On Friday, July 12th, Governor Bill Lee signed a proclamation declaring July 13th as Nathan Bedford Forrest Day. People gathered in Memphis to honor their Southern Heritage even though protestors were present to oppose the celebration.
There is varying opinions about Forrest and his role in the KKK (know as the “Klu Klux” in it’s day.) In an interview conducted in 1868 by a Cincinnati newspaper, Forrest claimed that the Klan had 40,000 members in Tennessee and 550,000 total members throughout the Southern states.
He said he sympathized with them, but denied any formal connection. He claimed he could muster thousands of men himself.
He described the Klan as “a protective political military organization … The members are sworn to recognize the government of the United States … Its objects originally were protection against Loyal Leagues and the Grand Army of the Republic.
Interviewer: “Are you a member of the Klu-Klux, general?”
General Forrest: “I am not, but am in sympathy and will co-operate with them. I know that they are charged with many crimes that they are not guilty of.”
A case in point is the killing of Bierfield at Franklin, a few days ago. I sent a man up there especially to investigate the case, and report to me, and I have his letter here now, in which he states that they had nothing to do with it as an organization.”
Forrest was said to have been one of, if not the most genius and accomplished military combat leaders of the time. He later retired and moved to Memphis where he and his wife are interned in their final resting places.