Tupelo, Ms. June 28, 1864. Letterpress broadside, 16 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches. Text in three columns. A few small edge chips, moderate toning, foxing, and staining. Small area of loss along vertical fold costing all or part of about seven words. A few subtle expert repairs to verso. Overall very good condition. Item #WRCAM56443
A Confederate Civil War broadside of astounding rarity, either the second or third copy known. In this address, made in late June 1864, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest takes a moment to commend his "unconquerable band of heroes" on several recent victories, most notably the Battle of Brices Cross Roads (here referred to by Forrest as "Tishomingo Creek") and the attack on Fort Pillow in Tennessee on April 12. Forrest opens by praising his men for their assistance to generals Smith and Grierson in the recent defense of Mississippi and Alabama against attacks by the "proud and exultant" forces of Sherman, in which the Confederates "drove [Sherman] howling back in ignominy and shame; broken and demoralized." Forrest also praises his men and officers for their "crowning glory" at the Battle of Brices Cross Roads. The battle occurred on June 10, 1864, and was Forrest's most decisive victory of the war. His forces were outmanned more than two to one when they clashed with Union army troops led by Brigadier General Samuel Sturgis, yet Forrest's Confederates won the day through superior tactical maneuvers and movements. Forrest claims here that his force of 3,000 "achieved this victory over ten thousand of the enemy," which history has corrected to about 3,500 against 8,500. It was a significant victory for Forrest's men in the early summer of 1864. The most haunting and impactful passages here relate to the attack on Fort Pillow, thereafter known as the Fort Pillow Massacre. Forrest writes: "At Fort Pillow you exhibited the same conspicuous gallantry. In the face of a murderous fire from two gunboats and six pieces of artillery on the Fort, you stormed the works and either killed or captured the entire garrison, a motley herd of negroes, traitors and Yankees." Forrest praises his two commanders, Chalmers and Buford, who commanded the ground forces at Fort Pillow, for their "noble work." He also writes that General Chalmers "deserves the enduring gratitude of his countrymen." Forrest later touches upon Fort Pillow again, in a passage that echoes modern attitudes toward journalistic bias: "They come forth with threats of vengeance towards you and your commander, for the bloody victory of Fort Pillow - made a massacre ONLY by dastardly Yankee reporters." In fact, Fort Pillow has gone down in history as a massacre due to the Confederates' murder of some 300 Union soldiers - the majority of them African American - after the battle was over or had been essentially decided. Forrest also alludes to the fallout from Fort Pillow when he states that "Again you responded bravely to your Generals call. You met the enemy and defeated him. Victory was never more glorious - disaster never more crushing and signal. From a proud and defiant foe, en route to the heart of your country, with declarations, both by negro and white troops, of 'no quarters to Forrest or his men,' he became an enemy beaten, defeated, routed, destroyed. You drove the boasted minions of despotism in confused flight from the battlefield." Forrest concludes his message by reiterating his praise of his soldiers and with a lengthy appreciation of his commanders, many of whom he mentions by name. In evocative language, Forrest exhorts his troops to "repeat these great achievements...in the name and recollection of ruined homes, desolated fields and the bleaching bones of your martyred comrades...the smoke of your burning homesteads, the screams of your insulted women and the cries of starving children...." Forrest invokes "Your fathers of '76," and argues that the Confederacy has a more difficult task than did the Founding Fathers: "They fought not against annihilation, but simply to be independent of a foreign and yet a constitutional and free government. You are struggling against the most odious of all tyranny - for existence itself, for you property, your homes, your wives and children - against your own enslavement, against emancipation, confiscation and subjugation with all their attendant horrors." Forrest concludes by lauding the Confederacy as "a fixed, accomplished, immutable fact," and implying that the war is almost over, at which time his men will be able to return to their "desolated homes." The broadside is signed in type by both Forrest and his adjutant, C.W. Anderson. Bolstered by victories at Fort Pillow and Brices Cross Roads, Forrest continued to harass Union forces through the end of the war, though his effectiveness waned. A couple of weeks after the publication of this fiery broadside, Forrest and his troops suffered defeat at the Battle of Tupelo. After major defeats over the next few months in Tennessee and Mississippi, prospects faded considerably for Forrest's men. In early April 1865, following a defeat at the Battle of Selma in Alabama, and hearing of Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Forrest surrendered, as well. Forrest's "fixed, accomplished, immutable" Confederacy was no more. Following the Civil War Forrest went on to even more infamy as a founder of the Ku Klux Klan. OCLC records a single copy of the present broadside, at the Boston Athenaeum. Parrish & Willingham note just one copy, as well, from the private collection of Lester Hargrett, bought from Goodspeed's catalogue 601, item 94. It is possible the present copy was once in the collection of Lester Hargrett, making it the second known copy. If not, it is just the third known copy. A zealous and patriotic appeal to continue fighting for the Confederate cause by its most notorious general, at the height of his glory, and dismissing those who framed Fort Pillow as a massacre. PARRISH & WILLINGHAM 1000. OCLC 785407856.