Congressional Investigations

Reply Fri 20 May, 2005 09:03 am
What is the standard by which guilt or innocence is determined in a congressional investigation? Is it similar to a court of law--i.e., a preponderance of evidence in some matters, or beyond a shadow of a doubt in more serious charges?

Specifically, I'm trying to determine how much weight one can place in the congressional hearings of 1872 investigating the Fort Pillow massacre under the generalship of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Considering the era, was the investigation thorough or was it a conciliatory gesture in hopes of healing the nation?
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Joe Nation
Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 04:33 am
It's an interesting question.

All I know is that Nathan Bedford Forrest is one of the darlings of those who believe the Klu Klux Klan and the Confederacy should be the present powers of this nation. Hard to believe that virulent racists could have State Parks named after them, but shucks.

Have you read the original testimony before the committee?

Joe(History is written by little old ladies on museum boards)Nation
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Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 06:59 am
I'm not famaliar with the Fort Pillow Massacre or it's investigation but generally if there is a Congressional investigation of something they setup a committee and give it subpoena power. That allows then to summons witnesses (some of who may be unwilling otherwise).

But it's not a court alothing they follow many of the same procedural things a court would so it's pretty much just the committee members questioining the people summonsed (witness do have the right to be represented by counsel at these hearings too!) and they they come to some sort of conclusion which they summarize and pass by majority vote within the committee. The committee chair then introduces the findingsto the full House or Senate which can vote to adopt the findings. If adopted by a simple majority vote they are published as the results of Congress and each "charge" and result together are listed as "Findings" so you'd generally see wording along the lines of "The Congress Finds...." after each charge.

I'd have to say that these are closer to the preponderance of the evidence standard.

There are other types of investigations that are used when the issue involves investigations of members of the Congress itself or in the rare cases of an impeachment procceding against the President that are much more stringent and require a higher level of proof.
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Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 08:08 am
Nathan Bedford Forrest founded the Klu Klux Klan . . . he also became so disgusted with the activities of the night riders that he disbanded it in 1870. The modern Ku Klux Klan was "re-invented" by a preacher in Georgia before the Great War. I am no apologist for the man, who was basically trailer trash who bootstrapped himself to wealth as a slave trader. However, casually slurring someone, even someone who is dead, based of a fuzzy notion of history is pretty low-rent.

The incident which occured at Fort Pillow was indeed investigated by the Congress. I do not recall the details of the findings, and i'm doing this off the top of my head.

The Federal commander at Fort Pillow was drunk--dead drunk, throughout the engagement. The evidence for that was provided by other officers present. He gave the command over to a Major of United States Volunteers, who had never command troops in a Corporal's Guard Mount, let alone in combat. By contrast, Forrest had already proven himself to be one of the greatest natural military leaders in history, and lead a command of veteran troops, well supported by artillery.

There were United States Navy gunboats in the river (the Mississippi), and when they tried to approach to support the defenders of Fort Pillow, Forrest's artillery ran them off. When Forrest's men prepared for the final assault, the commander sent out a white flag, and asked for terms. Forrest would admit of no terms but unconditional surrender (before anyone condemn that, consider that Grant already had become the darling of the North for using exactly such terms when responding to a request for terms from General Pillow at Fort Donnelson in 1862). In the meantime, arrangements had been made with the Navy to evacuate the troops in Fort Pillow, and despite having made terms with Forrest, those vessels were now approaching the river bank to do that. The NCO's had placed cartridge boxes along the edge of the water, and when the green troops ran down to the river instead of surrendering, they grabbed handfuls of the cartridges and turned to fire upon the Confederates. Those veteran troops lined a bluff above them, and their response resulted in an inevitable slaughter. When Forrest's artillery appeared on the bluff top, the gunboats once again withdrew, at which point the federal troops finally threw down their arms.

The heart and soul of this controversy revolves around the fact that most, but not all (as propagandists would have you believe), of the troops were United States Colored Troops--which is to say, they were black. The scurrilous stories abound. For example, it is characterized as a complete massacre, and it is also said that the prisoners were made to bury wounded men alive. If it were a complete massacre, where would one find prisoners to bury wounded men alive? It has been contended that the prisoners were marched off at the quick time despite being obliged to carry their wounded. If they had already buried their wounded alive, then whom were they carrying? It has been contended that Forrest than abaondoned the prisoners in "enemy" territory to the tender mercies of an enraged citizenry. Apart from the ludicrous nature of a contention that any part of Tennessee was still enemy territory at that point in the war, it is true that Forrest abandoned the prisoners eventually. He had marched them off because he did not want the Navy to rearm them and put them in his rear while he escaped from western Tennessee, which was territory hostile to him in military terms, without regard to the sentiments of the civilian population (who were considerably less than enchanted with him, given his "recruitment" techniques). He abandoned them when he felt he could do so without jeopardizing his command as they made good their escape.

I have researched this very thoroughly in the past, but happened to have shipped my biography off to England to a gentleman i met at Afuzz, with whom i have echanged history books. The evidence for most of this comes from testimony of Federal officers of both the Army and the Navy.

