Forrest Stories: Humor of Bedford Forrest and His Cavalry

Forrest Stories: Humor of Bedford Forrest and His Cavalry

by G. Lee Millar


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Bedford Forrest was not a jester or joker, but he did have a good sense of humor. When a difficult, combative situation was under control, which with him it inevitably would be, his demeanor would lighten up, and Forrests humorous side would come out. He was also a master of the poker bluff and psychological warfare, and he played these to great advantage during the war. One of the best episodes of this was the 1863 week-long pursuit and surrender of an entire Federal brigadeover 1,700 mento fewer than 600 of his own. The Union commander had seen the Confederates three cannons, but a Forrest ruse and bluff made it appear as fifteen cannons, to which the astonished Union man asked Forrest how many he had. Forrest replied, I reckon thats all thats kept up.

This book is a trove of those factual and almost-factual happenings.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781546235576
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 03/29/2018
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.34(d)

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A Yankee scout was on a long country road, looking for signs of Forrest's Cavalry. He became thirsty so decided to stop at a little cottage and ask for something to drink or eat.

The lady of the house, though not too disposed to helping Yankees, invited him in and served him a bowl of soup by the fire. There was a wee pig running around the kitchen, running up to the visitor and giving him a great deal of attention. The Yankee commented that he had never seen a pig this friendly.

The Southern woman replied: "Ah, he's not that friendly. That's his bowl you're using."


In July 1861 Forrest, then a colonel, was in Memphis at the Gayoso House Hotel lounge recruiting for his cavalry.

A man walked into the lounge and ordered a beer just as someone commented about a newspaper article concerning President Lincoln. After a few sips the man looked over at the newspaper and mumbled, "Now there's the biggest horse's rear end I've ever seen."

Immediately, a customer at the far end of the bar got up, walked over, punched the man, and left.

A few minutes later, the visitor was finishing his beer when someone mentioned an article about Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln. "She's a horse's behind too," the man said.

A customer from the other end of the bar got up, walked over, and knocked him off his stool.

"Dang-it!" the man said, climbing back up to the bar and facing Forrest. "This must be Lincoln country!"

"Nope," Forrest replied. "Horse country!"


General (then colonel) Forrest had been severely wounded at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, the day after the Battle of Shiloh. He was taken and treated at a Confederate hospital in Corinth, Mississippi.

As Forrest lay in bed, a Union officer was brought in, wounded and unconscious from a shell explosion, and placed on the adjoining bed.

During the night a huge fire occurred in a large warehouse across the street from the hospital. As the flames, visible from all windows of the hospital, lept all around the building, Forrest leaned over and awoke the Yankee officer.

"Why are you shaking me?" asked the Yankee.

Forrest replied, "I didn't want you to wake suddenly and see all those flames and think that your surgery was a failure."


During the War Between the States, school education in the South continued as best as it could. In one Southern school the teacher gave her younger students an assignment: get their parents to tell them a story with a moral at the end of it.

The next day the kids came back and one by one began to tell their stories.

Carralyn said, "Our family are farmers and we have a lot of egg-laying hens. One time we were taking our eggs to market in a basket on the front seat of the wagon when we hit a big bump in the road, and all the eggs went flying and broke and made a mess."

"What's the moral of the story?" asked the teacher.

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket!"

"Very good," said the teacher.

Next little Laura raised her hand and said,

"Our family are farmers too, but we raise chickens for the meat market. We had a dozen eggs one time but when they hatched we only got ten chicks, and the moral to this story is, "don't count your chickens before they're hatched."

"That was a fine story Laura."

"Jonathon, do you have a story to share?"

"Yes. Not long ago my Aunt Elizabeth was in her buggy headed to town to shop, and the horse spooked. Aunt Lizzy was careening down the hill toward town and couldn't stop. In her buggy all she had was a big jug of moonshine that she was going to sell, a shotgun and my uncle's Bowie knife. That buggy was headed right for a Yankee patrol, and Aunt Lizzy was going to plow right into them. So she quickly drank the whiskey so it wouldn't break, and then she landed right in the middle of those Yankees. She killed a bunch of them with both barrels of the shotgun and then killed twenty more with the Bowie knife until the blade broke. Then, she killed the last ten with her bare hands."

