08 July 2008 by Published in: Research and Writing 17 comments

For years, I’ve argued with people about Nathan Bedford Forrest. I have some extremely strong opinions about where Forrest falls in the pantheon of Civil War cavalrymen. I’ve elaborated on the issue at length here in one of my first posts on this blog. Suffice it to say that, in spite of the abuse heaped on me by the Forrest worshippers, I don’t think much of him as a cavalryman, but I admire his ability commanding mounted infantry. Thus, in my opinion, one cannot even consider Forrest a cavalryman, meaning he does not rank in my world.

In addition, I’ve always been known as an Eastern Theater guy, and I probably always will be, simply because the Eastern Theater is what interests me the most. At the same time, my friend Greg Biggs has been after me for years to do something with Western Theater cavalry, so I’ve decided to meet Greg’s challenge. The Battle of Brice’s Crossroads is generally considered to be Forrest’s greatest victory, and even though the victory at Brice’s Crossroads really had no strategic importance to speak of, it featured one of the few documented instances of a smaller force defeating a larger one by successfully executing a double envelopment. That makes it tactically interesting.

Also, I ordered the last copy of Ed Bearss’ classic Forrest at Brice’s Cross Roads and in north Mississippi in 1864 in inventory with the publisher, Morningside, yesterday. That means that the book is officially and permanently out of print, as Morningside has no intention of reprinting it. There are only three used copies for sale on the Internet, meaning that it’s few and far between. Ed’s book is the only work devoted entirely to the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads published, and it’s now out of print. This means that the battle is ripe for a new tactical treatment, and it should sell well.

So, I’m going to tackle it. Researching and writing about these fights is how I learn, and I’m looking forward to learning about this battle, and to spending time on the battlefield. Perhaps I may even end up changing my opinion of Forrest as a result. I’m intent on keeping my personal biases against Forrest from clouding my analysis of this fight, and I think I can do so. I’m looking to make my first visit to the battlefield in September.

Master cartographer Steve Stanley has agreed to do the maps for the book, which means it will have superb maps. I also intend to include a walking/driving tour with GPS coordinates. I will keep everyone posted as to my progress with this. Two of my projects with J.D. come first: our study of Jubal Early’s raid on Washington in 1864, and completing the first volume of our three-volume study of cavalry operations in the Gettysburg Campaign, so don’t look for this any time soon. I’m only just getting starting researching, and I have a lot to learn about this battle.

I owe a special tip of the hat to fellow blogger Paul Taylor, as his recent visit to Brice’s Crossroads with his son, and his description of it, is what got me interested in pursuing this project. I also owe Paul a special and public thank you for the Brice’s Crossroads and Shiloh pins that he sent along. Thanks, Paul: both for the idea to pursue this Brice’s Crossroads project, and also for the pins, which have found a home on CWPT hat.

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Comments

  1. Steve Basic
    Tue 08th Jul 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Eric,

    Actually kind of happy you are doing this. Will be interested during your research if your opinions of Forrest will change. I have a problem with Forrest as well, and maybe my opinion can change as well.

    Hope all is well.

    Steve

  2. Bill Shepherd
    Tue 08th Jul 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Eric : as you know, The Battle of Brice’s Crossroads has a number of controversial aspects to it. N.B. Forrest himself as a cavalryman or mounted infantry. His tactics there are taught on staff rides today. The incoherent strategy of the Union forces. Grierson is beaten badly by Forrest. The U.S.C.T. soldiers wearing “Remember Fort Pillow” badges. The Union retreat through the wetlands. The battlefield could use some scrub oak plantings to restore it. And why has the State of Tennessee allowed the Fort Pillow site to deteriorate so badly ? Bill Shepherd.

  3. dan
    Tue 08th Jul 2008 at 11:20 pm

    There is no question that Forrest is the great commander of the War. RELee said so.

  4. Ray Todd Knight
    Tue 08th Jul 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Welcome to the West. I look forward to reading another of your books.

