Civil War Book Review: Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption

Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Redemption
by Shane Kastler

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Pelican Publishing (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1589808347
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589808348

If you wish to start a heated discussion praise/damn Forrest on a Civil War board.  Forrest is always a hot topic with strong opinions being voice by both sides.  A large segment of our community hates him.  A slave trader, early member or founder of the Ku Klux Klan and his actions at Fort Pillow guarantee a large part of the group will attack.  A very effective general, victor in a number of battles, an accomplished fighter guarantees a large part of the group will defend.  In many ways, this subject has been done to death.  The issue is decided and discussion closed.  It is a brave author that will walk into this lion’s den.  An even braver author that will portray Forrest’s life as a journey on the road to salvation.

This book works on several levels making for a lively and uplifting read.

First, it is a testament to the author’s faith in God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ.  Shane E. Kastler is an ordained Southern Baptist Minister and active in his faith.  He wrote this book as an example of salvation and a statement of faith.  That is not to say he is preaching or overly religious here.  However, this is a book about one man’s journey to Jesus Christ and the author covers the subject.

Second, this is a very good short biography of Forrest.  The author has a clear easy style that conveys information, describes individuals and involves the reader.  His history is clear and balanced without hiding the truth.  This is not a “Forrest is a wonderful brilliant person” nor is it “the evil murderous Forrest”.  I have read a couple of books on Fort Pillow and heard Ed Bearss lecture on Forrest.  I noticed nothing in the biography that is not part of the historical record.

Lastly, this book covers Forrest after the war.  This is uncharted waters for many of us, the standard story includes the Klan but very little else.  The author devotes a quarter of the book to this subject.  We follow Forrest’s business ventures, quest for a pardon, his trial for killing Thomas Edwards, his health problems and his conversion.  Most readers will find a number of surprises here.  This portion was, for me, the most enjoyable part of the book.  As he ages, Forrest becomes more aware of God and draws closer to Him.  The author has skillfully shown Forrest’s respect for religion and association with it over his life.  Now he draws these threads together as Forrest accepts Christ and lives a Christian life.

This is a book for many people.  The Civil War community will enjoy the biography and the history.  The religious community will find comfort and joy in the story of Forrest’s salvation.  The casual reader will enjoy a well-written uplifting story.  Physically, this is a handsome book, well illustrated and easy to read.


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