"Good heavens," said the horrified teacher, "what kind of moral did you get from that awful story?"

"Stay the HECK away from Aunt Lizzy when she's been drinking."


Shortly after the 1863 battle of Chickamauga, one of Forrest's most ardent and spirited troopers was captured and later held in a prison camp.

Each morning, the prison commandant, likewise a Chickamauga veteran, would pass by the prison yard, and the Confederate would call out, "Whuuuee. We sure whipped y'all at Chickamauga."

Day after day, the Confederate trooper would remind the yanks, "Whuuuee, we sure whipped y'all at Chickamauga."

Finally, the Union officer could stand it no more and had the cavalryman brought into his office.

"Reb," the yank officer said, "I've had enough of your gloating about your victory at Chickamauga, so I'm going to have you shot, or you can galvanize and join the Union army."

The Confederate thought about this and very reluctantly enlisted in the Union army as a private at the prison.

The next day the commandant strode by the area where the ex-Confederate was working, and the ex-Reb called out, "Whuuuee, those Rebs sure whipped us at Chickamauga."


Just before the 1864 battle of Brice's Crossroads, General Forrest addressed his troops.

"Men, the Yankee army is near, and we will be going into a great battle to drive the invaders out. We will be outnumbered 3 to 1. Shoot straight, do your duty, and follow your flag towards the enemy."

The next day, as the battle raged, with shot, shell, and bullets whizzing and flying all around, Forrest was riding along the battleline encouraging his men when he saw a private standing behind a tree just whittling on a stick.

"Soldier, what are you doing? We're outnumbered 3 to 1 and you should be fighting. Why aren't you shooting?"

The private replied: "General, I already got my 3."


Prior to the battle of Brice's Crossroads the Union Army was on its march out of Memphis on its way to engage Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his invincible cavalry.

A Yankee captain addressed his men:

"You will soon be going into a great battle. You will be facing a most formidable foe: Bedford Forrest and his cavalry. Some of you will be killed, slain, maimed, wounded, injured or lost. But I want you to be strong and fight them toe to toe and face to face. Stand tall and follow your flag towards the enemy."

Sergeant: "Sir, that's really inspirational. How come you're so brave?"

Captain: "Because I'm not going."


During the war a very young Southern Belle was traveling on the Memphis & Charleston Railroad and had the unpleasant task of sitting with a despised Yankee officer. Along with the girl, seated a few rows away, were her mother and annoying younger brother.

The Belle and her brother occasionally exchanged ugly faces and before long the officer commented on it.

"You know," said the Yankee, "when I was little, my grandmother said that if I made faces and the wind shifted, I could stay like that."

The girl looked at the Yankee for a moment, then said,

"Well, you can't say you weren't warned."


Early in the war Bedford Forrest, then with the rank of colonel, was in Memphis recruiting for his regiment. He happened to be in a General Store & Apothecary one day to pick up some laxative pills for one of his horses when a very irate and bombastic Union sympathizer came into the store.

The Yankee was vehemently complaining about a gigantic headache that he had and demanded of the store clerk that he immediately dispense some strong aspirin to him to cure the headache.

Forrest, a bit amused by the loud consternations of the Yankee customer, and always wanting to be accommodating, insisted that the Yankee take his small paper sack of pills already waiting on the counter.

The Yankee slapped his money on the counter, grabbed the paper sack, and dashed out.

A second customer there spoke up: "Won't those horse laxatives send him to the privy all day?"

To which Forrest replied, "Yes, but he'll certainly forget about his headache."

FORREST'S 30,000

A visitor at Union General Hurlbut's Headquarters in Memphis asked the general what number of men he supposed that the rebel Forrest had in the field.

Hurlbut responded, seriously, "25 to 30,000, according to the best authority."

