Battle of Franklin Quotes the Experts Hide From You

June 23, 2007

Below are some quotations regarding Gen. John Bell Hood and his controversies that rarely, if ever, appear in Civil War books, documentaries, and lectures. Why do Civil War scholars and authors conceal these quotes from us?

Issue: Praise of the Soldiers of the Army of Tennessee/Hood’s Acceptance of Blame for the Failure in Tennessee

Hood, in Advance and Retreat, praised the “extraordinary gallantry” of the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee at Franklin.

Hood’s high praise of the soldiers in his Official Report of the Battle of Franklin, “Never did troops fight more gallantly.”

Hood, in his Army of Tennessee resignation letter, “When the fortunes of war were against us, the same faithful (Army of Tennessee) soldiers remained true to their flag, and with rare exceptions followed it in retreat as they had borne it in advance.”

Hood, in Advance and Retreat, “Whilst I failed utterly to bring on battle at Spring Hill…”

Hood, in his Army of Tennessee resignation letter, on the Tennessee Campaign, “I am alone responsible for its conception…”

In John R. Lundberg’s book, The Finishing Stroke, at the end of the Nashville retreat, near Shoal Creek AL, W.G. Davenport of the 6th Texas Cavalry wrote that Gen Hood rode up and “Looking worn and tired but with kindly words for all, said to the soldiers, ‘Boys, this is all my fault.’”

Hood, Advance and Retreat, “The attack (at Franklin), which entailed so great a sacrifice of life, had become a necessity as imperative as that which impelled Gen. Lee to order the assault at Gaines’ Mill, when our troops charged across an open space, a distance of one mile, under a most galling fire of musketry and artillery, against an enemy heavily entrenched. The heroes in that action fought not more gallantly than the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee upon the fields of Franklin.”

Mary Chesnut in Diary From Dixie, “How plainly he spoke out these dreadful words. ‘My defeat and discomfiture!’ ‘My army is destroyed.’ ‘My losses!’ He said he had nobody to blame but himself.”

Issue: Hood’s Use of the Word “Evil”

Hood, in Advance and Retreat, “The best move of my career as a soldier, I was thus destined to behold come to naught. The discovery that the army, after a forward march of one hundred and eighty miles, was still, seemingly, unwilling to accept battle unless under the protection of breastworks, caused me to experience grave concern. In my inmost heart I questioned whether or not I would ever succeed in eradicating this evil.” There are major differences in 19th and 21st century idiom and syntax. The word “evil” was commonly used in the 19th century to describe a destructive or harmful trait or characteristic. As an example, on May 10, 1863, Robert E. Lee wrote to Jefferson Davis regarding reorganization of the Army of Northern Virginia after the death of Stonewall Jackson, “…I have for the past year felt that the corps of this army were too large for one commander. Nothing prevented my proposing to you to reduce their size and increase their number but my inability to recommend commanders. Each corps contains, when in fighting condition, about 30,000 men. These are more than one man can properly handle and keep under his eye in battle in the country that we have to operate in. They are always beyond the range of his vision, and frequently beyond his reach. The loss of Jackson from command of one-half the army seems to me a good opportunity to remedy this evil.” Another example is found in an Oct. 8, 1862 letter from the Confederate Secretary of War Seddon to the Confederate Congress: “…The subject of the efficiency of the Army is one of paramount importance, and the letter of the Secretary of War herewith submitted has been elicited by correspondence with the generals of our armies in the field, whose practical experience of the evils resulting from the defects in our present system entitles their opinion to great weight…” To imply that Hood intended the word “evil” to apply in any way to his troops is unfair and incorrect.

Issue: Hood Allegedly Accusing the Soldiers of the AOT of Cowardice

“And I will here inquire, in vindication of its fair name, if any intelligent man of that Army supposes for one moment that these same troops, one year previous, would, even without orders to attack, have allowed the enemy to pass them at Rocky-faced Ridge, as he did at Spring Hill.” (Hood, in Advance and Retreat) This sentence immediately follows the oft cited sentence in Hood’s book where he uses the word “evil” and allegedly questions the courage of the men. This sentence places the “evil” sentence in proper context, blaming the tendencies of the AOT of Joe Johnston’s lingering influence.

During Lee’s retreat from Richmond and Petersburg to Appomattox, Maj. Gen. Billy Mahone wrote…”At this spectacle Gen. Lee straightened himself in the saddle, and looking more the soldier than ever, exclaimed, as if talking to himself: ‘ My God! Has the Army dissolved?’ …I replied, ‘No General, here are troops ready to do their duty’; when , in a mellowed voice he replied, ‘ Yes General, there are some true men left.’ Has Robert E. Lee ever been accused of insulting his troops on their final campaign by saying that only “some” were “true men”?

