John Bell Hood and the War for Southern Independence

John Bell Hood and the War for Southern Independence

John Bell Hood and the War for Southern Independence

John Bell Hood and the War for Southern Independence


John Bell Hood, a native of Kentucky bred on romantic notions of the Old South and determined to model himself on Robert E.Lee, had a tragic military career, no less interesting for being calamitous.


John Bell Hood was the youngest of the eight full generals of the Confederacy. in age he belonged to that group of men who made superb regimental, brigade, and division commanders. in position and grade, however, he belonged with the older generation--men such as Robert E. Lee and Joseph E. Johnston--who were the products of an earlier, different South and whose military responsibilities included much more than simple fighting. This fact alone would make a study of Hood's career interesting and rewarding. His crucial role in prolonging the war in 1862 and in the conduct of the war in 1864 makes a detailed study of his career necessary to understand the course of the war.

There have been two earlier biographies of Hood. Obviously, it is my opinion that they do not tell fully or accurately the story of his life. They depend too heavily on postwar reminiscences for the raw material on which they are based. in addition, the more recent of them is a third of a century old and much new material about the war has come to light since it was written.

I came to the study of Hood's life by an indirect route. At the Virginia Military Institute in 1960 and 1961 in Tyson Wilson's course in Military History and John Barrett's in the Civil War and Reconstruction, I first began serious inquiry into the Atlanta Campaign. This study continued in graduate school at Emory. At first I shared the traditional belief that Hood was totally incompetent as a general and that his critics were correct in what they believed about the war in general and about Hood in particular. Years of study, however, led to the conviction that Hood's career had never been fairly evaluated and that his place in Confederate history was misunderstood. He was a victim of historians who assumed that he could do nothing right and that his chief critic could do no wrong. It seemed time to try to restore the balance.

In November 1865 Hood wrote to Stephen D. Lee, "Injustice has been done me. . . . I have never feared but I would get justice, but expect it to be . . .

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