Our Confederate Ancestors: A Year with Forrest, by Rev. W. H. Whitsitt, Part Two, Conclusion

A Series on the Daring Exploits of Our Confederate Ancestors in the War Between the States.

About eleven o'clock they laid the first ambuscade, but Forrest contrived to discover it in advance and, instead of walking into it, caused us to dismount and get into line and crawl up close to the enemy's position.

It would have made too much noise to have brought up a piece of artillery by horse power so soldiers were harnessed to it and dragged it to a point within two hundred yards of the enemy's line.

When the proper moment arrived, he ordered the cannon to open and the cavalry likewise so that we surprised the enemy instead of them surprising us. I walked along the line where they had been formed and found it littered from end to end with small bits of paper. It looked as if every man in their column must have employed the leisure afforded by that stop to tear up all the private letters found upon his person. It was clear that their alarm had become serious and would help us much if we could keep it up.

Part Two, Conclusion, of
A Year with Forrest

Address by Rev. W. H. Whitsitt, D.D., before R. E. Lee Camp, Confederate Veterans, of Richmond, Va., in Confederate Veteran magazine, Vol. XXV, No. 8, August, 1917.

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[Publisher's Note, by Gene Kizer, Jr. : This article, Part Two of Rev. Whitsitt's "A Year with Forrest," is one of the most exciting and inspiring I have ever read. It shows clearly what a genius Forrest was. Forrest's men were motivated by the fearlessness of their leader and became fearless themselves.

For example, Forrest, with only 475 Confederates, chased a Yankee unit made up of over 1,500 well armed men, across Tennessee and forced (tricked might be a better word) them to surrender as detailed in this article.

Forrest was relentless, on top of his enemy the whole way, anticipating their moves, designing traps, waging a psychological war to keep them scared and running.

Southerners needed brilliant leaders because they faced such overwhelming odds. They were outnumbered four to one and outgunned a hundred to one. The Yankee army was always well fed, well clothed and armed with advanced weaponry.

Southerners were usually hungry, ragged and always had inferior weapons.

The North had a huge pipeline to the wretched refuse of the world which is why 25% of the Union army was not born in America. Tens of thousands of foreigners poured continually into the North with only the shirts on their backs to find the Union Army recruiter waiting on the docks with fat enlistment bonuses.

The South had to build their country from scratch but the North started with a powerful army, navy, merchant marine, a functioning government, a stable financial system and most of the nation's manufacturing. Their horses to carry their cannons and cavalry were always well fed, healthy and replaced immediately when they were killed.

There were 19 marine engine factories in the North. Zero, in the South.

Gen. Grant did not mind losing men. He could easily replace them. Southerners could not.

Yet Southerners killed in battle roughly the same number of Yankees as they killed of us, and Southern ingenuity and valor such as displayed by Nathan Bedford Forrest, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and so many others, are second to none among all nations and all time.

Lincoln knew if he allowed such people as native Southerners with their talent and spirit to form their own country on his Southern border with 100% control of King Cotton, they would soon eclipse the Yankee empire as the greatest, most powerful nation in history.

That's why Lincoln started his war as fast as he could. He had to keep other nations from supporting the South like the French had done for the Colonists in the Revolution.

Lincoln had to cut off the South from the rest of the world quickly so he sent his invasion fleets with hundreds of troops and armaments to Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens to get the war started, then he announced his naval blockade before the smoke had cleared from the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

Despite the outcome, the intelligence, resourcefulness and valor of Southerners is there for all to read and understand. Their true federal republic based on powerful sovereign states is exactly what the Founding Fathers wanted for America.

Can you imagine Forrest, Lee or Jackson giving billions of dollars of sophisticated weaponry, Blackhawks, night-vision goggles, etc. to murderers like the Taliban?

The Taliban are Biden and Blinken's new buddies while Biden and Blinken work against former American military personnel and others who are struggling to get our citizens and friends out of Afghanistan.

