Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans Propose License Plate to Honor Civil War General Who Was Once a Member of the Ku Klux Klan

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

The Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has come up with an idea for celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War—known to some as the “War between the States.” The veterans group has proposed that the state of Mississippi issue a series of specialty license plates commemorating the war. These specialty plates, planned for the years 2011 through 2015, would each have a different design.

What has some people upset is the specialty license plate slated for the year 2014, which would honor General Nathan Bedford Forrest.  Forrest, a native of Tennessee, is considered by some to have been a military genius. Others feel differently about Forrest who is “reviled” by some for allegedly having lead a massacre of Black Union troops at Fort Pillow in his home state in 1864. It should be noted that Forrest also served as the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

According to ABC News, the NAACP is planning to send a letter to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour requesting “that he publicly denounce the license plate and use his office to prevent it from being issued.” Derrick Jackson, president of the Mississippi state NAACP, said of Forrest: “He should be viewed in the same light that we view Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The state of Mississippi should deny any vanity tags which would highlight racial hatred in this state.”

Although many historians agree that Nathan Bedford Forrest distanced himself from the KKK later in his life, some believe “it was too little too late because the Klan had already turned violent before Forrest left.”




ABC News


Think Progress

631 thoughts on “Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans Propose License Plate to Honor Civil War General Who Was Once a Member of the Ku Klux Klan”

  1. I am not sure if there is a word limit or not as due to the notes from the Library of Congress this is a lengthy reply, most people today excuse me I just stereotyped the same thing I was getting ready to reflect on; most people living in the connected world expect instant responses even a few second delay on a computer response brings a wrath of swear words and a computer slap. There is one other thing the connected world has brought us laziness; people will view a web site and think it gospel. For example there are countless colleges; over 700+ web sites that I alone counted and hundreds of books that attribute this quote“Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less” to Robert E. Lee. Take a minute and research it yourself. My point?
    I am with a group of historians who have begun to unravel, disclose the myths, lies from the Civil War regardless of where the shoe falls. In fact whenever we issue a finding the side affected admonishes us while the foe praises us; then later the whole scenario is reversed.

    Please allow me to elaborate we were studying General William Tecumseh Sherman when events led us to a Congressional Investigation for war crimes against Nathan Bedford Forrest and like the readers here many of us had heard and believed the same supposed facts as the readers stated. However, to our surprise we found that Sherman who would have enjoyed hanging Forrest found him innocent. There have been skeptics as in some cases the Congressional committee accepted Forrests’ word. Before you too discount this issue please keep in mind this was a different time when a mans’ word and his honor meant something. Forrest had fought several duels killing one man with a pen knife over honor and his word. Forrest had no reason to lie and would have willing gone to his death over his belief. Anyway, please review the following notes and decide for yourself you can write the Library of Congress asking for proof of what I am offerring, seeing that many people hate the South it might not change your minds but at least may-be you will see the importance of researching the facts of any tale and with reputable sites.

    Question History:

    Patron: I have learned in recent weeks that several quotes I grew up hearing are lies and myths. I understand there was a Congressional Investigation into General Bedford Forrest involvement with the Klan and the Fort Pillow massacre; could I please get the results?

    Librarian 1: Dear Mr. Adams:

    Thank you for your query.

    That is an often submitted question it appears that either the myth is too strongly imbedded or that the populace would rather believe a myth.

    Thank you for your patience.

    Reference Specialist
    Main Reading Room
    Humanities and Social Sciences Division
    Library of Congress
    101 Independence Ave. SE
    Washington, DC 20540-4660

    Librarian 1: Dear Mr. Adams:

    “In 1871 a Congressional investigation was convened to look into Forrest’s alleged involvement with the Klan and to revisit the Ft. Pillow “massacre.” The investigation was chaired by Forrest’s old enemy, William Tecumseh Sherman, who told the press that, “We are here to investigate Forrest, charge Forrest, try Forrest, convict Forrest, and hang Forrest.”

    The outcome of the 1871 investigation was twofold. The committee found no evidence that Forrest had participated in the formation of the Klan and that even the use of his name may well have been without his permission. They also found that there was no credible evidence that Forrest had ever participated in or directed any actions of the Klan.

    “The reports of Committees, House of Representatives, second session, forty-second congress,” P. 7-449.

    “The primary accusation before this board is that Gen. Forrest was a founder of The Klan, and its first Grand Wizard, so I shall address those accusations first. In 1871, Gen. Forrest was called before a congressional Committee along with 21 other ex-Confederate officers including Admiral Raphael Semmes, Gen. Wade Hampton, Gen. John B.

