Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 53

Nathan Bedford Forrest - Early life, Military career, Postwar years and Ku Klux Klan, Posthumous legacy, Further reading

cavalry command war troops

US soldier, born in Bedford Co, Tennessee, USA. With little formal education, he became a wealthy livestock dealer, planter, and slave trader. When the Civil War commenced, he enlisted as a private in the Confederate army, but by 1861 was a lieutenant-colonel in command of his own troop of cavalry. He participated in many of the early battles, including Shiloh, then began to operate on his own, using his cavalry as a ‘strike force’. His motto was the phrase attributed to him: ‘Git there fustest with the mostest’. He struck often at Union lines (1862–4), and troops under his command carried out an infamous massacre of black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. After the war, he had to rebuild his fortune through planting and railroading. He served as Grand Wizard of the newly organized Ku Klux Klan (1867–9), but resigned in protest at some of its tactics.

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