He never actually said it himself – the quote was mis-attributed to him in a 1917 New York Times article – but Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest was indeed an advocate of getting there “fustus with the mostus” (i.e. arriving at a strategically advantageous location first, with the most firepower).
One of the world’s true military geniuses – Forrest was an innovative asymmetrical warrior who revolutionized mobile combat in the nineteenth century. He’s rumored to have had thirty horses shot out from under him during the War Between the States, and is said to have killed thirty-one Union soldiers personally.
“I was a horse ahead at the end,” he joked.
Was Forrest a savage?
We don’t know … we weren’t alive back then. History has certainly recorded him as one – most notably as it relates to the “Fort Pillow Massacre” – although it could be argued that Union General William Tecumseh Sherman was a savage, too.
We happen to think both men were just doing whatever they could to win a war. Also, Forrest certainly struck a conciliatory tone at the conclusion of hostilities.
“Civil war, such as you have just passed through naturally engenders feelings of animosity, hatred, and revenge,” Forrest told his troops at the end of the conflict. “It is our duty to divest ourselves of all such feelings; and as far as it is in our power to do so, to cultivate friendly feelings towards those with whom we have so long contended, and heretofore so widely, but honestly, differed.”
Did he cultivate those “friendly feelings” himself?
That’s open for debate. Forrest is widely credited with founding the Ku Klux Klan – which obviously didn’t cultivate friendly feelings with anybody who wasn’t a white Southerner. And although he appears to have had a “George Wallace moment” at the end of his life (err … Wallace had a “Nathan Bedford Forrest” moment at the end of his life) we have trouble accepting the sincerity of such conversions.
Whatever his legacy, Forrest’s connection with the KKK has landed current Mississippi Governor and possible 2012 GOP presidential candidate Haley Barbour in some hot water. Specifically, Barbour has refused to speak out against a proposal in the Mississippi legislature that would honor Forrest with a commemorative license plate.
Barbour hasn’t endorsed the plates, mind you, he just hasn’t opposed them – which is a politically-correct “sin of omission.”
It’s the second time that Barbour has been made to look racially insensitive on the national stage – and much as we have no interest in supporting his candidacy, we think both “scandals” are manufactured.
As we’ve noted on numerous occasions in the past, we hate these license plates. They confuse law enforcement and serve no useful purpose (like most government brainstorms).
Americans already have freedom of expression as it relates to their automobiles (they’re called bumper stickers) and these plates are just another way for politicians to pick winners and losers.
(Seriously … some of these plates raise a lot of money for various groups).
Here’s the thing, though … if state lawmakers are going to allow these plates, then they should allow them – even the politically-incorrect ones. There shouldn’t even be a debate.
In the meantime, the national press needs to take a chill pill. It’s not like Barbour compared Michelle Obama to a gorilla or anything …
Remember, this guy is governor of Mississippi – which is the only state in America that occasionally makes South Carolina look civilized.