First with the Most Forrest

By Robert Selph Henry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVII
THE GRAND WIZARD OF THE INVISIBLE EMPIRE
1865-1869

There was, of course, much speculation as to Forrest's course after the surrender. Men Of all faiths and factions seemed to find it hard to believe that the man whose fighting had become—and remains—the epic of the Confederacy in the West would be content to accept the new order of things; would, in fact, become one of the strongest forces for peace and genuine reconstruction.

The first public note of the new attitude of Forrest and the new attitude toward him was the reprinting by the Memphis Bulletin of his farewell address to his soldiers. The same paper on May 30th, 1865, printed a dispatch from Grenada, Mississippi, stating that:

"Gen. N. B. Forrest was at Grenada till the middle of last week. He acted honestly and fairly in his negotiations with the Federal authorities. He turned over all the property in his possession. He remarked that he was now as good a Union man as anybody—that the South was whipped and he was going to support the Federal government as heartily as any one could. . . . When Genl. Forrest left Grenada for his plantation on the Mississippi River about 20 of his former slaves started with him."

General Forrest was on his way to Sunflower Landing in Coahoma County, Mississippi. Four years before, he had been worth, according to his own estimate, "a million and a half of dollars." When the Confederacy fell he and his wife found themselves, so far as wealth was concerned, not greatly better off than they had been at the beginning of their married life twenty years before. "I came out of the war pretty well wrecked," Forrest said afterward, ". . . completely used up, shot all to pieces, crippled up . . . a beggar." 1 Mary Montgomery Forrest, described by a writer in the Memphis Avalanche-Appeal as "apparently delicate, but with great reserve force and powers of endurance," had "survived the privations, inconveniences and exposures of four years, moving about from place to place as the scenes of war shifted, like a true soldier," 2

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