Later Years

     When all was over Nathan Bedford Forrest went back home and tried to rebuild his life. He entered into business ventures with many of his Ex-Northern Foe’s and became successful once again.  He would be sought out to speak at several Confederate Veterans Reunions.  On May 14, 1875 his presence was conspicuous at a reunion of the Seventh Cavalry in Covington, TN. Requested to make a speech, he did so from horseback. "...Comrades, through the years of bloodshed and weary marches you were tried and true soldiers. So through the years of peace you have been good citizens, and now that we are again united under the old flag, I love it as I did in the days of my youth, and I feel sure that you love it also....It has been thought by some that our social reunions were wrong, and that they would be heralded to the North as an evidence that we were again ready to break out into civil war. But I think that they are right and proper, and we will show our countrymen by our conduct and dignity that brave soldiers are always good citizens and law-abiding and loyal people." (11)

     On October 29th, 1877, the former President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, came by to visit Forrest at his home in Bailey Springs. But by then Forrest had slipped so far he barely recognized Davis. At 7 p.m., the general breathed his last. Perhaps the most fitting epitaph were the words his friend, Minor Meriwether, was heard to tearfully say to his son Lee, "the man you just saw dying will never die. He will live in the memory of men who love patriotism, and who admire genius and daring." (12) 

     His funeral turned out thousands of people including hundreds upon hundreds of African Americans who came to pay their respects.(13)  Nathan Bedford Forrest was a product of his times yet, in some ways, was way ahead of them. His tactics on the battlefield are still studied by military academies today. The great German General Erwin Rommel, George Patton and even Norman Schwarzkopf all studied this famous man’s tactics. His legend even lived on, United States Eighth Air Force General Nathan Bedford Forrest III was the great-grandson of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was killed in 1943 during a B-17 raid over the submarine yards of Kiel, Germany. He was regarded as one of the best and youngest Air Force Generals of his day. He was declared dead and posthumously received the Distinguished Flying Cross. After World War II, his body was recovered from Germany and he was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery - ironically on grounds once owned by his great-grandfather’s commanding officer, General Robert E. Lee. (14)  Nathan Bedford Forrest defended his homeland and never asked his men to do anything he was not willing to do himself. Controversial? Only by those who don’t take the time to study the man, his life and his time. Nathan Bedford Forrest was An American Warrior.

 

 

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Notes:

 

11.  http://www.civilwarinteractive.com/ArticleJekyllHyde.htm

 

12. Memphis Avalanche, October 30, 1877; Lee Meriwether, My Yesteryears (Webster Groves, MO, 1942), pp. 59-

      64; http://www.civilwarinteractive.com/ArticleJekyllHyde.htm

 

13. Memphis Appeal, November 1, 1877.

 

14. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/forrest.htm

 

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