The only person that is receiving more media coverage than General Nathan Bedford Forrest lately is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. The Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, wants to honor General Forrest with a commemorative licence plate, and this has the liberals seething. The only thing that makes them madder is the fact that they have not been able to bully Governor Barbour into denouncing the attempt.
The Huffington Post was quick to get in on the action writing:
“The Sons of Confederate Veterans has launched a campaign to issue one of the specialty license plates honoring Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was once the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The NAACP and a Facebook group are protesting the plate, which at the earliest would be unveiled in 2014.
This little drama comes at a perilous time for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who was in Washington this past week attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and positioning himself for a possible 2012 run.”
The Root also weighed in on the action. Though not as left leaning as the Huffington Post, David Swerdlick states that government should not be involving itself in the Civil War business stating:
“It’s hard to imagine that someone who was practically announcing his 2012 White House bid on Fox News Sunday last weekend wouldn’t take the easy out on a hot-button issue when it’s sitting right there for him, but so far, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour won’t do it.
In the latest race-relations dustup over Barbour’s unwillingness to “denounce” the Sons of Confederate Veterans for its proposal to honor Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest with a commemorative state license tag, Barbour is passing up a prime opportunity to flex his small-government chops.
He should just blame it all on big government. States approve commemorative license tags all the time. It puts a little extra money in the transportation budget, and it gives the supporters of the University of (Your State Here), the Conservation Society of (Your State Here) or the brothers and sisters of (Sorority) Phi (Fraternity) a chance to show their civic pride.
But it’s a little different when the state legislature is asked to green-light a tag in Forrest’s honor. After all, he was Ku Klux Klan leader and general in the Army of the Confederate States of America — the breakaway nation that warred against the United States of America — the republic to which Mississippi happens to currently belong.
If Barbour really wanted to dispense with the license tag issue, quiet his critics and avoid alienating his political base — one that bristles at anything they think smacks of “political correctness” — he should just say that government shouldn’t be involved in Civil War nostalgia.
There’s no doubt many Confederate enthusiasts see it differently. And they have every right, under the First Amendment of the Constitution (of the United States of America) to celebrate Forrest’s life and career — even if that career includes what historians describe as the massacre of black Union soldiers at the 1864 Battle of Fort Pillow, Tenn.
“Swerdlick goes on to write that:
“It is, as they say, a free country (you know, now). They’re free to honor Forrest, reenact Civil War battles and fly Confederate Battle Flags in their homes, on their cars, at their churches or on mugs and T-shirts made in China.
But once they’re asking the state government to put Forrest’s mug on a license tag, or raise the “Stars and Bars” on public grounds, they’re pretty much asking taxpayers to recognize a rogue state whose secession resulted in a war that cost over 600,000 lives on both sides. And that’s really not OK.”
Here is the reality of General Forrest… he was one of the best (if not the best) cavalry commander of the Confederacy. In the aftermath of Ft. Pillow, General Forrest was completely exonerated of any wrong doing. According to the Free Information Society website:
“The aftermath of the Battle of Fort Pillow in April, 1864, is still heatedly debated today. An inquiry by General Sherman soon after the “massacre”, and a congressional investigation by the US Congress after the war, exonerated Forrest from any personal wrongdoing there. The gist of the controversy stems from accusations that Forrest’s men allowed no African-American soldier in Union uniform to surrender, but shot them instead. Although these were the first US Colored Troops that any soldier in the western theater had seen, Forrest had both slaves and freedmen fighting in his ranks, it could have come as no shock to see black men in uniform.”
In addition the Free Information Society website states:
“In August, 1866, a troop of Federal cavalry was riding by Forrest’s place, as much out of curiosity to see him as for any more definite reason. Forrest’s war-horse, King Phillip, was grazing in the front lot. As the blue-clad cavalry filed into the lot on the way up to the house, King Phillip’s training in many a melee reasserted itself, and he rushed the bluecoats, teeth bared and front feet flailing. When some of the soldiers, astonished at his onslaught, struck at him, Forrest’s wartime body servant Jerry- whom the other Negro’s in the Forrest command had referred to, and obeyed, as “the Gin’ral”- rushed out to defend the horse. After Forrest himself had come out and the horse was back in the stable and things had quieted down, the Federal captain observed, “General, now I can account for your success. Your negroes fight for you, and your horses fight for you.”
