April 2002


Nathan Bedford Forrest's paternal grandparents, had originally moved from Virginia, before the Revolution, to North Carolina. His parents, William and Marian Beck Forrest, then moved on to Bedford County, TN where Nathan was born on July 13, 1821. When Nathan was just 13 years old (1834), his father packed the family up and moved to Mississippi. Just three years later, William died, leaving Nathan to care for his mother and several siblings.

Although he had no school training, he provided handsomely for the family, first working as a laborer. He then became involved as a cattle and horse trader and yes, he was even a slave trader. Although, not an unusual profession at the time, it has been said he never split a family and did not, knowingly sell slaves to cruel masters. In an address by General J. R. Chalmers* in 1879, it stated that prior to the Civil War, Nathan owned a large plantation, making about 1,000 bales of cotton per year.

Forrest married Mary Ann Montgomery on April 25, 1845, and they had two children; a son, William Montgomery Bedford. The "William" probably being after Nathan's father and "Montgomery" being Mary Ann's maiden name. Then there was a daughter, Frances/Fannie/Fanny who, in checking out some of the GEDCOMS and other information, seems to have been named after who appears to be a twin sister to Nathan Bedford Forrest although I haven't been able to find out much about her.

I read that Nathan asked his own slaves (he preferred to call them servants) to join him in the war, offering to free them no matter what the outcome was. Forty-five joined him, and while there were many chances for them to desert him, they didn't. They remained with him until the war ended.

Forrest enlisted in the Confederate Army in June of 1861. Soon after, he obtained the authority to raise a regiment of Cavalry, purchasing all the equipment they needed at his own expense. He was promoted to Lt. Col. of the regiment.

During the war, Forrest was wounded numerous times and had many horses shot out from under him. He also had the reputation of winning the engagements he participated in. I won't go into his activities during the war. You may read about those in many of the books available and at: 
http://www.civilwarhome.com/forrestcampaigns.htm  Just three months before he "laid down his arms," he was promoted to lieutenant-general. You can read his Farewell speech to his troops on May 9, 1865 at: http://billslater.com/nbf_bye.htm
After the Civil War, Forrest went back to planting cotton and became involved in railroad building. He was president of the Selma, Marion and Memphis railroad. He joined and became the first and most powerful Grand Master of the Klu Klux Klan. He later left the Klan as he felt it had become too violent. 

Nathan Bedford Forrest, "Wizard of the Saddle," died in Memphis TN, October 29, 1877 and is buried in Forrest Park, Memphis, TN 

*General Chalmers, coming out of college became a lawyer and had gone into politics. In Mar 1861 he was commission Captain CSA. He was with Forrest at Ft. Pillow, fought in northern Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky and in the Franklin and Nashville campaign. In Feb of '65 he took command of all the cavalry in Mississippi and West Tennessee. After the war he went to Washington as a Democratic legislator and was eventually sent to Congress. There were several disputes over his right to be seated in the Congress. 

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