    Gordon, and Gen. Braxton Bragg. Forrest testified before Congress personally over four hours. Forrest took the witness stand June 27th, 1871. Building a railroad in Tennessee at the time, Gen Forrest stated he ‘had done more , probably than any other man, to suppress these violence and difficulties and keep them down, had been vilified and abused in the (news) papers, and accused of things I never did while in the army and since. He had nothing to hide, wanted to see this matter settled, our country quite once more, and our people united and working together harmoniously.’

    Asked if he knew of any men or combination of men violating the law or preventing the execution of the law: Gen Forest answered emphatically, ‘No.’ (A Committee member brought up a document suggesting otherwise, the 1868 newspaper article from the “Cincinnati Commercial”. That was their “evidence”, a news article.) Forrest stated ‘…any information he had on the Klan was information given to him by others.’

    Sen. Scott asked, ‘Did you take any steps in organizing an association or society under that prescript (Klan constitution)?’

    Forrest: ‘I DID NOT’ Forrest further stated that ‘…he thought the Organization (Klan) started in middle Tennessee, although he did not know where.

    It is said I started it.’

    Asked by Sen. Scott, ‘did you start it, Is that true?’

    Forrest: ‘No Sir, it is not.’
    Asked if he had heard of the Knights of the white Camellia, a Klan-like organization in Louisiana,

    Forrest: ‘Yes, they were reported to be there.’

    Senator: ‘Were you a member of the order of the white Camellia?’

    Forrest: ‘No Sir, I never was a member of the Knights of the white Camellia.’

    Asked about the Klan:

    Forrest: ‘It was a matter I knew very little about. All my efforts were addressed to stop it, disband it, and prevent it….I was trying to keep it down as much as possible.’

    Forrest: ‘I talked with different people that I believed were connected to it, and urged the disbandment of it, that it should be broken up.'”

    The following article appeared in the New York Times June 27th, “Washington, 1871. Gen Forrest was before the Ku Klux Klan Committee today, and his examination lasted four hours. After the examination, he remarked than the committee treated him with much courtesy and respect.”
    Congressional records show that Gen. Forrest was absolved of all complicity in the founding or operation of the Ku Klux Klan, and he was certainly never a “Grand Wizard”. These committees had the utmost evidence and living witnesses at their disposal. The evidence precluded any Guilt or indictment of Gen. Forrest and the matter was closed before that body of final judgment in 1872.
    The following findings in the Final report of this committee of Congress concluded,
    “The statement of these gentlemen (Forrest and Gordon) are full and explicit…the evidence fully sustains them.” (Personal Note: At this time Honor was a big part of their society and daily lives with many duels being fought over just that “HONOR” as much General Sherman would have welcomed an excuse to have hanged Forrest, he too concluded he was innocent).
    Later the surviving participates from the battle were individually interviewed “Both white and negro soldiers were interviewed fully supporting General Forrest’s testimony”.
    After the war committees determined the rumor was started to ensure the USCT would fight, many white officers felt they (USTC) could not be counted on and they had to either be threaten, coerced or frighten. Apparently they got more than they bargained for as in several engagements the USCT were killing both Confederate prisoners and civilians in retaliation for Pillow and could only be controlled under threat of harm.

    I hope that this information is helpful.

    Fort Pillow

    More than fifty Union soldiers that were present at this battle who gave sworn testimonies contradicting these findings first presented in the press.

    LT Van Horn’s report makes no mention of any “massacre” or misconduct on the part of Forrest or his men and was for a time a prisoner himself, reporting “I escaped by putting on citizen’s clothes, after I had been some time their prisoner. I received a slight wound of the left ear”

    LT Van Horn reported that “Lieutenant John D. Hill, Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery, was ordered outside the fort to burn some barracks, which he, with the assistance of a citizen who accompanied him, succeeded in effecting.” This accounts for the barracks allegedly burned by Confederates in which wounded Union soldiers were supposed to have perished.
    Union officers were in charge of burials and made no such report of living burials.
    The report of Lieutenant Daniel Van Horn, Sixth U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery confirmed this in which he reported: “There never was a surrender of the fort, both officers and men declaring they never would surrender or ask for quarter.”
    “Some of our men were killed by both whites and Negroes who had once surrendered”

