Nathan Bedford Forrest - Facts

July 13, 1821 - October 29, 1877

Key facts about Nathan Bedford Forrest, a prominent Confederate cavalry officer whose reputation was stained by accusations regarding his role in the "Fort Pillow Massacre" on April 12, 1864.

Portrait of Nathan Bedford Forrest

On June 14, 1863, Nathan Bedford Forrest was seriously wounded and averted death at the hands of would-be assassin Lieutenant Andrew W. Gould. Gould. [Wikimedia Commons]


Full Name:

  • Nathan Bedford Forrest

Birth Date:

  • July 13, 1821

Birth Location:

  • Chapel Hill, Tennessee


  • William and Mariam (Beck) Forrest


  • Little formal education


  • Plantation owner
  • Slave trader
  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Lieutenant General (CSA)


  • Mary Ann Montgomery (1845)


  • The Wizard of the Saddle
  • Old Bed

Place of Death:

  • Memphis, Tennessee

Date of Death:

  • October 29, 1877

Place of Burial:

  • Health Sciences Park, Memphis


  • Nathan Bedford Forrest and his twin sister, Fanny, were the oldest of William and Mariam Beck Forrest’s twelve children.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest received little formal education because he spent much of his youth helping his father provide for his growing family.
  • In 1834, when Nathan Bedford Forrest was thirteen years old, his family moved to Marshall County, Mississippi.
  • In 1837, sixteen-year-old Nathan Bedford Forrest became the family’s primary breadwinner when his father died.
  • On September 25, 1845, Nathan Bedford Forrest married Mary Ann Montgomery. Their marriage of thirty-two years produced one son and a daughter who died in infancy.
  • In 1849, Nathan Bedford Forrest moved to Memphis, where he used his accumulating riches to begin buying and selling slaves.
  • By the late 1850s, Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of the wealthiest men in the South.
  • On June 14, 1861, Nathan Bedford Forrest enlisted as a private in Captain Josiah White’s Tennessee Mounted Rifles (Seventh Tennessee Cavalry).
  • In October 1861, Nathan Bedford Forrest was appointed lieutenant colonel of Forrest’s Tennessee Cavalry Battalion.
  • In early 1862, Nathan Bedford Forrest refused to surrender his command during the defense of Fort Donelson.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest was severely wounded while his command was providing rearguard protection for escaping Confederate troops following the Battle of Shiloh (April 6 – 7, 1862).
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest was promoted to brigadier general on July 21, 1862.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest’s lightning raids in the Western Theater throughout the rest of the war earned him the nickname of “the wizard of the saddle.”
  • Following General Joseph Wheeler’s surrender at the Battle of Dover (February 3, 1863), Nathan Bedford Forrest denounced his commanding officer, and vowed never to serve under him again.
  • On May 3, 1863, Nathan Bedford Forrest scored a magnificent victory over a Union cavalry force commanded by Colonel Abel Streight at the battle of Cedar Bluff.
  • On June 14, 1863, Nathan Bedford Forrest was seriously wounded and averted death at the hands of would-be assassin Lieutenant Andrew W. Gould. Gould.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest took part in General Braxton Bragg’s retreat from Tennessee during the Tullahoma Campaign (June 24 – July 3, 1863).
  • At the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19, 1863 – September 20, 1863) Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry won accolades for dismounting and fighting alongside the infantry on the Confederate right flank.
  • Following the Battle of Chickamauga, Nathan Bedford Forrest openly criticized General Braxton Bragg for refusing to pursue the retreating Federals.
  • In November 1863, Confederate President Braxton Bragg arranged to have Nathan Bedford Forrest transferred to an independent command in Mississippi.
  • On December 4, 1863 Nathan Bedford Forrest was promoted to the rank of major general.
  • On February 22, 1864, Nathan Bedford Forrest defeated a force of over 7,000 Union cavalrymen commanded by Brigadier General William Sooy Smith at the Battle of Okolona, in Northern Mississippi.
  • On March 25, 1864 Nathan Bedford Forrest’s men forced the federal garrison at Paducah, Kentucky to retreat to the safety of Yankee gunboats on the Ohio River.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest’s career was stained by accusations regarding his role in the “Fort Pillow Massacre” on April 12, 1864.
  • On June 10, 1864, Nathan Bedford Forrest achieved near perfection as a battlefield commander, defeating a Union force much larger than his own at the Battle of Brice’s Cross Roads in Northern Mississippi.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest’s successful raids in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, prompted General William T. Sherman to declare in 1864 “that devil Forrest must be hunted down and killed if it costs ten thousand lives and bankrupts the federal treasury.”
  • In late November 1864, Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry joined the Army of Tennessee to support General John Bell Hood’s desperate Franklin-Nashville Campaign (September 18 – December 27, 1864).
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest took part in the Confederate losses at the Battle of Franklin (November 30, 1864).
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest took part in the Confederate losses at the Battle of Nashville (December 15-16, 1864).
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General on February 28, 1865, and placed in charge of the cavalry in the Department of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana.
  • On April 2, 1865, Major General James H. Wilson’s Union force defeated Nathan Bedford Forrest’s greatly out-manned command at the Battle of Selma.
  • On May 9, 1865, Nathan Bedford Forrest addressed his command at Gainesville, Alabama and announced that “By an agreement made between Liet.-Gen. Taylor, commanding the Department of Alabama. Mississippi, and East Louisiana, and Major-Gen. Canby, commanding United States forces, the troops of this department have been surrendered.”
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest’s men were among the last to surrender at the end of the Civil War.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest joined the Ku Klux Klan around 1866 and was elected as Grand Wizard a year later. By 1869, however, he reportedly became disenchanted by the group’s increasingly violent nature and renounced his membership.
  • Financially ruined by the Panic of 1873, Nathan Bedford Forrest spent the last years of his life running a prison work farm on President’s Island near Memphis.
  • Suffering from diabetes, Forrest died at his brother’s home in Memphis on October 29, 1877, at the age of fifty-six.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest’s body was originally interred Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis.
  • In 1905 Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife were re-interred in downtown Memphis, in a park that had until 2013 been named in Forrest’s honor.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Nathan Bedford Forrest - Facts
  • Coverage July 13, 1821 - October 29, 1877
  • Author
  • Keywords Nathan Bedford Forrest
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date December 4, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021

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