Thursday, February 24, 2011
Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877) is in the news today, believe it or not.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is taking heat from the NAACP for refusing to condemn the state's branch of The Sons of the Confederacy for planning to institute a special vanity license plate commemorating the Ol' Tennessee Wizard.
Mississippi currently offers a license plate to commemorate the Civil War, and has other vanity license plates planned, with Forrest's scheduled to debut in 2014 if it goes through. Funds from those plates go toward maintaining the state's collection of Confederate battle flags and restoring Beauvoir – the final home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Forrest was an interesting character. He amassed a fortune as a planter and slave trader, but ended up joining the CSA as a private. In short order, he was pulled out of the ranks, made a Lieutenant Colonel and allowed to form his own command, "Forrest's Tennessee Cavalry Battalion". After which he proceeded to raise sheer hell with the Union forces over the next five years.
Forrest equipped his men with his own money and used them as mounted infantry, a fairly novel concept for the time when cavalry were primarily used for scouting and screening or to harass the flanks of the infantry. He was also one of the few Confederate commanders to utilize black troops.
Forrest used fast mobility as a major part of his strategy. He had no military experience but turned out to be a natural at tactics.
He realized early that his horsemen could get from point A to point B a lot quicker than Union infantry could march, and that if he could get his men to a strategic locale, get them in position before the enemy infantry got there and then use the horses for mobility as needed, he was way ahead of the game.
Forrest was the man who famously said that the secret to winning was 'to git thar fust with the most men'." And he demonstrated it a number of times.
He also loved to harass the Union forces with fast-moving raids, disrupt their supply trains and raise havoc with their communications by destroying railroad track and cutting telegraph lines.
Forrest survived the war (one account says he had over 30 horses shot out from under him in combat) and returned home to Tennessee.
The NAACP's objection is apparently based on Forrest's probable membership in the Klu Klux Klan, although that was never actually proven and he was definitely not the founder of the organization as some people allege.
The NAACP argues that Forrest should be counted among terrorists 'like Osama bin Laden.'
I admit, it's amusing to me to hear the NAACP call anyone else racist.
Or for them to object to the KKK, considering their long-time lockstep support for the party of a certain recently deceased Klan Kleagle who used to be a US Senator in good standing.
On the other hand, I don't really care whether a Nathan Bedford Forrest license plate gets issued either.
I was just thinking it's a pity we don't have him with us today in a modern setting commanding an armored brigade in AfPak....