Posts Tagged ‘black history’

American Civil War Folklore or Legend, African-Americans serving with Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest [Black History MMXI. Part xvi.]

Friday, February 18th, 2011

by Ann DeWitt

“The weak can never forgive.
Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

~Mahatma Gandhi quotes

Book Cover for Nathan Bedford Forrest by Lochlainn Seabrook

Book Cover for Nathan Bedford Forrest by Lochlainn Seabrook

Diversity is multidimensional.  Alliances can quickly change based on the dynamics of a situation.   People interact and respond based on the varying spheres of influence which impact their lives.

On one hand, business men align with each other.  In another instance between northerners and southerners, a southerner might choose to align with another southerner, regardless of race. The 19th Century demonstrates this premise.

In an 1868 interview with General Nathan Bedford Forrest and the United States 40th Congress 3rd Session, General Forrest stated, “I am not an enemy to the [African American]. We want him here among us . . . I would sooner trust him than [any traitor of the south or northerner meddling in southern politics].”

The book, Nathan Bedford Forrest, by Lochlainn Seabrook explores why African-Americans served with General Forrest from 1861 until 1865?

Observation One: Slavery was horrific.  On slave trading days, many slaveholders separated families.  It is said that General Forrest kept “husbands,”  “wives,” and children together as a family unit.  Put yourself in the shoes of these slaves for a moment.  Would you remain faithful to a slaveholder who was responsible for you kissing your son or daughter  goodnight?  Not happy slave syndrome, rather, a prayer answered by God.

Author Lochlainn Seabrook adds, “A true American capitalist, Forrest was not motivated purely by altruism.  Whatever the trade, profitability took priority.”

Observation Two: Now turn to the American Civil War, General Forrest stated in the 1868 interview that he took 47 African-Americans with him; and 45 surrendered with him in 1865.  How does one reconcile when Louis Napoleon Nelson stated that he also went to war with General Nathan Bedford Forrest?  Author Lochlainn Seabrook states, “Thus, at the start of the War, [Forrest] enlisted 65 slaves and freedmen to serve in his command, 45 of them from his own plantation.”

Hence, Confederate Chaplain  Louis Napoleon Nelson must have been in that number.  To see some of the names who served with General Forrest, visit

Reflections: To date, Lochlainn Seabrook, author and a relative of General Forrest, provides a glimpse into why 45 of General Forrest’s ex-slaves stayed under his military command.  However . . . the individual stories of these African-Americans have yet to be told.

This article is sponsored by The Street Life Series Youth Edition. Contact email:

Peel Back the Sticker and Reveal the Names of Black ConfederatesPeel back the sticker and reveal the names of African-American men who served in various capacities with the Confederate States Army (Black Confederates) during the American Civil War.

Recommended Reading:

  • Nathan Bedford Forrest by Lochliann Seabrook.
  • Entangled In Freedom: A Civil War Story by Ann DeWitt and Kevin M. Weeks