John Hood

John Hood Biography

John Hood Born John Bell Hood was a Confederate general during the American Civil War. Hood had a reputation for bravery and aggressiveness that sometimes bordered on recklessness. Arguably one of the best brigade and division commanders in the CSA, Hood gradually became increasingly ineffective as he was promoted to lead larger, independent commands late in the war; his career and reputation were marred by his decisive defeats leading an army in the Atlanta Campaign and the Franklin–Nashville Campaign.

Hood returned to field service during the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, and at the age of 33 was promoted to temporary full general and command of the Army of Tennessee at the outskirts of Atlanta, making him the youngest soldier on either side of the war to be given command of an army. There, he dissipated his army in a series of bold, calculated, but unfortunate assaults, and was forced to evacuate the besieged city. Leading his men through Alabama and into Tennessee, his army was severely damaged in a massive frontal assault at the Battle of Franklin and he was decisively defeated at the Battle of Nashville by his former West Point instructor, Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas, after which he was relieved of command.

John Hood Early Life

John Bell Hood was born in Owingsville, Kentucky, the son of John Wills Hood (1798-1852), a doctor, and Theodosia French Hood (1801-1886). He was a cousin of future Confederate general G. W. Smith and the nephew of U.S. Representative Richard French.[5] French obtained an appointment for Hood at the United States Military Academy, despite his father’s reluctance to support a military career for his son. Hood graduated in 1853, ranked 44th in a class of 52 that originally numbered 96, after a near-expulsion in his final year for excessive demerits (196 of a permissible 200).[6] At West Point and in later Army years, he was known to friends as “Sam”. His classmates included James B. McPherson and John M. Schofield; he received instruction in artillery from George H. Thomas. These three men became Union Army generals who would oppose Hood in battle. The superintendent in 1852–55 was Col. Robert E. Lee, who would become Hood’s commanding general in the Eastern Theater. Notwithstanding his modest record at the Academy, in 1860, Hood was appointed chief instructor of cavalry at West Point, a position he declined, citing his desire to remain with his active field regiment and to retain all of his options in light of the impending war.

John Hood Civil War

Hood resigned from the United States Army immediately after the Battle of Fort Sumter and, dissatisfied with the neutrality of his native Kentucky, decided to serve his adopted state of Texas. He joined the Confederate army as a cavalry captain, then was promoted to major and sent to command Brigadier General John B. Magruder’s cavalry in the lower Virginia Peninsula. Hood and his horsemen took part in a “brilliant” July 12 skirmish at Newport News, capturing 12 men of the 7th New York Regiment of Volunteers as well as two deserters from Fort Monroe. They received high praise from Generals Lee and Magruder.[13][14] By September 30, the Texan was promoted to be colonel of the 4th Texas Infantry.
At the Battle of Gaines’s Mill on June 27, Hood distinguished himself by leading his brigade in a charge that broke the Union line, which was the most successful Confederate performance in the Seven Days Battles. Hood himself survived unscathed, but over 400 men and most of the officers in the Texas Brigade were killed or wounded. He broke down and wept at the sight of the dead and dying men on the field. After inspecting the Union entrenchments, Maj. Gen Stonewall Jackson remarked “The men who carried this position were truly soldiers indeed.
Meanwhile, in the Western Theater, the Confederate army under General Braxton Bragg was faring poorly. Lee dispatched two divisions of Longstreet’s Corps to Tennessee, and Hood was able to rejoin his men at Chickamauga Creek on September 18. Bragg ordered him to form a “mini-corps,” merging one of the brigades he had with him on the field with Brig. Gen. Bushrod Johnson’s division. It was then that Hood participated in the Battle of Chickamauga, driving Col. Robert Minty’s Union brigade from Reed’s Bridge and stopping only at Alexander’s Bridge, where John T. Wilder’s men fired their Spencer repeating rifles on the Confederates.As darkness set in, he chanced to have met Gen. John C. Breckinridge, former Vice-President of the United States, presidential candidate and Senator of Kentucky as well as a cousin of Buck Preston. The remaining two units of Hood’s division regrouped with their commander to prepare for the next day’s battle.

In the spring of 1864, the Confederate Army of Tennessee, under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, was engaged in a campaign of maneuver against William T. Sherman, who was driving from Chattanooga toward Atlanta. Despite his two damaged limbs, Hood performed well in the field, riding as much as 20 miles a day without apparent difficulty, strapped to his horse with his artificial leg hanging stiffly, and an orderly following closely behind with crutches. The leg, made of cork, was donated (along with a couple of spares) by members of his Texas Brigade, who had collected $3,100 in a single day for that purpose; it had been imported from Europe through the Union blockade. On May 12, Hood was baptized by Lieutenant General Leonidas Polk, the former Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana. Colonel Walter H. Rodgers, a witness to the baptism, stated that Hood “looked happy and as though a great burden had been lifted.