A Confederate general operating in the western theatre during the American Civil War. Physically imposing at over 6 feet, Forrest fought well and bravely in a losing cause, with the simple but effective philosophy "Get there first with the most men." While generally referred to as a cavalry command, his men were more properly dragoons, using their horses for rapid movement but fighting dismounted.
Forrest was a self-made man twice over, having first made his fortune in the slave trade, and then rising to general from a start as a buck private. He was the most feared commander in the Civil War's western theatre. Unlike his fellow officers who trained at West Point, Forrest's strategies were unconventional and often flummoxed friend and foe alike.
Forrest is often remembered as the commander of the men who committed the Fort Pillow Massacre, where a detachment of black artillery troops were killed when the fort was taken by the Confederates. Union propoganda made much of the CS troop's actions after the fort fell, and doubtless atrocities were committed. The 2:1 ratio of casualties among the black troops in comparison to the white officers and cavalry troopers with whom they shared the fort leaves little doubt. Forrest's apologists note that he had (as was his custom) offered to accept the fort's surrender, and explicitly to take prisoners of both races. However the fort commander declined to surrender, and the CS troops gave no quarter when the fort fell. Forrest himself hung back when the fort fell, likely knowing what was to happen. Given the loose discipline of Confederate troops, he might have had little success in preventing what followed, even had he been so inclined.
After the war Forrest was associated with the embryonic Ku Klux Klan and although he later disavowed them, the association stuck with him.
A state park in Tennessee bears his name.