J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “King Philip”

King Philip

In honor of the reinternments of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife last weekend, I wanted to feature this story about the general’s beloved horse, King Philip. This horse is represented in the equestrian statue that was removed from Forrest Park in Memphis and will soon be relocated atop the general’s grave. I wrote about King Philip in my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray.

ASK RUFUS: KING PHILIP, NOT FOR SALE AT ANY PRICE
By: Rufus Ward
There were many famous generals and horses that came out of the Civil War. Among the most noted was Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his favorite horse, King Philip. In their 1866 history of Forrest’s campaigns, General Thomas Jordan and J. P. Pryor wrote of King Philip this; “conspicuous iron gray gelding…(was)…sluggish on ordinary occasions, became superbly excited in battle, and was as quick to detect the presence of a blue coat as any Confederate soldier, and was as ready to make battle, which he did, by laying back his ears and rushing at the offending object with open mouth.”

Painting by Michael Gnatek


Growing up off of Military Road in Columbus, my grandmother told me that the horseshoes I would occasionally find were from the stables that had been located behind the old Col. T.C. Billups home which had burned during the 1880s. Little then did I realize whose shoes they might have been. One of the more famous warhorses in American history was General Forrest’s King Philip. Few, though, realize that King Philip was a Columbus horse.

The earliest account of where Forrest got King Philip stated that the horse was a veteran of the Vicksburg campaign and a gift from the citizens of Columbus. As a child, I recall my uncle T. C. Billups IV telling me the story of how Forrest got the horse. He related that after being wounded on one occasion, Forrest was recovering at the Billups house in Columbus. While there “Forrest admired a fine saddle horse and asked to purchase the horse, ‘King Philip”.

Billups replied, “General, I could not sell him at any cost.”

On the day he was leaving to rejoin his troops, Forrest called for his horse to be brought around. Instead, it was King Philip, the horse he had admired, that was led to him. Col. Billups presented the horse to Forrest as a gift. When he departed, Forrest left his crutch with his name carved in the side at the Billups home.


As my interest in history developed, I began to track the origin of many of the stories I had heard as a child. The story of King Philip was one of them. The family still had Forrest’s crutch, however, I wondered about the story as Col. Billups had been in his late 50s during the Civil War and did not serve in the military. That raised a question about the Vicksburg Campaign connection with the horse. I soon found the answer.


One of Billups’ sons, T. C., was a lieutenant in the 6th Mississippi Cavalry and served under Forrest. Another son, John, was Captain in the 43rd Mississippi Regiment and had been captured at Vicksburg and paroled back to Columbus in July 1863. The earliest mention of Forrest riding King Philip into battle that I found was in February 1864. That answered the Vicksburg question. I then sought the earliest family account of the story. I found it being told by Mary Billups, John’s daughter, who was born in 1874 and recalled the story in 1936 that she would have heard from her father. Her account was the story I had been told by my uncle.

In addition, I learned that at the suggestion of Forrest, the Billups family had commissioned an artist friend of Forrest, Nicola Marschall, to come to Columbus and paint portraits in the mid-1870s. Marschall painted at least nine Billups portraits while in Columbus. Growing up, I never realized that the horseshoes I found came from the stables that had once been the home of a big gelding, iron gray horse that became one of America’s most famous warhorses.
Danyon McCarroll

(Article courtesy of the Jeff Davis Legion, Official Publication of the Mississippi Division Sons of Confederate Veterans, vol. 23, issue no. 8, August 2021)

The Reinterment of General Forrest

Last Saturday, September 18, the remains of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife, Mary Ann Montgomery Forrest, were relocated to the National Confederate Museum in Elm Springs, Tennessee. This location is less than 30 miles from General Forrest’s birthplace.

The relocation came after a long battle with the city of Memphis, Tennessee, after they decided they didn’t want the general and his wife buried in one of their parks anymore. The park was known for years as Forrest Park, until the corrupt city government decided to rename the park and pressure General Forrest’s descendants into moving the remains. It’s pathetic and shameful that this was allowed to happen. Apparently, Memphians don’t seem to recall all the wonderful things Forrest did for their city. But it’s for the best that the remains have been relocated to a place where they will be honored forever.

It wasn’t the first time that General Forrest and his wife have been moved. Originally, they were buried in Memphis’ beautiful Elmwood Cemetery, but the people of Memphis wanted to honor the general in a much bigger way, so they dedicated a park to him and moved his and his wife’s remains to Forrest Park.

According to tennessee-scv.org/ForrestHistSociety/equestrian.html, “the bodies of Gen. Forrest and his wife were re-interred from the Forrest family plot at Elmwood Cemetery to Forrest Park on November 11, 1904. The dedication ceremony took place on May 16, 1905 beginning at 2:30 p.m., with 30,000 Southerners from seven States attending.”

Many reenactors were on hand for the reinterment, as well as spectators who wanted to take in the once-in-a-lifetime event. The solemn occasion was also attended by the Forrest family, and members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC).

Now that the general and his wife have been permanently laid to rest, plans are in the making for relocating the beautiful equestrian statue of Forrest and King Philip on top of the gravesite. According to SCV Commander-in-Chief Larry McCluney, Jr., “This will not be easy nor quick. Much more work lies ahead of us, however, be certain we will rededicate this plaza to honor the general and his family.”

(Photos courtesy of Clay Pruett)

The Slaves of General Forrest

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There has been a lot of controversery surrounding General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Some say he started the Ku Klux Klan, which is untrue. In fact, General Forrest called for the KKK to disband after the group became too violent. Another false assumption is that he was a cruel slave owner. He was a product of his time, and although he owned slaves, he never abused them or split up families. In fact, his slaves adored him so much that they fought with him during the Civil War. They even stayed with him after the war and mourned his death. General Forrest strived to bring the races together after the war ended.

