Forrest, Nathan Bedford

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Forrest, Nathan Bedford

Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1821–77, Confederate general, b. Bedford co., Tenn. (his birthplace is now in Marshall co.). At the beginning of the Civil War, Forrest, a wealthy citizen of Memphis, organized a cavalry force, which he led at Fort Donelson (Feb., 1862) and Shiloh (April). He assumed command of a cavalry brigade in the Army of Tennessee (June) and in July captured a large Union garrison at Murfreesboro. He was made a brigadier general. With a newly recruited command he effectively cut Grant's communications in a raid through W Tennessee (Dec., 1862). After foiling a Union attempt to cut the railroad between Chattanooga and Atlanta (May, 1863), Forrest participated in the Chattanooga campaign until trouble with Braxton Bragg led him to accept a command in N Mississippi. He was promoted to major general (Dec., 1863); captured Fort Pillow (Apr., 1864); defeated a superior force at Brices Cross Roads, Miss. (June); and held Gen. Andrew Jackson Smith to a drawn battle at Tupelo, Miss. (July). These Union failures against Forrest caused Sherman, then advancing on Atlanta, much concern for his communications. Forrest commanded all the cavalry under John Bell Hood in that general's Tennessee campaign (Nov.–Dec., 1864) and was promoted to lieutenant general (Feb., 1865). He surrendered shortly after his defeat at Selma, Ala., in April. After the war he engaged for a time in railroading and also was important in the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. Forrest, probably the greatest Confederate cavalryman, is one of the most interesting figures of the war.

See biographies by J. A. Wyeth (1899, repr. 1959), E. W. Sheppard (1930), R. S. Henry (1944), and A. N. Lytle (rev. ed. 1960).

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