On April 10, 1865, after the surrender at Appomattox, Gen. Robert E. Lee wrote in a letter to Jefferson Davis, “…The operations which occurred while the troops were in the entrenchments in front of Richmond and Petersburg were not marked by the boldness and decision which formerly characterized them. Except in particular instances, they were feeble; and a want of confidence seemed to possess officers and men.” Is Lee condemned for describing the efforts of his troops as “feeble”?

Gen. Kirby Smith, who addressed the deserters of his disintegrated army in his May 30, 1865 proclamation, “I am left a commander without an army, a general without troops, you have made your choice. It was unwise and unpatriotic, but it is final.” Is Kirby Smith condemned for questioning the patriotism of his men?

On page 344 of Joseph Johnston’s postwar memoirs, he comments on the approx. 3,000 Union casualties sustained by his adversary, William T. Sherman at Kennesaw Mountain, “Such a loss…by an army of almost a hundred thousand men, would have been utterly insignificant–too trifling to discourage, much less defeat brave soldiers…” One can only imagine the outcry if Hood had called the loss of 3,000 men, either Union or Confederate, “utterly insignificant” and “trifling”?

Sherman, in his Official Report on Kennesaw Mountain had this to say: “…I perceived
that the enemy and our own officers had settled down to the conviction that I would not assault fortified lines. All looked to me to outflank. An army to be efficient must not settle down to a single mode of offense, but must be prepared to execute any plan which promises success. I wanted, therefore, for the moral effect to make a successful assault against the enemy behind his breast-works, and resolved to attempt it at that point where success would give the greatest fruits of victory.” Sherman, like Hood and other nineteenth century military commanders, felt that offensive attacks were vital to the moral of their armies.

Sherman to Thomas: “At times assaults [he refers to Johnstons fortified lines on Kennesaw Mtn] are necessary and inevitable….Had we broken his line today it would have been most decisive, as it is our loss is small compared with some of those East.” OR 38:4:607 Sherman shrugged off his loss of 3,000 men as saying the number is small compared to Grant’s losses in Virginia. Hood is pilloried for making much less caustic comments.

Lt. Gen. Stephen D. Lee, who joined the Army of Tennessee after Joseph Johnston’s removal, described the army’s reluctance to attack, “As a corps commander, I regarded the morale of the army greatly impaired after the fall of Atlanta, and in fact before its fall, the troops were not by any means in good spirits…the majority of the officers and men were so impressed with the idea of their inability to carry even temporary breastworks, that when orders were given for attack, and there was a probability of encountering works…they did not generally move to the attack with that spirit which nearly always assures success.” O.R. Series I, XXXIX, part 1, 810.

Chaplain James M’Neilly of Quarles’ Brigade recalled Confederate Gen. William Wing Loring’s crying out to his troops at Franklin, “Great God! Do I command cowards?” Is Loring condemned for calling his brave troops cowards?

Issue: Hood’s Grief at the Loss of His Soldiers

Major James W. Ratchford of DH Hill’s staff at Gaines’ Mill (the Texas Brigade was part of Hill’s Division)writing of a scene immediately after the Battle of Gaines’ Mill…

“Early in the same night, while I was trying to gather up some of our division that had been scattered in the pursuit (of the Federals), I came upon General Hood sitting on a cracker box. As I approached, he looked up at me, and I could see tears streaming down his cheeks. His brigade had lost heavily, and all about him were the dead and wounded. I spoke to him and he replied brokenly, ‘Just look here Major, at all these dead and suffering men, and every one of them as good as I am, yet I am untouched.’ This would be true only a little longer, for the gallant Hood left an arm at Gettysburg and a leg on the bloody field of Chickamauga.”

At Gaines’ Mill, Chaplain Nicholas Davis wrote that Hood attended the next morning’s roll call and was appalled that only a fraction of the men were present. “‘Is this the Fourth Texas?’ asked Hood. ‘This is all that remains,’ was the reply. Tears rolled down the general’s cheeks as he rode away, and there was not a soldier in that line but what thought more of him now than ever before.”

At Antietam, Hood, Richard O’ Connor wrote in Hood: Cavalier General, “…the sad-eyed Hood…wept as he told Lee of the hundreds of his Texans and Georgians who had fallen that day in the cornfield.”

After Antietam, Robert E. Lee is said to have encountered Hood while inspecting the Confederate left flank. In a famous exchange, a shocked Lee is said to have asked him, “Great God, General Hood, where is your splendid division?” Hood replied, “They are lying upon the field where you sent them, sir.” Roughly two-thirds of his brigade were killed and wounded in the fighting at “The Cornfield.”

