The Equestrian Statue of General Nathan Bedford Forrest
“In Forrest Park, Memphis, Tennessee, surrounded by fifteen thousand spectators, at 2:30PM on May 16  little Miss Kathleen Bradley pulled the cord that released the veil from the magnificent equestrian statue of her illustrious great- grandfather, Lieutenant-General Nathan Bedford Forrest.
There was momentary silence as the imposing grandeur of this colossal bronze figure of the great “Wizard of the Saddle” and his steed met the gaze of the expectant crowd, then a wild cheer broke from hundreds of his old surviving followers clustered around the base and was enthusiastically taken up by the vast multitude.
The idea of erecting a monument to General Forrest was first projected in 1886, but it was not until 1891 that it took definite shape and a monument association was organized for this purpose. On November 18, 1900, the design was accepted and the order was given to the sculptor, Charles H. Niehaus. The designer of the base was Mr. B.C. Alsup, and it is built of Tennessee marble. The statue, which was made in Europe, arrived in Memphis on April 16, and was placed on its base a day or two later.
The unveiling of the monument was attended with elaborate ceremonies. In the big parade were most of the surviving staff officers of General Forrest, his general officers, and many of his old veterans who rode with him from 1861 to 1865.
Judge J.P. Young, who was one of Forrest’s old troopers, was master of ceremonies. In the opening proceedings he said in part:
“No one who did not ride with Forrest can have so keen an appreciation of the personal qualities of the man as those who were actually under his direct command, and who, from daily, hourly observation, witnessed his fertility of resource, his vehemence in battle, and his soulful tenderness toward the stricken soldier, whether friend or foe.
But it was no holiday parade. It cost something to ride with Forrest. It meant days and nights of sleepless toil and motion. It meant countless miles under a burning sun in the choking dust. It meant limitless leagues across icy wastes, with a blanket of snow at night for a covering. It meant to run down and destroy miles of freighted supply trains, to burn depots of stores, to scale the parapets of redoubts, and to plunge, mounted, into the seeming vortex of hell, lighted with the fires of a myriad rifles and scores of belching guns.
It meant to meet death face to face like a drillmaster, to look into his dread eyes, to toy with the horrid trappings of his trade, to scorn the daily chill of his breath, and to turn away unscathed or sink into the oblivion of his eternal embrace.”
Of the many eloquent tributes paid to the great soldier that day, one of the most significant was that spoken by Colonel C.A. Stanton, of the Third Iowa Cavalry, 1861-1865, who for two years was directly opposed to General Forrest. He realized Forrest’s methods of war at Brice’s Cross Roads, Ripley. Harrisburg, Old Town Creek, Tallahatchie, and Hurricane Creek.
The spectacle of an officer who had fought in the Federal army delivering an address at the unveiling of a Confederate monument was an interesting one, and when Colonel Stanton was introduced the applause was most generous. Colonel Stanton said in part:
“General Forrest possessed the characteristic traits of the successful soldier; his personal bravery was without limit; his resources seemed to be endless; and his decisions, like Napoleon’s, were instantaneous; he was aggressive, masterful, resolute, and self-reliant in the most perilous emergency; he was comprehensive in his grasp of every situation, supremely confident in himself and his men, and inspired by his presence and example his soldiers fought as desperately as did Hannibal’s fierce cavalry at Canne or the trained veterans of Caesar’s Tenth Legion at Pharsalia.
I think the battle at Brice’s Cross Roads in June, 1864, was one of the best illustrations of General Forrest’s daring courage, his ability in a critical moment to decide swiftly, his relentless vigor of action, and his intuitive perception of the time and place to strike fierce, stunning blows which fell like thunderbolts upon his enemy and won for him in this battle an overwhelming victory over an opposing force which greatly outnumbered his command.
Impartial history has given General Forrest high rank as one of the greatest cavalry leaders of modern times. No American, North or South, now seeks to lessen the measure of his fame, and no one can speak of him without remembrance of the men who served with him and whose soldierly qualities made it possible for him to win his wonderful victories.
This monument is history in bronze; it illustrates an eventful era in our national history; it commemorates General Forrest’s fame and it represents all the gallant soldiers of his command; it attests the splendid courage which won triumphant victories and did not fail when reverses came; it stands for heroic deeds which are now the proud heritage of all American citizens.
It is eminently fitting that this figure should stand here within the borders of the Volunteer States, whose soldiers have marched and fought “from valley’s depth to mountain height and from inland rivers to the sea,” in every war in the history of our republic, with a valor which has helped to make the name and fame of the American soldier immortal.”
(Historic Southern Monuments: Representative Memorials of the Heroic Dead of the Southern Confederacy, B. A.C. Emerson, The Neale Publishing Company, 1911, pp. 313-318)
Equestrian Statue Of Forrest
The Equestrian Statue of General Nathan Bedford Forrest