Gentle Readers, a few days ago, I made a post about the Nathan Bedford Forrest billboard overlooking the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. In trying to sum up Forrest’s life quickly, as the post more concerned the billboard and the people who erected it today than the man himself, I made one error and one statement that could lead to misunderstandings. I’m sorry about that. No excuses; I got it wrong.
To wit, I called Forrest a founder of the Ku Klux Klan. This might be true in a very broad sense that he joined the organization among the first generation or so of its members, and he absolutely rose to a position of considerable influence therein, but Forrest joined the Klan about a year after its founding. He came to the Klan early, but it already existed for him to join. He didn’t form it himself.
I also referred to “Keep the skeer on” as Forrest’s motto. I did not mean that literally, as I hoped clear from context, but I can see how others read it differently. The words under his picture on the billboard. He did say them and they did refer to how he preferred to treat his opponents and victims, before, during, and after the war. But I have no evidence that Forrest understood them as his personal motto as one might the slogan on a coat of arms, a t-shirt, bumper sticker, or so forth.
Hope that clears things up. Sorry again.