Bryan Bowers of Ferguson’s Alabama Battery, on seeing Hood the morning after the Battle of Franklin, “His sturdy visage assumed a melancholy appearance, and for a considerable time he sat on his horse and wept like a child.”

Sam Watkins in Company Aytch, recalls visiting Hood’s tent for a furlough on the retreat from Nashville and wrote “I was at General Hood’s headquarters. He was much agitated and affected, pulling his hair with his one hand (he had but one), and crying like his heart would break. I pitied him, poor fellow.”

Issue: Hood Sacrificed His Troops For No Reason at Franklin

Joe Johnston wrote in his postwar memoir,”…with a full consciousness on my part, however, that we could have no other object, in continuing the war, other than to obtain fair terms of peace; for the Southern cause must have appeared hopeless then, to all intelligent and dispassionate Southern men. I therefore resumed the duties of my military grade with no hope beyond that of contributing to obtain peace on such conditions as, under the circumstances, ought to satisfy the Southern people and their Government.” Johnston, who criticized Hood for the “useless butchery” at Franklin, nevertheless ordered the Army of Tennessee to attack Sherman’s Union army at Bentonville, North Carolina, on March 19, 1865, and the ensuing defeat resulted in 3,092 Confederate casualties. Johnston himself wrote that he knew the war was lost in February 1865, yet he ordered an attack in March where over 800 of his men were killed, and 2,000 more wounded. Useless butchery indeed, but not by Hood.

Issue: Hood’s Reasoning for the Frontal Assault at Franklin

Col. Virgil S. Murphey of the 17th Alabama Infantry, “Had Hood succeeded, Nashville would have opened her gates to the head of his victorious legions and the throat of Tennessee released from the grasp of remorseless despotism. It was worth the hazard. Its failure does not diminish the value of the prize.”

A member of A.P. Stewart’s staff, B.L. Ridley, wrote in his 1906 publication, Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee, “It has been charged that he (Hood) gave the order to attack at Franklin because of chagrin at his failure at Spring Hill. This supposition does Hood great injustice. A Federal courier had been captured bearing dispatches between Thomas and Schofield of the Federal army. The tenor of the dispatches led Hood to believe that Franklin was not in a defensible position, and that therefore, as he expressed it, he thought his ‘time to fight had come’.”

S. A. Cunningham, writing in the April, 1893 issue of Confederate Veteran magazine, stood near to Hood on Winstead Hill overlooking Franklin as Hood contemplated the attack on the afternoon of Nov. 30, 1864. Cunningham wrote. “…but I was absorbed in the one man whose mind was deciding the fate of thousands. With an arm and a leg in the grave, and with the consciousness that he had not until within a couple of days won the confidence which his army had in his predecessor, he had now a very trying ordeal to pass through. It was all-important to act, if at all, at once.”

Winston Groom in Patriotic Fire, page 247, writes of the failed frontal attack by the British on the American lines at the Battle of New Orleans, “Great infantry or cavalry charges are as often remembered for the ones that failed as for the ones that succeeded. On July 3, 1863, General Robert E. Lee sent 15,000 infantry under George Pickett charging into the Union lines at Gettysburg. The resulting failure presaged the decline of the Confederacy. A decade earlier, England’s Lord Cardigan had dispatched his light brigade of cavalry to charge against a strong Russian position during the Crimean War, and nearly all were killed or wounded; this became the stuff that poems were made of. In World War I, millions of soldiers were killed in frontal infantry assaults; it was likewise with the Japanese in World War II, who died by the tens of thousands in pointless banzai charges.” “The psychology of the tactic was a leftover from the days of the rock, the club, the spear, and the sword, in which battles were won or lost in close combat with one side ultimately overwhelming and terrifying the other by dint of sheer audacity and ferocity. With the evolution of gunpowder and weapons of distance—rifles, cannons, and the like—personal physical prowess had become less and less important. Still, as military scholars continue to emphasize, most wars are fought on the strategies and tactics gleaned from the previous one, yet men commanding warriors of the nineteenth and even twentieth century were slow to understand this.”