    Ray

  5. Tue 08th Jul 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Wow! I thought I would never see the day. You know my feelings for NBF (which tend to focus on his final years when he became ‘born-again’ with his wife’s help and seemed to strive for some reconciliation and redemption), but I am anxious to see your take on him in the field. As one who has read quite a bit on Forrest, I do recommend Jack Hurst’s bio. He portrays all of the good, bad, and ugly that is NBF. As a fellow Christian, I admire Forrest’s spiritual transformation (however late in life it came). As a warrior, he scares the hell out of me.

  6. Wed 09th Jul 2008 at 12:24 am

    Eric,

    If you’re going to be at the Roundtable meeting tomorrow I’d love to give you my two cents about Brice’s Cross Roads. I have spent many hours down there. I also have a good deal of info about the 9th Minnesota’s unfortunate role there.

    Bill,

    I think you have Ft. Pillow and Brice’s somewhat confused and/or intermingled. There certainly is nothing controversial about Brice’s, except that Forrest smoked a Federal force twice the size of his own.

    Eric

  7. Wed 09th Jul 2008 at 12:30 am

    Sounds like a great project, Eric! Do you need any illustrations done? I’ve done quite a few cavalry pieces over the past few years, Hunterstown being the most recent.

    When are you going to begin this monumental task? Best wishes!

  8. Dave Powell
    Wed 09th Jul 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I strongly suggest that you also look at Tupelo, for the flipside…

    Dave Powell

  9. Andrew Ballard
    Wed 09th Jul 2008 at 3:00 pm

    It’s Anniversary of the Battle of Monocacy!

    any research needs? scheduling a trip yet?

  10. Paul Taylor
    Wed 09th Jul 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Eric,

    You’re more than welcome! There’s not much to see at Brice’s though the park can arrange a guided tour if interested.

    Paul

  11. Bill Shepherd
    Fri 11th Jul 2008 at 12:30 am

    To Eric Jacobson : I asked about the deterioration of the Fort Pillow battlefield hoping that someone might have some insight or good news as to replacing the missing or defaced interpretative ‘tablets’ at the site. I made a stop there recently and was disappointed as to the overall condition of the site. But more importantly, I listened to your very interesting lecture on Spring Hill and Franklin at the Decatur Civll War Roundtable in Arthur, Illinois last September. Bought your book “For Cause And Country” and have it in the ‘que’ to read. Regarding Brice’s Crossroads, it seems to me that the battle has a number of unique aspects to it that to it that present issues that continue to merit analysis and get us thinking about the unresolved and underappreciated issues of the Civil War. Also, your web site is great. I still need to visit Franklin and Spring Hill. Bill Shepherd.

  12. Wade Sokolosky
    Tue 15th Jul 2008 at 12:23 pm

    Eric,

    Excellent decision my friend and I thought Monroe’s X Roads was about as “western” as you were going to get. Look forward to it.

    Saying hello from Kandahar, Afghanistan. Enjoyed my few moments catching up on your blog.

    Wade

  13. kevin a kearns
    Fri 18th Jul 2008 at 3:08 pm

    forrest would have made a bigger impact with better commanders he did fine work at chickamauga and hoods retreat plus at shiloh . stuart coundnt have done any better or buford or hampton etc.. i think you might change your mind about him. i look forward to reading your book .plus check out his service after donelson at nashville 1862 ,outstanding to say the least.

  14. Fri 17th Apr 2009 at 9:23 am

    So, how do you feel abt. Philip Dale Roddey and his 4th Alabama men? Not being facetious, I’ld really like to know. I have ancestors who were with his escort and am searching for any concrete info I can find. Your website seems to be the most open minded when it comes to discussing “the War” since you do let your personal feelings be known as just that!

  15. Fri 17th Apr 2009 at 9:35 am

    Edith,

    Thanks for writing. I appreciate the compliment.

    To answer your question honestly, I have to say that I haven’t yet formed an opinion. I’m largely an Eastern Theater guy–I make no bones about that–and hence am still educating myself about Roddey and his boys. How about this: when I have completed my research, I will gladly answer your question in depth.

    Thanks again for writing.

    Eric

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