No one ever questioned the bravery of Confederate Genera John Bell Hood, but his command of the Army of Tennessee was a disaster for the Confederacy. Hood was born in Owingsville, Kentucky during 1831. He grew up in Kentucky's bluegrass region of central Kentucky near Mt. Sterling. His paternal grandfather was Lucas Hood who served in the Indian Wars under famed General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. His grandfather fought at Fallen Timbers. His maternal grandfather James French, served in the Revolutionary War. His father wanted him to be a doctor. Instead Hood through the assisance of an uncle, Congressman Richard French, secured an appoitment to West Point. There his academic career was average, but he awarded a large number of demerits--some by Superintendent Col. Robert E. Lee. Despite the demerits, Hood graduated 44th out of 52 in the class of 1853. Hood served in South Carolina and then with the calvary in Texas. When the Southern states seceeded, Hood was awarded a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army of Northern Virginia. He rapidly rose in rank. He was severely wounded at Gettsburg, but upon recovering joined the Army of Tennessee. Hood had proven a daring an effective commander under the command of Lee, but when given command of the Army of Tennessee he proved a disaster. After the War he fathered a large family.
John Bell Hood's paternal grandfather was Lucas Hood who served in the Indian Wars under famed General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. His grandfather fought at Fallen Timbers. His maternal grandfather James French, served in the Revolutionary War. Their stories seem to have made a great impression on their grandson.
John is often associated with Texas because he served in the U.S. Army there and commanded Texas volunteers in important Civil War battles. He was, however, born in Owingsville, Kentucky during 1831. He grew up in Kentucky's bluegrass region of central Kentucky near Mt. Sterling. His father was a medical doctor, John W. Hood. His mother was Theodosia French Hood.
His father wanted him to be a doctor. Instead Hood through the assisance of an uncle, Congressman Richard French, secured an appoitment to West Point. There his academic career was average, but he awarded a large number of demerits--some by Superintendent Col. Robert E. Lee. Hood received a total of 196 demerits. If he would have received 4 more demirits he would have been expelled. Lee seems to have been extremely irritated with a pre_christmas celebration at a local tavern.
Despite the demerits, Hood managed graduate. He was 44th out of 52 cadets in the class of 1853. Hood would face several of his classmate in Civil War battles. Two of the most important were John M. Schofield (US, Army of the Ohio) and George Thomas (US, Army of the Cumberland).
Hood served in South Carolina and then with the calvary in Texas.
After graduating from West Point, Hood was commissioned a brevet second lieutenant in the United States Army. He was assigned to at Fort Scott in California (February 1854). His first action, however, came in Texas. Hood was quickly promoted to second lieutenant of cavalry and assigned to the new 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Mason, Texas. At the time Texas was the frontier and the Army has the task of protecting settlers from raiding comanches in western Texas. The 2nd Calvary was a storied unit. It was commanded by Col. Albert Sydney Johnston and Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, two of the finest commandersbin the U.S. Army and future Confederate Army.
Hood later became known as one of the most woujnded of all Civil War commanders. Hood received his first wound in a fire fight at Devil's River (July 20, 1857). A Comanchee warrior hit Hood's left hand with an arrow. Native American arrows should not be thought of an ineffectual weapons. Until the development of revolvers and repeating riffles, there were some advantages to the bow and arrow, esspecially in rapidity of fire. Hood's aggresive actions with the 2nd Calvary were noted.
He was ordered to West Point to serve as Chief Instructor of Cavalry (September 1860). Hood requested that the appointment be rescinded. I am not sure if he did not want to teach or did not want to go north at a time of rising sectional tensions.
