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Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 5.02.23 PMTo be published in August 2014, Amazon says: Scholars hail the find as “the most important discovery in Civil War scholarship in the last half century.” The invaluable cache of Confederate General John Bell Hood’s personal papers includes wartime and postwar letters from comrades, subordinates, former enemies and friends, exhaustive medical reports relating to Hood’s two major wounds, and dozens of touching letters exchanged between Hood and his wife, Anna. This treasure trove of information is being made available for the first time for both professional and amateur Civil War historians in Stephen “Sam” Hood’s The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood.

Upon learning the entire Federal army had escaped Spring Hill during the night of the 29th, C.S.A. Gen John Bell Hood spoke these words on the morning of the 30th, “the best move of my career as a soldier come to naught.”


Last night passed off quietly. At 8 we are packed ready to move. The forces behind us have just moved out. The enemy have been trying all morning to get possession of the ford, consequently several artillery fights as well as skirmishes today with musketry in fact has been a noisy war-like day. Eve: The enemy just before dusk charged and drove our skirmishers away from the ford but they held on to part of their line. The operation made a great rattling of musketry and supposing the enemy to be attacking in force our Regt was ordered double quick up to the scene of action. The artillery thundered away for a while, and with darkness relapsed into silence. In our movement our Regt was very much exposed to the raking fire through its whole length yet the Rebs did not take advantage of it. Soon after dark we withdrew in silence and was on the march back to Franklin a distance of 23 miles. Just before we got to Spring Hill we could see a long string of lights on our right not far off, and supposing it was the 4th Corps in camp we were looking forward to an immediate rest when to our surprise we were told that it was the lights of a rebble camp. Men ordered not to speak nor let their accoutrements rattle, we were so close we could see their camp guards (night guards).

Written by Addison Lee Ewing, Captain, Co F, 63rd Indiana Infantry
(Previous posts related to Ewing)

Source: Ewing Mss. Manuscripts department, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN.

These two men from the 13th Indiana Cavalry pose for their picture in Huntsville, Alabama in July 1864. The two soldiers are Albert D. Patrick (Co H) and John H. Daily (Co D), both privates in the 13th Indiana Cav.  The original image sold on eBay.

The 13th Indiana Cav fought at Franklin and Nashville, and were involved in the Union chasing after Hood in his retreat to Alabama after Nashville.

Here’s a separate image of Daily.

And a separate image of Patrick.

Fourth in a series.  Part One | Two | Three

Question: What do you say to some historians – like Wiley Sword – who say Hood’s biggest critics were his own men and colleagues?

Answer by Sam Hood

Such statements are demonstrably factually incorrect. Like all commanders, Hood had critics—officer and enlisted men—but he also had plenty of supporters. Those who expressed sympathies and support for Hood are almost always concealed from readers. The opposite is true of Joe Johnston, who is portrayed as having been almost universally worshiped by everyone except JB Hood and Jefferson Davis. In my research I found countless criticisms of Johnston’s tactics by his officers and men. As for Hood, a classic example of how authors’ portrayals can influence perceptions is Sam Watkins, who in his diary recorded three times as many praises of Hood than criticisms, yet his critical comments about Hood appear in virtually all modern literature on the Army of Tennessee while his affectionate expressions for Hood are almost always absent.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about JBH?

Wow. Where do I begin?

Robert E Lee did not prefer William Hardee over Hood to succeed Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee.

Hood was not stupid.

Hood cared very much about casualties of his troops.

Hood did not write “poison pen” letters to Richmond intended to make Johnston look bad and take Johnston’s job.

Hood was not a poor army logistician, and other than shoes and blankets (which Hood implored the Confederate government multiple times to provide) the Army of Tennessee was well supplied during the Tennessee Campaign.

Hood absolutely was NOT a proponent of frontal assaults. (In fact Franklin was the only frontal attack Hood ever ordered as an independent army commander.)

Hood did not accuse any soldier of cowardice, nor did any of his soldiers ever think that he did. In fact he strongly praised the Army of Tennessee, and did so often.

Hood was not angry at any time after the early morning hours of Nov 30, 1864, and his decision to attack at Franklin was made after careful, composed consideration.

The attack at Franklin was not intended to punish his troops or teach them any sort of lesson. He had one reason to attack at Franklin: to destroy Schofield’s army before it reached Nashville.

Hood did not position any troops at Franklin to make them face the strongest enemy fire.

Hood did not shirk responsibility for his defeats; rather, he took personal responsibility.

Hood wasn’t obsessively infatuated with his girlfriend.

Hood didn’t use drugs or alcohol.

And just for fun, how about this one: the Army of Tennessee never sang “The Yellow Rose of Texas” with lyrics that ended with “But the gallant Hood of Texas played Hell in Tennessee.” (It is recorded that only one soldier sang it just one time.)

Part three in a series.  | Part One | Two

Sam Hood: I can’t speak for all historians, and although I don’t consider myself a historian, I certainly have biases, and assume everyone does. I love the ancient Roman historian Cicero’s quote: “The first law of the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice.” Cicero would roll over in his grave if he knew of some of the books published on the Tennessee Campaign.

Steven Woodworth: Absolutely! All historians have biases (and so does everybody else). How it affects one’s interpretation of the sources depends on what the bias is. When someone is expected to have a very strong bias in a particular direction, other historians are going to discount for that.

Jack Davis: Of course historians have biases.  They are human, and no one is immune the bias or prejudice, however hard we may try to eliminate it from our work.  And it can definitely impact how they interpret documents.  Douglas Southall Freeman was notoriously humorless, and as a result his Lee is humorless, and Freeman completely misunderstood Lee when he wrote something tongue-in-cheek.

