Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Forrest at Johnsonville, TN

The Wizard of the Saddle

He had 30 horses shot from under him, and personally killed 31 men in hand-to-hand combat, saying "I was a horse ahead at the end." 


On 4 and 5 November 1864 Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest capped a 23 day raid through West Tennessee by attacking the huge Union supply base at Johnsonville. On 29 & 30 October by artillery fire he captured three steamers and a Union gunboat. He repaired the boats to use attacking Johnsonville. Forrest later lost the boats but established artillery positions on the Tennessee River so strong that no Union gunboats could reach and rescue Johnsonville.

Forrest positioned artillery across the river. At one point in the battle he got so excited he shouted, "Elevate that gun lower!" His men understood him, though. Forrest's artillery commander, Captain John Morton, was so effective that the wharves for nearly a mile up and downriver were one solid sheet of flame.

At a cost of only 2 killed and 9 wounded, Forrest cost the Union 4 gunboats, 14 transports, 20 barges, 26 pieces of artillery, and 150 prisoners. A union officer estimated the destroyed supplies' value at $2,200,000, or at then-current gold prices, about 106,425 ounces of gold. At today's prices, that's $124,251,187.50.

You can visit the Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park today and see where Forrest's artillery was emplaced.


  1. He was indeed "The Wizard of the Saddle" and a master of "keeping the skeer on 'em". His legacy was tainted only by those who got to write the history. Even though he was not a a "team player" at times, he was probably the second greatest commander of the war ( behind R.E. Lee who was probably the greatest soldier/commander this country ever produced) . His tactics were adopted and later became the blueprint for "blitzkrieg" as he was studied and lauded by Guderian and Rommel. He was loved by his men and the fifty some odd slaves who fought beside him and were paid the same wage as Confederate soldiers. Even after being offered their freedom in 1864, they choose to stay with NBF until the bitter end.

    1. Yes, Sir. Englishman asked General R.E. Lee who was the greatest soldier produced by the war. Lee answered readily: “A gentleman in Tennessee whom I have never met. His name is Forrest.”

  2. Replies
    1. Yes and he killed more men in combat than any other person since the middle ages.