First with the Most Forrest

By Robert Selph Henry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVIII
THE HARDER WAR
1865-1877

Besides his labors as Grand Wizard of the Invisible Empire—assuming that he was that officer—Forrest, with health impaired 1 by the hardships, privations and tremendous exertions of the four years of war, faced the difficult and discouraging task of making a living.

In 1866 he "planted" again in Mississippi but in 1867 returned to Memphis, where he became president of a fire-insurance company, and was interested in the organization of a company for life insurance as well 2—the same lines of endeavor, incidentally, in which another distinguished ex-Confederate, Jefferson Davis, was to engage in the same city of Memphis, and with the same lack of success.

Forrest's discouragement at this period is shown in a letter written by him as president of the Planters' Insurance Company to a young Confederate Colonel, Garnett Andrews, Jr., of Yazoo City, Mississippi, who had asked about prospects of employment in Memphis. "I have no business nor do I no of any by which you could find employment in this City at any price. I have sold out all the contracts I have had on hand and am now settling up my affairs as rapidly as possible, believing as I do that Every thing under the laws that will be inaugurated by the military authority will result in ruin to our people."3 3

His pessimism was well-founded, certainly as to his own affairs, for on February 5, 1868, Forrest, who before the war had counted himself worth more than a million dollars, filed his petition in bankruptcy in the United States District Court at Memphis, giving up his property for the benefit of his creditors and applying for discharge from his debts. No creditors appearing in opposition, this discharge was granted in the spring of 1869. 4

How profound was Forrest's despondency, in this period may be gathered from a conversation he had in Chattanooga, reported by, Norman Farrell, late of the Confederate army and a friend of Brigadier General Thomas Benton Smith. "On Sunday afternoon General Smith and I had a long talk with General Forrest," Farrell wrote on February 25, 1868, to his fiancée in Nashville. He continued:

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