Notes from presentation made by retired General John Scales at the Prattville Dragoons camp meeting on Thursday May 11, 2017.
Nathan Bedford Forrest was born in Chapel Hill TN but his family moved to Salem Mississippi when he was a boy. He was a voracious reader but had little formal education as his father died and Nathan Bedford had to work for his family's sustenance at an early age. He did some horse trading with his uncle and also was a successful slave trader and for a time was even the mayor of Memphis. He was a very successful and wealthy businessman.
Forrest was originally against secession but when war broke out, he joined Captain Overton's cavalry as a private. But he raised a cavalry battalion himself and was accordingly promoted to Lt.Colonel. At this early time, he patrolled in front of the Confederate Army in Kentucky for General Albert Sydney Johnson.
Forrest performed credible service at Fort Donelson and escaped when the Confederate Generals there decided to surrender, salvaging supplies in Nashville. At Shiloh, Forrest manned the right flank, reinforcing the Confederate attack and also performed reconnaissance. At Fallen Timbers, he opposed Union General Sherman's pursuit of the retreating Confederates and was wounded after charging Sherman's forces and actually capturing an aide of Sherman's after overruning the Feederal lines with his 300 cavalrymen.
Forrest was selected to take over the Chattanooga defenses and was promoted to Brigadier General. He commanded only about 5000 defenders threatened by General Buell with over 40000 men. Forrest took over the Brigade which was in disarray and successfully repulsed Union General U.S. Grant who's army was stymied by a malaria outbreak.
Forrest decided to attack Mufreesboro and the stockpile of supplies there and cripple the resupply railroad. He was able to approach from the east in the Cumberland Plateau thru a solid Confederate friendly area. His attack resulted in 120 Union soldiers killed and wounded and he lost 100 men but accomplished the mission. He stayed behind Union lines harassing Buell's troops, destroying three bridges, killing and capturing more Union troops while sustaining no casualties. Buell kept sending troops to find Forrest and wound up ignoring Chattanooga so Forrest was successful in his defense of Chattanooga.
From August 24 thru Sept 2, 1862, Forrest conducted a raid against a Union supply wagon train but it was guarded by artillery and many troops so Forrest's raids were largely unsuccessful. So, he opted to loop around and attacked a stockade but without artillery, that attack was repulsed. He lost between 75-80 men before he rejoined General Bragg in the east.
In summary, Forrest delayed Buell's forces despite the Federals having overwhelming numbers of 10,000 men positioned within 30 miles of Chattanooga which didn't fall for over a year thru a persistent threat to the Union supply lines.