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Interest in Civil War inspires novel

BUFORD - "He had 29 horses shot out from under him," Charles Gordon Yeager said. "He killed 12 of the enemy himself in close fighting. Usually the general was standing back there watching it, but he got in it. He was tough, he was mean ... but his men loved him."

The same charismatic leadership that inspired Nathan Bedford Forrest's men to fight to the death in battle fascinated Yeager to the extent that he was inspired to tell Forrest's story.

The Lawrenceville resident was retired and living in Leesburg, Fla., when he received for Christmas one year a book from his granddaughter, Melanie Hart DeSimone of Alabama. After reading "The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee," an earlier interest in the Civil War was rekindled and Yeager began reading more extensively about the subject.

"I kept getting references to this man and he was so unusual that I went over to the library and found a biography of him," Yeager said. "He was absolutely unbelievable. This man was a fighter from the word go."

Yeager then began reading anything he could get his hands on that made mention of Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

"He never had any military training (and just) the little education his mother was able to give him at home," Yeager said. "(But) he went from a private to lieutenant general before the war ended. And as some people called him, he was a natural soldier leader."

Yeager's interest in Forrest and his military success continued to grow.

"I was retired, playing a lot of golf and what not, talking to my friends, and nobody knew anything about him," Yeager said. "I guess I had (a book) in mind in the early part of my reading of him and the fact that nobody seemed to know who he was, and I took it on myself to write the book."

"Fightin' with Forrest" follows fictional characters Randy and Buck, young men who hail from Yeager's hometown of Marion, Ala.

"It's a story of their life and romances," Yeager said. "When the (Civil) War came along, they went into the Army and they became a part of a cavalry brigade that Nathan Bedford Forrest was commander of. Now we get into Forrest."

Yeager intertwines his stories about Randy and Buck with those of Tennessee native Forrest.

"I didn't write it just about (Forrest's) military (experience)," Yeager said. "I wrote a novel, a story of the lives of the two boys and the families and their romances and that type of thing."

Yeager initially published his book in 1987 under his own publishing outfit, Dixie Publishing Company, which he founded for the sole purpose of getting "Fightin' with Forrest" printed. The book was later picked up by Pelican Publishing Company.

Fast-forward to 2009 and Yeager's book still draws interest from Civil War history buffs and history preservations organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Yeager will be speaking to the Rome chapter, which is named for Forrest, in September about his book and the life of the Civil War general, who is credited with saving the north Georgia city from a Union raid during the Civil War. A statue of Forrest was erected there in his honor.

Yeager will also sign copies of his book and give a discussion Saturday at Books for Less in Buford. Although "Fightin' with Forrest" is out of print, Yeager will have books available for purchase during Saturday's event.

SideBar: If You Go

· What: Book signing and discussion with Lawrenceville resident Charles Gordon Yeager, author of "Fightin' with Forrest"

· When: 2 to 4 p.m. today

· Where: Books for Less, 2815 Buford Drive, Buford

· For more information: Call 770-945-9288