to general during the U.S. Civil War. At once "a soft-spoken gentleman of marked placidity and an overbearing bully of homicidal wrath," Forrest is best remembered for the combination of brilliant military leadership and flamboyant bravery that drove his Confederate cavalry troops from victory to victory on the battlefield. His subordinates feared him (he shot those who turned tail), as did his enemies (he rarely lost a fight). General Sherman once said that Forrest must be "hunted down and killed if it costs 10,000 lives and bankrupts the [national] treasury." Detractors point out that Forrest never has been exonerated from the Fort Pillow massacre, in which many Union soldiers, most of them black, were slaughtered after attempting to surrender. Following the war, he went on to found the Ku Klux Klan. Late in life, however, Forrest disavowed racial hatred and called for black political advancement. Author Jack Hurst has written the essential biography of a complex and compelling man who was arguably the Civil War's most remarkable soldier. (Movie trivia: Forrest Gump's mother named her son after this general.)

About the Author:

JACK HURST is a former journalist who has written for newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Tennessean. A descendant of both Union and Confederate military officers, he lives with his wife outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

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