Parkers Crossroads in Henderson County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)
Nathan Bedford Forrest
July 13, 1821 - October 29, 1877
Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of the Civil War's greatest cavalry generals. His ferocity as a warrior and his claim to have slain one more enemy soldier in personal combat than the 29 horses killed beneath him made him a legend.
Forrest, more than most, understood that "war means fighting and fighting means killing."
A Frontier Boyhood
Named for his grandfather and the county of his birth, Nathan Bedford Forrest was a product of the rough and violent Southern frontier. As a boy he knew poverty and uncertainty. He never forgot those difficult years. They shaped him into a fearless, self-reliant man; a man who trusted himself and his judgment and insisted that others do the same.
His father, William, was a blacksmith who struggled to support his family in sparsely settled Bedford County, Tennessee. His mother, Mariam, bore 8 sons and 3 daughters. Only six of her children lived to adulthood. A typhoid fever outbreak took two of Forrest's brothers and all three of his sisters, including his twin, Fanny.
When Bedford [as his family called him] was thirteen, his family left Tennessee for newly opened lands in north Mississippi. Less than three years later, in 1837, William Forrest died. Bedford, as the oldest son, was left responsible for the family.
By 1840, Bedford's
A Man of Means
Forrest prospered in Hernando. In April 1845 he married Mary Ann Montgomery, the refined, well-educated daughter of a prominent family. He entered into the slave trade, accumulating a significant amount of capital. His lack of formal education, only six months, and social skills proved less important in his business dealings than his reputation for honesty and fairness.
By 1850 Forrest's ambitions had outgrown Hernando. He moved his family to Memphis, where he felt he had a better chance of achieving his goals of accumulating wealth and becoming a planter. Forrest turned his full attention to the slave trade, which he no doubt saw as a logical, practical, and profitable business choice. He entered into business with a customary vigor and quickly established a reputation as a good slave dealer.
As Forrest accumulated wealth he began to act like the planter he aspired to be. He bought unimproved land and transformed it, with the use of
(Side Two of Kiosk):
The Civil War
Nathan Bedford Forrest was opposed to secession. It meant change that he no longer needed or wanted. At thirty-nine he had wealth and social standing, which he did not want jeopardized. On the other hand, he had vested interest in perpetuating the institution of slavery. When his home state of Tennessee voted to leave the Union Forrest settled his affairs in Mississippi. He joined Captain Josiah White's Tennessee Mounted Rifles as a private on June 14, 1861, accompanied by his youngest brother, Jeffery, and his fifteen year-old son, William.
Under the urging of influential citizens, Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris ordered Forrest to Memphis to raise a new command. Now a lieutenant colonel, Forrest recruited volunteers, promising them "A Chance for Active Service." Weapons and horse equipment being scarce, Forrest used his business contacts to procure needed supplies in Kentucky, smuggling pistols, saddles, and other goods in bags marked potatoes, leather, and coffee.
On February 14, 1862, the Confederates at Fort Donelson were attacked by a superior Federal
When the Confederate command surrendered unconditionally, then-colonel Forrest declined, saying "I did not come here for the purpose of surrendering my command." In his after-action report he stated, "I am clearly of the opinion that two-thirds of our army could have marched out without loss, and that, had we encountered the fight the next day, we should have gained a glorious victory."
The surrender of Fort Donelson was a major victory for the North and a catastrophe for the South. It insured that Kentucky would stay in the Union and paved the way for a Union advance into Tennessee along the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers.
"That Devil Forrest"
At Forrest's first major engagement at Sacramento, Kentucky in December 1861, he demonstrated the tactics that characterized his military career, striking simultaneously on the flanks while attacking the front and employing close-hand fighting. The battle made it clear that Forrest understood the fundamental truth of war - that it was at best a brutal business of kill or be killed.
In February 1862 Forrest led his men out of Fort Donelson rather than surrender, establishing a reputation for boldness.
On February 3, 1863 Forrest's command was defeated at Dover, Tennessee. This setback was followed by victories at Thompson's Station and Brentwood. He stopped a Union raid through northern Alabama in April and May, convincing the Federals to surrender by artificially inflating his own command, a tactic that characterized his military career.
Forrest who did not get along with his superior, Braxton Bragg, obtained a transfer to an independent command in Mississippi. There, for the third time, he created a new command. In December, after several successful raids into Tennessee, Forrest was promoted to major general.
