Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 1998-02 > 0886889875
From: Colleen Eagan <>
Subject: Nathan Bedford Forrest
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 1998 17:17:55 -0500
My encyclopedia tells me that Nathan Bedford Forrest was born at Chapel
Hill, Bedford Co., Tennessee 13 July 1821. He was a Confederate soldier,
enlisting as a private in the Confederate army in June 1861 in Memphis,
Tenn. He had served as an alderman of Memphis before his enlistment. He
had little formal education but became a successful planter and real estate
By October of 1861, Forrest was elected lieutenant colonel to command a
battalion of cavalry, which he outfitted at his own expense. His army
service engaged many battles of the American Civil War from the time he
enlisted until he surrendered in May 1865. By the time of his surrender at
the end of the war, Forrest had attained the rank of Major General. After
the war, he retired to his plantation.
He was believed to have been one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan, but a
Congressional inquiry revealed nothing. Forrest became president of the
Selam, Marion, and Memphis Railroad. He died 29 October 1877 in Memphis,
His surname, FORREST, was common in Scotland, according to Bell's book,
"Ulster Surnames." In Scotland, the name has been found manily as a
contraction of Forrester, the first reference to which was in 1144. A
family of the name Forrester was among the burgher nobility in 14th cent.
Edinburgh. Others were found in Stirlingshire, the Scottish Borders with
Forsters or Fosters.. etc.
Nathan Bedford Forrest might have some Scots background in his family, but
he was an American first, I guess.
I hope this answers some of your questions. Now, I have one for you; and I
ask this in the same tone that you professed; only as a point of information
and understanding. Is there an old Scots tradition of burning a cross when
a new home is built, or at some special occasion involving a piece of land?
At 09:29 PM 2/7/98 GMT, you wrote:
>I had an interesting mix of responses to my enquiry about the founder
>of the Ku Klux Klan. Contrary to what some people think, my intention
>was simply to find out a little information about Nathan Bedford
>Forrest, who had been described on the list as "a Scot". This is a
>part of American history I know nothing about, but it concerns me
>because I like to know what my fellow countrymen got up to.
>There seems a general assumption that Forrest was either Scots or
>Scots-Irish, but no-one could say so with certainty. I would however
>like to thank those who tried to help. It is also clear that opinions
>vary on the man himself.
>However, my main purpose in posting this further message is to say
>that I found some of the contributions a little surprising. It is
>clear that some people believe that the KKK should be swept under the
>carpet, and not talked about - not even in a historical perspective. I
>did not expect this in what I always believed to be a particularly
>open society. I also think that it is quite legitimate to discuss on
>this list historical issues related to the list's raison d'etre,
>whether they be bitter or sweet. Present day politics may have a place
>as well, if it is being discussed in the context of a historical
>Can I end by saying that I also received a number of messages where I
>appreciated the courage of those who were prepared to comment on an
>upsetting facet of American life. Every country has to deal with
>episodes like this: surely it is better to look at them squarely and
>Burntisland, Fife, Scotland