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John Bell Hood
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by Sam HoodVisit his website


Born: June_29, 1831, Owingsville, Kentucky
Died:August_30, 1879, New Orleans

Early Life

Confederate General John B. Hood
Born the son of a rural doctor in Owingsville, Kentucky, John Bell Hood was raised in the bluegrass region of central Kentucky near the town of Mt. Sterling. John Bell's love for the adventure of military life is thought to have been founded in the influence of his paternal grandfather Lucas Hood, a crusty veteran of the Indian Wars who had fought under General "Mad" Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and his maternal grandfather James French, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Against the wishes of his father, who had urged him to pursue a medical career, John Bell employed the assistance of his uncle, U.S. Congressman Richard French, and enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West point in 1849.

West Point

Hood's four year discipline record at the academy was about average. However, in his senior year he would be reduced in rank and severely disciplined by new Superintendent Col. Robert E. Lee for accompanying a fellow cadet on an unauthorized pre-Christmas visit to nearby Benny Haven's Tavern. Accumulating 196 demerits, 4 short of expulsion at mid year, Hood would nevertheless complete his final year with no additional demerits, and ultimately graduate ranked 44th out of 52 in the class of 1853. Hood's classmate John M. Schofield (Army of the Ohio) and cavalry instructor George Henry Thomas (Army of the Cumberland) would play major roles in Hood's fortunes in Georgia and Tennessee during the final months of the Civil War.

Early assignments

After receiving his commission as a brevet second lieutenant in the United States Army, Hood was assigned to duty at Fort Scott, California in February 1854. In October 1855 Hood was promoted to second lieutenant of cavalry and assigned to the newly formed elite Second Cavalry Regiment at Fort Mason, Texas, commanded by future Confederate generals Col. Albert Sidney Johnston and Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee.

In a battle with Indians at Devil's River, Texas on July 20, 1857 Hood received the first of his combat wounds - his left hand was pierced by a Comanche arrow. In September 1860 he received orders to report to West Point to serve as Chief Instructor of Cavalry. However, at Hood's personal request to U. S. Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, the order was rescinded, and he remained with the Second Cavalry Regiment. On April 16, 1861, 3 days after the outbreak of the Civil War, Hood tendered his resignation from the United States Army.

Lt. Hood, CSA

Hood enlisted in the Confederate Army in Montgomery, Alabama in May 1861, receiving a commission as a lieutenant. Assigned to the Army of Northern Virginia, he received several rapid promotions, and on March_7, 1862 Hood was promoted to Brigadier General and placed in command of the renown Texas Brigade. Hood and his beloved Texans would play prominent roles in Robert E. Lee's [CS, Army of Northern Virginia] important victories at Gaines' Mill (Seven Days Battles) and Second Manassas. The Texas Brigade's heroics in Miller's Cornfield saved the Confederate left flank at Antietam in September 1862, after which Hood would be promoted to Major General by his corps commander, General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson [CS].

As a division commander under native Georgian General James Longstreet [CS], Hood was severely wounded on July 2, 1863 at Gettysburg, forever losing use of his left arm. In September, 1863, after recovering from his Gettysburg wound, Hood was assigned as part of Longstreet's Corps to Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee. He reported for duty at Ringgold, Georgia on September 18, 1863, and joined his division as they were positioning for the ensuing Battle of Chickamauga. Hood's division broke the Federal line at the Brotherton Cabin, which led to the rout of Union General William Rosecrans' army. Only the heroic rear guard actions of Hood's former West Point instructor General George Thomas saved the Union Army from destruction. During the battle Hood received his second serious wound of the war, resulting in the amputation of his right leg. He would be transported to the Clisby-Austin house in nearby Tunnel Hill for recuperation. Hood was so severely wounded that his amputated leg was sent with him so that it could be buried with the him in the result of his death.