James Wood Baldwin, who served in a Texas regiment under Hood in the east. Following his service with Hood there, he remained – apparently – in Hood’s service after he was transferred to the western theater. His job was specifically being a scout leader. In his questionnaire, he disclosed that Hood would personally direct him to scout and gather intelligence for the army. This is some of what he says: “On the 2nd day before the battle of Franklin [Nov. 28], while acting as a scout for Gen. Hood, I was directed by him to take twelve men and reconnoiter in the vicinity of Murfreesboro and as near Nashville as I could safely go, for the purpose of locating the enemy and finding out his plans. Of the men who were with me I can now only recall Tom King, Bob Herd, Alf Snell, and a man by the name of Henton. I was instructed after making my tour to report to Gen. Claborne the following morning who would be incamped at Caney Springs. About daylight of the morning before the battle of Franklin [29th] we rode into Caney Springs and as we approached it, we discovered that an army was encamped there. Naturally we thought it was Gen. Claborne. However, we soon learned that it was a Yankee outfit. We reconnoitered and located the Marque or headquarters of Gen. Hatch and we decided to capture the general. We quietly and silently dismounted walked up to the headquarters, disarmed the sentinel, went into the tent and captured the adjutant and his body guard. We then took them out and mounted them on horses which were tied to a corell and carried them to Gen. Hood’s headquarters. We also, captured many papers which disclosed their plans and purposes. We met Gen. Hood about fifteen miles from Caney Springs on the road to Columbia.”

Hood, OR, Chapter LVII, page 653…”I learned from dispatches captured at Spring Hill, from Thomas to Schofield, that the latter was instructed to hold that place till the position at Franklin could be made secure, indicating the intention of Thomas to hold Franklin and his strong works at Murfreesboro. Thus I knew that it was all important to attack Schofield before he could make himself strong, and if he should escape at Franklin he would gain his works about Nashville. The nature of the position was such as to render it inexpedient to attempt any further flank movement, and I therefore determined to attack him in front, and without delay.”

S.A. Cunningham stood near Hood on Winstead Hill, two miles south of Franklin, and he later recalled, “The enemy were greatly excited. We could see them running to and fro. Wagon trains were being pressed across the Harpeth River, and on toward Nashville….”

L.A. Simmons wrote in his 1866 work, The History of the 84th Regiment Illinois Volunteers, “In speaking of this battle, very many are inclined to wonder at the terrible pertinacity of the rebel General Hood, in dashing column after column with such tremendous force and energy upon our center — involving their decimation, almost their annihilation? Yet this we have considered a most brilliant design, and the brightest record of his generalship, that will be preserved in history. He was playing a stupendous game, for enormous stakes. Could he have succeeded in breaking the center, our whole army was at his mercy. In our rear was a deep and rapid river, swollen by recent rains — only fordable by infantry at one or two places — and to retreat across it an utter impossibility. To break the center was to defeat our army; and defeat inevitably involved a surrender. If this army surrendered to him, Nashville, with all its fortifications, all its vast accumulation of army stores, was at his mercy, and could be taken in a day. Hence, with heavy odds — a vastly superior force — in his hands, he made the impetuous attack upon our center, and lost in the momentous game. His army well understood that they were fighting for the possession of Nashville. Ours knew they were fighting to preserve that valuable city, and to avoid annihilation.” Simmons added that the Federals quickly withdrew to Nashville after the battle as Franklin was “untenable.” He also stated that with Schofield’s corps absent from Nashville, the city was “scantily protected.”

Battle of Franklin veteran, Washington Gardner, later a U.S. Congressman from Michigan, wrote of Gen. Hood in Henry Field’s book, Bright Skies and Dark Shadows, “By the way, I was somewhat surprised, and may say pained, during my recent trip South, to note the disposition among soldiers of the late Confederate Army to criticize and disparage the merits of Gen. Hood. That he made mistakes no unprejudiced student of the War Between the States will deny, but that he was possessed of some of the best qualities that belong to great military commanders is equally indisputable. As between the General and his critics touching the Battle of Franklin, my sympathies are entirely with the former; while my admiration for the splendid valor exhibited by his heroic legions on that bloody field is not diminished by the fact that they were Americans all…Franklin, from the Confederate standpoint of view, must ever remain one of the saddest tragedies of the Civil War; on the other hand, there were in that battle possibilities to the Confederate cause, and that came near being realized, scarcely second to those of any other in the great conflict. Had Hood won-and he came within an ace of it-and reaped the legitimate fruits of his victory, the verdict of history would have been reversed, and William T. Sherman, who took the flower of his army and with it made an unobstructed march to the sea, leaving but a remnant to contend against a foe that had taxed his every resource from Chattanooga to Atlanta, would have been called at the close as at the beginning of the war, ‘Crazy Sherman.’ No individual, not even Hood himself, had so much at stake at Franklin as the hero of the ‘march to the sea.’”

Tennessee Gov. Isham Harris wrote in a Dec. 25, 1864 letter to Jefferson Davis, “I have been with General Hood from the beginning of this campaign, and beg to say, disastrous as it has ended, I am not able to see anything that General Hood has done that he should not, or neglected anything that he should have done which it was possible to do. Indeed, the more that I have seen and known of him and his policy, the more I have been pleased with him and regret to say that if all had performed their parts as well as he, the results would have been very different.

