Nathan Bedford Forrest
Join us as we discuss what could arguably be our most controversial person and subject on our show to date, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Love him or hate him, Forrest can still be a polarizing individual in our local history. With this conversation we try to dispel rumors and innuendo and state the facts as we know them (after rigorous and long-term research) to be true. Our experts on this episode are a who’s who of the history community in Memphis and specialists on Forrest.
Join Joe Lowry and the panel which included:
Dr. Doug Cupples – Dr Cupples holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in political science, and a Ph.D. in history from The University of Memphis. He is active in several national and local historical organizations, and is Secretary of the Shelby Historical Commission. [Full Bio]
Alan Doyle – Alan is a Third Generation Memphian and Sixth Generation Tennessean. He received his Undergraduate Degree from Memphis State University and his Bachelors of Business Administration in 1978 . He is also a Historical & Battlefield Tour Guide, Living History Reenactor, Historian of the War Between The States 1861-1865, a Lifelong student of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, and an aspiring author. He is a Life Member of N.B. Forrest Camp 215, Sons of Confederate Veterans where he has serve as Camp Commander since 2010. Alan is also a member of the West Tennessee Historical Society and Executive Director of the Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest Historical Society, Inc. He is a current board member of Shiloh Military Trail, Inc.
Lee Millar – Lee is a life-long resident of Memphis and Collierville and a former Captain in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. His education includes a BA in American History, Washington & Lee University, Lexington, VA, a Master’s degree from the Univ. of Arkansas and a 2nd Graduate degree from the Univ. of Memphis. He has been a member of the Shelby County Historical Commission since 1997 and a past chairman (9 years). He also serves on the Tennessee Historical Commission, and serves on the boards of the Wars Advisory Council, the Tennessee Civil War Preservation Association, Friends of Shiloh National Military Park and as past Vice President of the West Tennessee Historical Society. Lee is the President of the Gen’l Forrest Historical Society, the Battle of Collierville Assn, and Battle of Shiloh Association.
Lee has been a guest lecturer at Memphis & Shelby County Schools, Rhodes College (Memphis), University of Memphis, Schoolcraft College (Michigan), University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and Harding University (AR). He is a descendant of the “Gray Ghost”, Col. John S. Mosby, of Mosby’s Rangers.
Bill Novarese – Bill is the Film Archivist at the Fire Museum of Memphis and the Law enforcement Historian in Shelby County.
Mentioned in this episode is the speech Forrest gave to the Pole-Bearers Association. The text of the speech is below.
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. This day is a day that is proud to me, having occupied the position that I did for the past twelve years, and been misunderstood by your race. This is the first opportunity I have had during that time to say that I am your friend. I am here a representative of the southern people, one more slandered and maligned than any man in the nation.
I will say to you and to the colored race that men who bore arms and followed the flag of the Confederacy are, with very few exceptions, your friends. I have an opportunity of saying what I have always felt—that I am your friend, for my interests are your interests, and your interests are my interests. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, and live in the same land. Why, then, can we not live as brothers? I will say that when the war broke out I felt it my duty to stand by my people. When the time came I did the best I could, and I don’t believe I flickered. I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe that I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to bring about peace. It has always been my motto to elevate every man—to depress none. 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, that 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. Use your best judgement in selecting men for office and vote as you think right.
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. I have been in the heat of battle when colored men, asked me to protect them. I have placed myself between them and the bullets of my men, and told them they should be kept unharmed. 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.
Research team: Joe V Lowry, Mike Vanelli, Bill Nourse, Bill Novarese, Trish Gully.
Moderator: Joe Lowry
Editor: Trish Gully
Producer: Mark White
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5 thoughts on “Nathan Bedford Forrest”
He was the only Confederate General to advocate education of the freed slaves. He though if they are going to vote they needed to be able to make their own minds up.
In the article, “Nathan Bedford Forrest,” Lee Millar is described as an “ancestor” of Col. John S. Mosby. “Descendant” is the correct term.
Good catch, I’ve corrected the wording.
This is a wonderful article of a wonderful man. I miss his statue but did take a lot of pictures of it to always be able to show my Grandkids.
Lee and I spent time together with sleep-overs when we were in elementary school. He was a fine person then and I see that hasn’t changed.
Even at age 12, he was a Civil War history buff. He had a board game “Gettysburg” that we played one night. He took the South side and won handily (having played the game before). He had learned the mistakes that the South had made about timing and terrain.
My sister has tracked his press releases and I’m pleased with what he’s doing – trying to buck the “history belongs to the victor” doctrine. He’s right, history is history and should be preserved. I commend his efforts to preserve memorials of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest was a brilliant strategist that spent his own money to outfit and supply his troops. What Union General spent his own money for the welfare of his troops?