[CIVIL WAR]. FORREST, Nathan Bedford (1821-1877), General, Confederate States of America. Autograph document signed ("Hill & Forrest"), a receipt of sale for a slave, [Memphis, TN], 6 February 1854. 1 page, oblong 8vo, on blue lined stationery, minor browning along folds.
FORREST, ANTEBELLUM SLAVE TRADER. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the Confederate cavalry commander who consistently confused and stymied the enemy during the Civil War, spent most of the years before the war as a slave trader based in Memphis. After operating a small mercantile and livery stable in the town of Hernando, Tennessee, Forrest longed for a more lucrative career in the slave trade. His first partnership in Memphis was in the firm of Forrest & Jones, however, by 1853 he had established a relationship with the well known slave trader Byrd Hill. Now, in association with his new partner, Forrest writes a bill of sale: "Received of J.B. Curry nine hundred & seventy five dollars in full pay for our negro man named George aged about 33 years. We warrant him sound senseble [sic] & a slave for life & will fully guarantee his title."
Forrest's career in the slave trade was incredibly profitable. In the late 1850s, he sold more than 1000 slaves each year, producing an estimated annual income of between $50,000 and $96,000. He quickly rose to the highest levels of Memphis society. His promotion within the ranks of the Confederate Army were equally impressive. He enlisted as a private in 1861, but, after raising and equipping his own battalion with money from his considerable estate, he was elected a lieutenant colonel and was eventually promoted to Major General. His skill on the battlefield and his ability to surprise the enemy and equally allude capture, earned him the nickname "That Devil Forrest." During Reconstruction, Forrest would be remembered for a much less appealing accomplishment - he was the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.