Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877) was a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War. Although scholars generally respect Forrest as a military strategist, he has remained a controversial figure in Southern racial history, especially for his role in the massacre of black soldiers at Fort Pillow, and his 1867–1869 leadership of the white-supremacist and terrorist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan.

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  • Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877) was a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War. Although scholars generally respect Forrest as a military strategist, he has remained a controversial figure in Southern racial history, especially for his role in the massacre of black soldiers at Fort Pillow, and his 1867–1869 leadership of the white-supremacist and terrorist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan. Before the war, Forrest amassed substantial wealth as a cotton plantation owner, horse and cattle trader, real estate broker, and slave trader. In June 1861, he enlisted in the Confederate Army, one of the few officers during the war to enlist as a private and be promoted to general without any prior military training. An expert cavalry leader, Forrest was given command of a corps and established new doctrines for mobile forces, earning the nickname "The Wizard of the Saddle". His methods influenced future generations of military strategists, although the Confederate high command is seen by some commentators to have underutilized his talents. In April 1864, in what has been called "one of the bleakest, saddest events of American military history", troops under Forrest's command massacred Union troops who had surrendered, most of them black soldiers along with some white Southern Tennesseans fighting for the Union, at the Battle of Fort Pillow. Forrest was blamed for the massacre in the Union press and that news may have strengthened the North's resolve to win the war. Forrest joined the Ku Klux Klan in 1867 (two years after its founding) and was elected its first Grand Wizard. The group was a loose collection of local factions throughout the former Confederacy, that used violence and the threat of violence to maintain white control over the newly-enfranchised slaves. The Klan, with Forrest at the lead, suppressed voting rights of blacks in the South through violence and intimidation during the elections of 1868. In 1869, Forrest expressed disillusionment with the lack of discipline among the various white supremacist groups across the South, and issued a letter ordering the dissolution of the Ku Klux Klan and the destruction of its costumes; he then withdrew from the organization. In the last years of his life, Forrest publicly denounced the violence and racism of the Klan, insisted he had never been a member, and made a public speech in favor of racial harmony. (en)
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  • Nathan Bedford Forrest (July 13, 1821 – October 29, 1877) was a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War. Although scholars generally respect Forrest as a military strategist, he has remained a controversial figure in Southern racial history, especially for his role in the massacre of black soldiers at Fort Pillow, and his 1867–1869 leadership of the white-supremacist and terrorist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan. (en)
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  • Nathan Bedford Forrest (en)
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  • Nathan Bedford Forrest (en)
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  • "Wizard of the Saddle" (en)
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