The interrogator, blanched in the face, blurted out, "My God!"

The General continued: "Yes, sir, 30,000, no doubt of it. You see, all our generals, when they get whipped by Forrest, say the enemy outnumbers them from three to five to one, and I must believe them. We have 10,000 men in the field, and three times 10 make 30,000. Don't you see it? Forrest has at least 30,000 men opposing us."


During Union General William T. Sherman's battles for Atlanta and subsequent March to the Sea, he had one great fear: that Bedford Forrest would get behind him. In his pre-campaign planning and consultation with General U. S. Grant and President Abraham Lincoln, Sherman was warned that he would be deep in enemy territory, far from supplies and reinforcements, and fighting a determined Confederate army. Sherman, however, stated that he could fend for himself and hold his own or better against the Southern army. He was seriously concerned, though, that the famed Confederate cavalry leader, Forrest, would get in his rear and destroy his communications and supply lines and cut him off.

One day, as Sherman and his staff rode with the advance toward Atlanta, the group crossed a shallow creek. A staff officer glanced down into the water and spied a very old tin tea pot beneath the surface. He reached down from his horse, retrieved the old tea pot, and handed it to the general.

Sherman wiped off the moss and mud and gave a slight rub to the tea pot. Suddenly, "Poof!", out popped a little old lady, exclaiming, "Thank you, thank you, general. You have freed me from the curse of the tea pot. I will grant you any wish you want. Think of any wish, and it shall be yours."

Sherman pulled a paper from his frock coat and said, "All right. I want you to help me with this list. General Grant wants me to hold all of these cities: Memphis, Nashville, and Chattanooga; capture Atlanta, Savannah, and Charleston; and then join him to defeat General Lee. That is my wish, to fulfill this list."

The little old lady answered, "Why that is nearly impossible! You are facing the Confederate Army, the most formidable fighting force the world has ever seen. Why, it would take me a year to help you accomplish all on that list. You'll just have to think of another wish instead of that list", she continued. "Wish for something else."

Sherman pondered for a moment, and then said, "OK, then help me catch General Forrest."

The little old lady thought for a minute and then said, "Let me see that list again."


Forrest and his cavalry were known far and wide for their cunning and wily methods of fighting. Their movements were unpredictable, and they often pounced on a surprised foe. They made clever use of psychological warfare and frequently deceived their enemy as to actual troop strength, firepower, and intentions. The Federals became apprehensive at every rumor of Forrest.

On one particular Kentucky campaign, amidst rigorous riding and fighting, one of Forrest's troopers was severely wounded in multiple places by an exploding artillery round. He couldn't travel, so his squad mates left him with a Southern family for care. He was soon captured, though, and taken to a Federal hospital, examined, and placed in a surgery ward.

Shortly after the cavalryman's arrival, a Union doctor approached him and said, "Son, your foot is so badly shot up that we will unfortunately have to amputate it to save you."

The Confederate slowly replied, "Well, doctor, if it's all that bad then go ahead."

And then the Reb made another request: "If you would, please, do me a favor since I'm so far from home. If you'll take my severed foot and place it on one of your gunboats going downriver and have them throw it ashore as they pass Memphis then I'll feel like I will stay in the South forever."

The doctor eyed the Forrest man, but then replied, "Yes, I think we can do that."

The surgery was successful and the Reb's wish was granted.

A few days later, the Union surgeon was again at the trooper's bedside.

"I'm afraid I have some more bad news," began the doctor. "Your arm is so infected that we will have to take it off too."

The Reb stiffened up. "All right. If you must, then I guess it has to be done. But, doc, if you don't mind, would you put my arm on a boat and send it home too?"

And this surgery was done as well, and the request granted.

A few days passed, and the Federal doctor again came to the Reb's cot.

"I'm sorry to tell you, but your other leg here, it's so torn up that it's not mending, and it's getting infected. It must be removed too."