Jefferson Davis, commenting on Hood’s Franklin attack in his postwar memoirs, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, wrote, “Hood had served with distinction under Lee and (Stonewall) Jackson, and his tactics were of that school. If he had, by an impetuous attack, crushed Schofield’s army…we should never have heard complaint because Hood attacked at Franklin, and these were the hopes with which he made his assault.”

Issue: Blame for the Confederate Failure at Spring Hill

In his April, 1893 article in Confederate Veteran magazine, S. A. Cunningham wrote,”…the march to Spring Hill, where the Federal retreat was so nearly cut off, a failure for which it was understood General Hood was not to blame, created an enthusiasm for him equal to that entertained for Stonewall Jackson after his extraordinary achievements….”

John Copley of the 49th Tennessee described the outrage of Nathan Bedford Forrest in his 1893 book, A Sketch of the Battle of Franklin, with Reminiscences of Camp Douglass. Copley wrote: “When we discovered their successful escape on the morning of the 30th, our chagrin and disappointment can be better imagined than described. General Forrest was so enraged that his face turned almost to a chalky whiteness, and his lips quivered. He cursed out some of the commanding officers, and censured them for allowing the Federal army to escape. I looked at him, as he sat in his saddle pouring forth his volumes of wrath, and was almost thunderstruck to listen to him, and to see no one dare resent it.” Forrest cursed “commanders (plural), not Hood.

Col. Virgil Murphey of the 17th Alabama, recorded in his diary, “The same blow delivered with equal power at Spring Hill or Thompson’s Station would have yielded us dominion over Tennessee. A failure to obey (Hood’s) order lost us a noble commonwealth.” Recalling a later conversation with Union Gen. Schofield, who had acknowledged his army’s “perilous position” at Spring Hill, Murphey wrote, “I explained that a grave responsibility rested upon the general who failed to make the attack (at Spring Hill) as we knew our advantage and Hood had ordered the attack.”

Major James W. Ratchford, Memoirs of a Confederate Staff Officer: From Bethel to Bentonville, page 61, “Gen. Jackson, in all his campaigns, never planned a movement that gave greater promise of success than did the movement of Gen Hood at Spring Hill. Gen Hood said in his report that he gave Gen Cheatham positive orders in person, while in sight of the turnpike at Spring Hill, to attack the retreating enemy, and place his men across the pike. He said further that he sent staff officers to Cheatham several times after that, urging him to place troops across the pike to intercept the fleeing Federals. Maj Blanton and Maj Hamilton, both of Hood’s staff, each told me personally that he had carried the orders to Gen Cheatham. That grand old hero (Gen. Hood) died without ever defending himself, allowing the world to believe that he was responsible for the failure.”

Issue: Demeanor of the Confederate Troops Before the Battle of Franklin

In his April, 1893 article in Confederate Veteran magazine, S. A. Cunningham wrote,”…The soldiers were full of ardor, and confident of success. They had unbounded faith in General Hood, whom they believed would achieve a victory that would give us Nashville.”

Issue: Hood’s Demeanor Immediately Before the Battle of Franklin

S. A. Cunningham described Hood this way in the April, 1893 issue of Confederate Veteran magazine, standing near to Hood on Winstead Hill overlooking Franklin as Hood contemplated the attack…”While making ready for the charge, General Hood rode up to our lines, having left his escort and staff in the rear. He remained at the front in plain view of the enemy for, perhaps, half an hour making a most careful survey of their lines…He rode to Stephen D. Lee, the nearest of his subordinate generals, and, shaking hands with him cordially, announced his decision to make an immediate charge.” This doesn’t sound like a description of an enraged man.

A member of A.P. Stewart’s staff, B.L. Ridley, wrote in his 1906 publication, Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee, “It has been charged that he (Hood) gave the order to attack at Franklin because of chagrin at his failure at Spring Hill. This supposition does Hood great injustice. A Federal courier had been captured bearing dispatches between Thomas and Schofield of the Federal army. The tenor of the dispatches led Hood to believe that Franklin was not in a defensible position, and that therefore, as he expressed it, he thought his ‘time to fight had come’.”

In an article in the May 3, 1902 edition of the Atlanta Journal newspaper, Army of Tennessee veteran Dr. W. T. Burt, formerly of the 46th Georgia Infantry, quoted from his wartime diary of Hood’s final orders at Franklin, “General Hood’s last words to his generals were: ‘Now, go down to the work to be done and go at it’.” Burt mentions nothing about Hood being angry or enraged.

Issue: Words of Admiration For Hood

Pvt. Sam Watkins in Company Aytch:

He (Hood) was a noble, brave and good man, and we loved him for his virtues and goodness of heart.