(Third Side of Kiosk):
The Civil War
In April 1864 Forrest captured Fort Pillow, but not without cost. He lost control of his troops, and a number of Union soldiers, most of them black troops, were killed as they attempted to surrender. The "Fort Pillow Massacre" as it was called by the Northern press, plagued Forrest the rest of his life.
The debacle at Fort Pillow was succeeded in July by a resounding victory against a larger Union force at Brice's Cross Roads, a battle many believe was Forrest's finest military feat. Over the next several months Forrest led actions in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. His rearguard action during the Confederate retreat from Nashville in December 1864, the last engagement of General John Bell Hood's disastrous Tennessee Campaign, undoubtedly saved the Army of Tennessee from extinction.
"I'm a-going home"
Forrest was promoted to a lieutenant general in February 1865 and took command of the cavalry in the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana. In April he was defeated at Selma. By early May Forrest realized that continuing the war was futile. Political leaders urged him to link his command with that of Edmund Kirby Smith in the Trans-Mississippi theater. Forrest would have none of it, reply, "Any man who is in favor of further prosecution of this war is a fit subject for a lunatic asylum, and ought to be sent there immediately." Forrest surrendered his command at Gainsville, Alabama, in May 1865.
Nathan Bedford Forrest's Civil War
December 3 Sacramento (Kentucky)
February 13-16 Fort Donelson (Tennessee)
April 4-8 Shiloh (Tennessee)
July 13 Murfreesboro (Tennessee)
December 18 Lexington (Tennessee)
December 19 Salem Cemetery (Tennessee)
December 20 Trenton (Tennessee)
December 23 Union City (Tennessee)
December 31 Parker's Crossroads (Tennessee)
February 3 Dover (Tennessee)
March 5 Thompson's Station (Tennessee)
March 25 Brentwood (Tennessee)
April 10 Franklin (Tennessee)
April 30 Sand Mountain (Alabama)
April 30 Hog Mountain (Alabama)
September 11 Tunnel Hill (Georgia)
September 18-20 Chickamauga (Georgia)
September 24 Athens (Alabama)
February 21 West Point (Mississippi)
February 22 Okolona (Mississippi)
March 25 Paducah (Kentucky)
April 22 Fort Pillow (Tennessee)
June 10 Brice's Cross Roads (Tennessee)
July 14 Tupelo (Mississippi)
August 21 Memphis (Tennessee)
September 27 Pulaski (Tennessee)
November 3 Johnsonville (Tennessee)
November 29 Spring Hill (Tennessee)
November 30 Franklin (Tennessee)
April 2 Selma (Alabama)
The Post-War Years
The post-war years were difficult for Forrest, who later said he had gone into the war worth a million and a half-dollars and come out of it a beggar. He was also in poor physical shape, admitting he had come "out of the war pretty well wrecked... completely used up... shot to pieces, crippled up." Although Forrest endeavored to revive Green Grove, one of his few surviving assets, he was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1868.
Forrest expressed desire to live quietly was in direct opposition to his wish to see conservative white Democrats restored to political power. He became active in politics and embraced the Ku Klux Klan, assuming the role of the first Grand Wizard, a position he later resigned. In the spring of 1877 Forrest's already fragile health began to fail. He died in Memphis on October 29, 1877
Location. 35° 47.32′ N, 88° 23.376′ W. Marker is in Parkers Crossroads, Tennessee, in Henderson County. Marker is on Federal Lane, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Located at stop seven, of the driving tour of Parker's Crossroads Battlefield. The parking area is adjacent to Interstate 40. Marker is in this post office area: Wildersville TN 38388, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Battle of Parker's Crossroads (a few steps from this marker); Lt. Col. Alonzo Napier (a few steps from this marker); Battlefield Overview (within shouting distance of this marker); McPeake Cabin (within shouting distance of this marker); A Very Successful Campaign (within shouting distance of this marker); Withdrawal to the Split-Rail Fence (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Lexington-Huntingdon Road (about 300 feet away); Three Desperate Charges (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Parkers Crossroads.
Also see . . .
1. Nathan Bedford Forrest. A biography of Forrest. (Submitted on July 3, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
2. Parkers Crossroads. Civil War Preservation Trust site detailing the battle. (Submitted on July 3, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.)
Categories. • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 3, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 2,652 times since then and 32 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on July 3, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 5. submitted on July 4, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.