Surviving his wound, on September 24, 1863 Hood was recommended for promotion to lieutenant general by Longstreet for his decisive role in the Confederate victory at Chickamauga. Longstreet's letter to Confederate Adjutant and Inspector General Samuel Cooper said,

General- I respectfully recommend Major General J. B. Hood for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General, for distinguished conduct and ability in the battle of the 20th inst. General Hood handled his troops with the coolness and ability that I have rarely known by any officer, on any field

Hood developed a close personal relationship with fellow Kentuckian, President Jefferson Davis while recovering from his Chickamauga wound in Richmond during the winter of 1863-1864. During this period Davis advised Hood of his intentions to reinforce General Joseph E. Johnston [CS] at Dalton, Georgia in the spring of 1864, and to move against the Federal army of General William Tecumseh Sherman at Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hood was offered a position as a corps commander under Johnston, and was advised by Davis that an aggressive campaign would be initiated against the Federals.

On February 4, 1864 Hood arrived in Dalton, Georgia, (History of Dalton, Georgia) and assumed a corps command in the Army of Tennessee under Johnston. At this time Johnston's Army of Tennessee was combined with Lt. General Leonidas Polk's Army of Mississippi. The combined forces were under the supreme command of Johnston, and are generally referred to as the Army of Tennessee.

However, Johnston failed to attack Sherman as ordered, and in early May of 1864 Sherman began the Atlanta Campaign. Johnston's Army of Tennessee fought defensive battles against the Federals at the approaches to Dalton, which was evacuated on May 13, and then retreated 12 miles south to Resaca, where defensive positions were erected. However, after a brief battle, Johnston again yielded to Sherman, and retreated from Resaca on May 15. Johnston assembled the Confederate forces for a battle at Cassville, but on May 20 again retreated 8 miles further south to Cartersville. The month of May 1864 ended with Sherman's forces continuing their successful march toward Atlanta at the Battle of New Hope Church on May 25, the Battle of Pickett's Mill on May 27, and the Battle of Dallas on May 28.

In June the Federal forces continued maneuvers around the northern approaches to Atlanta. Battles ensued at Kolb's Farm on June 22, and the Confederates successfully repulsed Union forces at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain on June 27. However, by this time Federal forces were within 17 miles of Atlanta, threatening the city from the west and north. Johnston had yielded almost a hundred miles of mountainous, and thus more easily defended, territory in 60 days, while the Confederate government and high command grew more frustrated and alarmed.

In early July Braxton Bragg was sent to Atlanta by President Davis to ascertain the situation with respect to Atlanta. After several meetings with local civilian leaders and Army of Tennessee commanders, Bragg returned to Richmond and urged President Davis to replace Johnston. After seriously considering Major General William Hardee and Hood for Johnston's replacement, President Davis solicited the advise of General Robert E. Lee, who on July 12 telegrammed Davis,

"...Hood is a good fighter, very industrious on the battlefield, careless off, and I have had no opportunity of judging his action, when the whole responsibility rested upon him. I have a very high opinion of his gallantry, earnestness and zeal. General Hardee has more experience in managing an army. May God give you wisdom to decide in this momentous matter."
With the support of Bragg and various Confederate cabinet members, President Davis ultimately determined that Hood be promoted to the temporary rank of full general, and replace Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Richmond was determined to repulse Sherman, and save Atlanta. The southern populace was equally adamant about the preservation of Atlanta. The Atlanta Appeal newspaper, declaring that retreating must cease and attacks must be launched, wrote in an editorial immediately after Hood's appointment to command of the Army of Tennessee, "There is a limit to prudence. When excessive, our enemies denominate it cowardice. This war must end and the final battle be fought. Why not here, and even now?" The Augusta Constitutionalist wrote on July 20, 1864, regarding Hood's replacement of Johnston, "If it means anything it must mean this: Atlanta will not be given up without a fight."

On July_17, 1864 Johnston received orders that he had been [[link:http://www.aboutnorthgeorgia.com/history/hoodscommand.html|relieved of command], to be replaced by General Hood. July 18th broke warm and muggy; Hood was notified that he had been promoted, and assigned command of the Army of Tennessee. Confederate Adjutant General Samuel Cooper's telegram to Hood included the directive "...be wary no less than bold."

Two days after finding out about his appointment to command of the Army of Tennessee, Hood launched the first of four major offensives designed to break Sherman's relentless and effective siege of Atlanta. In the July 20, 1864 Battle of Peachtree Creek the Confederates failed to crush Sherman's temporarily divided forces.