Here a few excerpts from my book, Horses in Gray, which describe how General Forrest treated his slaves.

Horses in Gray Cover

Chapter 4

The Thirty Horses of Forrest

 

Those hoof beats die not upon fame’s crimson sod,

But will ring through her song and her story;

He fought like a Titan and struck like a god,

And his dust is our ashes of glory.1

 

Nathan Bedford Forrest often stated that he was “a horse ahead”2 at the end, meaning that he had thirty horses shot out from under him and killed twenty-nine men during the course of the war. It is virtually impossible to trace all thirty horses, since at times Forrest appropriated a horse on the spot. On one occasion, he ordered a Union officer to dismount, got on the officer’s horse, and rode away.

On June 14, 1861, Forrest, who had remained silent on the issue of secession, walked into the headquarters of Capt. Josiah White’s Tennessee Mounted Rifles and enlisted as a private. His brother, Jeffrey, and son, Willie, enlisted with him. The Forrests were ordered to Camp Yellow Jacket, a training camp sixty-five miles north of Memphis. These troopers in training would become the famous Seventh Tennessee Cavalry, which fought until the end of the war under Forrest’s leadership.

John Milton Hubbard was a private in Hardeman’s Avengers, which would later be attached to the Seventh Tennessee Cavalry. He was stationed at Camp Yellow Jacket and remembered meeting Forrest: “Two cavalry companies from Memphis were in camp near us—Logwood’s and White’s. In riding near these one day, I met a soldier speeding a magnificent black horse along a country road as if for exercise and the pleasure of being astride of so fine an animal. On closer inspection, I saw it was Bedford Forrest, only a private like myself, whom I had known ten years before down in Mississippi. I had occasion afterward to see a good deal of him.”3

            In October, Forrest was given command of a regiment and named it Forrest’s Tennessee Cavalry Battalion. He posted advertisements in the Memphis Appeal, calling for “five hundred able-bodied men, mounted and equipped with such arms as they can procure (shotguns and pistols preferable), suitable to the service. Those who cannot entirely equip themselves will be furnished arms by the State.”4

In its editorial columns, the Memphis Appeal supported the notice: “To Arms! We invite attention to the call of Col. N.B. Forrest in today’s paper. There are still hundreds of young men in the country anxious to engage in the military service. Those whose fancy inclines them to the cavalry service will find no better opportunity to enlist under a bold, capable and efficient commander. Now is the time.”5

            Part of Forrest’s command included an escort company of between forty and ninety men, which Forrest referred to as his Special Forces. Among these troopers, who were the finest, most elite soldiers in his cavalry, were eight of Forrest’s slaves.

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And in another excerpt:

After the war, Forrest set up housekeeping with his wife, Mary Ann, near Memphis. In August 1866, Federal cavalrymen rode past Forrest’s house. King Philip, who was grazing in the front yard, saw the blue coats and instantly recognized them as the enemy. Watching the men dismount and start toward the house, King Philip charged at them with teeth bared, head and tail raised, and front feet flailing. He did not stop until he had chased every Federal soldier from the lot. One of the cavalrymen who had been injured by the horse declared that he would kill King Philip, but Jerry (Forrest’s previous body servant) rushed to the horse’s defense. “The Gin’ral,”58 as Jerry called him, emerged from the house, took control of King Philip, and had Jerry lead the spirited steed off to the stable.

“General,” the Federal captain in charge said, “now I can account for your success. Your Negroes fight for you, and your horses fight for you.”59 

Sadly, King Philip died of colic later that year.

Forrest passed away on October 29, 1877. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis, but in 1904 his remains were interred in Memphis’s Forrest Park. All of the sidewalks in the park were named after officers who served under him—except for one, which was named for his war horse King Philip.

forrest

(The statue of General Forrest mounted on King Philip was illegally removed by the city of Memphis last month. Stay tuned for more details.)

https://www.amazon.com/Horses-Gray-Famous-Confederate-Warhorses/dp/145562327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1515730595&sr=8-1&keywords=horses+in+gray

Dishonoring Memphis’ History

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Memphis just can’t leave well enough alone. In 2013, the city council voted to change the names of three parks in the city, specifically Forrest Park, Confederate Park, and Jefferson Davis Park, to names more politically correct and anti-Confederate. It’s astonishing to me how some Southern cities like New Orleans, Charlottesville, Dallas, and of course, Memphis, want to disregard their history. Not only that, but some members of the city council want to move General Forrest and his wife’s bodies from Forrest Park (they are now buried beneath the statue of the general on King Philip) and move them to Elmwood Cemetery. There is a reason General Forrest and his wife were moved to Forrest Park from Elmwood Cemetery in 1905: out of enormous admiration and respect. Now the city wants to disregard this and display flagrant disrespect.

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MEMPHIS CHAMBER OPPOSES MONUMENTS

The Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce is mobilizing support for Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s request for a State waiver to allow the City to remove the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest in violation of State Law.

In advance of the Oct. 13 meeting on the Tennessee Historical Commission, where Strickland will make his case, the chamber’s board of directors has drafted a letter “in behalf of the business community.”

The letter calls the statue of the Confederate general, “one of several divisive symbols that hamper our city’s efforts to attract and retain top talent for the skilled workforce that is critical to our success.”

The Chairman of the Historical Commission has told Mayor Strickland that the Commission will not hear the city’s request for a waiver at the Oct. 13 meeting in Athens, Tennessee.

forrest (1)

(Courtesy Dixie Heritage Newsletter, Oct. 6, 2017 ed.)

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