Nov. 13 Mail: Do the Research on Forrest


I started out on the side of changing the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School, but as and after I did some real research, I changed my mind. I found out propaganda was being treated as fact, and the despite the controversy, Gen. Forrest was basically an honorable guy.

Now before I go any further, understand that I am a Yankee, Democrat, social liberal who worked to help elect Alvin Brown and Barack Obama, do not like the Confederate Battle Flag and hate the KKK. I also worked with Amnesty International starting when I was a teenager in the ’70s to end apartheid. I am the last person you would think would come to defend a Confederate general, but as I said, the more I discovered about the man that was fact rather than twisted opinion, the more I came to respect him.

Forrest was raised when slavery was normal, when it was also normal to keep women silent and not voting, and for children to be put to work for 60 hours or more a week. Andrew Jackson was a bigot responsible for the Trail of Tears, Carnegie was responsible for murderous reprisals to labor strikes, and Henry Ford was racist against Jews. Even Abraham Lincoln considered blacks inferior to whites, and Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington owned slaves.

Here is some of what I uncovered, but do your own research using empirical evidence and historical records.

War is dirty. America put Japanese Nisei in concentration camps in World War II, in Vietnam there was the My Lai Massacre and, more recently, a war based upon lies in Iraq and Americans responsible for Abu Ghraib. Racism can work both ways, and often does. Truth can get distorted easily, and often does.

Why people aren’t more concerned about the grades at Forrest, recently Ds and Fs, than the name of the place is beyond me.

The petition for the name change has 95 percent of the names on it from people who don't even live anywhere near here, and in a few days, my petition has nearly 200 signatures, 95 percent of which are alumni.

Here is a history lesson, if your mind isn’t already made up and closed. I openly call anyone with an un-researched opinion stupid or ignorant. I challenge them to do one tenth the research I've done and still be able to defend seeking a name change.

It appears that Forrest was trying to stop the carnage at Fort Pillow. With all these other battalions and units, do you think maybe one of them was more responsible than Forrest, knowing that units often do not do as ordered? I might be defending Forrest strongly, and identify myself as a Union Yankee, but I also honor truth above all, and think Forrest is left taking the rap for maybe what an underling did. I think what was worse is that many prisoners were taken to Andersonville, and that's where the real war crimes took place. But do you think in the field, without radios, without good communication, with so many different commands, that he was able to control things when they got out of hand?

Identification of Units

Two days after the battle Achilles vs. Clark, a Confederate soldier wrote his sister a letter about what he witnessed in the fight. “The poor deluded negroes would run up to our men, fall upon their knees and with uplifted hands scream for mercy, but they were ordered to their feet and then shot down. The white men fared but little better. Their fort turned out to be a great slaughter pen — blood human blood stood about in pools, and brains could have been gathered up in any quantity. I with several others tried to stop the butchery and at one point had partially succeeded — but Gen. Forrest ordered them shot down like dogs and the carnage continued.”

Confederate Samuel Caldwell said the Union soldiers had refused to surrender “which incensed our men & if General Forrest had not run between our men and the Yanks with his pistol and saber drawn, not a man would have been spared.”

Private Ellis Falls, a black Union soldier, said that Forrest ordered the Confederates to “quit fighting.”

Private Major Williams, a Union soldier, said he heard one Confederate officer shout that the blacks should be killed and then another Confederate officer contradicted him and said that Forrest had ordered them to capture the blacks and return them to their masters.

One captured Federal, Charles Fitch, ran up to Forrest and asked for protection. When Fitch said he was from Iowa, Forrest then said: “What in hell are you down here for? I have a great mind to have you killed for being down here.” Forrest then told one of his soldiers to keep Fitch safe.

First Sergeant Wilbur Gaylord, a black soldier of the 6th U.S. Heavy Artillery, was wounded as the Confederates came over the wall. He offered to surrender and was taken prisoner. But at the same time, he saw a Confederate soldier “shoot down three black men who were begging for their lives, and who had surrendered.”

