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As a Tennessee businessman with little education and no previous military training, Nathan Bedford Forrest answered the call
to fight for the Confederacy at the rank of private in June 1861. By February 1862, he had command of troops at Fort Donelson and merely three years later emerged from the Civil War at the rank of lieutenant general.
Many amateurs led men during the war, but only Forrest became a soldier of true genius. A British military historian summed Forrest up in these words: "Forrest had no knowledge of military history to teach him
how he should act, what objective he should aim at, and what plans he should make to secure it. He was entirely ignorant of what other generals in previous wars had done under similar circumstances. What he lacked in
book-lore was to a large extent compensated for by the soundness of his judgment upon all great occasions, and by his power of thinking and reasoning with great rapidity under fire. Inspired with true military
instincts, he was verily nature's soldier."