Forrest Is Innocent

Mr Broden, Mr Disser, and MTSUAROTC,


My name is Billy Bearden, and while not a student nor alumni of Middle
Tennessee, I am a student of history, and member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. I write you today because I have read via the internet that a very small group of students desire the name of America’s greatest cavalry leaders be removed from the ROTC building.

It is my understanding that Amber Perkins, Sociology Major from Nashville, and one time Vice President of the MTSU African American Student Association, has gathered a small petition of 205 signatures and presented it and some research to SGA Senator Mr Steve Disser, who penned a resolution for Forrest’s name removal, which was passed by a 19 – 5 vote.

According to the story, Mr Disser took for granted the information handed him and ran with it, because "…I had the responsibility to represent the students…"

Hopefully we would all agree that factual history and a complete education are more important than emotional activism, which is what this ‘controversy’ seems to be based upon.

I further understand that the ROTC will be honoring American Veterans this Saturday, Nov 25th. I salute them for doing this, as my father was a WWII, Korea and Viet Nam Veteran and very much appreciate and respect the Soldiers of this country and their sacrifices.

Those in the military will appreciate the fact that in the 1950’s the United States Congress passed numerous laws granting full and equal rights and privledges then enjoyed by Union Veterans to all Confederate Veterans, and that today, every Veteran, US or Confederate, are, in the eyes of the law, United States Veterans. I certainly do not appreciate anyone who would disrespect any Veteran, especially to further some liberal agenda.

The link supplied by Mr. Broder in his story to attempt to back up Miss Perkin’s opinion was without much authority, and the writer was unsure of a lot of his information, or just talked in generalities. Below are the facts about Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his so called connection to the KKK. I would request this information be made public to the Student Government Association members, University Administration, readers and followers of the name change story thru Mr Broder, members of the MTSU Army ROTC, and to Amber Perkins and her 205 co-signers. Additionally, I would ask the name of Forrest be retained on the ROTC building for posterity.

Thank you and God Bless
Billy Bearden
790 Harrison Road
Carrollton Ga 30117

" The KKK was founded in Dec. 1865 by 6 former Confederate officers; Captain John C. Lester, Major James R. Crowe, John D. Kennedy, Calvin Jones, Richard R. Reed, & Frank O. McCord. Kennedy, Lester and Reed were from the CSA 3rd TN Infantry. They put it together in the back room of J. Calvin Jones’ father’s law office in Pulaski , TN.

The six young men organized as a social club or fraternity and spent their time in horseplay of various types, including wearing disguises and galloping about town after dark. They were surprised to learn that their nightly appearances were causing fear, particularly among former slaves in the area. They quickly took advantage of this effect and the group began a rapid expansion. Various factions formed in different towns, which led to a meeting in April 1867 to codify rules and organizational structure.

On August 28, 1868, in the Cincinnati Commercial, Lt General Forrest was interviewed to get his "…views in regard to the condition of your civil and political affairs in the State of Tennessee, and the South generally…" The following back and forth is between the reporter and Forrest. The reporter begins asking Forrest about the Klan.

"Why, General, we people up north have regarded the Ku-Klux as an organization which existed only in the frightened imagination of a few politicians"

"Well, sir, there is such an organization, not only in Tennessee, but all over the South, and its numbers have not been exaggerated."

"What are its numbers, general?"

"In Tennessee there are over 40,000; in all the Southern states they number about 550,000 men."

"What is the character of the organization; May I inquire?"

"Yes, sir. It is a protective political military organization. I am willing to show any man the constitution of the society. The members are sworn to recognize the government of the United States. It does not say anything at all about the government of Tennessee. Its objects originally were protection against Loyal Leagues and the Grand Army of the Republic; but after it became general it was found that political matters and interests could best be promoted within it, and it was then made a political organization, giving its support, of course, to the Democratic party."

"Do you think, general, that the Ku-Klux have been of any benefit to the State?"

"No doubt of it. Since its organization, the leagues have quit killing and murdering our people. There were some foolish young men who put masks on their faces and rode over the country, frightening negroes, but orders have been issued to stop that, and it has ceased. You may say, further, that three members of the Ku-Klux have been court-martialed and shot for violations of the orders not to disturb or molest people."

"Are you a member of the Ku-Klux, general?"

"I am not, but am in sympathy and will co-operate with them. I know that they are charged with many crimes that they are not guilty of. A case in point is the killing of Bierfield at Franklin, a few days ago. I sent a man up there especially to investigate the case, and report to me, and I have his letter here now, in which he states that they had nothing to do with it as an organization."

"Then I suppose that there can be no doubt of a conflict if the militia interfere with the people; is that your view?"

"Yes, sir; if they attempt to carry out Governor Brownlow’s proclamation, by shooting down Ku-Klux – for he calls all Southern men Ku-Klux – if they go to hunting down and shooting these men, there will be war, and a bloodier one than we have ever witnessed. I have told these radicals here what they might expect in such an event. I have no power to burn or kill negroes. I intend to kill the radicals. I have told them this and more, there is not a radical leader in this town but is a marked man, and if a trouble should break out, none of them would be left alive. I have told them that they are trying to create a disturbance and then slip out and leave the consequences to fall upon the negroes, but they can’t do it. When the fight comes not one of them would get out of this town asaying it was "being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace"live. We don’t intend they shall ever get out of the country. But I want it distinctly understood that I am opposed to any war, and will only fight in self-defence."

The Klan’s increasing reputation for violence led the more prominent citizens to drop out while criminals and the dispossessed began to fill the ranks. Local chapters proved difficult, if not impossible, to monitor and direct. In disgust in January 1869, Forrest used his public notoriety to call for the disbanding of the organization, saying it was "being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace" and the vast majority of local groups followed his lead. a small number of local units continued to operate but were eventually disbanded or sent into hiding by federal troops.

In 1871 William Tecumseh Sherman chaired the 42nd U.S. Congressional Committee Investigation into the KKK and it’s activities. Among the former Confederate officers investigated and interviewed was N.B. Forrest since his name was used in forming and recruiting the original Klan.

Sherman was never a friend or ally of Forrest "Forrest is the very devil", Union General William T. Sherman wrote Secretary of War Stanton on June 15th, 1864. " If we must sacrifice 10,000 lives and bankrupt the Federal Treasury, it will be worth it. There will never be peace in Tennessee till Forrest is dead.." Sherman was also noted to have stated before the investigation convened that, "We are here to investigate Forrest, charge Forrest, try Forrest and hang Forrest."

When the Congressional Committee completed its investigation ( including a revisiting of the alleged "Ft. Pillow Massacre" ) and concluded that while Forrest’s name had been used in forming the Klan that it was done without his permission and that his only activities related to the Klan were his public efforts to compel it to disband. "

Return to the E-mails Archives