Photo by Jackson Baker
State Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville)
NASHVILLE — The posthumous troubles of the late Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest are not limited to Memphis or to the park, now called Health Sciences Park, which once bore his name.
Forrest was in trouble already in Middle Tennessee, where state government officials have announced they intend to let brush grow so as to hide a roadside memorial on I-65 to the cavalryman sometimes called “wizard of the saddle” by historians for his prowess in time of war.
These days, though, in the aftermath of the Charleston murders, Forrest is more likely to be condemned for his purported racist actions. There is a move afoot also to remove a bust of the general from the second floor of the Capitol.
And now comes the insult added to injury: State Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) has filed legislation that will be heard in the 2016 session of the General Assembly that would strike down a law requiring that Forrest’s birthday be one of six recognized state holidays. It was celebrated as recently as last Sunday by a mandated proclamation from the governor and a giant rally at the park that, for the moment, still contains his equestrian statue.
Said Stewart: “We do not need a special day to remember that Forrest commanded the forces who massacred soldiers at Fort Pillow after they had surrendered and laid down their arms. In a state that has produced many genuine military heroes, we should not be elevating that sort of service.”
The reference was to an accusation that Forrest’s soldiers murdered black Union troops who were trying to surrender the fort.