    Numbers 16. Report of Lieutenant Daniel Van Horn, Sixth U. S. Colored Heavy Artillery, of the capture of Fort Pillow – Federal Official Records, Series I, Vol. 32, Part 1, pp. 569-570
    Fort Pickering, Memphis, Tenn., April 14, 1864.
    COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle and capture of Fort Pillow, Tenn.:
    At sunrise on the morning of the 12th of April, 1864, our pickets were attacked and driven in, they making very slight resistance. They were from the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry
    Major Booth, commanding the post, had made all his arrangements for battle that the limited force under his command would allow, and which was only 450 effective men, consisting of the First Battalion of the Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery, five companies of the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, and one section of the Second U. S. Light Artillery (colorado, Lieutenant Hunter.
    Arrangements were scarcely completed and the men placed in the rifle-pits before the enemy came upon us and in ten times our number, as acknowledged by General Chalmers. They were repulsed with heavy loss; charged again and were again repulsed. At the third chargee Major Booth was killed, while passing among his men and cheering them to fight.
    The order was then given to retire inside the fort, and General Forrest sent in a flag of truce demanding an unconditional surrender of the fort, which was returned with a decided refusal.
    During the time consumed by this consultation advantage was taken by the enemy to place in position his force, they crawling up to the fort.
    After the flag had retired, the fight was renewed and raged with fury for some time, when another flag of truce was sent in and another demand for surrender made, they assuring us at the same time that they would treat us as “prisoners of war.”
    Another refusal was returned, when they again charged the works and succeeded in carrying them. Shortly before this, however, Lieutenant John D. Hill, Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery, was ordered outside the fort to burn some barracks, which he, with the assistance of a citizen who accompanied him, succeeded in effecting, and in returning was killed.
    Major Bradford, of the Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry, was now in command. At 4 o’clock the fort was in possession of the enemy, every man having been either killed, wounded, or captured.
    There never was a surrender of the fort, both officers and men declaring they never would surrender or ask for quarter. [emphasis added, ed.]
    As for myself, I escaped by putting on citizen’s clothes, after I had been some time their prisoner. I received a slight wound of the left ear.
    I cannot close this report without adding my testimony to that accorded by others wherever the black man has been brought into battle. Never did men fight better, and when the odds against us are considered it is truly miraculous that we should have held the fort an hour. To the colored troops is due the successful holding out until 4 p. m. The men were constantly at their posts, and in fact through the whole engagement showed a valor not, under the circumstances, to have been expected from troops less than veterans, either white or black.
    The following is a list of the casualties among the officers as far as known: Killed, Major Lionel F. Booth, Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery (colored); Major William F. Bradford, Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry; Captain Theodore F. Bradford, Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry; Captain Delos Carson, Company D, Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery (colored); Lieutenant John D. Hill, Company C, Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery (colored); Lieutenant Peter Bischoff,* Company A, Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery (colored). Wounded, Captain Charles J. Epeneter, Company A, prisoner; Lieutenant Thomas W. McClure, Company C, prisoner; Lieutenant Henry Lippettt, Company B, escaped, badly wounded; Lieutenant Van Horn, Company D, escaped, slightly wounded.
    I know of about 15 men of the Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery (colored) having escaped, and all but 2 of them are wounded.
    I have the honor to be, very respectfully, &c.,
    2nd Lieutenant Company D, Sixth U. S. Heavy Artillery (colored).
    Lieutenant Colonel T. H. HARRIS,
    Assistant Adjutant-General


  2. I am a racist and i have no problem voting for Can – if that means getting obabma out of office. oh wait- that would make me not a racist.

  3. Cain leads in the GOP polls right now. If they nominate him, the uber-racists are going to have to do some soul searching (pun intended).

  4. “…a bunch of racist Christian democrats…”


    Make that a bunch of FORMER racist Christian ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats. Good riddance for the real Democrats.

  5. Jeb,

    I suggest you re-read AY’s post about the swapped polarities of the parties over time before you say something stupid again.

    Not like that will stop you from saying something stupid again.

    Nothing else has.

    Hey! How about that license plate your gov said you’re never going to get, huh?


  6. frank:

    I am well aware of the history of the republican party. We did free the slaves after all and we did pass the civil rights act over the protestations of good democrats like Sheets Byrd.

  7. Otteray Scribe:

    “Many, or most, southern Democrats switched to the Republican party. After the late 1960s the GOP no longer was recognizable as the party of Eisenhower, but came to represent, among other things, the party of intolerance and thinly veiled racism.”

    yes and that is the problem with the republican party, a bunch of racist Christian democrats have sullied our party to the point I had to leave.

  8. Buddha is Laughing:

    “Unlike the cowards who gun down surrendered soldiers.

    Uh huh.”

    Wasnt Forrest a democrat? Doesnt that prove my point?

  9. Jebthemoron – so you at least know how to use google after someone points out your ignorance of history. You cut and paste real good too.

    Yes, he was a Democrat which, again, surprises nobody that knows history. The Democrats of the Mid-1800’s were anti-immigrant, pro-slavery and . . . well pretty much today’s Republican party. Strom Thurman (who apparently like ladies of color enough to father a child by one while she was in his fathers employ) started the stampede of those types out of the Democratic part in 1948 when they lost a convention vote supporting Jim Crow and segregation. Those people all ended up in today’s Republican party. Which, again, is just you trying to change the subject after your ignorance and deceit is pointed out rather than admit you are wrong.

    and lastly both you and brent should – lern 2 spel like a groanup

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