What are some of the biggest misconceptions about John Bell Hood?

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.)

2 thoughts on “What are some of the biggest misconceptions about John Bell Hood?

  1. Robert Collins

    With all due respect, Mr. Hood I have to say that I don’t agree with assessment that Lee did not prefer Hardee over John Bell Hood. When asked by Davis what he thought of replacing Joe Johnson with Hood as commander of the Army of the Tennessee, Lee reportedly responded “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. Gen. Hardee has more experience in managing an army. May God give you wisdom to decide in this momentous matter.” To me that sounds like Lee is trying to say that although Hood has a lot of good qualities he’s not certain of Hood’s ability to lead an entire army and that Hardee might be better at the job due to his level of experience. One has to remember that Lee being the ever gracious gentleman was not gonna come out and bash Hood, not just because they were friends but because that wasn’t his style of doing things. I have also read that after he found out that Hood had become the commander of the A.O.T. he is reported to have said “Hood is a bold fighter, I am doubtful as to the other qualitities necessary.” I’m sorry Mr. Hood but in light of those remarks I just cant agree with you on that one! Lee endorsement of Hardee may not have been a glaringly bright one but it looks somewhat better than the one he gave Hood!

  2. Sam

    Gentlemen, I did not recieve email notifications of these responses and just re-visited the blog today. Sorry for the extreme tardiness of this reply.

    We will just have to agree to disagree that Lee favored Hardee over Hood to replace Johnston. Lee’s words speak for themselves. All he had to say about Hardee was that he has more experience managing an army. With Sherman at the gates of Atlanta, would Davis have wanted a guy who could only draw such a comment from Lee? And what was his management experience? A few months as interim army commander during winter camp period. Lee indeed regretted that a change of commanders was necessary, but stated that the stakes were so high that it must be done.

    Regarding Hood’s correspondence with Richmond, it is a fact that Hood was recieving inquiries directly from Bragg and Davis, and was simply answering direct questions. What was he to do, refuse the President? Also, writing and telegraming over the heads of superiors was quite common during the Civil War. There are countless examples, and I stumbled upon two of them yesterday in the OR. During and after the Battle of Jonesboro Hardee sent telegrams directly to Jefferson Davis. Are we to conclude that Hardee was conspiring to get Hood fired and take his job?


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