NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On Thursday the Tennessee Capitol Commission voted to recommend the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest from the State Capitol to the Tennessee State Museum.
Forrest was a Confederate General and early leader of the Ku Klux Klan who later left the supremacist group.
News 2 reached out to the local chapter of the Sons of Confederate for a response to the decision.
The attorney representing the Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp 215 and the great-great-grandsons of Nathan Bedford Forrest sent this statement.
The Forrest Family Descendants (his surviving great-great grandsons) and the Sons of Confederate Veteran Camp No. 215 are opposed to the removal of the bust of Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest from the State Capitol. The Forrest bust as well as those of Admirals Farragut and Gleaves, were placed there to honor some of Tennessee’s leading military figures. In particular, General Forrest is clearly a leading military figure in this state, having joined the Tennessee State Troops as a private, later rising to the rank of Lieutenant General by the end of the Civil War – the only Tennessean or American ever to achieve such distinction in the course of a single war.
His many military victories during the American Civil War were never bested by another commanding officer, with the only exception being that of General Robert E. Lee. As a self-taught military commander, Forrest was praised by all of his senior commanders as the best and most experienced cavalryman that the war produced. Forrest fought courageously on the behalf of Tennessee. Moreover, General William. T. Sherman, serving in the Union Army against Forrest, declared during the inquiry into Fort Pillow that Forrest was one of the best commanders that the South had possessed, and that no massacre occurred. Forrest’s cavalry command included over sixty men of African ancestry in service. One such man was Louis Napoleon Nelson who first served as cook, and then as a rifleman within Forrest’s cavalry. As a cavalry trooper, Nelson also served as a Chaplin ministering to the spiritual needs of soldiers of both races.
In peacetime, Forrest was a three term Memphis alderman, and after the war was president of a railroad, hiring both African American men and their Caucasian counterparts to help rebuild the region’s economy. In the post-war period, he dissolved the Klan, and was promoter of equal employment opportunities for men of color. He was also elected an honorary deacon of an African American church. He was known to treat all men equally and fairly, and was so admired that his funeral was attended by a large number of African American men and women. Forrest is still a valiant military commander and local politician, whose bust should remain in the state capitol in the company of other Tennesseans who made such a significant impact on Tennessee’s history. Other notable military figures whose busts are also displayed at the Tennessee Capitol are those of General John Sevier, General Andrew Jackson, and the Nation’s Founding Father, General George Washington, under whose Presidential Administration, Tennessee became a state.
The Tennessee Historical Commission will make the final decision on the statue’s location.