Neither Devil nor Mystery

Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest was no more a devil than you or I.  He was an arresting character, a powerful leader of men, and one of those natural-born military geniuses who appear from time to time in history, which is not the same thing as a devil.  The “devil” label was given to him by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who hoped to have Forrest murdered.  We have to remember that anyone who gets in the way of a Puritan, even an atheist Puritan like Sherman, is by definition a servant of the devil.

It is said that after the war an Englishman asked General Lee who was the greatest soldier produced by the late gigantic conflict in America.  Lee replied without hesitation that it was a gentleman in Tennessee whom he had never met—General Forrest.  Sherman agreed with the assessment.  Forrest’s repeated astounding successes in pitting meager resources with skill and daring against superior forces resemble those of Washington and Andrew Jackson, likewise military amateurs, although Forrest’s accomplishments were on a much larger scale.  The citizen-general who could achieve victory with an economy of resources used to be an honored American type but has long since been replaced by the Grant model of a professional manager who marshals overwhelming materiel against an outnumbered enemy.

Several of the reviewers of Bell’s strange...

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