We all loved Hood, he was such a clever fellow, and a good man.

Poor fellow, I loved him, not as a general, but as a good man.

Every impulse of his nature was to do good, and to serve his country as best he could.

General John B. Hood did all that he could. The die had been cast. Our cause had been lost before he took command. He fought with the everlasting grip of the bulldog and the fierceness of the wounded tiger. The army had been decimated until it was a mere skeleton…when he commenced his march into Tennessee.

Pvt. Sam Watkins’ epitaph for Hood in The Southern Bivouac 2 (May 1884):

But the half of brave Hood’s body molders here:
The rest was lost in honor’s bold career.
Both limbs and fame he scattered all around,
Yet still, though mangled, was with honor crowned;
For ever ready with his blood to part,
War left him nothing whole—except his heart.

Dr. Samuel Thompson, in Reminiscences of the 41st Tennessee, “Many, we know, will disagree with us, but we think to calmly and impartially view General Hood’s course we will be forced to accord to him abilities of the highest order and a military commander with but few superiors….What became of General Hood for the remainder of the war we do not know, but if he was removed for failure in Tennessee, he was treated very unjustly. That he did so, we believe was no fault of his. He failed simply because he had not men and supplies to contend with the immense force that was against him.”

Henry A. Morehead, 11th Mississippi, Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray, 1861 –1865, compiled by Miss Mamie Yeary, 1912, page 539, “Gen. Hood was a brave man, and while he never won the affections of his men as some other commanders did, we may say ‘Peace to his ashes,’ for he was a good soldier and a true Southern man.”

Major J. W. Ratchford of the Texas Brigade said of General Hood, “Few generals have possessed the warm personal love of their men as Hood did. This attachment was something different from any feeling I have ever known to exist between men and commander.”

English historian Percy Gregg called Hood “a splendid soldier peculiarly suited to the command of his reckless, daring and indomitable Texans…Commander and men alike…never knew when they were beaten, or when they must be.”

After Antietam, Hood was recommended for promotion to major general by General “Stonewall” Jackson, who wrote,” I respectfully recommend that Brig. Genl. J. B. Hood be promoted to the rank of Major General. He was under my command during the engagements along the Chickahominy, commencing on the 27th of June last, when he rendered distinguished service. Though not of my command in the recently hard fought battle near Sharpsburg, Maryland, yet for a portion of the day I had occasion to give directions respecting his operations, and it gives me pleasure to say that his duties were discharged with such ability and zeal as to command my admiration. I regard him as one of the most promising officers of the Army.”

Douglas Southall Freeman wrote of Hood in Lee’s Lieutenants, “There was about him some of the effulgence of the true captain of men. Anyone who had followed the operations of the Army after Gaines’s Mill would have said that of all the officers under Longstreet, the most likely to be a great soldier was Hood.”

Thomas Hay, in Hood’s Tennessee Campaign, “The strong force of Hood’s character yielded an influence that no oratory could command and he passed his days, after the war, refined by sorrow, purified by aspiration, strengthened through self-reliance, and made gentle by an earnest faith in things unseen. He was genial, generous, and indulgent toward others and severe to himself. His aims were prompted by noble desires and in politics his ideals for democratic action were high. With all his limitations, which he recognized, as well as his powers, he commands our admiration and respect.”

Col. Virgil Murphey of the 17th Alabama, who had been captured at Franklin and was being held in Nashville, wrote that when prisoners learned of Hood’s army advancing on Nashville, “About 300 Yankee bounty jumpers and prisoners in the yard yelled with delight and declared their readiness to rejoin Hood.”

Jefferson Davis, in The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, “General Hood was relieved at his reiterated request…and that it was in no wise due to a want of confidence in him on my part.”

Issue: Robert E. Lee Advised Against the Promotion of Hood

On July 12, 1864, Robert E. Lee telegrammed his reply to Davis’s request for an opinion: “…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.”

Issue: The Soldiers of the Army of Tennessee on Hood Replacing Joe Johnston

(Sam Watkins of the 1st Tennessee Infantry, author of the acclaimed memoir, Company Aytch, where Watkins stated, “It was the most terrible and disastrous blow the South ever received” when Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston with Hood. Historians state that this proves the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee hated Hood.)

Capt. Samuel Foster of Granbury’s Brigade wrote in his diary, One of Cleburne’s Command, “A circular from Gen. Johnston announces that he has been removed from command of this Army, and that Gen. Hood succeeds him…Gen. Johnston has so endeared himself to his soldiers, that no man can take his place.” Foster continued, “All over camp, (not only among Texas troops) can be seen this demoralization—and at all hours in the afternoon can be heard Hurrah for Joe Johnston and God D—n Jeff Davis…The noise and confusion was kept up all night…if Jeff Davis had made his appearance in this army during the excitement he would not have lived an hour.” Foster clearly states that the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee wanted nobody but Johnston.