This shows that Forrest maybe was not responsible, that maybe he did try to stop it and it got beyond his control. If his intent was to butcher and massacre, he wouldn’t have tried more than once to get the Union troops to surrender, not allowed a truce to allow them to attend to casualties, and would have had other instances of alleged “war crimes.” Remember, he attacked those troops because they had been raiding farms, with some instances of rape and murder of civilians. He also had his former slaves, whom he had freed, voluntarily fighting with him under his command. His letters and reports show a well-educated man of conscience and chivalry, despite the normalcy of slavery in society in which he was raised. There are also questions about the Union commander of Fort Pillow, who was suspected then of illegally shipping cotton North and profiteering, and who was reprimanded at a later post.

As far as causes of the Civil War go, slavery is lamented and, yes, it was a major cause, but not the primary cause. The issues that caused the Civil War had been growing since the United States was founded. The most important causes for the war were unfair taxation, slavery and states’ rights.

There were some skirmishes, but the South took the first shot at Fort Sumter. However, nothing in Constitutional law said the states did not have the right to succeed. Lincoln suspended many Constitutional rights to prevent the dissolution of the Union and used tactics that were forgotten or overlooked by history. Both sides were responsible: the North for being a bully and the South for slavery, being stupid enough to become a one-crop culture and taking the first punch.

As far as the Klan aspects, the KKK started out as a group to foster chivalry and protect the South against abuses of Reconstruction. If you know history, you know things got worse for the South following the war, with Republican and Union legislation which imposed fees, tariffs and taxes specifically upon the South, and forced the loss of property and assets of many Southerners. The war started because of economic rape, which perpetuated slavery, and what followed was even worse. It is no wonder there was resentment and the growth of hate groups: The North assisted in their birth through laws, taxes, regulations, tariffs and fees. When the KKK turned violent and started racial targeting, and not just targeting carpetbaggers and Republicans, Forrest tried to disband it. 

Skot David Wilson

Orange Park 

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Becoming a Human......

Just got a call thanking me for my dedication to the truth. It appears my open letter published in the Folio Weekly prompted an acquaintance to do his own research and he changed his mind of Forrest High as well. Myth and fixed beliefs in society are a hard thing to overcome. Ideology is a powerful attribute in humans, and can be good or bad contingent upon what it is founded upon.

Definition of REVELATION

1. a : an act of revealing or communicating divine truth

b : something that is revealed by God to humans

2. a : an act of revealing to view or making known

b : something that is revealed; especially : an enlightening or astonishing disclosure

c : a pleasant often enlightening surprise

Definition of IDEOLOGY

1. : visionary theorizing

2. a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture

b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture

c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program

When we allow ourselves a bit of humility, we can move part the prejudices that restrain us from growing as we incorporate new ideas or fact and truth.

Definition of EPIPHANY

2. an appearance or manifestation especially of a divine being

3. a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

b : a revealing scene or moment

Where a revelation is finding the truth, an epiphany adds the idea of personally realizing the truth disclosed and is maybe more intimate. Following an ideology can often lead to a cultist mentality that would be tolerant of denial or suppression of truths. That mindset can easily lead to bias, bigotry, racism, censorship, and other forms of abuse which, frankly, scare the holy crap out of me. We are often so driven by our fears and prejudices that we willingly submit to or participate in acts and deeds which are regressive and hurtful. Those instances infuriate me to no end. I try to just hate this human flaw and shortcoming, but often, against my own desire to see myself as something higher, find myself hating the individuals who commit this moral atrocity.

Definition of HUMILITY hu·mil·i·ty noun

[noncount] : the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble

To be a proponent of higher ideals and remain humble is a difficult task. It is easy to succumb to negative aspects of pride or a feeling of superiority, and restrain from judging people instead of the philosophy or beliefs or ideology they have adopted. One has to remain vigilant and be mindful that it is often fear or ignorance or a desire not to lose a belief structure that prevents people from accepting facts, truths, or humility of their own enough to see reason, reality, or the right of others to disagree with them or be different or disagree with them.

This willing disregard for admitting truth, fact, or reality has been with mankind throughout our history. The process of growing and evolving past this problem is often slow and troublesome. It has resulted in bigotry, racism, slavery, war, genocide, murder and abuse of one upon another for so long that it is embedded in almost every culture and in many cases considered normal. To me, it is an affront to all that is decent or just.