The cavalryman considered his circumstance, agreed with the doctor and said, "I suppose that if it has to come off then it has to come off. But I'd appreciate it if you'd send it home as well."

The doctor, knowing that the Confederate was one of Forrest's men, turned to the Reb and said, "No, we cannot do that."

"Why not?" asked the trooper.

"We think you are trying to escape."


One night in camp a trooper of Forrest's Cavalry came to the General saying that he had just gotten bad news from the doctor.

"What did the doctor say?" inquired the general.

"He said I've caught some type of ailment and that I only have a couple of weeks to live," replied the trooper.

"Oh, that is unfortunate. But I can tell you what you need to do."

"What's that?" asked the private.

"Go marry a Yankee woman."

"Will that make me live longer?"

"Nope, but it will seem like it."


In 1863 Union Colonel Abel Streight launched an invasion from Middle Tennessee through Northern Alabama, with the objective of destroying the Confederate munitions and supply works at Rome, Georgia. He vowed to show no fear, and drive ruthlessly southward, facing all enemies in his march to victory.

His brigade had gone some distance when a courier rode in proclaiming that a regiment of Confederate militia was spotted ahead. His men became frantic with apprehension, but Colonel Streight bellowed, "Bring me my red shirt."

The orderly quickly retrieved the general's red shirt and while wearing the bright frock he ordered the charge and led his brigade into battle and drove off the rebel force.

The next day, as the invasion progressed, another courier again rode in and reported not one, but two Confederate regiments blocking the way. The colonel again howled for his red shirt and once again his brigade vanquished the Confederate resistance.

That evening, all the men sat around in camp recounting the day's triumphs and one of them asked the colonel, "Sir, why did you call for your red shirt before battle?"

The colonel replied, "If I am wounded in the attack, the red shirt will not show my blood and thus you men will continue to fight, unafraid."

All of the men sat in silence and marveled at the courage of such a man's manly man.

As dawn arrived the next morning and the Yankee force began to break camp, a scout came riding in, calling out, "Sir, sir. Confederate cavalry has caught up to us."

The rank and file all gathered around the Yankee colonel and waited for his usual reply. Suddenly a second courier came dashing in through the crowd of Union troopers: "Colonel, colonel! That cavalry. ... It's General Forrest out there!!!"

A hush fell over the crowd. The orderly then spoke up. "Sir, shall I bring you your red shirt?"

Colonel Streight gazed with steely eyes upon the approaching Confederates arrayed against his command and then calmly said,

"No. Get me my brown pants."


There has long been a traditional axiom that one Confederate could lick ten Yankees, as evidenced by the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee, not to mention Forrest's Cavalry, almost always being outnumbered but frequently getting the best of the northern forces. One such incident which strengthened this belief occurred during the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.

Union general William T. Sherman faced Confederate General Joe Johnston in the mountains and ridges from Chattanooga towards Atlanta in a months-long series of engagements and maneuvers. Forrest's 7th Tennessee Cavalry had been detached to reinforce the cavalry of General Joe Wheeler and was utilized during this campaign.

As a few of Sherman's men pressed the flank of the Confederates a lone gray-clad trooper arose from a high hill and shouted out to the Yankees below: "Y'all come on, but y'all can't get me."

The Union captain ordered two of his men up the hill after the Reb. Several shots rang out through the underbrush and woods; there was smoke rising up, and a great commotion. And then it was silent.

After a few moments, the Reb trooper peaked out from behind a tree and hollered down: "Y'all STILL can't get me!"


Excerpted from "Forrest Stories"
by .
Copyright © 2018 G. Lee Millar.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Dedication, ix,
Epigraph, xi,
Foreword, xiii,
Preface, xv,
Acknowledgements, xvii,
Catch General Forrest?, xix,
Introduction, xxi,
Yankee Jokes, xxiii,
Chapter 1 Wartime Stories,
Chapter 2 True Stories,
Chapter 3 Post War,
Chapter 4 Famous Quotes,
Chapter 5 Forrest Historical Society,
About the Author, 115,
About the Artist, 117,

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