Symposium explores complex life and legacy of controversial Confederate tactician

To some‚ Nathan Bedford Forrest was a brilliant and heroic military tactician for the Confederate…

Georgia (Feb 6, 2008) — Symposium explores complex life and legacy of controversial Confederate tactician

Jeremy Craig


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Frances Weyand Harrison

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Nathan Bedford Forrest: Hero or Villain?
Symposium explores complex life and legacy of controversial Confederate tactician

KENNESAW‚ Ga. (Feb. 6‚ 2008) — To some‚ Nathan Bedford Forrest was a brilliant and heroic military tactician for the Confederate cause.

But for many others‚ he was the leader of a horrific 1864 war crime‚ and embodied fear and hatred from his ties to an organization — the Ku Klux Klan — that terrorized millions of people because of their race or religion.

At 9 a.m. on March 1‚ historians will examine all of these aspects to one of Southern history’s most controversial figures at the 2008 Civil War Symposium at Kennesaw State University. The symposium is sponsored by KSU’s Center for the Study of the Civil War Era and Kennesaw’s Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History.

The cost is $15 for the general public and includes admission‚ breakfast‚ a dessert reception and book signing. Kennesaw State students will be admitted free to the event‚ held in Room 400 of the KSU Center‚ 3333 Busbee Drive‚ Kennesaw.

“This is a great topic for this year’s symposium‚ as there are vastly different views of Forrest and his place in history‚” said John D. Fowler‚ director of the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era.

Speakers who will examine Forrest’s life‚ legacy and myth include John Cimprich‚ professor at Thomas More College‚ Crestview Hills‚ Ky.; Paul Ashdown and Ed Caudhill of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville; Jack Hurst‚ author of a Forrest biography; and Brian S. Wills‚ professor of history at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise.

How Forrest is remembered depends on a person’s background and perspective‚ Fowler said. For example‚ those who wish to view the South and the Confederacy in a positive light will focus on Forrest as a brilliant‚ tenacious fighter‚ and view the war as less about slavery and more about a limited role for national government.

Others take an opposite view. For them‚ Forrest epitomizes the ugliness of Southern racism by virtue of leading what is viewed by some as the massacre of African American Union troops at Fort Pillow in Tennessee‚ in 1864.

Further‚ he was involved in the founding of the Ku Klux Klan — becoming its first Grand Wizard‚ though Forrest attempted to disband the KKK in 1869 after realizing its violent nature.

Today‚ Forrest’s name evokes old wounds‚ as many institutions and governments in the South deal with buildings‚ schools‚ parks and monuments to the Confederate cavalryman. In recent decades‚ officials have battled over renaming edifices and removing monuments to Forrest.

Though such a conversation about Forrest examines old scars that are very much still scars on the Southern consciousness‚ such examination is necessary‚ Fowler said.

“My job as a college professor is to have students‚ and the public‚ deal with these issues‚” he said. “If we think that if we can ignore history and that the issues will just simply go away‚ it’s not going to happen. Eventually‚ it will take people like our students at KSU to solve these problems.”

The Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State serves as a repository of academic resources to examine this tumultuous era‚ and its importance to the past and its relevance to the present and future. As part of the university’s Comprehensive Capital Campaign‚ officials seek to raise $4 million to create‚ maintain and perpetuate the center‚ through scholarships‚ Civil War collection development‚ endowed professorships‚ symposia and community outreach.

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To register or for more information about the symposium‚ visit and click on “Center for the Study of the Civil War Era‚” or call Heather Howell at 678−797−2084.

For maps and directions to the Kennesaw State University campus‚ please visit


A member of the 35−unit University System of Georgia‚ Kennesaw State University is a comprehensive‚ residential institution with a growing student population of more than 20‚000 from 132 countries. The third−largest university in Georgia‚ Kennesaw State offers more than 60 graduate and undergraduate degrees‚ including a new doctorate in education.



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit