Cincinnati Commercial Article

diane

that gal
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The subject of a newspaper article came up in another thread, and I thought it would be suitable to form a separate topic for discussion of this notable piece.

On August 28, 1868, General N B Forrest was interviewed by Cincinnati Commercial news correspondent John Bonek. The link below starts with a copy of the article and Forrest's response to it on September 3, 1868. The article was of great importance to the Congressional inquiry into the Ku Klux Klan, which did result in the passage of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

The below link is to the Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives for the Second Session of the Forty-Second Congress 1871-72. It is testimony taken by the Joint Select Committee in the inquiry of the Condition of Affairs in the Late Insurrectionary States. Specifically - the Ku Klux Conspiracy.

I've started the link at a transcription of the article as printed August 28, 1868 and including Forrest's response to it, and would recommend the reader scroll to the top for the full testimony of Forrest. It's worth the reading!


The article was published after Forrest had attended the Democratic Convention in New York. Although politically opposite of Grant, Forrest believed Grant would address the issues in Tennessee in a fair and just manner should he win the presidency. A short time after both the article and the reply were printed, several black men were lynched by the klan for defending themselves. Forrest immediately denounced this crime and offered his services to hunt down the murderers and bring them to justice.

Bedford Forrest's role in the klan at this time in Tennessee has never been in question - he lead them and supported them without doubt. Whether or not he was really a member is murky - in my opinion, he was not. But that is a moot point - they accepted that he was. His objectives were to restore the Democrat party to power in Tennessee, remove Brownlow's government which he considered to be illegitimate, and to diminish the influence of 'scalawags' and 'carpet baggers'. The matter of freedmen and racial issues was not one of his objectives as he believed the slaves would 'come home' once they saw they could not cope without white help.

Forrest was already moving away from the klan, particularly after the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were passed and Brownlow left office to become a senator in Congress. It was becoming increasingly violent and uncontrollable, and completely racist as well as insurrectionary. These were not aims Forrest condoned or wished to be part of. One cannot be an apologist for Forrest's involvement in this but at least he did eventually come to understand the Old South he knew was never returning and that racial divisions could not be tolerated. He then began to work with that goal in mind.

This article also had some blow-back all around for Forrest and his family. His brother, William Hezekiah Forrest, was tracked down in Gonzales, Texas by Leander McNelly, the first commander of the Texas Rangers and Texas' top cop. McNelly was cracking down on leaders of the klan in east Texas. He charged Bill Forrest with a murder in Vine Grove 18 years earlier and this trial took place in 1871. Forrest appeared at this trial, the jury reached a not guilty verdict in five minutes. A little earlier, Forrest's half-brother Matt Luxton was thought to have been involved in an assassination plot against Parson Brownlow in Tennessee. Luxton had gone to Texas where his mother, Mariam, was still living. Matt Luxton denied being involved with this plot (one of many - the Parson was popular!) but he was wanted in Tennessee for the investigation of possible crimes in the war. He had been with his half-brother, then went renegade after the death of his father - Forrest's step-father - and did some unsavory things - enough that older brother was gunning for him.

To say that Forrest's involvement with the klan complicated his life is an understatement, and it has continued to be part of his complex legacy. In a private letter to a friend, which is in the archives at Corsicana, Texas, he said the klan was 'the worst mistake of my life.' No one can argue that - it certainly was. The subject of this post is the article that triggered investigation into just what that involvement was - and put something that would have been a shadow part of Forrest's life into the spotlight.
 

O' Be Joyful

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The Parson may have been a total ****--there are legitimate disputes upon that question-- but he sure as hell had a way with words.
 

diane

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He has quite a story just by himself! (So does his pistol packing daughter...)
 

diane

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Oh, indeed Brownlow was something - in 1862 his house was the only house in Knoxville flying a huge US flag, Stars and Stripes forever! When Confederate soldiers arrived to take it down, daughter Susan met them on the porch and promised to shoot them if they tried any such thing. Kind of problematic for them to be shooting a woman, so they left things alone. Playing with dynamite seemed to run in the family!
 
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