Work begins to dig general Rebel, husband

MEMPHIS – Workers arrived at a Tennessee park on Tuesday to begin digging up the remains of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and move the corpse of the former slave trader from its long resting place in Memphis to a museum a hundred miles away.

Crews prepared to remove the graves of Forrest and his wife from Health Science Park in Memphis ’busy medical district. The park previously bore the name of the early leader of the Ku Klux Klan and featured a statue of a knight on a horse, but the name was changed and the statue was removed in recent years.

Workers must remove the statue’s pedestal before they can remove the remains of the Forrests and move them to a Confederate museum in central Tennessee. A heavy crane was positioned near the area as workers began dismantling the pedestal on Tuesday. The whole process can take weeks.

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With the approval of Forrest’s relatives, the Sons of Confederate Veterans oversaw the transfer. It was approved by a judge last year, ending a long legal battle.

This is another example of how cities and activists have taken steps in recent years to remove statues and monuments of historical figures who supported the separation of the South and led the fight against the North, from Gen. Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

Forrest sold slaves in Memphis and served in the Confederate army as a knight general. In April 1864, Forrest’s troops attacked Fort Pillow in northwest Tennessee and killed 200 to 300 Union soldiers, most of them Black.

Subsequently accused of killing Union soldiers. Questions linger about whether they were killed as they try to surrender. Newspaper reports in the North defined the fighting as a brutality.

Historians say he became an early leader of the KKK, though some of Forrest’s supporters disputed that. Forrest’s critics called him a violent racist.

The remains of Forrest and his wife were moved from a cemetery in Memphis and buried under a statue of a former Memphis City Council member in 1904. The city demolished the statue in December 2017 after the public park was sold to a nonprofit group, thus avoiding a state law prohibiting the removal of historical monuments from public places.

A judge in Nashville ruled that the city and Memphis Greenspace, the nonprofit that made the park privately run, legally removed the statue.

The remains will be returned, and the statue placed in the National Confederate Museum in Elm Springs in Columbia, according to an affidavit from Bedford Forrest Myers, a great -grandson. Owned by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the museum opened to the public in October. It is about 200 miles from Memphis.

The park where Forrest was buried became the site of protests associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Activists have long called for the removal of the statue and the remains. The words “Black Lives Matter” were painted yellow by activists on a walk surrounding the grave.

“The transfer of the graves was appropriate because the Property lost its character as a burial,” Myers wrote in a legal filing.

The tree -lined park is next to the University of Tennessee medical school and a community college on Union Avenue, a busy street to and from downtown Memphis.

FILE – As of Feb. 6, 2013, file photo, a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest rests on a concrete pedestal in a park named after the joint cavalry in Memphis Tenn. Workers arrived at a Tennessee park Tuesday, June 1, 2021, to begin the process of excavating the remains of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, and move the body of the former slave trader from its long resting place in Memphis to a museum a hundred miles away. (Photo by AP / Adrian Sainz, File)

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