We are being led by traitors and the most incompetent fools in American history.

"President" Joe Biden has disgraced and dishonored our country and our military in the eyes of the world so that even European parliaments have passed resolutions in disgust.

Biden has armed Taliban terrorists with our own weapons and the Taliban is now bringing in Al-Quida, ISIS and all the others.

Just like Obama gave ISIS their caliphate, which was destroyed in a few months by President Trump, Biden has gone further, and Americans will die. Because of Biden and Blinken, we no longer own the night.

What is it with Democrats and their love of terrorists and people who hate America?

It is as if the Democrat Party hates white Americans so bad they would arm terrorists because they are non-whites, rather than protect majority-white America.

Why couldn't Biden have sent drones to destroy the night-vision goggles and Blackhawks?

I'll tell you why.

Because Biden, Blinken and company are such idiots they removed the military first and put us at the mercy of the Taliban.

They then were afraid if they destroyed those weapons with drones, there would be a bloodbath even worse than currently taking place, and the photo-ops would be bad for Democrats.

So, they gave billions of dollars of highly sophisticated weaponry to our worst enemies knowing our media, which are the most corrupt propagandists in the history of the printed word, would cover for them.

What utter incompetence and treason.

This Federal Government that the "Federals" in the War Between the States forced on our nation is corrupt almost beyond repair, and the national Republican Party is feckless and cowardly. Without a strong leader like Trump, Republicans will never hold these traitors accountable.

Our founding documents are clear that the PEOPLE are the Sovereign in our country. Not Big Tech with its censorship, or the racist, Marxist Communist Democrat Party with its Critical Race Theory they are forcing on everybody.

Wake up America. We are still the greatest nation in history despite this internal onslaught by our America-hating enemies on the left.

It's time they experience that Righteous Might of the American people that FDR spoke about on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese and we entered World War II.

The things we face today are worse than that day of Infamy because there are traitors in our country at the highest levels, and they intend to make us a totalitarian tyranny with them in charge.

I can't imagine a more horrible fate for our children and grandchildren. All one has to do is go to any violent, drug infested Democrat big city to witness a crumbling civilization. People defecate in the street, laws decriminalize theft which makes thievery so rampant no business can survive. Bail laws put criminals back on the street before the ink is dry on their arrest warrants so they can prey again on innocent citizens.

The Southern border is wide open and every single month hundreds of thousands of unknown people, drug dealers, terrorists, thousands with third world diseases who are also COVID positive with new strains of the plague flow into our country but that doesn't matter because they are all future Democrat voters.

As others have observed, we are witnessing a Marxist Communist takeover of the United States of America in real time and it is being orchestrated by the Democrat Party. This is undoubtedly a foreign invasion enabled by Democrat traitors and there is nothing we can do about it at the moment.

The Democrat Party is at war with our country as we know it so they can enrich themselves and rule forever.

The American Sovereign, the People, better wake the hell up and fast because time is running out.]

Part Two, Conclusion, of
A Year with Forrest
by Rev. W. H. Whitsitt

ON THE 23d of April, 1863, we were ordered from Columbia to Courtland, Ala., and at Town Creek, not far away, we found our old adversary, Gen. G. M. Dodge, again with a large force of infantry and cavalry.

Their purpose was to afford a proper send-off to the expedition of Col. A. D. Streight, who had a commission to visit Bragg's rear and do all the damage he might find possible in Georgia and elsewhere.

General Dodge pressed us sorely all day of the 27th and also the 28th, but at midnight of the 28th a messenger appeared in our camp near Courtland to announce that a body of about twenty-five cavalry had passed through Mount Hope at dusk and had taken the road to Moulton.

It was then "Boots and saddles!" and at 1 a.m. of the 29th, the same hour at which Streight quitted Moulton, Forrest set out to pursue him.

The troops of Colonel Streight were brave and formidable. They were select and seasoned infantry from Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, who had been mounted on mules especially for this expedition. In action they always dismounted just as we did, and they were practiced and patient fighters.

