Tennessee, March 5, 1863
As General Braxton Bragg's Confederate army passed her home in retreat, a distraught Tennessee housewife hurried from her doorstep and confronted the hapless Bragg. Stand and fight - she pleaded with him. The General ignored her and plodded sullenly onward. Furious at his retreat, the woman shook her fist at Bragg's departing back and yelled loudly, "Oh, you big cowardly rascal! I only wish old Forrest was here: he'd make you fight!"
Such was Nathan Bedford Forrest's reputation. Although he had no formal military training, he was a natural leader who emphasized the fundamentals of warfare. "War means fightin'," he would say, "and fightin' means killin'." If he could help it he never waited for an enemy to charge, Nathan Bedford Forrest declared. Instead, he charged too.
Serving under Major General Earl Van Dorn in March of 1863, Forrest followed his own advice when out numbered by Federal forces near Thompson's Station, Tennessee. Forrest, then a brigadier general, drove the Federal artillery from the field, then cut off the Federal infantry's line of retreat. To break through, the Northern cavalry charged Forrest - and Forrest then "charged too." Astride a favorite mount - "Roderrick" - Forrest led the counter attack. When "Roderrick" was shot down and he was unhorsed, Forrest scrambled to his feet and led the charge on foot.
Such a ferocity was too much for the enemy, who scattered or surrendered. Van Dorn gave Forrest credit for the victory. And Forrest's determination to "charge too" became a part of the Forrest legend. It was a display of the upfront leadership that enabled Nathan Bedford Forrest to rise from private to lieutenant general and made him famous as the "Wizard of the Saddle".
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