Get on the bus with Nathan Bedford Forrest

December 19, 2006

The American History Forum and Civil War Education Association, an organization offering various American History and Civil War Tours, has an interesting one lined up for June of 2007. Riding with Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Battle from the Start is a one-bus tour that traces the life of the infamous “Wizard of the Saddle.”

The tour will be led by Edwin C. Bearss, Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service, who vaulted to fame when he was one of the narrators of Ken Burns’s PBS series, The Civil War. bearss1.gifThe tour, which begins and ends in Memphis, costs $1,585 double occupancy if paid in full by December 31.

Get Ready Now: Civil War Sesquicentennial Begins in Four Years

December 6, 2006

While the national news media argue over whether to apply the term “civil war” to the unpleasantness in Iraq, a piece in today’s Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription only, so no link) says that tourism officials in Georgia are making ready for the 150th anniversary of our Civil War.

According to the article, “About 900,000 people a year come through the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the nation’s first and largest military historical park. The tourism injects about $36 million to the area’s economy, Mr. Culpepper said.”

The article quotes a Georgia tourism official who claims that Georgia is second only to Virginia in Civil War sites. I have always heard that Tennessee had more Civil War battles than any state except the Old Dominion, but “sites” covers a lot of ground.

I was a mere lad during the Civil War centennial, and we boys at Miller Perry School would turn out for recess wearing blue or grey kepis and conduct mock battles. My parents, although we lived in Tennessee, always bought the Atlanta newspaper every Sunday, and each week that newspaper printed a facsimile copy of a front page from 100 years earlier.

Americans never get as fired up about 150th birthdays as we do 100th or 200th–we love our zeros– but the anniversary will mean increased tourism for Tennessee. This time around, I think we’ll see more attention spent on African-American participation in the war. I hope that Tennessee cities and towns make some solid gains on preserving battlefields and significant structures. If we don’t, we’ll have a new version of The Lost Cause.

Nathan Bedford Forrest controversy rides again

November 24, 2006

Today’s Tennessean has a piece on the neverending fracus kicked up by the infamous “Wizard of the Saddle.” This latest episode was kicked off by the Middle Tennessee State University Student Government Association, which passed a resolution calling on the University to remove the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Army ROTC building.

Forrest represents a conundrum for Tennesseans. He was indisputably a great tactician and commander–no less than Shelby Foote said that the Civil War produced two geniuses, Forrest and Abe Lincoln–but the former Memphis alderman’s involvement with the Fort Pillow massacre and subsequent leadership of the Ku Klux Klan tarnishes his image.

One thing that Forrest fanciers and opponents can agree on, however, is that the fiberglass depiction of him erected alongside I-65 in Nashville is, hands down, the singlemost hideous Civil War statue ever created.


Ghosts of Fort Pillow

October 31, 2006

The Commercial Appeal conjures up a story of a Memphis-based ghost hunter who, with a bag of technology, came to the remains of Fort Pillow to investigate stories of ghostly Union soldiers who still haunt the battlefield. Late in the war, Fort Pillow was manned by many black soldiers, who were infamously massacred by troops led by Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The results? Don Kopcial claims he recorded spectral voices holding this revealing conversation:

“Are you ready?”


“We need to go.”

If anyone wishes to do ghost busting here, it would be the latter day defenders of the Lost Cause, who wish they could exorcise this blot from the record of the Wizard of the Saddle.

Memphis Commercial Appeal – Memphis’ Source for News and Information: Local

"Real Daughters” of Civil War Union veterans

September 26, 2006

Fred Brown of the Knoxville News Sentinel writes today about the vanishing number of people who were fathered by Civil War veterans. An organization called the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War claims that 26 women are still alive who are direct descendants of the boys in blue. (You can see the Daughters’ website here: Four of the Daughters live in East Tennessee.

Other daughters exist, apparently, but they are not members of the group–
Perhaps that is why the card-carrying members are dubbed “Real Daughters.”

Civil War veterans, it seems, sired children far beyond the years when most men experience fatherhood. Take, for example, the woman featured in Brown’s article, Minnie Malicote. She is 98, which means she was born in 1908. The article says her father died at age 90 in 1936, which makes him 62 when she was born. There was no mention in the article of Mrs. Malicote’s mother, or how old she was when Minnie was born.

Veterans of the Civil War received pensions, which could be passed on to their wives. In poverty-ridden times and places, those pensions no doubt caused some young women to marry bewhiskered veterans. The last known Civil War widow was Gertrude Janeway, who died in January, 2003 in Blaine, Tennessee. She married her husband in 1927, when she was 18 and he was 81.

While the dwindling number of daughters, real or otherwise, certainly should be honored, my heart goes out to their mothers, those young women who, for whatever reason, married those old coots and bore their children.

Not all of the victims of war suffer on battlefields.

KnoxNews: Columnists