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Lieutenant-General N. B. Forrest and his campaigns.

I have selected as my subject on this occasion the campaigns of Lieutenant-General N. B. Forrest, who was my immediate commander during the last year and a half of the war, and who, if not the greatest military genius, was certainly the greatest revolutionary leader on our side. He was restrained by no knowledge of law or constitution. He was embarrassed by no preconceived ideas of military science. His favorite maxim was, “war means fighting, and fighting means killing.” Without the slightest knowledge of them, he seemed by instinct to adopt the tactics of the great masters of the military art, if there be any such art.

Hamley says “nothing is more common than to find in writings on military matters reference to ‘the rules of war,’ and assertions such as some general ‘owed his success to knowing when to dispense with the rules of war.’ It would be difficult to say what these rules are or in what code they are embodied.” Colonel T. W. White, a clear-headed officer of my command, expressing the same idea more quaintly, said: “It all consists in two words — luck and pluck.” Forrest possessed both of these in an eminent degree; and his successes, many of which were achieved with men who had never been drilled one hour together, illustrated what might have been accomplished by untrained Southern soldiers.

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Nathan Bedford Forrest (2)
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