There is no doubt that Forrest was to be condemned as a slave trader before the war. There is no doubt that he press-ganged southern boys to ride in his ranks. There is also no doubt that he was the bogey man of Federal troops in the western theater throughout the war, and no portrait too black could be painted of him by an officer corps who quite frankly did not know how to cope with him. He did indeed establish the Ku Klux Klan--he also disbanded it because of the activities of the night riders. Both he and John Gordon of Georgia were widely and publicly accused of being the originators and on-going supporters, even directors, of the activities of night riders. Demanding justice, they were both investigated by the Congress, which exhonorated both men of the charges. Of course, in popular "history," they both remain monsters.
Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 08:16 am
By the way, although i know you asked the question in good faith, it is more than a little silly to suggest that the Republicans were attempting to conciliate the South in 1872. They had attempted previously to impeach the President, Andrew Johnson, because he was a Southerner (Lincoln had tapped him for the Vice Presidential post in 1864, as a Tennessee Unionist, as a part of a broad and comprehensive re-election strategy), and because he stood in the way of many of their plans for the South. He had appointed George Henry Thomas of Virginia--one of the finest (in my never humble opinion, the finest) general officers to serve the Federal cause in the war--to be commander of the military district of the South. He had appointed Oliver Otis Howard of Maine to head the Freedman's Bureau, which further enraged the Congress, as it was well known that Howard would use the post to aid the freed slaves, as opposed to devoting himself to packing state legislatures with black Republicans. There wasn't a conciliatory bone in the body of almost any member of Congress in 1872. Grant--then the President--was probably genuinely conciliatory, but anyone who thinks Grant was running his own administration also probably believes that Warren Harding was an effective and efficient President.

EDIT: These two appointments were the death knells of the careers of these two officers.
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Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 08:44 am
I would like to note that i have no strong feelings on this subject . . .

. . . would you be interested in seeing some lovely brochures for lake front property in Arizona?
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Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 09:12 am
There is a Fort Pillow section at "civilwarhome.com," which i have found to be a reliable source:

Forrest of Fort Pillow

This is a link to civilwarhome's Fort Pillow page, which provides links to the reports of Federal and Confederate officers:

The Battle of Fort Pillow

I have not yet found any marterial on the Congressional investigation in 1872. If i do, i will post it.

I have found no confirmation for my contention that Major Booth was drunk, and i withdraw that contention.
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Reply Sun 22 May, 2005 07:36 pm
Joe, I haven't read the testimony from the Congressional Inquiry, but I would be very interested in that type of information.

Setanta, wish I could respond more fully but my hands are full now debating another person on another board about Forrest. I'm looking for answers to specific questions right now. I take exceptions to some of your assertions--many of them--but I don't have the time right now. I would love to in the near future, as your responses are more considered than the person I'm wrangling with now. I'm here to learn and express my opinion, perhaps we can discuss Forrest at length soon.

Here's another question: Why didn't a military tribunal try this allegation of a massacre? Why did it fall under the purview of Congress? Why the political handling of a military matter?
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Reply Sun 22 May, 2005 07:44 pm
And one more Setanta--what does press-gang mean, as in "he press-ganged Southern boys to ride in his ranks"?
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Reply Tue 21 Aug, 2012 09:58 pm
In 1871, Gen. Forrest was called before a congressional Committee. Forrest testified before Congress personally over four hours .

Here's part of the transcript of Forrest's testimony to that 1871 hearing:
"The reports of Committees, House of Representatives, second session, forty-second congress," P. 7-449.

"The primary accusation before this board is that Gen. Forrest was a founder of The Klan, and its first Grand Wizard, So it shall address those accusations first."

Forrest took the witness stand June 27th,1871. Building a railroad in Tennessee at the time, Gen Forrest stated he 'had done more , probably than any other man, to suppress these violence and difficulties and keep them down, had been vilified and abused in the (news) papers, and accused of things I never did while in the army and since. He had nothing to hide, wanted to see this matter settled, our country quiet once more, and our people united and working together harmoniously.'

Asked if he knew of any men or combination of men violating the law or preventing the execution of the law: Gen Forest answered emphatically, 'No.' (A Committee member brought up a 'document' suggesting otherwise, the 1868 newspaper article from the "Cincinnati Commercial". That was their "evidence", a news article.)

Forrest stated '...any information he had on the Klan was information given to him by others.'

Sen. Scott asked, 'Did you take any steps in organizing an association or society under that prescript (Klan constitution)?'

Forrest: 'I DID NOT' Forrest further stated that '..he thought the Organization (Klan) started in middle Tennessee, although he did not know where. It is said I started it.'

Asked by Sen. Scott, 'Did you start it, Is that true?'

Forrest: 'No Sir, it is not.'

Asked if he had heard of the Knights of the white Camellia, a Klan-like organization in Louisiana,

Forrest: 'Yes, they were reported to be there.'

Senator: 'Were you a member of the order of the white Camellia?'

