Monday, July 09, 2012
191st Birthday Tribute to General Forrest
By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.,
Speaker, Writer of Historical Essays, Author of book “When America Stood for God, Family and Country” and Chairman of the Confederate History and Heritage Month Committee for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. http://confederateheritagemonth.com/heritage/2011/entry.php
Please share this story with teachers, students, historians, church members, librarians, civic groups, Civil Rights groups and all who love American history and wish to hear both sides of a story. This should especially be shared with the young people of different races and backgrounds and people throughout the world.
Nelson W. Winbush, a Black and respected member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, as a child accompanied his grandfather Louis Napoleon Nelson to United Confederate Veteran Reunions. Private Nelson was a Black Confederate who saw service during the War Between the States Battles of Shiloh, Lookout Mountain, Brice’s Crossroads and Vicksburg–as a soldier and served as chaplain in the 7th Tennessee Cavalry, under Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
It should be also noted that after the War Between the States, Bedford Forrest returned home with the ‘free’ black men who fought with him. Sixty-five black troopers were with the General when he surrendered his command in May 1865. Forrest said of these black soldiers, "No finer Confederates ever fought.”
In 2011, a Memorial was held at Forrest Park in Memphis, Tennessee commemorating the 106th anniversary of the dedication of the Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest statue where Forrest and his wife are buried. The headline of a news story reads:
Memphis: Forrest: A Confederate figure who still divides,
And the first paragraph begins the story with, “Gray-uniformed soldier re-enactors fired long-barreled muskets in salute and United Daughters of the Confederacy in ankle-length dresses set wreaths before the towering statue of Nathan Bedford Forest in Memphis, paying tribute to a Confederate cavalryman whose exploits still divide Americans today.”
Some people believe Forrest to have been a controversial Confederate Cavalry Officer but by definition the word “controversial” can refer to anyone or anything some folks don’t understand. Some people disapprove of the sex, violence or excessive language in some Hollywood movies but movies are seldom referred to as controversial. The word controversial however is often used to describe some American and World Leaders and events of the past and present but this apparently doesn’t apply to those who are “PC” Politically Correct in their reasoning and actions.
Why do some people criticize men like General Nathan Bedford Forrest, General Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis who stood honorably for the Southern cause of Independence, 1861-1865? The men and women of the Old South believed they were standing for the same principles as did their Fathers and Grandfathers during the American Revolution of 1776!
Why is the Confederate Battle flag, the banner of many brave soldiers, also under attack?
There is much written about the War Between the States but very little about the relentless and unprecedented destruction suffered by the civilians of a free and sovereign nation, the Confederate States of America. There also seems today to be complacency about the history of the destruction of the American-Indian and his way of life. Do you know which Union Commander said “the only good Indian is a dead Indian?”…Or is this too un-politically correct or controversial a topic to discuss with our young people?
Union Gen. William T. Sherman said of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest,
"After all, I think Forrest as the most remarkable man our ‘Civil War’ produced on either side."
This came from a man who was once a foe of Forrest on the field of battle.
Nathan Bedford was born on July 13, 1821, in Chapel Hill, Tennessee.
Some folks continue to criticize General Forrest for leading the first Ku Klux Klan. It is however written that Forrest denied this and more importantly was responsible for disbanding the Klan after only two years of operation, but….
What about the original Ku Klux Klan?
The original Klan was formed during the dark days of the so-called reconstruction period that lasted from the end of the War Between the States in 1865 until 1870. During this time the South went through a relentless-merciless Carpetbagger rule where Southerners had no vote or say and could not defend themselves. Black and White women of all classes were not safe on the streets. Southern People were not even allowed to hold memorial services for their war dead, display the Confederate flag or criticize the Commanders of the occupying Yankee forces.
And some criticize General Forrest for the March 16, 1864, so-called massacre during the War Between the States “Battle of Fort Pillow”, but he was exonerated by Northern officials of wrong doing. This was during a time when the Confederate President Jefferson Davis served two years in prison and some wanted to put him on trial and hang him for treason. Cooler heads seemed to prevail however as some felt this might have more legitimized the late cause of the Southern Confederacy. Confederate Captain Henry Wirz however was hung for so-called war crimes as Commandant of Andersonville Prison and some wanted the same punishment for Gen. Robert E. Lee and other political and military leaders of Dixie.
Why have we forgotten or just never knew about a dark episode of the nation’s history where Mary Surratt, a Southerner, was the first woman ever hung on July 7, 1865? She was among those who were found guilty in the so-called conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln however she continued to deny her involvement. Forrest might have been given the same punishment with the attitude in post-war Washington, D.C.
Some people have called General Forrest an early advocate for Civil Rights.
Forrest’s speech during a meeting of the "Jubilee of Pole Bearers" is a story that should be told. Gen. Forrest was the first white man to be invited by this group which was a forerunner of today’s Civil Rights group. A reporter of the Memphis Avalanche newspaper was sent to cover the event that included a Southern barbeque supper.
Miss Lou Lewis, daughter of a Pole Bearer member, was introduced to Forrest and she presented the former general a bouquet of flowers as a token of reconciliation, peace and good will. On July 5, 1875, Nathan Bedford Forrest delivered this speech:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the Southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man, to depress none.
I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand." (Prolonged applause.)
End of speech.
Nathan Bedford Forrest again thanked Miss Lewis for the bouquet and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. Such a kiss was unheard of in the society of those days, in 1875, but it showed a token of respect and friendship between the general and the black community and did much to promote harmony among the citizens of Memphis.
This year, 2012, is the 107th anniversary of the dedication of a General Forrest Statue in Memphis, Tennessee.
In the year of our Lord 1887, efforts were begun to raise the necessary funds to erect a statue to honor Forrest. In 1891, The "Forrest Monument Association" was formed in Memphis. The ladies Auxiliary was formed to help this committee and the United Confederate Veterans helped to raise money. Politician and business folks were the backbone of this committee. The "Who’s-Who" of Memphis served on that committee.
The price of the statue to General Forrest was the huge sum of $32,359.53. It should be noted that the ladies auxiliary worked hard to raise $3,000, which was a great deal of money in those days.
In 1901, during the United Confederate Veterans convention in Memphis, the cornerstone of the monument was dedicated. During August of that year Charles H. Nichaus was given the contract to build a bronze casting of the statue. The statue was produced in Paris, France and was shipped to New York, then to Savannah, Georgia, and finally by rail to Memphis, Tennessee.
In 1904, the son of General Forrest, Captain William Montgomery Forrest gave the Forrest Monument Association permission to re-inter the remains of his father Nathan and mother Mary at Forrest Park where the statue would be dedicated the following year.
There was a full moon on Monday, May 15, and on Tuesday, May 16, 1905, over 30,000 people congregated at Forrest Park in Memphis to take part in the statue dedication. The memorial began at 2:30PM with many speeches of tribute to the general and was finalized with General Forrest’s granddaughter pulling the cord that unveiled the larger than life statue. This was preceded by the reverent playing of everyone’s favorite song from North and South "Dixie"
Wonderful words are inscribed on the Forrest monument that was written by Mrs. Virginia Frazer Boyer, "Those hoof beats upon crimson’s sod, but will ring through her song and her story; He fought like a Titan and struck like a god, and his dust is our ashes of glory.”
The War Between the States Sesquicentennial, 150th Anniversary, runs 2011 through 2015. The Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans joins the nation in remembering this historic time in our nation’s history. See information at: http://www.150wbts.org/
God Bless America and Have a Dixie Day!