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John Scales, right, sells a copy of his new book to one of his former students. CONTRIBUTED

Huntsville author to hold book signing Oct. 23

HUNTSVILLE — Local Civil War author John Scales will hold a book signing for his new book, “The Battles and Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861-1865” at the Huntsville Visitor Center Oct. 23 from 4-6 p.m.

Scales was born and raised in Alabama and now lives on Monte Sano. He noted that he has deep roots in the South on both sides of his family dating even further back than the Civil War. As such, he was well-acquainted with the war from an early age.

As a young teenager in the early 1960s, Scales said he remembers the centennial celebrations of the Civil War and, particularly, National Geographic’s coverage of these historic celebrations. From there, he said his interest in the Civil War was cemented.

Scales is no stranger to the military. His father served in World War II, which inspired his previous published book: “A Reluctant Hero’s Footsteps.” As he grew up, Scales entered the military himself. Today, he is a retired Special Forces brigadier general of the United States Army with more than 30 years of service in the military. His experiences include tours in Vietnam and Afghanistan. Upon retiring, Scales worked as an engineer and has received five patents for inventions.

Though Scales’ first published book, “Sherman Invades Georgia,” centered on Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s planning of the brutal Atlanta Campaign of 1864, Scales chose to focus his latest work on Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Historians’ and contemporaries’ acclamation of Forrest drew Scales to the subject of his battles and campaigns during the Civil War. As Scales began to research, he still had many questions unanswered.

“There are numerous biographies of him, but few really addressed what I was interested in finding out: the whys and ways he accomplished what he did in a military sense,” Scales said.

According to Scales, Forrest’s geographically close involvement was an added bonus.

“Everything he did during the war was within 300 miles of Huntsville, so it was possible to visit all these places and figure out, by walking the ground, what really happened,” Scales said.

Scales said he spent five years researching, writing, finding a publisher and editing “The Battles and Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, 1861-1865.” In addition to reading many biographies, Scales perused the information and maps in the “Official Records of the War of the Rebellion” and studied maps in the Library of Congress.

“Early on, I decided I had to take it chronologically, as I wanted to understand his development as a commander and find out how he learned and the mistakes he made,” Scales said. “So, I would start with a campaign, read the original source material and maps, then plot out a route on Google Earth. Driving the route and visiting the sites certainly clarified everything.”

Scales even drew his own maps, which are included in the book. According to a news release from Savas Beatie publishing company, the book includes 109 of these original maps, and each chapter in the nearly 500-page book narrates a different raid or campaign.

During his research, Scales said it was sometimes difficult to reconcile differing accounts of the same event.

“Sometimes you wonder if the report writers were even talking about the same war,” Scales remarked.

Though Forrest was revered for his military prowess, he has also emerged as a controversial figure. This is largely because of his involvement in the slaughter that took place at Fort Pillow, as well as his affiliation with the notorious Ku Klux Klan.

Scales’ book aims to more easily explain Forrest’s impact on the overall course of the Civil War and what the outcome might have been if Forrest had been given a higher command. Scales said he hopes his book will help readers understand the “why” of these events and act as a driving guide for anyone who wants to visit the sites of Forrest’s battles and campaigns.

In addition to writing about the Civil War, Scales has also served as president of the Tennessee Valley Civil War Round Table. Today, Scales conducts two guided Civil War campaign tours in the Southeast that depart from the Huntsville area: Streight’s Raid and Railroad Raid.

To learn more about Scales, his books or his Civil War tours, visit johnrscales.com.

Another book signing will take place in Mobile, Alabama, in May. In addition, Scales said he will also have “many more” in Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, Texas and Illinois.

The Huntsville Visitor Center is located at 500 Church St. in Huntsville.

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