Berating General Forrest
The news of your gross misrepresentation of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was forwarded to me. Sir, I did not personally hear your comments but I understand you compared Forrest to Castro. The one common denominator of all who berate, disparage, and condemn the Confederacy and Confederate heroes is ignorance. That is understandable because people who do such have only been taught Northern propaganda in America’s schools. Your ignorance is not your fault but now that this has been called to your attention the honorable thing to do is apologize to your radio audience many of whom are likely descendants of honorable Confederate veterans.
Posted below are facts about Forrest which are withheld from American History books. He has been the subject of a smear campaign that started in 1864 prior to Lincoln’s reelection and continues to this day as evidenced by your misrepresentation of Forrest.
James W. King
Commander Camp 141
Sons of Confederate Veterans
Black History Myth of the Day: Battle of Fort Pillow
by Kyle Rogers
The alleged “Massacre at Fort Pillow” was nothing more than election propaganda to ensure that Abraham Lincoln wasn’t defeated in the bitter election of 1864.
Photo Right: Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. One of the most inventive and successful Generals in world history. Today Forrest is studied in military academies worldwide. Both Gen. Patton and Gen. Erwin Rommel, the top two Generals in WWII, were avid fans of Forrest. The exploits of Gen. Forrest became so famous that he was treated like a modern Hollywood celebrity in both the North and the South after the war. When it comes to the Afro-mythologists, no one is more viciously slandered than our great Confederate heroes.
The most vicious slander against Forrest, that is being repeated more and more frequently, is that he ordered the killing of surrendering black soldiers at Fort Pillow.
Nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, Gen. Forrest was well known among the Union army for the generosity he showed to captured Union troops. Forrest spent the entire war capturing large numbers of Union troops. Usually they were immediately paroled for the prisoner exchange program. It was recorded by many Confederate and Union soldier alike, that Forrest often received applause and shouts of glee from Union captives when they were read their terms.
In April of 1864, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest led 1,500 troopers to Fort Pillow along the Mississippi River. The fort was ripe for plundering with only 557 defenders, 262 of them a Negro militia regiment. Forrest rode up to the fort with a white flag of truce to negotiate a peaceful surrender of the fort.
As soon as Forrest reached the fort, a Union soldier shot at him killing his horse. This violated the rules of engagement under a flag of truce. It wouldn’t be the first time. As Forrest tried repeatedly to get the fort inhabitants to surrender, a second horse was killed and a third badly injured.
By this time Forrest was badly injured himself, from having been thrown from three horses. Forrest had to be taken to the back of the lines. Even then Confederates returned under a flag of truce and delivered a note stating that the fort would be “easily taken” with minimum loss to the Confederates. Confederates informed the inhabitants of the fort that they would all receive Forrest’s gracious treatment as prisoners of war.
The entire time, black Union troops had been yelling taunts and profanities at the Confederates egging them on. However, Forrest thought that the white officers would come to their senses and surrender. Forrest was used to intimidating Union forts into surrendering with little or no fight.
The 557 Yankees still did not surrender. Knowing that three steamships were coming down the Mississippi with re-enforcements, the Yankees sent notes back to Forrest begging for more time to think about it. Forrest, however, had already positioned troops to block the steamboats from landing.
Finally the charge was sounded. Forrest’s troops easily stormed the fort. 14 Confederate were killed and 86 wounded. Both of the fort’s commanders died. Of the 557 Union troops, 228 were taken prisoner and marched away. At least 32 wounded Yankees were allowed to remain at the fort’s hospital under the care of Union doctors.
The rest of the Yankee troops either died, drowned in the Mississippi, or went AWOL. When Confederates stormed the fort, only the white troops held their ground. Just like numerous other battles, the black troops immediately broke ranks and went into a panic. Many fled out the back of the fort and began jumping in the Mississippi River. It is presumed that some drowned and some went AWOL.
A short time later, during a truce, the 228 Union prisoners of war (both black and white) were paroled and turned over to the Union army safe and sound.
Forrest was still nursing his wounds from earlier in the day and was not in the assault.
With Abraham Lincoln facing election defeat, he needed a new source of propaganda to vilify the South. When Lincoln got word of yet another humiliating Union defeat at the hands of Forrest, he ordered a committee of pro-Lincoln Congressmen to investigate the battle. It was determined that it would be good for Lincoln’s campaign if it was said that Forrest was standing on the front lines ordering his troops to kill members of the Negro regiment who were trying to surrender.
Over 100 eyewitness accounts were collected by the committee operating in Cairo, IL. Almost all were thrown out because they did not support what the pro-Lincoln committee wanted. Even officers of the Negro regiment at Fort Pillow said that there was never an attempt to surrender to the Confederates.
The entire battle was over in less than twenty minutes. With stunning athleticism, the Confederates had formed human ladders to breach the earthworks. Within minutes, nearly 1,000 Confederates were inside the fort and half the defenders were dead or wounded. Much of the Negro regiment immediately broke and fled out the opposite side of the fort the instant Confederates poured in. This caused a stampede and crippled the entire Union defense. The same thing happened at Fredericksburg, only on a much larger scale.
A completely libelous and outlandish report was drawn up and 40,000 copies were printed for distribution.
The report declared that the Confederates, not the Union, had repeatedly violated the flag of truce at Fort Pillow. The report then claims that Confederates chanted “no quarter” and “black flag” as they stormed the fort. Then Forrest himself orders the troops to slaughter members of the Negro regiment. None of these claims are even remotely supported by the facts.
Today Forrest remains one of the greatest heroes of the South. He was a self-made man, who accumulated a fortune from real estate and selling horses. When the Civil War was about to start, he was commissioned as a colonel. Using his own personal fortune he bought state of the art pistols and equipment for his original 600 man cavalry unit at his own expense.
Forrest’s tactics and training were so overwhelmingly effective, that the Confederacy repeatedly changed his command so he would have all different troopers. The Confederacy knew that he would whip each new batch into an elite force.
Forrest Post-War Civil Rights Advocate For Blacks
"On July 5, 1875, Forrest became the first white man to speak to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association, a civil rights group whose members were freedmen. In his short speech, he stated blacks had the right to vote for any candidates they wanted and that the role of blacks should be elevated. He ended the speech by kissing the cheek of one of the daughters of one of the Pole-Bearer Memphis Appeal members, evinces Forrest’s racial open-mindedness that seemed to have been growing in him. As reported in the contemporary pages of the Memphis Appeal.
"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.
(Applause.) 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.)"
Forrest Statement-Will Rogers Quote
To: Will–Radio Sports Commentator email@example.com
Reference: Comparison Of N.B. Forrest To Fidel Castro
Concerning your remarks about Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, this quote by cowboy entertainer Will Rogers from the early 1900’s fits your situation: "In America it’s not so much what people don’t know but rather what they do know that just ain’t so".
James W. King
Commander- Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 141
Editor’s note: Will Askew just called in to his radio show (he’s off because his wife had a baby yesterday). He mentioned the many emails he got about his reference to Gen. Forrest. The comments can be heard on iTunes podcasts (WHBQ and then the show: The Morning Rush). It’s in the last 30 minutes of hour 2. The original remarks can also be heard iTunes. It’s in the last 15 minutes of the second hour April 12. Thanks to all who wrote.