This is the best biography of one of the most exciting, colorful, and controversial figures of the Civil War. A renowned cavalryman, Nathan Bedford Forrest perfected a ruthless hit-and-run guerrilla warfare that terrified Union soldiers and garnered the respect of warriors like William Sherman, who described his adversary as "that Devil, Forrest . . . the most remarkable man our Civil War produced on either side."
Historian Bruce Catton rated Forrest "one of the authentic military geniuses of the whole war," but Brian Steel Wills covers much more than the cavalryman's incredible feats on the field of battle. He also provides the most thoughtful and complete analysis of Forrest's hardscrabble childhood in backwater Mississippi; his rise to wealth in the Memphis slave trade; his role in the infamous Fort Pillow massacre of black Union soldiers; his role as early leader and Grand Wizard of the first Ku Klux Klan; and his declining health and premature death in a reconstructing America.
"The first modern biography of the Confederacy's greatest cavalry leader. Forrest emerges as a product of the Southern frontier, a self-made man of limited vision, iron will, and an ungovernable temper."--Publishers Weekly
"Surprisingly, given Forrest's well-deserved fame as a first-rate combat general, Wills is the first scholar to present a truly balanced, objective portrait of the most persistently controversial figure the Civil War produced."--Journal of American History
"Forrest's reputation as a Confederate military genius has long merited scholarly reappraisal, which Wills provides in this exhaustively researched account of the Southerner's life and career."--Library Journal
"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
BRIAN STEEL WILLS is professor of history at Clinch Valley College of the University of Virginia and a former professor of history at Georgia Southern University. His articles have appeared in the Georgia Historical Quarterly, Journal of Military History, and Parameters.