- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2000

Nathan Bedford Forrest was really a Tennessee state hero

Although I agree with Philip Christenson's sentiments regarding the Democrats' shameless exploitation of race and their double standards, his characterization of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest is disingenuous ("State hero of Tennessee?" Op-Ed, March 2). Although it makes good copy to say Tennessee erected monuments to Forrest because he supposedly founded the Ku Klux Klan, the real reason was his military exploits.

At a time when the Army of Tennessee had been all but driven out of the state, the "wizard of the saddle" and his small cavalry force were the main succor of civilians under military occupation. He is generally acknowledged to have been the finest cavalry commander ever produced by America. As an independent commander, he was never defeated until the final days of the war, even though he was always outnumbered. The Battle of Brice's Crossroads is still studied as a model of how a small force can defeat a much larger enemy. Finally, although he had no formal military training, he came up with the most succinct military maxim expressed in America: "Get there furstest with the mostest."




Mr. Christenson is correct in pointing out that Nathan Bedford Forrest was a slave owner before the Civil War and was a founder of the Ku Klux Klan. What Mr. Christenson fails to mention, however, is that Forrest freed all of his own slaves and that he later repudiated the Klan.

The real reason Forrest is held in such high esteem in his native Tennessee is because of his wartime exploits against the Union Army. Not only that, his campaigns are studied at West Point. My great-grandfather and his brother served under Forrest. They never owned any slaves, nor did they belong to the Klan. They fought for their families and homes against Northern aggression. Forrest led them brilliantly in that fight.


Brunswick, Md.

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