A review of Bust Hell Wide Open: the Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest by Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr., Regnery History, 2016.
Writing a biography about Nathan Bedford Forrest – a man recognized by no less than General Robert E. Lee and General William T. Sherman as “the most remarkable man produced by the Civil War on either side” – is a daunting task. How does an author do justice to such an imposing historical figure? In Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest (Regnery History, 2016), author Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. proves that he is more than up to the challenge. Unlike many biographies, which can get so mired in minutiae that reading them feels like a forced march, Bust Hell Wide Open reads like a rollicking cavalry charge. Perhaps most importantly for a figure as controversial as Forrest, Mitcham massacres the untruths and misperceptions that have haunted him and unjustly darkened his legacy. Mitcham’s Bust Hell Wide Open can ride in the company of Forrest classics such as John Allan Wyeth’s That Devil Forrest, Andrew Nelson Lytle’s Bedford Forrest and his Critter Company, and Robert Selph Henry’s First With the Most.
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