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Wade rests his case on Morton's material which is historically suspect.Wills depends on Wade's work and so is on shaky ground also.
Thomas Dixon, Jr., a Baptist preacher who also wrote novels. Dixon spent much of his career as a minister serving large Baptist churches in Boston and New York City.The firmly stated association of Forrest with the Klan is the position taken by more recent writers who have no more facts than Henry did but who choose to draw very different conclusions.Rather than deal with all the books which assert that Forrest was the head of the KKK I will focus on two.In Nashville Forrest met John Morton, his former artillery commander, and Morton inducted Forrest into the KKK.Wills says of Forrest, "if he did not command the Ku Klux Klan, Bedford Forrest certainly acted like a commander." This is a reasonably fair statement since Wills makes no assertion that Forrest was definitely the head of the Klan, although Wills fails to comment on the obvious fact that Forrest was a life-long "commander" by nature and by habit. Wills draws the assumption that Forrest was indeed the commander of the Klan and proceeds to write accordingly. Wills cites Robert Selph Henry's biography of Forrest, but references two pages on which Henry says that the connection of Forrest with the Klan is a matter of tradition and folk belief. Wills also cites John Morton's book, The Artillery of Nathan Bedford Forrest, and this book does indeed state that he inducted Forrest into the Klan.Both are good books and I have read and appreciated them both.
Both are written by competent historians who are good writers, however, I disagree with some of their conclusions.
In short, did Morton "remember" inducting Forrest into the organization because such an association would make Forrest look good in the eyes of the public in the early Twentieth Century? Wade, The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America, a book published in 1987.
It has been suggested by some writers that Forrest was the inspiration for Dixon's novel but a careful reading of The Clansman shows no resemblance between Dixon's protagonist and Forrest. Wyn also depends on Morton as his evidence that Forrest was a member of the Klan but he goes on to assert without reservation that Forrest was head of the group.
Of all the men in the South who might be thought to be involved in the organization he knew he would be the first to be suspected of being its leader.
Forrest was too good a strategist to occupy such an obvious position.
The movie Birth of a Nation was based on his novel The Clansman and the movie was a smash hit across the nation.