Wiley Sword: Bias is a very severe word – it suggests the lack of objectivity. Having long endured accusations of such from many of the Hood faction, I’m very familiar with this aspect. Contrary to much of what they have written in my case, when I originally began work on Embrace an Angry Wind, I had very little knowledge of John Bell Hood, and thus had no prior opinion or bias to promote as an agenda. Only through research of primary CONTEMPORARY materials did my opinions form. Thus when a statement was made critical of Hood in the book, it was based on a factual reference, fully documented as to source in the reference notes. Quite frankly, as I have long suggested, many of Hood’s men were his greatest critics, and I have been merely one of the means of their commentary. This same process has been used in many other of my projects, and my strong criticism of, for example, Braxton Bragg, P.G.T. Beauregard, and others has gone without the emotional response (including personal attacks and outright slander) from supporters of those generals. Certainly, Hood had his virtues as well as his liabilites, and as a complex personality with a dramatic role in the war he deserves further interpretaion, including such that the “new” papers might provide. As for other historians’ bias; this is an individual matter, and is not easily determined, but any qualified historian who seeks to explain history’s why and how events happened must be completely honest and write with integrity if the significant history of this nation is to be served.

Chris Losson: Historians live and operate within a certain era and cannot help but be biased.  The trick is to be aware of this bias as much as possible and try to write as fair and balanced an assessment of events and people as you can.  The amount of research material often dictates what you can do.  Before these Hood papers surfaced, biographers had to make do with what limited material on him they could find in public repositories and other scholarship.  Still, the times we live in inevitably impact our research and our writing.  An early historian of the South, U. B. Phillips, made major contributions in terms of our understanding of the Old South, using primary sources in many instances.  He also believed that slavery was generally a positive institution for the slaves.  Needless to say, if he was around today and wrote what he did when alive he would be pilloried.  I always tell my students early in a school year that I am going to teach them an interpretation of the past, and that their children and grandchildren may learn other (perhaps contradictory) interpretations.  As society changes, historical interpretations do so as well.  My grandparents in Louisville almost assuredly believed that blacks were inherently inferior to whites, although they may well have had cordial relationships with individual African Americans.  But I would be rightfully dismissed if I told my contemporary students that their black classmates are by nature inferior owing to their skin color!  In terms of John Bell Hood, both he and Joseph E. Johnston wrote books that were highly critical of the other officer.  Frank Cheatham wrote an article defending his actions at Spring Hill.  These men all knew that the Civil War was the most important event of their lives and they wanted to present themselves in as positive a light as possible.  This is a very human instinct, I think; how many of us would write an autobiography that unhesitatingly exposed our darkest flaws and mistakes?  In terms of the newly found Hood papers, it may well be that some people (I imagine Sam Hood among them) will find the material a useful way to devise a more positive assessment of General Hood than he has received from some scholars.  Yet it stands to reason that other historians will use the material, juxtapose it with other sources about Hood in other manuscript collections, memoirs, and primary/secondary sources that will still criticize Hood (to use one example) for what happened at Franklin.  Who will be right?  Each author will feel that their account is the closest to that elusive truth.  But it may take another writer who can try objectively as possible to weigh the pros and cons of the various interpretations about Hood (or events in which he participated) and synthesize the various arguments and then come up with his/her own interpretation.  Each generation probably reinterprets the Civil War, but because of its central importance to our history we still ask big questions and continue assessing how various persons performed during the war.  Sometimes popular culture swings public interest; The Killer Angels and the Ken Burns documentary on the war elevated Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain into the stratosphere of Civil War personalities; I discovered that you can even buy a General Chamberlain bobble-head!  This is a very long answer to your question, but historians often interpret primary sources through a particular lens; if you think John Bell Hood has been maltreated by historians you may use these new sources to attack those historians.  On the other hand, a historian who has an axe to grind against Hood may use the same documents to paint an unflattering portrait of him despite the new evidence.  And a third writer may steer a middle course between the positive and negative interpretations.  I should add that biographers do eventually arrive at some conclusions about their subjects that may or may not be accepted by other scholars.  In my own limited case, some historians are far less generous to Frank Cheatham than I was and are highly critical of his abilities or lack thereof.   But that’s what makes history such a dynamic field; we certainly don’t agree, sometimes on even rather trivial matters.

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Kraig McNutt is the author and publisher of this blog. He has been blogging on Franklin for over five years and on the Civil War in general since 1995. Email him.

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Summary of the Battle of Franklin

The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864 in Franklin, Tennessee; in Williamson County. John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee (around 33,000 men) faced off with John M. Schofield's Army of the Ohio and the Cumberland (around 30,000 men). Often cited as "the bloodiest five hours" during the American Civil War, the Confederates lost between 6,500 - 7,500 men, with 1,750 dead. The Federals lost around 2,000 - 2,500 men, with just 250 or less killed. Hood lost 30,000 men in just six months (from July 1864 until December 15). The Battle of Franklin was fought mostly at night. Several Confederate Generals were killed, including Patrick Cleburne, and the Rebels also lost 50% of their field commanders. Hood would limp into Nashville two weeks later before suffering his final defeat before retreating to Pulaski in mid December. Hundreds of wounded Confederate soldiers were taken to the John and Carrie McGavock home - Carnton - after the battle. She became known as the Widow of the South. The McGavock's eventually donated two acres to inter the Confederate dead. Almost 1,500 Rebel soldiers are buried in McGavock Confederate Cemetery, just in view of the Carnton house.

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