Lt Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, (CSA)

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Lt Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, (CSA)

Also Known As: "General"
Birthplace: Chapel Hill, Bedford now Marshall County, Tennessee, United States
Death: October 29, 1877 (56)
Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, United States (Sugar Diabetes)
Place of Burial: Columbia, Tenn., Tenn.
Immediate Family:

Son of William Forrest and Miriam Luxton
Husband of Mary Ann Forrest and Catharan Dunn
Father of Capt. (CSA), William Montgomery Forrest; Frances Ann Forrest; Kitty (Kittie) Ann Williams and Mathew Dunn Forrest
Brother of Frances "Fanny" Beck Forrest ♊; Mary Forrest; Pvt. John Nathaniel Forrest; Major William Hezekiah Forrest (CSA); Mildred Forrest and 4 others
Half brother of Joseph H Luxton; Sgt. James Madison "Matt" Luxton (CSA); Mary Jane Fontaine and Dickey Luxton

Occupation: Lieutenant General, Confederate States Army
Managed by: Chris Thompson
Last Updated:

About Lt Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, (CSA)





From the 1850 federal census, Bedford Forrest lived with his wife, son, and daughter at DeSoto County, Mississippi. The family at the time consisted of:

  • Head Bedford Forrest 29
  • Wife Mary Ann Forrest 23
  • Son William M Forrest 4
  • Daughter Francis A Forrest 2

"Wizard of the Saddle"

Forrest's farewell address to his troops, May 9, 1865

Civil war, such as you have just passed through naturally engenders feelings of animosity, hatred, and revenge. It is our duty to divest ourselves of all such feelings; and as far as it is in our power to do so, to cultivate friendly feelings towards those with whom we have so long contended, and heretofore so widely, but honestly, differed. Neighborhood feuds, personal animosities, and private differences should be blotted out; and, when you return home, a manly, straightforward course of conduct will secure the respect of your enemies. Whatever your responsibilities may be to Government, to society, or to individuals meet them like men. The attempt made to establish a separate and independent Confederation has failed; but the consciousness of having done your duty faithfully, and to the end, will, in some measure, repay for the hardships you have undergone. In bidding you farewell, rest assured that you carry with you my best wishes for your future welfare and happiness. Without, in any way, referring to the merits of the Cause in which we have been engaged, your courage and determination, as exhibited on many hard-fought fields, has elicited the respect and admiration of friend and foe. And I now cheerfully and gratefully acknowledge my indebtedness to the officers and men of my command whose zeal, fidelity and unflinching bravery have been the great source of my past success in arms. I have never, on the field of battle, sent you where I was unwilling to go myself; nor would I now advise you to a course which I felt myself unwilling to pursue. You have been good soldiers, you can be good citizens. Obey the laws, preserve your honor, and the Government to which you have surrendered can afford to be, and will be, magnanimous.

N.B. Forrest, Lieut. General
 Headquarters, Forrest's Cavalry Corps Gainesville, Alabama 
May 9, 1865

Not for nothing did Forrest say “the essence of strategy was 'to git thar fust with the most men'."

Forrest -- the wizard of the saddle.

Lt. General Forrest was one of only three officers to be promoted to Lt. General without a formal military education. The other two were Lt. General Wade Hampton and Richard Taylor, son of President Zachary Taylor,

Freemason: Angerona Lodge No. 168, Memphis, Tennessee[

Walter G. Ashworth 10th cousin

Note: His daughter's name was Franics Ann Forrest. Her family called her Fanny.


October 30, 1877


Death of Gen. Forrest

By THE NEW YORK TIMES ( A northern Newspaper • WGA)

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Oct. 29.--Gen. Bedford Forrest, the great Confederate cavalry officer, died at 7:30 o'clock this evening at the residence of his brother, Col. Jesse Forrest.