During the forenoon of the 20th, we reached Moulton and followed the enemy to Day's Gap, a distance of seventeen miles, where we found him in camp a little after midnight. It was suspected that with all his excellencies as a commander Colonel Streight was too slow of motion for the business he had in hand.

He had been three and a half days on the march when we struck him and had traversed a distance of only sixty-five miles. What was the use of mounting his command if they were to be marched at the rate of infantry? If he had moved forty miles a day during these three days and kept up that pace, he could have reached Rome and Atlanta in spite of the world, the flesh, and the devil. He must have considered that he was on a May-day frolic; he seemed to be trying to coddle the negroes. After we had come up with him he moved at the rate of fifty miles a day and threw in some fighting besides.

At nine o'clock on the mornig of the 30th of April, Forrest prepared to engage Streight in this camp upon Sand Mountain. Our regiment, which for this expedition was commanded by Captain McLemore, was sent with Biffle's 9th Tennessee to climb the mountain by another gap and gain the enemy's rear. Forrest hoped to hold him with a portion of Roddy's Brigade until we might catch him in that trap. But the engagement at Day's Gap was too brief for our purpose. Streight evidently apprehended the nature of our game and slipped out of the trap.

When Forrest found us in the road on Sand Mountain, he sent General Roddy and his brigade back to the Tennessee River to observe the movements of General Dodge, and, with the two Tennessee regiments mentioned and his escort and a section of Ferrell's Battery, he closely followed the enemy, although our number was less than half of theirs.

They had whipped Roddy in the initial encounter on the morning of the 29th and captured two of the guns of Morton who commanded after the death of Freeman. But we forced Colonel Streight to deliver battle again about sunset and when it was concluded the two pieces were left spiked on the field.

This was the first night battle I had witnessed. The pine trees were very tall, the darkness of their shade was intense, the mountain where the enemy was posted was steep, and as we charged again and again under Forrest's own lead it was a grand spectacle.

It seemed that the fires which blazed from their muskets were almost long enough to reach our faces. There was one advantage in being below them: they often fired above our heads in the darkness.

This battle closed about 9 p.m., and shortly afterwards the moon rose in great splendor. It seemed to have been sent for our special behoof.

I have said there is no reason to suppose that the old man had read Caesar's commentaries either in English or in Latin, but he followed the tactics of Caesar as if by instinct. His military lore in this emergency was expressed in the following command: "Shoot at everything blue and keep up the scare."

To execute this order he compelled us to hang upon the very heels of the enemy all the way. There was constant peril of ambuscade, but we waited for the moon to rise before pressing close upon the enemy after nightfall. By daylight we generally kept in sight and were able to see them and almost always to open the fighting when they attempted to surprise us.

About eleven o'clock they laid the first ambuscade, but Forrest contrived to discover it in advance and, instead of walking into it, caused us to dismount and get into line and crawl up close to the enemy's position.

It would have made too much noise to have brought up a piece of artillery by horse power so soldiers were harnessed to it and dragged it to a point within two hundred yards of the enemy's line.

When the proper moment arrived, he ordered the cannon to open and the cavalry likewise so that we surprised the enemy instead of them surprising us. I walked along the line where they had been formed and found it littered from end to end with small bits of paper. It looked as if every man in their column must have employed the leisure afforded by that stop to tear up all the private letters found upon his person. It was clear that their alarm had become serious and would help us much if we could keep it up.

At two o'clock the next morning, when most of our command had fallen asleep on horseback, we were ambuscaded at the ford of a difficult mountain stream and caused some losses, especially among the animals. We in our turn were thrown into a degree of confusion here, but they were too much frightened to press their advantage.

Indeed, most of those who fired upon us were drawn up on the other side of the stream. A small detachment lay in the undergrowth at the foot of a steep causeway upon which we were marching down to the river, but they ran away as soon as they had discharged their pieces. Wyeth declares that this ambuscade at two o'clock on the morning of May 1 was "practically a repetition" of the one attempted at eleven o'clock. It was a more serious affair; and after crossing the river, a branch of the Black Warrior, the General permitted us to get down and sleep from 3 to 5 a.m.

