Regarding N.B. Forrest High School, Steven Stoll and factual history…

From: colonel@37thtexas.org

Mr. Stoll has motivated his students to petition that the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest be removed from a school in your district.

He has justified this position by asking, "Why honor someone who founded the Ku Klux Klan?" This is the first statement that reveals that Mr. Stoll is indoctrinating his students with personal opinion and that he does not base his position on documented historical fact.

In 1871 William Tecumseh Sherman chaired a Congressional investigation into the KKK and its 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 and was noted to have stated before the investigation convened that, "We are here to investigate Forrest, charge Forrest, try Forrest and hang Forrest."

The Congressional committee competed 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 likely done without his permission and that his only activities related to the Klan were his persistent and public efforts to compel it to disband. They concluded he was not "…someone who founded the Ku Klux Klan."

That is factual history, not personal opinion or ill-informed emoting.

The Congressional investigation also found that there was no evidence of a "massacre" at Ft. Pillow with "isolated incidents along the riverbank" which Forrest stopped as soon as he arrived on-scene. The Federal Official Records document that a Union Lieutenant set fire to Union barracks with wounded Union soldiers inside. Forrest transferred 14 severely wounded United States Colored Troops to the U.S. Steamer Silver Cloud – hardly the act of someone having committed a "massacre."

Mr. Stoll further stated that, "We’re talking about somebody who was very, very racist." History proves that this statement of Mr. Stoll’s is also a personal opinion rather than based in fact. If Mr. Stoll was a historian rather than a sociologist he might have been more grounded in research rather than emotion.

"Forty-five of Forrest’s own slaves, indeed served through the war with him as teamsters. ‘I said to forty-five colored fellows on my plantation…’ Forrest told a Congressional committee after the war, ‘that I was going into the army; and that if they would go with me, if we got whipped they would be free anyhow, and that if we succeeded and slavery was perpetuated, if they would act faithfully with me to the end of the war, I would set them free. Eighteen months before the war closed I was satisfied that we were going to be defeated, and I gave those forty-five men, or forty-four of them, their free papers, for fear I might get killed.’" – "’First With the Most’ Forrest" by Robert Selph Henry, Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1944, page 14

Is there proof that these men served as other than menials, servants and cooks relegated to those roles by Forrest’s alleged severe racism? The most reliable resource concerning the Civil War documents their real roles.

"The forces attacking my camp were the First Regiment Texas Rangers

[8th Texas Cavalry, Terry’s Texas Rangers, ed.], Colonel Wharton, and a battalion of the First Georgia Rangers, Colonel Morrison, and a large number of citizens of Rutherford County, many of whom had recently taken the oath of allegiance to the United States Government. There were also quite a number of negroes attached to the Texas and Georgia troops, who were armed and equipped, and took part in the several engagements with my forces during the day." – Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol XVI Part I, pg. 805, Lt. Col. Parkhurst’s Report (Ninth Michigan Infantry) on Colonel Forrest’s attack at Murfreesboro, Tenn, July 13, 1862

If, as Mr. Stoll asserts, Forrest was "very, very racist" would he have given the following speech when he was invited to speak by the Jubilee of Pole Bearers, a political and social organization in the post-war era comprised of Black Southerners?

Memphis Daily Avalanche, July 6, 1875, 1.

"July 4, 1875 – Memphis, Tennessee –

Miss Lou Lewis was introduced to General Forrest then presented him with a bouquet of flowers and said: ‘Mr. Forrest – allow me to present you this bouquet as a token, of reconciliation, an offering of peace and good will.’

General Forrest received the flowers with a bow, and replied:

‘Miss Lewis, ladies and gentlemen – I accept these flowers as a token of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the South. I accept them more particularly, since they come from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s great earth who loves the ladies, it is myself.

This is a proud day for me. Having occupied the position I have for thirteen years, and being misunderstood by the colored race, I take this occasion to say that I am your friend. I am here as the representative of the Southern people – one that has been more maligned than any other.

I assure you that every man who was in the Confederate army is your friend. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, live in the same land, and why should we not be brothers and sisters.

When the war broke out I believed it to be my duty to fight for my country, and I did so. I came here with the jeers and sneers of a few white people, who did not think it right. I think it is right, and will do all I can to bring about harmony, peace and unity. I want to elevate every man, and to see you take your places in your shops, stores and offices.

I don’t propose to say anything about politics, but I want you to do as I do – go to the polls and select the best men to vote for. I feel that you are free men, I am a free man, and we can do as we please. I came here as a friend and whenever I can serve any of you I will do so.

We have one Union, one flag, one country; therefore, let us stand together. Although we differ in color, we should not differ in sentiment.

Many things have been said in regard to myself, and many reports circulated, which may perhaps be believed by some of you, but there are many around me who can contradict them. I have been many times in the heat of battle – oftener, perhaps, than any within the sound of my voice. Men have come to me to ask for quarter, both black and white, and I have shielded them.

Do your duty as citizens, and if any are oppressed, I will be your friend. I thank you for the flowers, and assure you that I am with you in heart and hand.’"

I have sent a note to Mr. Stoll challenging him to accept the evidence I have presented to you – documented, referenced historical fact – and challenged him to withdraw his statements since his fundamental position and statements have been proven to be based on his beliefs rather than history.

I ask that you, the members of the School Board, consider the facts of history when addressing Mr. Stoll’s transparent attempt at self promotion. Education is about fact and Mr. Stoll is asking you to set aside fact and comply with his misinformed emotionalism.

Please feel free to call upon me if I may be of further help.

Michael Kelley
Pascagoula, MS

Return to the E-mails Archives