Col. Virgil S. Murphey of the 17th Alabama wrote in his diary, “Our government had placed Hood in command, and as such I yielded to him my confidence and cordial cooperation.”

S. A. Cunningham wrote in Confederate Veteran magazine in April, 1893, “The removal of General Johnston, and the appointment of Hood to succeed him in command of the Army of Tennessee, was an astounding event. So devoted to Johnston were his men that the presence and immediate command of General Robert E. Lee would not have been accepted without complaint.”

Issue: Hood’s Movement to Nashville After Franklin

At West Point, all cadets, including Hood, were taught Napoleon’s Military Maxims. In nineteenth-century warfare, these were considered to be the most fundamental of military tactics. Napoleon’s Maxim Number VI states, “At the commencement of a campaign, to advance or not to advance is a matter for grave consideration; but when once the offensive has been assumed, it must be sustained to the last extremity. However skillful the maneuvers in a retreat, it will always weaken the morale of an army, because in losing the chances of success these last are transferred to the enemy. Besides, retreats always cost more men and materiel than the most bloody engagements; with this difference, that in a battle the enemy’s loss is nearly equal to your own–whereas in a retreat the loss is on your side only.”

Gen. U. S. Grant to Gen. George Thomas, Dec. 11, “If you delay attacking longer, the mortifying spectacle will be witnessed of a rebel army moving for the Ohio….” And Dec. 15, “I was just on my way to Nashville, but receiving a dispatch from Van Duzer, detailing your splendid success of today, I shall go no further.”

Issue: Reasons for the Tennessee Campaign

Jefferson Davis’s Nov. 30 reply to Gen. PGT Beauregard’s telegram of Nov. 24, “Until Hood reaches the country proper of the enemy, he can scarcely change Grant’s or Sherman’s campaigns.”

Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch, “No victory is possible without a vigorous commander, ready for responsibility, eager for daring enterprises, himself possessing, and inspiring in others, the determination and energy that will go through to the end. Nothing will be won without his personal action, based on will, judgment, and freedom of mind in midst of danger. These are the natural qualities of the gifted man, the born general…”

Thomas Hay, Hood’s Tennessee Campaign, page 21, “Even by the fall of 1864 the Southern people and their leaders were not prepared to admit that their task consisted in prolonging what had patently become nearly a hopeless defense. There was still a hope that a bold and aggressive campaign would splendidly retrieve the situation in the West and relieve the pressure on Lee’s embattled front. It was a desperate remedy for a desperate military and political situation, and Hood, by the logic of his appointment to command of the army in place of J.E. Johnston, was called upon to lead in this forlorn hope. That he came so near to success is a tribute to his indomitable faith and courage, and to the real ability played in a campaign that on several occasions put him within reach of victory.”

Thomas Hay, Hood’s Tennessee Campaign, page 69, “And yet a silent factor of no little importance, which undoubtedly influenced Davis in connection with his agitation for a movement into Tennessee, was the approaching Northern election. Lincoln was standing for reelection and for a vindication of his policies and conduct of the war, while McClellan and the Democrats, accused of being allied with the Southern sympathizing Copperheads, declared the war to be a failure and sought to replace Lincoln and his party in the Northern leadership. A bold stroke by Hood, even if uncompleted by election time, Davis probably felt would strengthen the opposition to the Lincoln government and might even force it from office and thus, it was hoped, lead to the opening of peace negotiations or of foreign recognition. Considering the uncertain state of Northern opinion at the time, as evidenced in the daily press, there is much to be said in favor of such an attitude on the part of Davis. A move by Hood into Tennessee would be positive rather than negative. The Confederacy had everything to gain and no more to lose than was actually lost. The existing political situation, in its foreign and domestic aspects, and the military situation both made such a move seem worth the trial.”

Jefferson Davis in Palmetto, Georgia on Sept. 26, 1864, “Be of good cheer, for within a short while your faces will be turned homeward and your feet pressing Tennessee soil.” In Augusta, Georgia, in the October 4 issue of the Augusta Constitutionalist newspaper as alluding to the Army of Tennessee’s “treading Tennessee soil” and “pushing on to the Ohio.”

In his Official Report on Jan. 30, 1865, Gen. S. D. Lee, “…It was my opinion that the Army should take up the offensive, with the hope that favorable opportunities would be offered for striking the enemy successfully, thus ensuring the efficiency of the Army for future operations.”

