Nathan Bedford Forrest

Lieutenant General

Monument: Find-a-Grave

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Reference: Alabama Department of Archives & History. Custodian of the original pictures. Confederate Officers photo album.

Nathan Bedford Forrest was born in Bedford County, Tennessee, on July 13, 1821. A self-made man with little formal education, he had acquired by the time of the war a substantial fortune as a planter and slave dealer. He enlisted as a private in the 7th Tennessee Cavalry and raised and equipped at his own expense a battalion of mounted troops, of which he was elected lieutenant colonel in October 1861. Taking part in the defense of Fort Donelson, he asked and received permission to lead out his men before the surrender. He was elected colonel of the 3rd Tennessee just before Shiloh, and two months later, in June, assumed command of a cavalry brigade in the Army of Tennessee. The next month he captured the Union garrison with its stores at Murfreesboro, and on July 21, 1862 he was promoted brigadier. With a fresh command he succeeded in severing Grant's communications in West Tennessee in December, and in May 1863 saved the railroad between Chattanooga and Atlanta. He took part in the Chattanooga campaign, until a quarrel with General Bragg led him to ask for and receive from President Davis an independent command in North Mississippi and West Tennessee. He was promoted major general, December 4, 1863. By this time his fame as a leader of cavalry had become almost legendary, and his exploits went unabated till the end of the war. In April 1864 he captured Fort Pillow; in June he brilliantly routed a superior force at Brices Cross Roads; and the following month he stood off General A. J. Smith at Tupelo. These lightning blows of Forrest's caused Sherman some alarm for the safety of his communications. In November and December 1864 he served under Hood in the Tennessee campaign and was in command of all cavalry. He was promoted lieutenant general to rank from February 28, 1865. General Forrest was finally overwhelmed by greatly superior forces at Selma, Alabama, in April 1865. After the close of hostilities he was again a planter and was for some years president of the Selma, Marion & Memphis Railroad, which he helped to promote. He died, probably of diabetes, at Memphis on October 29, 1877, and is buried there.

Ref: Generals in Gray, Lives of the Confederate Commanders by Ezra J. Warner.  Printed by Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge and London.