Quotes by General Forrest

Origin of "First With the Most"

The real and correct quote of Confederate General N. B. Forrest concerning "first with the most" came during a discussion between Forrest and Generals Basil Duke & John Hunt Morgan during the middle part of the war (1862). The quote was promptly spread by his men, and then reaffirmed in a post war interview with a northern newspaper reporter.

In the first interview at Murfreesboro, TN, Forrest was asked by Duke & Morgan to what he attributed his stunning success. The General replied that he "just got there first with the most men." Of course, Forrest rarely had the most men, but was adept at finding the weak point and bursting upon it with an overpowering thrust with more men than the enemy had at that point. From this the legend grew and was spread by friend and foe alike.

In the postwar interview, this again came up and Forrest replied "I was just first with the most." Later biographers, inferring that Forrest was raised in the backwoods and would have used more of a 'cracker Southern dialect' transformed the quote into "get thar fustest with the mostest." In 1918, Sir Frederick Maurice, during WW1 writings, properly attributed the motto correctly, but the folklore version was thoroughly implanted and sticks with the General today. In 1944, author Robert Henry's book "First With the Most" reintroduced the correct formal quote to modern historians.

So today, the slang version is still used along with the correct one.

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