The State of My Early Adoption: A Letter from General Nathan Bedford Forrest

In August 1864, the Mississippi legislature passed a joint resolution praising the

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Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest (Library of Congress)

Confederate general who had exerted himself so forcefully to protect the Magnolia State in that tumultuous year. The officer was, of course, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose exploits in defense of the Confederacy had endeared him to thousands of Mississippians. The resolution read thus:

Joint Resolutions

In regard to Maj. General N.B. Forrest

Whereas, the eminent services of Maj. Gen’l N.B. Forrest have inspired the country with the highest confidence and admiration in his gallantry as an officer and pre-eminent qualities as a commanding General; and whereas his daring bravery and consummate skill, and the devoted heroism of his brave little army have repeatedly saved an important portion of this state from destruction by a ruthless foe: Therefore be it resolved by the legislature of the State of Mississippi, that the Governor be and he is authorized and instructed to cause to be manufactured in the finest style of workmanship and art, a sword, the hilt, blade and scabbard to be embossed, etched or engraved with the Arms of the State of Mississippi, and have engraved thereon the following inscription, “Presented by the State of Mississippi to Maj. Gen’l N.B. Forrest, of the C.S. Army, as a testimonial of the high appreciation of him as a warrior and patriot – and for his distinguished services in defense of her soil and people.” Which sword the Governor shall present or cause to be presented to Gen’l Forrest.

Resolved, that the Governor be and he is hereby authorized to make his requisition on the Auditor, for his warrant upon the treasury for the amount necessary to pay for the manufacture of said sword.

Resolved, that the Governor be requested to forward to Gen’l Forrest a copy of these resolutions.

Passed House of Representatives, Aug. 7, 1864, R. C. Miller, Clerk

Concurred in by Senate, Aug. 9th, 1864, D. P. Porter, Secy. Senate

Lock E. Houston, Speaker of the House of Representatives

W. Yerger, President of the Senate

Approved August 12, 1864, Chas. Clark, Governor

EDITORS NOTE: This resolution is located in Series 2585, Enrolled Bills, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

As far as I can tell, the State of Mississippi was never able to present a sword to General Forrest.  Given the chaotic conditions in the state during the last months of war, procuring a fancy presentation sword had to be at the bottom of a nearly endless list of priorities. Governor Clark did, however, forward a copy of the legislature’s resolution to Forrest, and he sent back the following reply:

Meridian, Miss., Sept. 6th, 1864

Governor Charles Clark

Dear Sir –

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your kind favour of yesterday, enclosing the resolutions of the Legislature of Mississippi. For the complimentary terms in which the Legislature of your state has been pleased to speak of my services, permit me through you, Governor, to return my sincere thanks. The compliment is the more highly appreciated since it comes from the state of my early adoption, the home of my youth & early manhood.

A promise of continued devotion to the interests of the state and her people, is all that I can offer in return for the high estimate placed upon my services. But it has been through the instrumentality of the brave troops which the Legislature has so justly complemented, that I have been enabled to serve the country. To them all the praise is due. It has been through their gallantry, courage and endurance that these victories have been achieved.

I remember with pride and pleasure the associations to which you refer in your letter. It was under

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Portrait of General Charles Clark in his brigadier general’s uniform – Mississippi Department of Archives and History

your order Governor, that I first drew my maiden sword. I regret that our intercourse was of such short duration, for it was one of unalloyed pleasure and harmony. I have mourned your absence from active field service where you were doing such valuable service to the country, and often have I sympathized with you in the suffering you have endured from wounds received in defense of the sacred cause.

Hoping your life may long be spared to the country you have served so faithfully, and thanking you for the kind terms in which you have discharged the duty imposed by the resolutions.

I remain Governor,

Very Respectfully,

Your friend and obt. Svt.,

N.B. Forrest, Maj. Genl.

EDITORS NOTE: This letter is located in the Charles Clark correspondence, Series 768, Box 950, Folder 1, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

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