Friday, January 23, 2009

Antecedents of the Rebel General Forrest and his Family.

A Knoxville correspondent of the N. Y. Tribune writes:

The news of the capture of Fort Pillow by Forrest, and the cowardly butchery which followed of blacks and whites alike, has produced a profound sensation here. The universal sentiment is-let no quarter be shown to those dastardly butchers of Forrests command while the war lasts.

These Forrests, the eldest
of whom, Gen. Bedford Forrest, has by this and other atrocities obtained such a record of infamy, were all negro traders. There were four brothers-Bedford, who kept a negro pen for five years before the war on Adams street, in rear of the Episcopal Church, Memphis; John, a cripple and a gambler, who was jailor and clerk for Bedford; Bill Forrest, an extensive negro trader at Vicksburg; and Aaron Forrest, general agent to scout the country for his other brothers. They accumulated large sums of money in their nefarious trade, and Bedford won by that and other influences a natural promotion to a Brigadier. He is about 50 years of age, tall, gaunt, and sallow visaged, with a long nose, deep set black, snaky eyes, [illegible] and hair wore long. He usually wore, while in the nigger trade in Memphis, a stove pipe hat set on the back of his head at an angle of forty-five degrees[1]. He was accounted mean, vindictive, cruel and unscrupulous.[2] He had two wives-one white, the other colored (Catharine), by each of which he two children. His patriarchal wife, Catharine, and his white wife, had frequent quarrels or domestic jars.

The slave pen of old Bedford Forrest, on Adams street, was a perfect horror to all negroes far and near. His mode of punishing refractory slaves was to compel four of his fellow slaves to stand and hold the victim stretched out in the air, and then Bedford and his brother John would stand, one on each side, with long, heavy whips, and cut up their victims until the blood trickled to the ground. Women were often stripped naked, and with a bucket of salt water standing by, in which to did the instruments of torture, a heavy leather thong, their backs were cut up, until the blisters covered the whole surface, the blood of their wounds mingling with the briny mixture to add torment to the infliction. One slave man was whipped to death by Bedford, who used a trace-chain doubled for the purpose of punishment. The slave was secretly buried, and the circumstance was only known to the slaves of the prison, who only dared to refer to the circumstance in whispers.[3]

Such are the appropriate antecedents in the character of the monster who murdered in cold blood the gallant defenders of Fort Pillow.

Boston Herald, May 7, 1864

[1] A common, rowdy image made popular throughout the nation as a result of the theatrical personification in the 1850s-early 60s of a fictitious volunteer fireman in New York City, Mose the Bowery Boy.

[2] And those were his good points.

[3] Slave whisperers?

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