When the Southern states seceeded, Hood decided to join the Confederacy even though Kentucky did not seceed. Confederate forces fired on Fourt Sumter (April 13, 1861). Hood 3 days later resigned from the United States Army. He was awarded a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army of Northern Virginia. He rapidly rose in rank. He helped organize the Conderate calvary involved in resisting McClellan's Peninsula Campaign and then was active during Lee's Seven Day's Campaign (1862). He played an important role at Second Bull Run (1862). Hood led a division at Antitem and his action in the morning fighting probably saved the Army of Northern Virginia. By the end if 1862 Hood was promoted to Major General. While the Army of Northern Virginia survived Antitem, Lee's defeat ended any real chance of a quick Confederate victory. Hood was also active at Frederinksburg (1863). The Army of the Potomac turned Lee back a second time at Gettysburg, again with enormous losses. Hood serving as a division commander unnder Longstreet was severely wounded, losing the use of his left arm. Hood upon recovering commanded a corps at Chickamauga and was wounded in the leg which had to be amputated. Hood recuperated in Richmond. There he became close to President Jefferson Davis. Davis discussed his plans to reinforce General Joseph E. Johnston Army of Tennessee and to launch an offensive targetting General William T. Sherman forces at Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hood was offered the command of a corps. Davis forsaw an aggressive campaign. Hood was, however, not nearly as effective as he had been a a division commander. It is not clear if his wounds had changed him or if was the added authority. At any rate he got along poorly with the other corps commanders, particularly General Hardee. When the Army of Tenessee fel back to Atlanta, Hood replaced Joe Johnston as connander. Up to this point Johnston had fought a skillful defensive campaign against Sherman's superior forces. Hood changed tactics. He launched a series of unsuccessful, but costly attacks. Finally he had to evacuate Atlanta. Hood tried to attack Sherman's supply lines to force his out of Georgia. Instead of course Sherman marched to the sea. Hood moved his much reduced army into central Tennessee, feining an attavk on the Ohio Valley. Here he fought an engagement at Franklin in which his remaining units were descimated in virtual suisidal frontal assaults. He then attempted to besige Nashville. He attacked and what was left of the Army of Tennessee was annihilate (mid-December 1864). Finally he moved the exhausted rements of the Army into northern Mississippi. He esigned his command (January 1865). The Army of Tennesse had been a major Confederate army, but afer a few months under Hood, it essentially no longer existed. Davis just before Richmond fell ordered Hood
to raise an army in Texas. Hood had secind thoughts, especually after Favis was arrested and the last important Confederate command under Gen. Kirby Smith surrendered in Texas. Hood surrendered to Federal officials in Natchez, Mississippi (May 31, 1865).
Hood had proven a daring an effective commander under the command of Lee, but when given command of the Army of Tennessee he proved a disaster. The hard fighting Hood proved a brilliant brigade and division commander. As a corps commander he proved ineffectual. When finally promoted to head an army, he was an abject failure and essentially destroyed his army. The losses endured by his army were apauling. Lee had also subjected his army to heavy losses, even in his victories. But Lee had achieved victories. Hood's ebnormous losses of men came with no compensating achievement--only virtual anialation. Hood's command was criticised after the War by several Confederate commabnders, especially his former commande--Jo Johnston.
Steven Vincent Benet wrote a noted poem about Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. It included a vivid passage on Hood: "Yellow-haired Hood with his wounds and his empty sleeve; Leading his Texans, a Viking shape of a man; With the thrust and lack of craft of a berserk sword; All lion, none of the fox. When he supersedes
Joe Johnston, he is lost, and his army with him; But he could lead forlorn hopes with the ghost of Ney. His bigboned Texans follow him into the mist.
Who follows them?"
Hood after the war moved to New Orleans. He turned to business. He opened a cotton brokerage and insurance agency. His agency was the Life Association of America, an interesting name for a country he attempted to destroy. Both of his businesses prospered and he suceeded in amassing a small fortune. Ti his credit, Hood supported numerous philanthropic efforts, especially fund raising for orphans, widows and wounded soldiers. Tragically this would include his family. New Orleans suffered a yellow fever epidemic (1878-79). Hood was doubly affected. The epidemic closed down the New Orleans Cotton Exchange. The claims from victims ruined virtually every insurance company in the city. Hood himself sucummed to the epidemic (1879).
Hood after the War fathered a large family, although our information is very limited. He married Anna Marie Hennen, a New Orleans native (April 30, 1868). I have no information on her background at this time. The marriage was apparently successful and with business success, the Hood family prospered. Over 11 years of marriage, they had eleven children which included three sets of twins.
Hood died of yellow fever (August 30, 1879). His wife and eldest child died as a result of the epidemic as well. The epidemic ruined Hood finacially. fter. The ten surviving children were left destitute. They were adopted by seven different families in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New York. I have no information at this time on what became of the children.
Hood, John Bell. Advance and Retreat . Hood's book was written to defend his much criticised conduct as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Union and Confederate officers charge that Johnston's assessments and figures cintain many errors.
McMurry, Richard M. John Bell Hood and the War for Southern Independence.
Navigate the CIH Civil War Section:
[Return to Main Civil War biography page]
[Return to the Main Civil War page]
[Return to the Importance]
[Biographies] [Campaign] [Causes] [Emancipation] [Families and youth] [Fiscal policy] [Formations and units] [Law]
[Railroads] [Reconstruction] [Slavery] [Soldiers] [Uniforms] [Weaponry]
[Return to the Main Civil War page]
[Lost Cause] [Segregation] [Civil Rights movement]
[Return to CIH Home page]