Colonel Streight seemed to have no proper ideas of what a cavalry soldier can endure. Possibly his men, having been only recently promoted to saddle, were galled and wearied by the novelty of the exercise. He was taking his ease as if no enemy were near when we found him at Blountsville next morning, May 2.

We immediately put his column in motion and kept it on the run to the Black Warrior, where he was compelled to fight us to obtain a crossing.

Here we were allowed a rest from 6 p.m. until the moon arose about eleven while two companies of Biffle's 9th Tennessee were detailed to hang upon the enemy's rear throughout the night.

We were summoned at the appointed moment and moved forward to find Colonel Streight next morning at Wilber's Creek, where Biffle's detail was relieved and Forrest again took the chase in hand.

About 11 a.m. of May 3 we came in sight of Black Creek Bridge and perceived that it was on fire, which indicated that the enemy were all on the other side.

They marched away after a brief season, assured of a respite of half a day before we should be able to cross the creek and catch up with them again; but Miss Emma Sanson piloted the General to a ford, and we were soon across the deep and swollen stream.

It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when we struck Colonel Streight in Gadsden, four miles away on the banks of the Coosa River. Why should he be sauntering at Gadsden during those precious hours?

It seemed as if he had made up his mind to fail. He ought not to have failed. He recruited his horses almost every mile. It was a common thing to find standing in the highways the wagons and carriages of citizens from which he had removed the horses, leaving his exhausted mules in the place of them. Our horses were falling out constantly and we had no means whatever of renewing the supply.

At Gadsden, Forrest took a picked company of about two hundred of his best mounted troopers and followed the retreating enemy, fighting him every step of the way to Turkey Town, where, after nightfall, Streight planned an ambuscade; but, as usual, Forrest saw his game and got the best of it.

In the encounter that was occasioned by the Confederate flank movement the Federal Colonel Hathaway, with many others, was killed, and immediately all the hopes of Streight seemed to be crushed.

When we caught up with Forrest about nine o'clock, I learned that Hartwell Hunt, one of my dearest friends, had been killed in the skirmish, and the rest of the night was filled with grief.

During the half hour he remained in Gadsden, Forrest had procured a courier to go on horseback by a route on the opposite side of the Coosa River and advise the city of Rome of its peril. Col. John H. Wisdom was the man who rendered that service, but he was not a member of our command.

At Turkey Town Streight also dispatched a force of two hundred picked men to go forward and capture the city, which was about sixty miles distant; but Colonel Wisdom outrode them and saved the day.

The bottom was carefully removed from the bridge that led across the river, the State militia was under arms, and Rome was rescued from peril. When Streight's advance guard arrived, they were beaten off with small exertion and the doom of his expedition was sealed.

We rested at Turkey Town until the moon had risen, receiving strict orders to be mounted and on the road at midnight.

There was a disturbance when the General rode up and found us in line at the edge of the road; but our colonel settled it by claiming a difference of two minutes in watches, during which time we wheeled into column on the road and resumed the march.

Pursuing the enemy with renewed vigor, we found that he had burned the bridge by which he had only recently crossed Chattanooga River. Though the stream was swollen, we were ordered to plunge in, and we got across by swimming a few yards in the middle of it.

There was a deal of trouble about the cannon, but they were finally pulled across, while the ammunition was transferred by means of canoes that the citizens provided.

Before ten o'clock in the morning we bore down upon the enemy's camp, and, finding him unprepared for battle, General Forrest sent Captain Pointer with a flag of truce to demand his surrender. Colonel Streight replied that he would be glad to meet General Forrest and discuss the question  with him.

When the message was delivered, Forrest remarked: "If he ever talks to me, then I've got him." The old man had large experience and skill in such emergencies, and before noon the surrender had been accomplished.

