History of Forrest's Escort
HISTORY OF FORREST’S ESCORT
Compiled by Ken R Knopp
It was once stated, long after the war by one of Forrest’s own veterans that, “any man that can prove he rode with Forrest in the last year of the war is no ordinary man”. The men of Forrest’s Escort were the very best of these men. Forrest himself has been rightfully referred to as, “a man’s idea of a man”. If you accept that premise then it is no exaggeration or idle boast to further add that the Escort Company was Forrest’s own personal idea of “men among men”.
From the fall of 1862, to the last days of the war this unit has been considered by their contemporaries and still are by historians today as the “best of the best”. A reading of their unit history acknowledges this as fact. They fought in over seventy engagements during the war and were fighting or on the march nearly every day during the last fourteen months of the conflict. To use some of today analogies, they were the “Seal Team 6", “Delta Force”, Green Beret’s or Rangers of their time.
HISTORY OF FORREST'S ESCORT
Also known as Forrest Guards, Tennessee Cavalry.
Records filed under "Captain J. C. Jackson's Company, Tennessee Cavalry."
(SOURCE: TenGenWeb: Tennesseans in the Civil War)
Organized Sept. 1862, at Shelbyville, Tenn. Paroled at Gainesville, Alabama, May 10, 1865.
Captains Montgomery W. Little; John C Jackson.
Lieutenants: 1st Lieutenants-Nathan Boone (Commanded from March 6, to October 1, 1863), Matthew Cortner; 2nd Lieutenants-Daniel Dunaway, George L. Cowan; 3rd Lieutenants-Daniel Dunaway, John Eaton
This company was recruited at the instance of Nathan Bedford Forrest shortly subsequent to his promotion to brigadier general, by Captain Montgomery Little, a native of Bedford County who had been before the war a planter and business man in Memphis. It was made up mainly of men from Bedford County, part of which is now Moore County, who were assembled in Shelbyville in September and moved from there to Murfreesboro just before the town was temporarily occupied by a Federal raiding force. They were integrated into Forrest's command in time to participate in the confused fighting around Lavergne on October 7, 1862.
Thereafter, the combat record of this company is the record of battles in which Forrest was himself engaged. After taking part in the demonstration against Nashville on November 6, they moved with Forrest to his West Tennessee Raid, and from there to the frequent fighting around Spring Hill, Thompson's Station,-where Little was killed-College Grove, Franklin and Breutwood; they also participated in the pursuit and capture of Streight during the early Summer of 1863. They then moved south and east, screening Bragg's withdrawal in the Chattanooga Campaign, to take part in the Battle of Chickamauga. From here they were transferred, a part of the nucleus of Forrest's new command, to West Tennessee.
In West Tennessee, they took part in the operations incident to Forrest's mobilization of a force from the stragglers hiding in that area and North Mississippi, and gathering supplies. The mobilization having been accomplished, they took part in the Battle of Okolona, the raid to Paducah, the capture of Fort Pillow, the Battles of Brice's Crossroads and of Harrisburg and the Memphis Raid. Following the Middle Tennessee Raid and the destruction of Johnsonville, they moved with their commander to the screening action ahead of Hood on his invasion of Tennessee, which was followed by coverage of the retreat and did exemplary work- at times that of a full regiment in the final Selma campaign. During all these operations, they were frequently mentioned favorably in reports. It would not be unusual for the general commanding to make favorable mention of his Escort, however, the facts bear out that all of these commendations were richly deserved.
FORREST’S ESCORT COMPANY
The Facts that made the Legend...
References: Available documentation including the Official Records, various ordnance reports, diaries, and veteran’s reminiscences, Forrest biographies, various books, articles, Confederate Veteran magazine and discussion with notable Forrest experts. The following observations can be made about the men, horses, arms and equipment of Forrest’s Escort Company.......
MEN: Only the best, most reliable material of men were in the escort. The original unit was formed in September 1862 at Shelbyville, Tennessee. This core group fought in every engagement in which Forrest participated. Almost always at his very side. They suffered more than their share of casualties, fighting, marching and work. They were frequently drilled and routinely inspected in great detail including their mounts, arms and equipment. The reasons are obvious. To build ability, instill discipline, confidence and a strong sense of an esprit d-corps.
It did. The escort was one of the few Confederate units that ended the war with more men on the roster than they had mustered at the beginning. Though starting with men from the counties around his birth place, throughout the war Forrest often hand picked replacement men from other units. When Forrest observed personal bravery, initiative, resourcefulness or ability such as from his reliable scouts he would often ask the trooper to join his escort. At least two and perhaps more blacks served in the escort with notable mention of them being armed and using those arms on at least one occasion.
DUTIES: The escort went where Forrest went. Which was always where there was the most fierce fighting. They were often employed as Forrest’s “shock” troops when the most pressure was required at the vortex of battle; they were his personal body guard and often as a police force when in camp or garrison. A squad always went with Forrest on inspection tours, with Forrest scouting, they were sent out to capture deserters, used as staff courier duty, escorting prisoners; police patrol in towns; important guard duty and even mundane things like unloading supplies from rail cars.
HORSES: In general, when a horse was captured by a trooper it was considered his personal property. Trading, sale and barter of horses was common. Occasionally an officer might confiscate an animal from a trooper but that was unusual and considered abusive. Nevertheless, Forrest always made sure his staff and escort were superbly mounted. In Forrest’s command officers were generally given first pick of animals that were considered as captured public property. This privilege was extended to the escort and only then to the command in general. Extra or unserviceable horses were held in reserve, recruited or turned over to the Quartermaster.
DUE to size, History continued on next post........
7th TN. Cavalry, Co. D