John Bell Hood & the Civil War: Quotes, Facts & Biography

Instructor: Matthew Hill
John B. Hood was a Confederate cavalry officer known for his aggressive fighting skills. However, he nearly annihilated the Army of Tennessee and he lost his command.

Roots of a Soldier

John B. Hood was a brilliant cavalry commander that was haunted by humiliating defeat late in his career. Hood was born in June 1831 in Owingsville, Kentucky. His father was a doctor and did not want Hood to join the army. Hood did though and graduated from West Point in 1853 though he finished 44th out of 52 graduates. Robert E. Lee was the superintendent at the time and nearly expelled Hood for rule violations. After graduation, he served in both California and Texas. While on patrol at Fort Mason in Texas, he was shot through the left hand by a Comanche raid. This was his first of many injuries he would obtain. In 1860, he turned down a position as chief instructor of the cavalry at West Point, in order to remain field active. When the Civil War broke out, Hood joined a Texas regiment. Today, Fort Hood in Texas is named after him.

John B. Hood
Photo of John B. Hood

Early Campaigns and Arrest

Hood first saw major fighting in the Peninsula Campaign in the spring and summer of 1862. At the Battle of Gaines Hill in June, Hood won accolades as a calvary commander for his tough resistance when his cavalry punched a hole in the Union line. He was rewarded with a division command under James Longstreet's First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. His successes quickly continued. At the Battle of Second Bull Run in August, he completely routed General John Pope by smashing through his left flank.

In a strange incident in September 1862, Hood had captured several ambulances in a recent battle. General Nathan 'Sharks' Evans, who outrank him, ordered Hood to transfer his ambulances to him. Hood refused, and Evans had Hood placed under arrest, but Hood was reinstated by Robert E. Lee. Given that his Texas Brigade was known for its terrifying and fearsome fighting, it was no wonder Lee reinstated him.

Battle of Antietam
Battle of Antietam

Antietam and Gettysburg

At the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, Hood reinforced Stonewall Jackson's division. Hood's unit fought a violent duel in a cornfield against Joseph Hooker that helped stall Union advances. Hood's division suffered nearly fifty percent casualties, but he was still promoted to Major General. This made him the youngest of that rank in the Army of Northern Virginia. Hood then joined Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee ordered Hood to launch an assault on Emmitsburg Road and attack the Union left flank, but Hood argued that it was impossible given his troops would come under heavy fire at Devil's Den which was a boulder lined cliff. As Hood himself put it: 'After this urgent protest against entering into battle at Gettysburg according to instructions - which protest is the first and only on I ever made during my entire military career - I ordered my line to advance and make the assault.' Lee overruled his objections, and during the assault, his left arm was damaged by shrapnel fire. His arm remained useless the rest of his life. Hood was sent to Richmond Virginia to recuperate.

Photo of Devils Den at Gettysburg
Photo of Devils Den at Gettysburg

The Battle of Chickamauga

After he had recovered, he joined Longstreet in the western theater at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. He exploited a mistake in the Union line and was promoted to lieutenant general for his actions. He soon suffered an even worst injury than before. This time, he was shot in the leg, and his right leg was amputated. Hood embraced the idea of sacrifice. As he stated: 'I knew that if the feat was accomplished it must be at a most fearful sacrifice of as brave and gallant soldiers as ever engaged in battle.' To nurse his injury, Hood reported again in Richmond, where he became friends with Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Battle of Chickamauga
Battle of Chickamauga

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