F.I.S. also notes Forrest’s Klan involvement…
“”Reconstruction”, the 17 year period after the war when the south was under martial law, and the people basically lost their rights as Americans, was a terrible time for the citizens of the former Confederate States of America. It was intended by the US Congress as punishment for secession. The south was controlled by military leaders, who may have been excellent commanders in battle, but were pretty much universally horrible as governors. A “carpetbagger” government was put in place…men that were generally scoundrels and often criminals, served as “rulers” of the states and communities. They appointed former Union sympathizers and former slaves in positions of authority, to infuriate and humiliate the people. This was pretty much a lawless time throughout much of the south, not unlike that in the western territories. Forrest described that government as “I believe that party to be composed, as I know it is in Tennessee, of the worst men on Gods earth – men who would not hesitate at no crime [sic], and who have only one object in view – to enrich themselves.”
The Ku Klux Klan is a secret organization that has always been shrouded in mystery. Even its very beginnings are sketchy. It is known that 6 former Confederate officers at Pulaski Tennessee, approached Forrest with the idea of a “police force”, for the blessings of Forrest, who held the respect of the people. Forrest gave his blessings, and for it, he was appointed their first leader. The controversy stems in whether Forrest actually played an active part in the organization.
The KKK quickly spread throughout the south. Secrecy was, of course, an important part of this organization, because it was considered illegal by the “carpetbagger” government. Forrest, in an interview with the Cincinnati Commercial stated:
“Yes, sir. It is a protective political military organization. I am willing to show any man the constitution of the society. The members are sworn to recognize the government of the United States. It does not say anything at all about the government of Tennessee. Its objects originally were protection against Loyal Leagues and the Grand Army of the Republic; but after it became general it was found that political matters and interests could best be promoted within it, and it was then made a political organization, giving its support, of course, to the democratic party….”
“…Since its organization, the leagues have quit killing and murdering our people. There were some foolish young men who put masks on their faces and rode over the country, frightening negroes, but orders have been issued to stop that, and it has ceased. You may say, further, that three members of the Ku-Klux have been court-martialed and shot for violations of the orders not to disturb or molest people.”
When asked if he was actually a member of the KKK, Forrest stated “I am not, but am in sympathy and will co-operate with them. I know that they are charged with many crimes that they are not guilty of.”
By 1869, for several reasons, including fear of retaliation on the Tennessee people from the militia, who had been given the order from Governor Brownlow to “shoot down the KuKlux on site”, it being well known that Brownlow called all southerners “KuKlux”, Forrest asked the KKK to disband, stating “being perverted from its original honorable and patriotic purposes, becoming injurious instead of subservient to the public peace.”
Though the KKK is now known as a hate group, and is known primarily at that time for lynchings and terrorizing former slaves, the Klan did serve a useful purpose. They helped take care of poor Confederate widows; they took care of criminals and fought crime, and they basically restored order to the South, where there was none.”
General Nathan Bedford Forrest was no hatemonger, or terrorist. Nor was he responsible for a massacre. In fact on July 5, 1875 he became the first man to address the Pole-Bearer Memphis Appeal Association, which was a black , civil rights group. According to the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp #2022 website:
“On July 5, 1875, Forrest became the first white man to speak to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association, a civil rights group whose members were freedmen. In his short speech, he stated blacks had the right to vote for any candidates they wanted and that the role of blacks should be elevated. He ended the speech by kissing the cheek of one of the daughters of one of the Pole-Bearer Memphis Appeal members, evinces Forrest’s racial open-mindedness that seemed to have been growing in him. As reported in the contemporary pages of the Memphis Appeal.
“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”
Governor Barbour does not condemn the Sons of Confederate Veterans, nor does he denounce General Forrest, because he has no need to do so and if government has no reason to be in the “Civil War business” , then it certainly has no business celebrating Abraham Lincoln ( the man who is REALLY responsible for over 650,000 American deaths) with our tax dollars.- Webmaster