Forrest's Career

In an article published in The New-York Times immediately before the close of the war, the characteristic types of the soldiers of the South were sketched. It was pointed out that while Virginia, and what might be called the "old South," produced gallant soldiers and dignified gentlemen, the South-west, the rude border country, gave birth to men of reckless ruffianism and cut-throat daring. The type of the first was Gen. Robert E. Lee; that of the latter, Gen. Bedford Forrest. At the date this article was written, (March, 1865,) Forrest seems to have been considered by many as the most formidable cavalry commander then in the Armies of the South; but he was so essentially guerrilla-like in his methods of warfare, and withal was so notoriously bloodthirsty and revengeful, that it was thought he would, when the other Southern commanders surrendered, an event then seen to be inevitable, collect around him all the desperate and discontented elements of the Southern Armies and maintain a guerrilla warfare on the South-western borders. This expectation was not realized, for when the crash came, everything went down in the grand ruin, and Forrest had had more than enough fighting to satisfy him. He was not a trained soldier, and he made his way up to the rank he held by sheer force of energy and fight from the rank of a private. For some years before the rebellion, (to quote from the article referred to,) Forrest was well known as a Memphis speculator and Mississippi gambler. He was for some time Captain of a boat which ran between Memphis and Vicksburg. As his fortune increased he engaged in plantation speculation, and became the nominal owner of two plantations not far from Goodrich's Landing, above Vicksburg, where he worked some hundred or more slaves. This was his status when the war broke out. He was known to his acquaintances as a man of obscure origin and low associations, a shrewd speculator, negro trader, and duelist, but a man of great energy and brute courage.

To the first call to arms in the South Forrest promptly responded, enlisting as a private in the first infantry regiment recruited at Memphis; but his qualities as horseman and fighter soon attracted the notice of his superior officers, and he was made Captain of a cavalry company. He took his first lesson in cavalry skirmishing on the line of Green River, when Buel advanced on Bowling Green in the Winter of 1862. From a Captaincy he rose to a Lieutenant-Colonelcy, and when Fort Donelson fell before Grant, Forrest was a senior Colonel commanding a brigade. On this occasion he performed his first notable exploit, for, refusing to surrender with the other forces in the fort, he headed his brigade in a charge through the Union lines, cut his way out, and safely withdrew his command to the mountains of East Tennessee. Soon after he made a swift and stealthy march on Murfreesboro, and took the place by surprise. From that time until the close of the war he was essentially a ranger, and covered in his raids the whole territory from the Ohio River on the north to the Tombigbee on the south; from the mountains of North Carolina to the Valley of the Mississippi. He proved himself the most regularly successful of all the Southern cavalry leaders. This was due as much to good fortune as his own talents. He never had a good officer sent against him, and he seldom attacked except where he greatly outnumbered his enemy. As a scientific commander, he was much the inferior of Wheeler or Stuart; but he had all the qualities of a guerrilla chieftain, and the history of his exploits abundantly proves that he displayed them. He was swift and daring in his advance, stubborn and defiant in retreat, cool and ready in face of temporary disaster, and skillful in wielding the large force he commanded. When in the height of his celebrity as a commander he was thus described: "In person, Forrest is a little over six feet in height, and strongly built; apparently about 38 years of age, in the perfection of vigorous manhood, insensible to fatigue, incapable alike of sympathy or fear. The outlines of his face are handsome, and the expression is generally pleasant; but now and then, when roused a little, his eye lights with a gleam and his brow darkens with a frown which stamp him with the brand of Cain. He is a consummate horseman and a dead shot with the pistol; a spare eater and abstemious in his habits. His control over his men is absolute. He mingles familiarly with them, and is ready to talk with any of them on easy terms, but with his officers he is often exacting and savage." A story is related of his reprimanding a young Lieutenant with such severity that the latter, stung beyond endurance, drew his pistol. Forrest deliberately walked up to him, and using his great physical superiority to the uttermost, literally cut the young man to the ground with his bowie-knife, and then coolly wiping the bloody blade of the knife, mounted, and rode off as if nothing had happened.

