Sunday, February 5, 2012

Book Review--Forrest's Fighting Preacher

Bradley, Michael R. Forrest's Fighting Preacher: David Campbell Kelley of Tennessee.  The History Press, Charleston, SC. 2011. Index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos, maps. 142 pages, 123 text. ISBN 9781609493837, $19.99.

The History Press has really been carving out a niche in publishing brief and inexpensive books many dealing with narrow subjects that might not see publication through other houses. Michael Bradley's new book Forrest's Fighting Preacher is one of those type books.

David Kelley began his career as a missionary going to China. He spent just over a year there before returning and taking over the preaching duties at various churches.

One would think with his background Kelley would have served as a chaplain in the Confederate army. This was not the case and Kelley took command of a cavalry troop that became known as "Kelley Troopers". His group was assigned to Nathan Bedford Forrest and eventually became Co. F 3rd TN Cavalry. Kelley was promoted to Major and became Adjutant.

From this introduction Bradley goes on to discuss much of the Civil War career of Forrest and the role Kelley played. This included several stints as regimental commander, time away from the army, and more.

While really under the shadow of Forrest during the war David Kelley excelled after the war. He became a key church leader, often clashing with those above him and eventually earning himself a six month suspension for allegedly leaving his post. Kelley served on the Board of Trustees for the founding of Vanderbilt University. On the issue of college education for blacks, Kelley became a spokesman believing that the interests of both races were ultimately the same. In 1890 he ran for Tennessee governor as the candidate for the Prohibition Party. While unsuccessful, Kelley kept active. He continued to write, mostly religious works, and became active in groups such as United Confederate Veterans and the Forrest Veteran's Association.

Michael Bradley has written a book that should be read by anybody who has an interest in Nathan Bedford Forrest. Those interested in the role of Tennessee Cavalry in the Confederacy should also consider this work. While Kelley is certainly not a household name, even for those interested in the war, this book will help raise awareness of him. From there it is up to readers to decide what his stature should be.

*Thanks to the History Press for sending a complimentary review copy.

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