Forrest: 'No Sir, I never was a member of the Knights of the white Camellia.'

Asked about the Klan :

Forrest: 'It was a matter I knew very little about. All my efforts were addressed to stop it, disband it, and prevent it....I was trying to keep it down as much as possible.'

Forrest: 'I talked with different people that I believed were connected to it, and urged the disbandment of it, that it should be broken up.'"

The following article appeared in the New York times June 27th, "Washington, 1871. Gen Forrest was before the Klu Klux Committee today, and his examination lasted four hours. After the examination, he remarked than the committee treated him with much courtesy and respect."

Gen. Forrest was NOT the 'first Grand Wizard of the KKK'. For the correct information on that, here are the actual documented facts :
Actually, the "kuklos" was started in Pulaski, Tennessee, just before Christmas 1865, by six ex-Confederate officers, and was a sort of social club for Confederate officers.
Nathan Bedford Forrest had absolutely nothing to do with the founding of the Ku Klux Klan.
And even within the history of the Klan, differences must be noted between the Klan of the 1860s and the Klan of today.
The KKK that was reorganized in 1915 had a reputation as a bigoted and sometimes violent organization, fueled by hate and ignorance and thriving on fear and intimidation. But that wasn't always the case. The original KKK of the 1860s was organized as a fun club, or social club, for Confederate veterans. Many historians agree that if a YMCA had been available in the town of Pulaski, Tenn., the KKK might never have existed.

On Dec. 24, 1865, six young Confederate veterans met in the law office of Judge Thomas M. Jones, near the courthouse square in Pulaski. Their names were James R. Crowe, Calvin E. Jones, John B. Kennedy, John C. Lester, Frank O. McCord, and Richard B. Reed. All had been CSA officers and were lawyers, except Kennedy and McCord, who had each served as a private in the Confederate army. The meeting resulted in the idea of forming a social club, an 1860s version of the VFW or American Legion.
Notice, Gen. Forrest was not present at the founding meeting.
Their number quickly grew, and in meetings that followed, the men selected a name based on the Greek word "kuklos" meaning circle, from which they derived the name Ku Klux. Perhaps bowing to their Scotch-Irish ancestry, and to add alliteration to the name, they included "clan," spelled with a K. And so, quite innocently, a new social club called the Ku Klux Klan was created to provide recreation for Confederate veterans.

McCord, whose family owned the town's weekly newspaper, the Pulaski Citizen, printed mysterious-sounding notices of meetings and club activities. As other newspapers picked up his stories about the Klan, word spread and the organization grew.

When the war ended, Forrest was virtually broke, having spent most of his estimated pre-war fortune of $1.5 million outfitting his troops. He was spending his time between business ventures in Memphis and his farm in Mississippi. Organizations such as the Klan were farthest from his mind.

After the Civil War, General Forrest made a speech to the Memphis City Council (then called the Board of Aldermen). In this speech he said that there was no reason that the black man could not be doctors, store clerks, bankers, or any other job equal to whites. They were part of our community and should be involved and employed as such just like anyone else. In another speech to Federal authorities, Forrest said that many of the ex-slaves were skilled artisans and needed to be employed and that those skills needed to be taught to the younger workers. If not, then the next generation of blacks would have no skills and could not succeed and would become dependent on the welfare of society. Forrest's words went unheeded. The Memphis & Selma Railroad was organized by Forrest after the war to help rebuild the South's transportation and to build the 'new South'. Forrest took it upon himself to hire blacks as architects, construction engineers and foremen, train engineers and conductors, and other high level jobs. In the North, blacks were prohibited from holding such jobs.

When Forrest was 'elected' Grand Wizard of the Klan in mid-1867 at the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, he wasn't even in town. He was 'elected' in absentia. The best scholarly research shows that Forrest never "led the Klan," he never "rode with" the Klan, nor did he ever own any Klan paraphernalia. It has been speculated by many that the reason for his name being submitted for the election was partly a prank, and mostly to discredit him for his work toward black equality such as his hiring practices for his railroad company. Forrest was a civil rights pioneer.

The only known order that Forrest issued using his famous name and perceived authority was for the KKK to disband in 1869, which it finally did in 1871. And even that order was written by his longtime friend and former chief artillery officer, Capt. John Watson Morton
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Reply Sat 13 Oct, 2012 07:26 am
Keep in mind this was a different era, men had integrity, duels were still being fought. Forrest had killed several men (one with a pen knife) over honor and courage. Remember in this day and age before PC he could have said or done anything, what he did was support the “Jubilee of Pole Bearers" the pre-runner of the NAACP; had 33 black armed soldiers fight with and for him. The Government had hanged two Confederate officers and just needed an excuse to hang the notorious Bedford Forrest; to think a man whose honor meant more to him than life, would lie I believe is preposterous, we all ready seen he was not scared of dying there is no reason to doubt the finding, testimony of the hearing. I saw where someone apologized for his slave trading, they and may-be you miss the point, we cannot judge a man with a 21st Century outlook, that was the order of the day and many more than just him had and condoned slavery.
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