The legend of Nathan Bedford Forrest began long before the start of the American Civil War. Although there are a number of differing accounts of the events that took place in the summer of 1845, Bedford did meet his future wife in a notable and romantic way. The story illustrates that even in his early 20’s, Bedford displayed the character, chivalry, and powerful personality that would later propel him to become one of the most successful and feared cavalry commanders of the Civil War.
On an August Sunday, Forrest met the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Mary Ann Montgomery, and her mother while they were on their way to church. The Montgomery’s buggy had broken down while crossing a stream. A couple of the local young men were on the river bank laughing and teasing Mary Ann and her mother. Bedford rode up on his horse, saw what had happened, and dismounted. Immediately he waded across the stream and carried Mary Ann to safety and then rescued her mother. Deciding that the boisterous jokesters needed to be taught a lesson, Bedford crossed the stream again and proceeded to thrash the young men.
After properly introducing himself, Bedford asked permission to call on Mary Ann. Impressed with his gallantry Mrs. Montgomery agreed. Bedford and Mary Ann were married six weeks later on September 25, 1845. And so began the life long love affair that would become part of the legend of General Nathan Bedford Forrest.