The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood, Stephen M. Hood

The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood, Stephen M. Hood

General John Bell Hood is one of a long line of controversial Confederate generals of the American Civil War. His official papers have been available for many years, but his private papers disappeared after his death. They were recently discovered to have been in the hands of his descendants, who have allowed a selection of them to be published.

I prefer it when this sort of archive is allowed to speak for itself, but that isn't always the case here. The editor of these papers deliberately sets out to improve Hood's reputation, leaving a question mark over their choice of items and their interpretations. The fundamental problem with this sort of effort is that Hood's efforts as an army commander ended as costly failures. His attempts to attack Sherman outside Atlanta failed, and he was forced back onto the defensive. His invasion of Tennessee did end in the defeat and virtual destruction of his army. While it might be possible to restore his personal reputation, his military failures speak for themselves. The section on Hood's memoirs is particularly prone to circular logic - providing letters from people who agreed with Hood doesn't automatically mean that they were correct - former Confederate officers fought a much longer series of civil wars amongst themselves after the conflict, and you can almost always find sources to support every side in any argument! Providing the originals of letters that Hood used as his sources proves that he wasn't being deliberately dishonest, but not that his views were correct. 

These documents do help dispel some of the myths that attached themselves to Hood, in particular regarding the impact of his loss of his leg, and the stories that he was addicted to drugs or alcohol. There are some fascinating snippets amongst these letters. It is clear that Hood and Sherman ended up as friends after the war, not entirely uncommon amongst former foes. On the other hand several of his ex-Confederate correspondents were clearly hoping for 'round two', and keep hinting that a fresh civil war couldn't be far off! This is certainly a useful collection of primary sources for those interested in the Atlanta campaign and its aftermath, as well as for any biographer of Hood. 

Chapters
1 - John Bell Hood: Son and Soldier
2 - Dr John T. Darby's Medical Reports Concerning Hood's Wounds Suffered at Gettysburg and Chickamauga
3 - Hood's Promotions
4 - The Atlanta Campaign
5 - The Cassville Controversies
6 - Confederate War Strategy in the West After the Fall of Atlanta
7 - Spring Hill, Franklin, Nashville
8 - Army of Tennessee Troop Strength Calculations
9 - The Wigfall Letters
10 - John Bell to Anna Hood Letters
11 - Miscellaneous Letters
12 - Advance and Retreat: The Credibility of Hood's Memoirs
13 - The Hood Orphans
Appendix - Laudanum, Legends and Lore

Author: Stephen M. Hood
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 312
Publisher: Savas Beatie
Year: 2015


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