Who was Nathan Bedford Forest? And why do southerners celebrate his holiday?

Alpha to Omega

These holidays are long gone, officially, but nor forgotten. Many people around here are still waving Rebel flags on those “saint’s” days.





yojimbo–that’s an acronym I don’t recognize. Could you enlighten me?

Forrest was one of the great generals of the Southern Confederacy, along with Jackson and Lee. Some would say that he was the best of the three. They helped made the Civil War last longer than it should have been. After the war, he also was a founder of the Ku Klux Klan. Disenchanted with the group’s activities, when the group ignored his order to disband, he quit the group.

Guy, check here http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=29163

Do Not Fe … hold on why is somebody here as long as you asking me this ?

Are you wagging me centurian ? If so, I’ll have you twown to the floor vewy woughly . :slight_smile:

Forrest falls into that rarest of subsets of Captains: the untrained genius. Some other examples of innate military leadership are:

  • Narses: A septuagenerian eunuch in the court of Justinian I with little or no military experience before the age of fifty. He defeated the Ostragoths for Byzantium in the 550s, temporarily reuniting the two Catholic empires.

  • Daniel Morgan: Backwoods American leader and the architect of American Revolutionary irregular tactics in the Southern Theatre along with Nathaniel Greene. Morgan supposedly could not sign his own name.

  • Paul Kagame: Tutsi leader in Rwanda who pulled off one of the greatest small-army strategic operations since Jackson’s Valley Campaign. While Kagame was a military man, he had little formal military schooling. Much is made of his studies with the U.S. Army, but he only took one class–on tactics, not strategy, before he returned to Africa.

When you think about it, most military geniuses are assholes. For every Cincinnatus, Scipio, or Washington, there are a dozen Alexanders, Napoleons, Hitlers, Pattons and Forrests. The fact that Forrest was an asshole doesn’t detract from his military prowess. He, above all other leaders in the South during the Civil War, had an amazingly modern approach to both tactics and strategy. His adage, “get there firstest with the mostest,” implies a detailed understanding of the concepts of mass, maneuver, suprise, and initiative, some of the most important principles of warfare taught today at West Point.

Nevertheless, I still think Forrest is an ass. I can admire him as I admire other great military people, but venerating him as a “hero” is something I wouldn’t allow myself to do.

He still carries the name of Forrest, and is constantly amazed by the number of people who have no idea who Nathan Bedford Forrest was. If he lived in the south more people would probably recognize the name, but he lives in Pennsylvania. He was actually a little disappointed when the movie Forrest Gump came out because they didn’t use an actual picture of NBF, but instead touched up a photo of Tom Hanks. He has such a striking resemblence to NBF, the 150 year old picture in the above link looks like it could have been taken of my friend today.

In case you are all wondering, he is a nice guy, very intelligent, has a bit of a temper, and simply does not understand racism or intolerance of any kind. When I say “doesn’t understand” I am being quite literal–he responds to intolerance with a very blank stare and asks, “but why do you care?” with total sincerity.

Untrained military genius - include Genghis Khan, who took over hereditary leadership of one small tribe and built it into a vast empire encompassing most of Asia. I regard him as the alltime greatest military conqueror given where he started, and the technological level he was working at.

You may have a point, but Hitler was no military genius. Washington is debatable, too. Most analyses I’ve stumbled across suggest that Washington was a very good strategist and an absolutely lousy tactician. Alexander started with a solid base built up by his father, Philip of Macedonia.

Forrest strikes me as one of those interestingly grey historical figures - Vespasian is another one, and from modern times, I would add Yassar Arafat and maybe Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Forrest was undoubtedly a military leader of tremendous native ability. He was undoubtedly also a virulent racist, and probably intolerant and purposely ignorant in several other ways as well. Balanced against that, we find that he DID attempt to disband the KKK when it got too extreme even by his lights, and appeared to be capable of moderating his views towards the end of his life.

When you think about it, most military geniuses are assholes. For every Cincinnatus, Scipio, or Washington, there are a dozen Alexanders, Napoleons, Hitlers, Pattons and Forrests.

Hitler a military genius? Please, he was far from a genius, if he hadn’t gotten in the way of the true geniuses in the Wermacht, such as Rommel, they could very well have won World War II.

Germany might have won…

up until the time the industrial might of the US was brought to bear on the Axis…once that came about…it was only a matter of time.