The place was crowded with undergrowth and Streight proposed to march down the road until they should find an open field suitable for the business of laying down his arms.

Forrest gave assent, and in a few minutes we were in the road, which shortly became a lane with immense fields of growing cotton on each side. That was the longest lane I ever traveled. It may have been a mile, but it seemed ten miles in length.

Streight had about fourteen hundred and fifty men, and we had about four hundred and seventy-five in line. We were drawn up on both sides of them, and every man of them carried a loaded rifle and some likewise loaded pistols. If they had concluded to renew the struggle, it is difficult to understand how any of us could have escaped alive.

Forrest galloped up and down the column and busily gave orders to the courier to ride to the road and order imaginary regiments and imaginary batteries to stop and feed their animals and men.

But the regiments of Starnes and Biffle and Ferrell's Battery, which had been depleted to skeleton proportions, were the only available troops within a hundred miles.

Finally the lane came to an end and there was a field of broom sedge on the right-hand side. Colonel Streight led the way and his troops were shortly formed in line. Then at the word of command they dismounted, stacked arms, remounted, and rode away.

There was an inexpressible sense of relief when they had parted company with their arms and ammunition; but we did not venture to suggest the fewness of our numbers until we had delivered them safely to the keeping of the guards whom the government had dispatched to Rome to receive them.

Our victory was embittered by a message that Stonewall Jackson had been wounded in a battle in Virginia, which was announced shortly after we reached Rome. I can never forget the sorrow and foreboding it produced.

On the way back to Columbia, Tenn., a messenger arrived bringing tiding of the death of Gen. Earl Van Dorn, and Forrest was ordered shortly afterwards to take his place in command of the cavalry on the left wing of Bragg's army.

The retreat of Bragg from Shelbyville began late in June, 1863, and the duty of covering his rear was assigned to Wheeler and Forrest.

At Tullahoma on the last day of the month, the advance of Rosecran's army began to press against our brigade now commanded by Col. J. W. Starnes of the 4th Tennessee Cavalry, and in the encounter, this great soldier was fatally wounded by a sharpshooter. His loss was deeply deplored, and his name is revered by all who appreciate courage and capacity.

The alleged inefficiency of the general in command had become more glaringly apparent during the retreat from Shelbyville and especially in the maneuvers that preceded the struggle at Chickamauga.

Forrest, who enjoyed opportunities to observe every failure at close range, was fully convinced that the situation could not be improved as long as Bragg should be retained.

The fighting at Chickamauga was more trying than the average. We always dismounted and acted as infantry, but here we were in the same line with our veteran Confederate infantry regiments.

We held a portion of the front line all the morning of the 19th of September and found the enemy duly stubborn. Wyeth affirms that it was 1:30 p.m. when Cheatham's Division relieved us and pressed on toward Chattanooga. I always supposed it was 4 p.m. when Cheatham appeared. At any rate, the day was very long indeed.

When Cheatham took our place and went in, I must concede that the music became more lively than any we had made. We immediately got on our horses to take position of his flank and keep it from being turned. There was a short pause as the column was going into line, and half a dozen of us, standing with our horses' heads together, were listening to the tremendous din, when a grapeshot that had passed almost a mile of undergrowth struck Coleman, of Company F, in the stomach. He fell from his horse and was dead in three minutes.

Severe as the battle of the 19th had been, that of the 20th was still more trying.

We were in line with the troops of Gen. John C. Breckinridge on the right wing, and I have a distinct recollection of the appearance of that officer as he rode along just behind our column shorty after daylight.

The action did not begin till 9:30 a.m., but we had been ready since 6:30. When it finally opened, we played the part of infantry again and kept up with the advance of Breckinridge, but that was not very great.

We were face to face with General Thomas, a foeman worthy of our steel, who contested every inch of the ground. My impression is that this was the loudest noise and the longest day of my life, and the night which followed it was also memorable for its discomforts.

