Finding Nuggets of Truth as a Military Writer
by Ann DeWitt
What if you studied a particular military General from the American Civil War era and found that the court of public opinion handed down a verdict without reviewing all of the evidence? Would you ignore the facts and go with the court of public opinion? Or would you print in your book the dormant facts in which you uncovered?
This is the case of public opinion in regards to General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who took 47 African-Americans with him to war of whom 45 surrendered with General Forrest at Appomattox. As documented in an 1868 United States 40th Congress 3rd Session report, General Forrest stated, "We will stand by those who help us; and here I want you to understand distinctly, I am not an enemy to [African-Americans]." Thus, while the world focused on the colors of black and white, General Nathan Bedford Forrest during the war saw "allies and traitors" to the cause for which he was fighting.
As an example, after the American Civil War on July 5, 1875, the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association, a civil rights group, invited General Forrest to speak at their convention. He said, "I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I'll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand."
Thus, as military writers, we incorporated General Nathan Bedford Forrest's point of view in the young adult historical fiction novel titled Entangled In Freedom: A Civil War Story. Even the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association was willing for General Nathan Bedford Forrest to present his case to the world. However, this evidence is not readily available in the court of public opinion.
How can we teach our youth to be trusty jurors if we ourselves conceal relevant evidence?
Highlighting the Good in Humanity,
Ann DeWitt and Kevin M. Weeks
Recipients of the prestigious Mom’s Choice Awards
for Young Adult Historical Fiction