Gen. A. P. Stewart concurred, writing, “I deem it proper to say that after the fall of Atlanta the condition of the army and other considerations rendered it necessary, in my judgment, that an offensive campaign should be made in the enemy’s rear and on his line of communications.”

Gen. PGT Beauregard to Jefferson Davis, Augusta, Georgia, Dec. 6, 1864

To His Excellency, Jefferson Davis, President Confederate States.

…I did not countermand the campaign in Tennessee to pursue Sherman with Hood’s army for the following reasons:

1st. The Roads and creeks from the Tennessee to the Coosa River across Sand and Lookout Mountains had been, by the prevailing heavy rains, rendered almost impassable to artillery and the wagon trains.

2nd. General Sherman, with an army better appointed, had already the start about two hundred seventy five miles on comparatively good roads. The transfer of Hood’s army into Georgia could not have been more expeditious by railway than by marching through the country, on account of the delays unavoidably resulting from the condition of the railroads.

3rd. To pursue Sherman, the passage of the Army of Tennessee would, necessarily, have been over roads with all the bridges destroyed, and through a devastated country, affording no subsistence or forage; and, moreover, it was feared that a retrograde movement on our part would seriously deplete the army by desertions.

4th. To have sent off the most or the whole of the Army of Tennessee in pursuit of Sherman, would have opened to Thomas’s force the richest portion of the State of Alabama, and would have made nearly certain the capture of Montgomery, Selma, and Mobile, without insuring the defeat of Sherman.

…Under these circumstances, after consultation with General Hood, I concluded to allow him to prosecute with vigor his campaign into Tennessee and Kentucky, hoping that by defeating Thomas’s army and such other forces as might hastily be sent against him, he would compel Sherman, should he reach the coast of Georgia or South Carolina, to repair at once to the defense of Kentucky and, perhaps, Ohio, and thus prevent him from reinforcing Grant. Meanwhile, supplies might be sent to Virginia from Middle and East Tennessee, thus relieving Georgia from the present constant drain upon its limited resources.

Issue: Hood Undermined Johnston During the Atlanta Campaign

S. A. Cunningham wrote in Confederate Veteran magazine in April, 1893, “The removal of General Johnston, and the appointment of Hood to succeed him in command of the Army of Tennessee, was an astounding event. So devoted to Johnston were his men that the presence and immediate command of General Robert E. Lee would not have been accepted without complaint.”

On June 22, 1864, Johnston’s trusted subordinate, close confidant and corps commander Gen. William Hardee, wrote to Jefferson Davis, “If the present system continues we may find ourselves at Atlanta before a serious battle is fought.”

Another of Johnston’s corps commanders, Gen. A. P. Stewart, wrote to Davis’s military advisor Gen. Braxton Bragg on March 19, 1864, “Are we to hold still, remaining on the defensive in this position until (Sherman) comes down with his combined armies to drive us out?”

Issue: The Army of Tennessee Was Destroyed at Franklin and Nashville

In an April 10, 1865 letter to Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee detailed the manpower situation with the Army of Northern Virginia on its final retreat to Appomattox. Lee wrote, “At the commencement of the withdrawal of the army from the lines on the night of the 2d, it began to disintegrate, and straggling from the ranks increased up to the surrender on the 9th. On that day, as previously reported, there were only seven thousand eight hundred and ninety-two (7892) effective infantry. During the night, when the surrender became known, more than ten thousand men came in, as reported to me by the Chief Commissary of the Army. During the succeeding days stragglers continued to give themselves up, so that on the 12th April, according to the rolls of those paroled, twenty-six thousand and eighteen (26,018) officers and men had surrendered. Men who had left the ranks on the march, and crossed James River, returned and gave themselves up, and many have since come to Richmond and surrendered.” Twenty thousand of Hood’s 31,000 troops arrived in Tupelo after the Nashville retreat, and the Army of Tennessee is commonly described as having been destroyed during the Hood’s campaign. Since only 7,900 of the 35,000 troops that evacuated from Richmond and Petersburg were on hand at Appomattox, should it be said that Robert E. Lee destroyed the Army of Northern Virginia during its final campaign?

Private Sam Watkins’ in Company Aytch, page 209, “…more than ten thousand had stopped and allowed themselves to be captured.” (On the retreat from Nashville.)

Dr. Samuel Mims Thompson in Reminiscences of the 41st Tennessee, “It is true that we were sadly repulsed at Nashville. But he (Hood) brought off the larger portion of the army with Quartermaster, Commissary, Medical and Ordnance trains.”

S. A. Cunningham in Reminiscences of the 41st Tennessee wrote of the epidemic of desertions during the retreat from Nashville, “By this time nearly all the Tennesseans were gone home. They either had written furloughs or took French leave (deserted).”


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