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The Confederacy's Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forest (Modern War Studies) Paperback – April 22, 1998

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The Confederacy's Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forest (Modern War Studies) + Nathan Bedford Forrest: A Biography + That Devil Forrest
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern War Studies
  • Paperback: 478 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (April 22, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700608850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700608850
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #777,338 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The first modern biography of the Confederacy's greatest cavalry leader." -- Publishers Weekly

"The first scholar to present a truly balanced, objective portrait of the most persistently controversial figure the Civil War produced." -- Journal of American History

From the Back Cover

"Wills knows more about Forrest than any previous biographer. . . . He recites, indeed invigorates, the incidents of Forrest's life and military career, [retelling] the old stories with a fresh voice."--Emory M. Thomas, author of Robert E. Lee: A Biography

"Direct, fast-paced, and totally absorbing. Forrest comes vibrantly alive."--Richard Wheeler, author of Lee's Terrible Swift Sword

"A really fine book. Certainly the best thing ever written on Forrest."--James I. Robertson, author of Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Legend

"The best ever biography on Forrest."--William C. Davis, author of The Cause Lost

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Hurley VINE VOICE on May 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
What I like about Wills book, besides the bio, is that it addresses why Forrest was often not in the main theater of operations during the crucial times of 1864. Forrest is well defined as a frontier planter whose strong belief in honor combined with an explosive action oriented temperament made him a ferocious opponent yet he was difficult as a subordinate except under the right conditions. In the case of the latter, Forrest literally offers to slap Braxton Bragg for his lack of action after Chickamauga and only fails to do so because in his estimation, Bragg was not a man thus not worthy of the challenge. Wills does an excellent compact bio of Forrest capturing the early life and his rise to success as a slave trader and planter to a private in the Confederate service to the immediate promotion of Colonel and on. All the daring raids are captured, aided by maps but aside from Shiloh and Chickamauga, the only truly large operation Forrest was involved with was Hood's march to Nashville where the inexplicable Spring Hill disaster is laid at Forrest's feet unfairly when Hood had responsibility of creating a sufficient force to stop Schofield's escape. The tremendous work ethic combined with his fearlessness and temper is described throughout the book including Forrest's post war life and business. Forrest does amazingly well defending his Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama sector with a relative small force culminating in his great victory at Brices Crossroads. Wills includes Forrest's post war career with an example of Forrest's feared temper by describing a railroad meeting where one of Forrest's engineers starts the discussion with a loaded pistol on the table in case the company President, Forrest, intended a violent interruption.Read more ›
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Paul Meinsen on April 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have read several biographies on Lee, Jackson, and Grant, but this is the first that I have read on N.B. Forrest. I thought the battle details were about right so as to instruct on what went on and to give insight to Forrest's great ability, but not so much as to bog down a reader who has not read much about warfare. I thought Wills was fair concerning the incident at Ft Pillow--he did not place the blame at Forrest's feet, but was sure that Forrest was not in total control of his men. I, personally, would liked to have had more detail about Forrest's deeds after the War Between the States. Some of Wills' comments seem to be a little vague, and at times he seemed to be jumping sides as to Forrest's involvement with the KKK. Overall, I did learn about this interesting man and am glad that I read this book. It was a good starting place for continued reading on General N.B. Forrest.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Fred M. Blum on August 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Confederacy's Greatest Cavalryman : Nathan Bedford Forrest (Modern War Studies) by Brian Steel Wills is a fine biography of perhaps the most complicated and interesting leader of the Civil War. In describing Forrest it is difficult, if not impossible, to remain neutral. For those that love or hate him there is plenty of ammunition. However, Wills does a better than anticipated job taking the neutral course.
For those that view Forrest as the reincarnation of the Devil, there is plenty of evidence, and Wills covers most of it. Forrest was a crude, ruffian slave trader who would not think twice of killing a man who he believed showed him disrespect. As Willis writes, he was responsible for the massacre of Union troops at Fort Pillow. As a General he was brilliant when in independent command, but did not do well when working under someone elses command or part of a larger team. This failure limited his ability to have a greater impact on the course of the War. His failure to work with other Generals who he believed were inferior was part of the reason that the Union Army was able to escape destruction at Spring Hill.
On the other hand, Forrest was a brilliant tactician and a real leader of men. From leading his troops out of the encirclement at Fort Donaldson to his brilliant victory at Bryce Creek, Forrest was a fighter and a leader. Furthermore, if Hood had listened to Forrest after Spring Hill, and allowed Forrest to out flank the Union troops at Franklin, the battle of Franklin may have been a Confederate victory rather than a disaster.
Willis deftly moves between the several General Forrests. He seems not to have an agenda, giving the good with the bad. At least until the Civil War ends. While Wills does describe Forrest's contribution to the founding and growth of the Ku Klux Klan, he seems to hold his punches. However, that is a slight criticism. Al in all, this is a good book about one of the most interesting personalities in the Civil War.
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