On July 21, 1864 Union forces moved onto Bald Hill, only two miles east of Atlanta, and launched a howitzer bombardment of the city. The Federal artillery also threatened the lone remaining Confederate rail line into Atlanta. To counter this, Hood devised a plan to attack the Federals near Decatur. The July 22, 1864 (Battle of Atlanta) attack failed to destroy the Federal force, but the artillery was withdrawn and the railroad remained open.

In the early morning hours of July 28, 1864 Hood learned that Federal forces had withdrawn from positions to the east, indicating that the threat to the Macon railroad had subsided. The Federals were observed moving to the west of Atlanta, and Hood launched another assault at Ezra Church on July 29, hoping to attack Sherman's forces before they had time to entrench. Disjointed attacks by separate Confederate corps' resulted in a decisive Union victory.

In early August Hood's cavalry killed or captured approximately two-thirds of Sherman's cavalry at Brown's Mill and Sunshine Church, south of Atlanta, and on August 6 Confederate defenders repulsed Union forces at Utoy Creek.

However, on August 29 an undaunted and impatient Sherman began another westerly movement to the south of Atlanta intended to cut the vital railroad. Federal forces succeeded in reaching positions only 600 yards from the Macon and Western Railroad depot at Jonesboro, 15 miles south of Atlanta. With Federal artillery then in a position to bombard the railroad facilities, Hood ordered an attack, again hoping to commence the assault before the Federals could construct defenses. As with the previous three major Confederate attacks, this one also failed, and with the railroad lifeline now severed, the fate of Atlanta was sealed.

Hoping to save his army, Hood evacuated Atlanta on September 2, 1864, retreating through Lovejoy's Station, into rural Georgia, finally camping in Palmetto. Hood would spend the early autumn of 1864 harassing Sherman's supply and communications lines in northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama.

In November of 1864 Hood launched his ill-fated invasion of Tennessee, suffering decisive defeats at Franklin, Tennessee on Nov. 30 (General John Schofield [US]), and at Nashville on Dec. 16 (General George Thomas [US]). Retreating with the shattered remnants of the Army of Tennessee into northern Mississippi, Hood resigned his command on January 23, 1865, reverting back to his permanent rank of lieutenant general.

During the waning days of the Confederacy, Hood was ordered by Jefferson Davis to travel to Texas and attempt to raise an army. However, learning of the capture of Davis and the surrender of Gen. Kirby Smith in Texas, Hood surrendered to Federal authorities in Natchez, Mississippi on May 31, 1865.

After the war Hood entered the cotton brokerage and insurance businesses in New Orleans. On April 30, 1868 he married native New Orleanian, Anna Marie Hennen and over the next ten years he would father eleven children, including three sets of twins. Hood would lose all of his modest fortune during the winter of 1878-1879 due to a yellow fever epidemic that closed the New Orleans Cotton Exchange, and wiped out almost every city insurance company. Later that year, on August 30, 1879, John Bell Hood died of yellow fever within days of his wife and oldest child. His ten orphaned children, all under the age of ten, were left destitute. They would ultimately be adopted by seven different families in Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky.

Recommended Reading

Additional information

Hood's crucial breakthrough at the Brotherton House on September 20, 1863 routs the Union Army.

Hood Takes Command
Details the incidents leading up to Hood's assumption of command of the Army of Tennessee on July 17-18, 1864

Battle of Peachtree Creek
Also known as Hood's first sortie, this battle introduced Sherman to the aggressive tactics of Hood

Battle of Atlanta
An attempt to turn the Union flank in East Atlanta fails.

Jonesboro (Jonesborough)
Vastly outnumbered, William J. Hardee holds off most of Sherman's Army in what is essentially a rear guard action

Additional links
Courtesy Roadside Georgia

Biographies of famous, not so famous and infamous people from the North Georgia area or who had an effect on North Georgia
The Civil War in Georgia
Beginning with the Great Locomotive Chase and the battle of Chickamauga, to the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea

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Albert Sidney Johnston
Army of Northern Virginia
Army of the Cumberland
Army of the Ohio
Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
Braxton Bragg
Chattanooga, Tennessee
George Henry Thomas
James Longstreet
Jefferson Davis
Kolb's Farm
Pickett's Mill
Robert E. Lee
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William Tecumseh Sherman

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