Bruce J. Dinges
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.