This essay was published as a new introduction for Lytle’s Bedford Forrest and His Critter Company and is published here in honor of Forrest’s birthday, July 13.
This is a young man’s book. To have anything more to say about a book you did fifty odd years ago brings you hard up against the matter of time. The young author shows a familiar visage, as enigmatic as the portrait of a great-grandfather “struck” in his youth, gazing into the close air of the parlor. You know you are kin, but that youth belongs to the ancestors. Therefore to redo or revise in any real sense would mean to make another book. Fifty years can change more than the use and control of language. The world may go on for a thousand years and, outwardly at least, be always the same.
Then something appears out of nowhere, so sudden does it seem, and a shattering takes place; as for example when the stirrup was introduced into Russia by the Sarmations riding out of Siberia. They stopped with the conquest of Russia, but the stirrup did not stop there. The Goths took it into Rome.
It ended the stalemate between the mounted archers of Parthia and the Roman legion. It had its long history in Europe. It came to an end as an instrument of military power about a hundred years ago in Alabama.
Everywhere east of the Mississippi the Confederacy lay in ruins. The great Lee had surrendered, and the Army of Tennessee, constant in defeat, workmanlike always, was stopped forever at Goldsboro.
But Sherman had reported that “There will never be peace in Tennessee until Forrest is dead.” His very name, so long as his troops were intact, made all these larger victories unsure. Reports had it Davis was fleeing Richmond to join him, cross over into the Trans-Mississippi department and there carry on the war with Kirby-Smith. And then the news.
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