Nathan Bedford Forrest.
The Tennessean was one of the most intriguing and controversial characters to emerge during the Civil War. Books and articles on the man span the gamut from hero worship because of his remarkable battlefield victories, to condemnation for his involvement with the slaughter at Fort Pillow and later, his association with the Ku Klux Klan. Retired Special Forces brigadier general John R. Scales plows entirely new ground with The Battles and Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861–1865, a careful and unique examination of Forrest’s wartime activities and how his actions affected the war in the Western Theater.
Each chapter covers specific raids or campaigns, all arranged chronologically. After describing the environment within which Forrest operated, which helps readers understand the larger situation within which his movements were made and his battles were fought, Gen. Scales narrates the decisions Forrest and his opponents made and the actions they took. Firsthand sources, including heavy use of documents and reports from the Official Records, coupled with 109 original maps, make it easy to understand the often complex background, movements, and engagements involving Forrest and his command.
Scales’ study is also a meticulous guide to Forrest’s campaigns. For example, each action is augmented with detailed driving directions to allow readers to examine his battlefields and the routes his cavalry took during its famous raids. For the first time, students of Forrest’s campaigns can follow in his footsteps, experiencing the terrain much the same way he did. A detailed review and assessment of each raid or campaign follows the description of the actions and the associated driving instructions. Throughout, General Scales relies upon his own extensive military background to help evaluate and explain how and why Forrest grew in command ability and potential as a result of his experiences—or didn’t.
The late award-winning author Albert Castel asked two major questions about Nathan Bedford Forrest: “Exactly what impact did Forrest’s dazzling raids and victories have upon the overall course of the war?” and “Had Forrest been given a higher command and/or greater opportunities, what would have been the potential outcome as regards the fate of the Confederacy?” The Battles and Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest makes it much easier to answer both.