Born July 13, 1821, he enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1861 as a private, raised and equipped a mounted battalion at his own expense, and was appointed lieutenant colonel. He served with distinction at Fort Donelson, the Battle of Shiloh, and became brigadier general in July 1862. From then until the end of the war Forrest served mostly as an independent cavalry raider, operating on Union lines of communication and delivering surprise attacks on isolated Union garrisons. His Battle of Brice's Cross Roads has been called the "perfect" battle, and his campaigns were studied closely, before World War II, by the German field marshal, Erwin Rommel.
Nathan Bedford Forrest is the only man on either side of the war to rise from private to Lieutenant General. He died in 1877, after serving as the President of the Marion Railroad.
This oil portrait from a glass plate photograph by Gardner was used as a study for Ron Lesser's masterpiece painting, "Bedford Forrest at Parker's Cross Roads".