Douglas French Forrest was born in Baltimore, MD, the son of Captain French Forrest, U.S. Navy (1796-1866), and his wife, Emily Douglas Simms (1810-1880). The family home, where they lived after 1851, was Clermont, near Alexandria, VA. In 1854, Douglas F. Forrest entered Yale College, from which he graduated in 1857. He attended the University of Virginia Law School in sessions 35-36 (1858-1860), and soon after was admitted to the bar and began practice in Alexandria.
When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, Forrest was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Old Dominion Rifles, Company H, a militia unit. In June 1861, this unit officially became the 17th Regiment, Virginia Infantry. Forrest joined the staff of General Isaac R. Trimble in Sept. 1861. In March 1862, while recovering from an illness at the Norfolk Naval Yards where his father was in command, Forrest served as volunteer aide-de-camp to Captain Franklin Buchanan and was on board the Merrimac (later the Virginia) in her first battle, with the Congress and the Cumberland. He soon returned to the army, but within two months was appointed assistant paymaster in the Confederate States Navy.
In May 1863, Forrest sailed under orders to Europe, and later was assigned to the Rappahannock, which was being refitted in France, where he stayed until spring 1865. Having heard of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, VA, he returned to the Confederacy, arriving in Galveston, TX in May 1865. In June 1865, Texas surrendered, and Forrest returned to Virginia, later continuing his law practice in Baltimore, MD. During his naval service, Forrest kept a diary, which was published as Odyssey in gray. Though there are many surviving published Civil War diaries of soldiers, this book is unusual in that it is the diary of a Confederate sailor.
In 1870, Forrest gave up his law practice to devote himself to religion — as early as that year he was describing himself as a “clergyman” in the U.S. Census. He attended the Theological Seminary of Virginia in Alexandria, in 1872-1873, earned a bachelor of divinity degree, and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 1873. He spent twenty-five years in the ministry, and was the rector of churches in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Ohio, California, and Florida. Later in life, he was awarded an honorary D.D. from the College of William and Mary.
On Jan. 9, 1873, Douglas F. Forrest married Sarah “Sallie” Winston Rutherfoord (1852-1927) of Richmond, VA. The couple had no children. Forrest died on 3 May 1902, in Ashland, VA, and is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
- American Ancestry. Albany, NY, 1889. p. 146-147. Accessed via books.google.com.
- Forrest, Douglas French. Odyssey in gray; a diary of Confederate service, 1863-1865, edited by William N. Still, Jr. Richmond, VA, 1979.
- Hayden, Horace Edwin. Virginia genealogies: a genealogy of the Glassell Family of Scotland and Virginia. Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1891. Accessed via books.google.com.
- “Obituary 1 — No Title. [Douglas F. Forrest].” The Washington Post (1877-1922), May 9, 1902, http://www.proquest.com/ (accessed 5/6/2011).
- Phillips, Dinwiddie B. “The Career of the Merrimac.” Southern Bivouac. Louisville, Ky, March 1887, p. 598-608. http://cssvirginia.org/vacsn4/original/pd87cent.htm (Accessed 5/26/2011).
- “The Reverend Douglas French Forrest.” Richmond Times Dispatch, October 30,1904.
- Tombstone of Douglas French Forrest, Congressional Cemetery, Washington, DC. Findagrave.com (accessed 5/6/2011)
- 1850-1930 U.S. Census. Maryland & Virginia, in Ancestry.com. United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.