The United States Constitution’s definition of treason (Article III, Section III) states that it “shall consist of levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” Note that levying war is against “them” – the individual States, not the entire federation of States that comprise the “United States” nor its government. Public and military officers of the United States swear an oath to defend the Constitution, not the government — Forrest was defending his own country’s Constitution.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Forrest Claimed Guilty of Treason
“But perhaps the most sincere tribute to the effectiveness of [Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s] operations came from the other side, when the grand jury of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of West Tennessee, meeting in Memphis for the September 1864 term, returned an indictment against Nathan B. Forrest for treason.
Reciting the existence of “an open and public rebellion, insurrection and war with force of arms . . . against the government and laws of the United States of America by divers persons . . . styling themselves “the Confederate States of America,” one of the persons being Nathan B. Forrest, “late of said District aforesaid, “the grand jurors declared that he, on the twenty-first day of August, 1864, “and on divers other days and times as well as before that day . . . not weighing the duty of his said allegiance but wickedly devising the and intending the peace and tranquility of the said the United States of America to disturb, and to stir, move, excite, aid and assist in said Rebellion, insurrection and war . . . with force and arms unlawfully, falsely, maliciously and traitorously did raise and levy war . . . with a great multitude of persons whose names to the grand jurors aforesaid are unknown . . . armed and arrayed in a warlike manner . . . with guns, swords, pistols, and other warlike weapons as well offensive as defensive . . . did . . . in a hostile and warlike manner array and dispose themselves against the United States of America . . . most wickedly and maliciously and traitorously did ordain, prepare and levy war against the said the United States of America, contrary to the duty of the allegiance and fidelity of the said Nathan B. Forrest . . . ” and so on and on.
To all of which the Marshall of the United States Court, in whose hands there was placed the capias for the arrest of “the said Nathan B. Forrest,” made return with unintentional humor – “Defendant not to be found in my district.”
(“First With the Most,” Forrest, Robert Selph Henry, Mallard Press, 1991, pp. 343-344)