It is in connection with one of the most atrocious and cold-blooded massacres that ever disgraced civilized warfare that his name will for ever be inseparably associated. "Fort Pillow Forrest" was the title which the deed conferred upon him, and by this he will be remembered by the present generation, and by it he will pass into history. The massacre occurred on the 12th of April, 1864. Fort Pillow is 65 miles above Memphis, and its capture was effected during Forrest's celebrated raid through Tennessee, a State which was at the time practically in possession of the Union forces. Gen. Sherman had started on an expedition from Vicksburg, in February, through Mississippi; he was to be supported by Gem. Smith with a cavalry column, which, marching from Memphis, was to join him at Meridian. Sherman's march from west to east across the State was so rapidly and skillfully done that it was a mere promenade. The Confederate commander, Gen. Polk, could make no effective resistance to him, but he bent all his energies to preventing the junction of Smith's cavalry column with Sherman. For this purpose he ordered all his cavalry to join Forrest, and intrusted that commander with the task of heading off Smith. This was done most effectually, for the conduct of Gen. William Sooy Smith seems to have been marked from the start with utter inefficiency. His start from Memphis was made late enough to give Forrest time to collect all his forces for resistance; the march of the Union cavalry was an utterly disorganized one, so that when, on the 22d of February, it reached Okalona, 100 miles north of Meridian, discipline seems to have been utterly relaxed. Here Forrest's cavalry met them, and at the first charge the Union forces were practically routed. Everything fell into utter confusion, and Smith had to retreat, pursued by the enemy for 10 days over the wasted country through which he had just advanced. Forrest now saw his opportunity for a raid into the heart of Tennessee. The garrisons there had been weakened by the concentration of forces for the Spring campaign, and he had nothing to fear in the way of a superior force. Late in March he passed into that State, and the route of his advance was marked by outrages and brutalities of the most cold-blooded character. He captured most of the small garrisons on his line of march, in each case summoning the defenders to surrender under a threat that if he had to storm the works he would give no quarter. On the 12th of April he appeared before Fort Pillow. This fort was garrisoned by 500 troops, about half of them colored. Forrest's force numbered about 5,000 or 6,000. His first attack was a complete surprise, and the commanding officer was killed early in the engagement. Still the defenders fought so gallantly that at 2 o'clock the enemy had gained no material advantage. Forrest then sent in a flag of truce, demanding unconditional surrender. While the flag was flying, Forrest's men treacherously crept into positions which they had been unable to take by fight, (a trick they had played at other places,) and thus were in a situation to make the assault which soon followed under every advantage. After a short consultation, Major Bradford, on whom the command had devolved, sent word refusing to surrender. Instantly the bugles sounded the assault. The enemy were now within 100 yards of the fort, and at the sound they rushed on the works, shouting "No quarter! No quarter!" The garrison was seized with a panic: the men threw down their arms and sought safety in flight toward the river, in the neighboring ravine, behind logs, bushes, trees, and in fact everywhere where there was a chance for concealment. It was in vain. The captured fort and its vicinity became a human shambles. Without discrimination of age or sex, men, women, and children, the sick and wounded in the hospitals, were butchered without mercy. The bloody work went on until night put a temporary stop to it; but it was renewed at early dawn, when the inhuman captors searched the vicinity of the fort, dragging out wounded fugitives and killing them where they lay. The whole history of the affair was brought out by a Congressional inquiry, and the testimony presents a long series of sickening, cold-blooded atrocities. Forrest reported his own loss at 20 killed and 60 wounded; and states that he buried 228 Federals on the evening of the assault. Yet in the face of this he claimed that the Fort Pillow capture was "a bloody victory, only made a massacre by dastardly Yankee reporters." The news of the massacre aroused the whole country to a paroxysm of horror and fury. A force of 12,000 men was sent against Forrest, under Gen. Sturgis, who so wretchedly mismanaged the affair that he was utterly routed by him. Another column was sent against him in July, under A. J. Smith, which met with scarcely better success, and the next thing heard of Forrest was when, on the morning of Aug. 18, he made a sudden and daring raid through Memphis, escaping with small loss.