On Monday morning, September 21, Forrest pursued the enemy almost into Chattanooga and found him apparently engaged in evacuating the town. If General Bragg had pressed forward before noon of that day, there might have been a great victory.

Forrest claimed that when he went in person to inform General Bragg of the importance of immediate action he caught him asleep and that after he got him awake Bragg objected that his army had no supplies.

When Forrest suggest that there were abundant supplies in Chattanooga, no reply was made, and he turned from the commanding general in unconcealed disgust.

The friction had become so decided that it was now impossible for the two officers to  cooperate harmoniously and on the 28th of September, Bragg issued an order for him to turn over his command to General Wheeler.

He obeyed without delay. There was no sign of discontent or mutiny.

No farewells were spoken to his companions in arms. He passed our camp at the head of his escort as if employed on customary occasions. We were not informed of the action that had been taken until he was on his way to West Tennessee to found his fortunes anew and rise to the dignity of lieutenant general of the Confederate States army.

So long as we followed Forrest we enjoyed the respect of the army.

If we passed a regiment of infantry, they would heap the customary contempt upon us; but when it was suggest that we belonged to Forrest's people, they changed tune, and they fraternized with us as real soldiers, worthy companions in arms. They inquired about our battles and our leader and wondered at his genius and success. We were heroes even to the infantry.

But when Wheeler took command of us, all of that was changed.

The infantry could not be appeased, and it was vain to reply. General Wheeler was a brave and honorable man, but nobody ever accused him of genius.

Forrest was an extraordinary genius. He developed a new use for cavalry; and that was his specific contribution to the art of war.

All the other maxims of the great masters came to him by nature. He was equally at home in infantry, cavalry, and artillery.

By the readiness of his initiative he kept the whole campaign before his eye and could strike a blow at a distance of a hundred miles before anybody dreamed it was conceivable.

He could discern the exigencies of the field of battle swiftly and surely. He had the sanest initiative I ever observed, not blind, not foolhardy; balance, when retreat was essential he could perform it with more dispatch and repose than anybody.

It was hard to find a soldier with  intellect so strong and fertile and safe, whose will was so healthy and prompt and resistless, whose organization was so much of the hair-trigger variety, whose military education and military maxims were so admirable.

If he could have commanded the Western Army after Shiloh--but I will not indulge vain regrets.

In a letter to the Cincinnati Inquirer George Alfred Townsend recites an interview he held with Lee at Appomattox C. H., in which he inquired: "General Lee, who is the greatest general now under your command?"

Lee replied with grave deliberation: "A man I never saw, sir. His name is Forrest."

I am no military critic, but my affection inclines me to say that the War between the States developed three incomparable geniuses for war, all on the Southern side--Lee, Jackson, and Forrest.

When I first met General Forrest, he was already a famous man. He was in command of troops raised in Middle Tennessee, some 1,800 men, almost all of them raw recruits.

Colonel Starnes's regiment, the 4th Tennessee Cavalry, had seen much service; four companies of Russell's 4th Alabama were also trained men.

The other were newly enlisted--Dibrell's 8th Tennessee, Biffle's 9th Tennessee, and Freeman's Battery. These made up the famous Forrest Brigade.

General Forrest was a man of remarkable appearance, over six feet tall, somewhat muscular in build, powerful and graceful, giving an impression of solidity and completeness; while neatly dressed and groomed, he apparently took no thought of dress or accouterments and was altogether devoid of personal vanity.

 

NOTE: This article is verbatim from the original by Rev. Whitsitt in Confederate Veteran except for occasionally breaking up a long paragraph to make online reading easier, and occasionally adding or taking away a punctuation mark. No words or sentences were changed in any way.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for publishing the TRUTH about our Southern Heritage!
    May our Lord and Savior JESUS CHRIST bless your efforts in exposing the Lies of the Yankee myth makers in their savage and murderous treatment of Southern Civilians in the War for Southern Independence!

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