Nathan Bedford Forrest, simply put, is a controversial figure.
The son of a blacksmith, he came from an untamed area of Tennessee. Forrest had practically no schooling, but went on to become one of the highest-ranking generals of the Civil War. Like him or not, he was a smart man, a master tactician. And he did not put up with fools, and that included those few who were senior to him.
There are many stories about Forrest. Here’s one about a Union officer who became very upset after he surrendered to Forrest.
It was April of 1863 and a force of the Union cavalry under Colonel Abel Streight had orders to cut the Confederate railroad south of Chattanooga. Forrest chased the Union boys for 16 days, catching up with them in Rome, Georgia. Forrest only had 500 men with him, but he maneuvered them around to make it look like he had far more.
Streight finally surrendered his 1,700 soldiers to the Confederates. But when the colonel realized that he had conceded defeat to less than a third his number, he demanded that his surrender be reversed so he could battle it out. That demand went nowhere, naturally, and it was probably for the best for Streight. Forrest was known for defeating forces greater than his own in open battle.
There is a story after the war about a Yankee officer was in business with Forrest. The officer came to his house one day, and as soon as Forrest’s horse saw the blue uniform, the horse attacked him, trying to bite and kick him. One of Forrest’s men saw what was happening, came over and saved the officer.
The Yankee officer told Forrest that it was no wonder he won so many battles, since his horses fought for him with as much fury as his men did.