Since the war, Forrest has lived at Memphis, and his principal occupation seems to have been to try and explain away the Fort Pillow affair. He wrote several letters about it, which were published, and always had something to say about it in any public speech he delivered. He seemed as if he were trying always to rub away the blood stains which marked him. He spoke at the Union ratification meeting at Memphis in August, 1866; wrote a letter approving President Johnson's reconstruction policy in October of the same year; was at the Democratic National convention in June, 1868; spoke several times during the political campaign that year, counseling friendly feeling between the North and South; made several written and spoken defenses of his war record at that time, and distinguished himself again by challenging Gen. Kilpatrick to a duel. The latter, who was also on the stump, had attacked Forrest with great severity, denouncing him as a butcher and a murderer. Forrest felt these reproaches so keenly that he sent a challenge. Kilpatrick replied that he would not fight a duel, but if he ever met Forrest, and the latter desired to do anything, he [Kilpatrick] would be ready. The outcome of this was that Forrest and Kilpatrick did meet somewhere in North Carolina, the latter going into the bar-room of the hotel where he was told Forrest was. Forrest was leaning against the bar. Kilpatrick brushed against him. Forrest looked up, recognized his enemy, turned and left the room, and that was the end of the matter. In December, 1873, Forrest had a short correspondence with Gen. Sherman on the prospects of a Cuban war.

Of late years, his views had undergone a considerable change. The guerrilla chieftain had softened down into the retired veteran, anxious, apparently, only for peace with everybody. He was in favor of promoting good feeling between the two sections, and by the terms of his address to his old comrades in arms, asking them to join in decorating the graves of the dead Union soldiers. His last notable public appearance was on the Fourth of July in Memphis, when he appeared before the colored people at their celebration, was publicly presented with a bouquet by them as a mark of peace and reconciliation, and made a friendly speech in reply. In this he once more took occasion to defend himself and his war record, and to declare that he was a hearty friend of the colored race. Gen. Forrest would be remembered only as a daring and successful guerrilla cavalry leader, were it not for the one great and indelible stain upon his name. It was evident that he felt this, as his constantly-repeated defenses of himself show. His daring and recklessness gave him more eclat at one period than his military services were really entitled to. Gen. Wheeler's raid around the rear of Sherman's army was the work of the daring man and the scientific soldier; Gen. Forrest's sudden dash through Memphis, with no more result than the killing of a few men on either side, was the recklessness of the mere guerrilla chief-- which Forrest essentially was.

Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate Civil War general who some say founded the Ku Klux Klan, died October 29, 1877. He was 56. Forrest was born July 13, 1821 in Chapel Hill, Tennessee. The son of a blacksmith, Forrest had no plans to be a soldier. A child of poverty, he would become one of Tennessee's wealthiest men prior to the Civil War. He married Mary Ann Montgomery in 1845, and over the next several years became involved in farming, real estate and slave trading. Estimates of his net value in the slave trade in Memphis exceeded $1.5 million. When the Civil War began, Forrest enlisted in the Confederate army as a private, but his instinctive flair for tactics soon earned him battlefield promotions all the way to general. His highest rank was that of lieutenant general in 1865. With no training in military situations, Forrest time and again used smaller numbers to overcome large Union resources and manpower. Historian Shelby Foote recounted that in Forrest's first battlefield situation at Bowling Green, Kentucky he used a combination double envelopment and frontal assault to defeat a superior force---military tactics which Foote said Forrest did not know the name of or had every encountered. In another instance in Murfreesboro, Tennessee he bluffed his way into forcing Union forces to surrender to a much smaller rebel army. Because of his bold actions, Forrest did not always get along with his commanding officers. General Braxton Bragg once ordered Forrest to join the forces of General Joseph Wheeler (whom Forrest detested). Forrest refused and threatened Bragg with bodily harm if he tried to force the situation. Bragg backed down. The battle at Brice's Crossroads in Tennessee was another example of Forrest's intuitive military bearing. With a force less than half of the federal troops, Forrest won the day. And while his wartime activities deserve considerable merit, it is his perceived post-war actions which give Forrest a more lasting negative impression on many southerners. While there is disagreement about his involvement, Forrest's name is linked to the Ku Klux Klan, the hate group which punished and murdered former slaves and free blacks after the war. Forrest reportedly lent his name to the KKK which had formed to exact discipline on certain segments of the society, particularly black Americans. Again, reportedly disenchanted with the Klan's activities, Forrest asked the group to disband and removed his association with the group in 1869. A documented speech he made to a group of former slaves after the war contains rhetoric which shows Forrest's disdain for racial discrimination, and that all Americans, black and white, should get along for the nation's good. Regardless, the story persists that Forrest is the founder and revered figure of the Klan. Forrest returned to Memphis after the war, dying there on October 29, 1877.

