Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies

Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies

Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies

Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies

Synopsis

John Bell Hood may be the South's most famously unfortunate soldier. With his reckless charges that broke Union defenses at Gaines's Mill, Second Bull Run, South Mountain and Antietam, Hood became the beau ideal of the Southern cavalier. However, his heroics contained the seeds of his own downfall: trusting too much in sheer courage and dash, Hood schemed against General Joseph E. Johnston and supplanted him as commander of the Army of Tennessee in the defense of Atlanta; Hood's suicidal charges at Franklin and Nashville destroyed his army. Hood was, if nothing else, fiercely courageous; he lost both an arm and a leg in combat, and finally had to be strapped to his horse to ride. In Hood's recollections, we find his unwavering loyalty to the Confederate cause and his unshakable admiration for Lee and Davis. We can follow his implacable dislike for his former friend and comrade, Joe Johnston, as well as his penchant for blaming reverses on his subordinates. Like many of the surviving Confederate generals, Hood believed that somehow the Confederacy would have triumphed were it not for the mistakes and negligence of others. In 1879, bankrupt and the father of eleven children, he lost his wife and eldest daughter, and later his own life, to the same yellow fever that had ruined his business. General P. G. T. Beauregard arranged for the publication of Hood's memoirs to benefit Hood's orphaned children.

Excerpt

You may talk about your Beauregard
Sing of General Lee
But the gallant Hood of Texas played hell in Tennessee.
--"The Yellow Rose of Texas"

John Bell Hood was a fighter. A Richmond acquaintance recalled the "fierce light" that burned deep in his blue eyes, and how combat transfigured the tall, bearded Kentuckian. Sheer aggressiveness explains much of his spectacular rise in the Confederate service, from first lieutenant to brigadier general in ten months and to full general at the age of thirty-three. But the price, personally and for the cause he served, was frightful--an arm shattered at Gettysburg, a leg lost at Chickamauga, and the lifeblood of a crippled Rebel army ebbing away as it staggered southward after sledgehammer defeats at Franklin and Nashville. When the great Confederate commanders eventually picked up their pens to refight the war they had lost, Hood had much to explain.

Reckless and romantic, Hood epitomized the generation of Southerners who reached adulthood in the turbulent 1850s. He was born on 29 June 1831 at Owingsville, Kentucky, to a socialclimbing physician and his Bluegrass bride. As an eighteen-yearold he prevailed on his maternal uncle, a congressman, to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy. An indifferent scholar who chafed under military regulations, Hood narrowly avoided expulsion to graduate forty-fourth in the class of 1853. Only eight classmates compiled poorer academic records.

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