From Publishers Weekly
Journalism professors Ashdown and Caudill, authors of The Mosby Myth, give an even-handed account of the life of the controversial Confederate cavalry leader, but the focus of this engaging monograph, the latest in The American Crisis Series of Civil War-era studies, is more on the legend than the facts. Lost Cause apologists, they find, have celebrated Forrest as an untutored military genius and backwoods avatar of Southern chivalry, while Northern detractors and African-Americans view him as the epitome of brutal Southern racism, noting his pre-war slave trading, the Fort Pillow massacre of black Union prisoners by troops under his command and his post-war involvement in the Ku Klux Klan. To Agrarian intellectuals he was an "idealized yeoman farmer" championing an organic ante-bellum society against the soulless industrialism of the North, a guise that could make him either "the Southern equivalent of a fascist Aryan Superman leading a rebellion of the volk" or an insurgent against the centralizing fascist state. To writers like Faulkner he embodied a cherished but defeated and compromised Southern honor. In contemporary terms, he has become both an emblem of defiant Southern machismo, eclipsing the aristocratic Robert E. Lee himself, and the namesake of Forrest Gump, America's favorite historical naïf. Delving into newspaper reports, obituaries, biographies, fiction, cinema, monuments, children's books and comic books, the authors offer a sophisticated but accessible reading of the transformations of Forrest's life into myth. If they find his character too protean to yield a stable interpretation, theirs is nonetheless a fascinating survey of the shifting cultural meanings of the Civil War. 26 b&w illustrations and maps.
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This book is a fascinating compilation of material that focuses on Forrest and the mythology engendered by this controversial man. . . . The authors have contributed a solidly-researched volume to the existing literature on Forrest that helps explain the general's status as an icon of the white South.
(Civil War News
)The Myth of Nathan Bedford Forrest
is a provocative examination of the Confederate cavalryman's powerful and controversial legacy. Paul Ashdown and Edward Caudill demonstrate that the Forrest Myth is alive and well and is liable to be so for many years to come. (Brian Steel Wills, University of Virginia's College at Wise)This valuable book reveals the complexities and variations of the conflicting interpretations of the legendary Nathan Bedford Forrest. With a great deal of new information and fresh insight, the authors demonstrate why, for many, Forrest is a symbol of Southern pride, courage, and untutored military genius, and for others, he is the butcher of Fort Pillow and founder of the Klan.
(James Ramage, Northern Kentucky University, author of Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan)
Unlike some Civil War generals, Nathan Bedford Forrest, the 'Wizard of the Saddle,' did not need to foster the creation of his own myth; he simply rode through the war in the West like a hurricane. Ashdown and Caudill narrate his life at breakneck speed, then take us step by step through the process by which the fascinated public turned the man into myth. We needed this book. And here it is. (David Madden, Louisiana State University, author of Sharpshooter: A Novel of the Civil War)
This wide-ranging interpretive work—which draws on the disciplines of history, journalism, American studies, and literature—is the first of its kind to deal with Forrest. (Library Journal
This book-length analysis will generate passions on both sides of the Forrest image. (James I. Robertson Jr. Roanoke Times and World News
)The Myth of Nathan Bedford Forrest is a critical analysis of the popularity of the Tennessee cavalry men. . . . It's essential reading for anyone interested in the Civil War.
(Greg Langley The Advocate
)The Myth of Nathan Bedford Forrest
presents a good, if not in fact comprehensive, accounting of Forrest's various reincarnations as a mythical figure in American culture for nearly a century and a half. The authors' compilation of the general's assorted roles as a literary character is quite impressive. (Harry S. Laver, Southeastern Louisiana University H-War