Much has been written about General Forrest being the founder of the KKK (Ku Klux Klan) and it's negative attitude towards blacks. The Klan was founded by the General to ride the south of corrupt Carpet Baggers, and people taking advantage of the poor situations that existed. Please read the following:

The Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association (predecessor to the NAACP) was organized by Southern blacks after the war to promote black voting rights, etc. One of their early conventions was held in Memphis and General Forrest was invited to be the guest speaker, the first white man ever to be invited to speak to the Association.

Forrest's speech to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association July 5, 1875.

A convention and BBQ was held by the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association at the fairgrounds of Memphis, five miles east of the city. An invitation to speak was conveyed to General Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the city's most prominent citizens, and one of the foremost cavalry commanders in the late War Between the States. This was the first invitation granted to a white man to speak at this gathering. The invitation's purpose, one of the leaders said, was to extend peace, joy, and union, and following a brief welcoming address a Miss Lou Lewis, daughter of an officer of the Pole-Bearers, brought forward flowers and assurances that she conveyed them as a token of good will. After Miss Lewis handed him the flowers, General Forrest responded with a short speech that, in the contemporary pages of the Memphis Appeal, evinces Forrest's racial open-mindedness that seemed to have been growing in him.

"Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God's earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter). I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man to depress none. (Applause.) I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don't propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I'll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand". (Prolonged applause.)

Whereupon N. B. Forrest again thanked Miss Lewis for the bouquet and then gave her a kiss on the cheek. Such a kiss was unheard of in the society of those days, in 1875, but it showed a token of respect and friendship between the General and the black community and did much to promote harmony among the citizens of Memphis.

When General Forrest died in 1877 it is noteworthy that his funeral in Memphis was attended not only by a throng of thousands of whites but by thousands of blacks as well. The funeral procession was over two miles long and was attended by over 10,000 area residents, including 3000 black citizens paying their respects.


Just wanted to make sure the managers of this family site had read Dr. John Wyeth's page concerning the "Kuklux" as it was known in 1865, which in no shape, form, or fashion was a group that has any historical ties whatsoever to the present day KKK. Wyeth's original 1899 biography, page 619:

"In 1871-1872, Gen. Forrest was summoned before a committee of Congress [42nd Congress] to inquire into the condition of affairs in the late Insurrectionary States [Confederate States of America] in regard to the formation of the Kuklux organization. .....Forrest testified that while he did not take an active part in the organization of the Kuklux, he knew that it was an association of citizens in his state of Tennessee for self-protection. There was a great, widespread and deep feelings of insecurity felt by those who had sympathized with the South in the War, as a result of [TN] Governor Brownlow's calling out of the militia, and his proclamation which they [Tennessee citizens] had interpreted for State troops to have license, without fear of punishment, to commit any kind of depredation against those lately in arms [Confederate veterans & Southern civilians who gave aid] against the Union. Forrest stated that he advised against all manner of violence on the part of the Southern people, and when the Loyal Leagues for fear of the Kuklux began to disband, he urged the disbanding of the other society [Kuklux].

The committee's report: "The statements of these gentlemen (Forrest and Gordon) are full and explicit......the evidence fully sustains them, and it is only necessary to turn to the official documents of Tennessee that all that Forrest said about the alarm that prevailed [in Tennessee] during Governor Brownlow's administration was strictly true. No State was ever reduced to such humiliation and degradation as that unhappy Commonwealth during the years Brownlow ruled over her."


Becky Muska, board member of Citizens To Save Our Parks [Shelby Co. TN]
715 Chaser Rd. Shelby Forest, TN 38053 =


Bio notes: Confederate General


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Lt Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, (CSA)'s Timeline

July 13, 1821
Chapel Hill, Bedford now Marshall County, Tennessee, United States
September 28, 1846
DeSoto County, Mississippi, United States
February 5, 1848
Hernando, DeSoto County, Mississippi, United States
October 29, 1877
Age 56
Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee, United States
Age 55
National Confederate Museum, Columbia, Tenn., Tenn.
Tennessee, United States