Nathan Bedford Forrest: Hero or Villain? Defending the Legacy of One of America’s Greatest Generals
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Union General William Tecumseh Sherman cursed him as “That devil Forrest.” Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee said he was the greatest military genius of the war. This giant of a man—six foot two, two hundred and ten pounds—was Nathan Bedford Forrest, a general who killed no less than thirty men in man-to-man combat in the Civil War. There have been other biographies of Forrest, but none like Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest (Regnery History; $29.99; October 3, 2016) by Professor Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr.
Forrest’s legacy is clouded by his role as the first Grand Wizard of the KKK (a group he later helped to disband and disavow); however, there is more than meets the eye behind his controversial past. Bust Hell Wide Open is a comprehensive portrait of Forrest as a man: his achievements, failings, reflections, and regrets.
Mitcham taps all the latest scholarship while approaching Forrest not just as a celebrated general whose campaigns are studied to this day, but as a man in full, a man raised and shaped by the Tennessee frontier, with a conscience sharpened by his devoutly Christian wife.
Gallant, tough, chivalrous, Forrest was the epitome of a Confederate cavalryman, but without the polish and education of a Virginia aristocrat.
Bust Hell Wide Open reveals little-known, fascinating stories about a multi-faceted man, such as:
· When Forrest said he would “bust Hell wide open” rather than surrender to the Federals during the siege of Fort Donelson
· How he hunted down a panther when he was fifteen
· When he fought a gunfight in the Western frontier
· How he grew up in poverty on a ramshackle farm—responsible, as a teenager, for the well-being of his widowed mother and nine siblings
· How he amassed a business fortune, which he spent on his troops