Altho Forrest was not a bad general, Lee was far better, and JEB Stuart, Stonewall Jackson & Longstreet as good, if not better, and far more chivalous. Making NBF day a holiday, and not Davis and all of the 4 others*, is basicly a rascist attack on the Black people. NBF is not a Southern hero because he was a General, he is a hero because he was a rascist who killed a lot of Blacks.
Lee & Davis do have holidays in some areas, or did.

Hitler wasn’t a military genius in the “great captain” sense but he did posess some vision. He encouraged Guderian and Manstein in Developing Blitzkrieg tactics while the Democracies were staying with the failed ideas of WW1. However his lunatic ideology led him into a series of blunders, and at the end of the war he was almost certainly completely insane.

Also “Forrest day” or whatever they’re callling it is an offensive joke. Say what you will about the Germans, at least they don’t celebrate “Rommel Day.”

This veers off topic, but Hitler did not encourage the development of “Blitzkrieg” tactics. Those ideas had been developed long before by the likes of Guderian, Liddell Hart, and De Gaulle, among others. Hitler was enthusiastic about military power in general, but he came up with no new ideas himself.

As well, what Germany had at the beginning of the war wasn’t much different from what anyone else had. The Allies had just as many tanks and airplanes and used the same basic tactics the Germans did. Germany benefitted from being more confident and audacious in using it, (and in the two cases they kicked the hell out of a strong enemy, they benefitted from their opponent’s confusion and poor command structure) but the fundamental principles of warfare in 1939-1945 were the same as they were in 1812 and the same as they are today.

You’re right, though, Larry, in that “Forrest day” or whatever is a sick joke. It’s WORSE than “Rommel day.”

In fact, let me throw a REAL burner into the pot:

Southerners who defend the use of the Stars and Bars - and I do not think they’re all racists - say it’s because they’re proud of their history. To be blunt, what the hell do they have to be proud about? What was good about the South? What was good about the Confederacy? The Stars and Bars served as the battle flag of a backwards “country” that existed primarily because they wanted to enslave another people. What sort of dimwit is proud of that?

i’ve lived in the south all my life and never have I heard of a NBF holiday. I would guess that this is a knee jerk response to MLK day. Who and where is the NBF holiday celibrated.


Perhaps it is a holiday in Tennesse. Wasn’t he from Tennesse? In VA we do have a Lee/Jackson Day, but it isn’t actually celebrated by the entire population, more of an observance. And there has been some controversy over it since it falls on the same day as the offical national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They’ve moved it, or are going to move it to another day, something like that. Since I’m not a serious Civil War history buff, I hadn’t paid any attention to mentions of Forrest until “Forrest Gump” came out. Native Virginians naturally know more about our own Civil War heros, which are numerous.


Who are the banned trolls obsessed with Nathan Beford Forrest? And why do I celebrate their demise?

Uh oh, a pet peeve of mine. My dad thinks the same thing, but I’m near certain he’s wrong.

The Soviets turned back the Germans in '41 without any significant help from us. We were only just getting into the European theater in '42, actually North Africa and ineffective strategic bombing from Britain. (IIRC only 25% of bombers were hitting within 5 MILES of their targets.) The Soviets meanwhile turned back the Germans a second time (Stalingrad), and the Germans would never again be able launch a truely threatening general offensive in the East. Granted, the equipment we gave them (esp. trucks and trains) helped speed the Soviets victory, but they bore the real weight of Hitler’s army, NOT us. The German war machine was really crushed in '43 at Kursk, and they would no longer mount anything but local offensives after that. At that time, we were bogged down in Southern Italy, only tying down a few German divisions (while the Soviets faced, what, around 150-200?).

By 1944, strategic bombing became more effective (esp. by targeting oil refineries), and we took back France. The Soviets recovered their lost territory plus the bulk of Eastern Europe (considerably more territory), but likely would have done so without D-Day or strategic bombing. They just wouldn’t have gotten as far.

I submit that if the war was played out without U.S. involvement, the result would have been Soviet victory, somewhere between late '45 and early '47, depending on how well the Germans were able to:

  1. mass produce their new ME-262 jets and Tiger & Panther tanks,
  2. maintain their oil supplies, and
  3. strategically hold back the Soviet advance.

Had the Germans beat the Soviets in the Winter of '41, as they very nearly did, or even after that in '42, when they still had a small chance, our involvement would have been irrelevent. The Germans would have won.

Looking back at that, I should clarify that when I said '44, I meant by the end of '44. I can’t say I remember for sure how much of Eastern Europe the Soviets held at the end of '44 and how much they took Jan. '45 - May '45, as that post was all straight from memory. The point was that the Soviets did fight through much more territory than we did.