One of the most prominent causes of regressive ideologies and what become social norms are power structures. I don't care if they are religious, political, or monetary based or motivated, too often groups or individuals wield power over those who are their constituents, supporters, followers, or compatriots by a systemic denial of any facts that dispel or refute their power structure or suppression or persecution of those who disagree with them or threaten their base of power or belief.

I define freedom as the right to do whatever you want to do unless you abuse or endanger others or infringe upon their rights, property, or security. That's my short version, but covers most of what I believe. Freedom stops when it crosses that line, where equity is lost, and humility vanishes from view. When compassion and concern for our fellow beings and our shared environment or ecosystem is lost, abuses and suffering is not only probable, it is almost assured.

Morality must not, should not, ever be selective or selectively applied. Equity is but one form of justice.

Definition of EQUITY

1. a : justice according to natural law or right; specifically : freedom from bias or favoritism

b : something that is equitable

2. a : a system of law originating in the English chancery and comprising a settled and formal body of legal and procedural rules and doctrines that supplement, aid, or override common and statute law and are designed to protect rights and enforce duties fixed by substantive law

b : trial or remedial justice under or by the rules and doctrines of equity

c : a body of legal doctrines and rules developed to enlarge, supplement, or override a narrow rigid system of law

Idealistically, our nation was founded upon this sentiment, although it was formed with provisions which allowed or enshrined inequity. We have overcome much of this through great suffering and strife, and still have a long way to go, but the forces that prevent us from aspiring to this high ideal still are entrenched in our society. Greed, fear, hubris, the capacity for cruelty or indifference remain with us like a cancer or festering wound. It cannot heal until compassion, tolerance, and humility are the standard reinforced with a mutual respect for the individual rights of all humans and mutual respect and true concern for one another and the world in which we live which sustains us.

No matter if it is an environmental issue, human rights issue, social justice, religious freedom, or division of wealth issue, we all share a responsibility to one another, and ourselves, to insure we work for that higher ideal. If we fail at this, we may succeed as part of mankind but fail at being part of humankind. I denote mankind as how man the animal lives life, as opposed to how humans live. Our motivations define who and what we are, and the legacy we leave for future generations.

Therefore I seek to be more human, more loving, compassionate, respectful of my fellow being, rooted in truth and not an illusion based reality, but humble enough to admit when I am wrong and willing to fight to insure truth and justice are not simply ideals, but a common attribute of myself and the world in which I live.

I close in saying I don't expect everyone to be martyrs, to be forever fighting in such a manner that life cannot be enjoyed. I also say that we should not risk ourselves foolishly, but instead be pragmatic, diligent, and willing to fight with wisdom seeking to change minds and hearts and eliminate that which destroys or hurts or is unjust or simply wrong. It means making a distinction, and having some personal pride in one's own opinion enough to act to bring about change, to confront what is not to this higher ideal in humility, but also fervent passion and dedication. If we fail to call what is wrong, wrong, then how can we honor what is right?

The feeling we are helpless to change things in the world can easily distract us from this mission. At times, the most dedicated warrior in this cause will falter and feel weak. But the heart set upon these higher ideals can be renewed. Good intent creates a wellspring of optimism, and undermines the ills which stem from pessimism. We, each of us, have the power to change the world, to make it a place worthy of the image of ourselves we desire to see. We may become depleted, we often fail, and feel the good we do has no impact or effect, and often this may seem to be the case, but by simply choosing what is noble and good we subtract one more advocate of what is lesser, and along the way we may influence others to change, often never having known we have done so.

Therefore, I say to you, love your neighbor, near and far. Love yourself with humility. Honor our mother earth. Consider the world we create in which our children will live and inherit, and be mindful of the example you set. Have pride and resolve, even if you feel your efforts are pointless, because they are not. Do not fear to make distinctions between what is right or wrong, good or bad, and recognize the kinship we have one another even with our enemies or those we oppose or detest the actions of. It is by a collective force of individual actions that we will change the world, find our humanity, and grow. In this way, eventually, we may finally be worthy of the often misused term "human". Thursday, November 14, 2013|Report this