Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Hood Offered Kentucky His Service First

John Bell Hood is often noted in history as a Texan, largely because he gallantly led the famous Texas Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia. But, in fact, Hood was a Kentuckian. Born in Bath County and raised in Montgomery County, Hood first offered his military services to his native state.

Hood somehow graduated in 1853 after a less than distinguished career of study at West Point. Hood's academic struggles were witnessed by his class ranking; he finished 44th in a class of 55.

After West Point Hood went in the regular army. He served in California on garrison duty and in Texas fighting Indians. In one engagement Hood, who would prove to be a magnet for projectiles during the Civil War, was shot through the left hand by an arrow.

When the Southern states started to secede Hood was still in Texas, but instead of offering his talents to his current state he wrote to Kentucky's governor Beriah Magoffin and offered to serve his native state first.

On January 15, 1861, Hood wrote from Camp Wood, Texas, apparently thinking Kentucky would be going out of the Union too. "I see that dissolution [of the Union] is now regarded as a fixed fact. And that Kentucky will have an important part to perform in the great moment. I hereby have the honor to offer my sword & services to my native state. And shall hold myself in readiness to obey any call the Governor of said state may chose to make upon me. I was reared in Montgomery County Ky. where my family now live, and was educated at West Point."

Just a little more than a week later Hood wrote again to Governor Magoffin, again sure that Kentucky would either join the Confederacy or maintain a position of neutrality. "In offering my services to the State of Kentucky, I fear I was not explicit enough. And have the honor to explain my position more fully. I am still an officer of the Army, and so long as my State remains in the union, I feel it my duty to continue as such. But when Kentucky leaves the union to form some other association of States, or if to remain alone, it is my desire to serve her in either case, as I do not wish to be an officer of a government to which my native State must be of necessity be regarded as a foreign power. So when Kentucky leaves the union, I shall, with the greatest pleasure obey any call from the governor of said State."

Like many other Southerners though, Hood got caught up in secession fever after Fort Sumter and President Lincoln's subsequent call for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion. Hood did not wait for Kentucky's decision, which would not come until September 1861, instead he resigned his position in the U.S. army and traveled to Montgomery, Alabama and offered his services to the Confederacy.

During the Civil War he received both his fair share of promotions and severe wounds. Hood eventually became a lieutenant general and lost the use of his left arm from a grievous Gettysburg wound and lost his right leg to amputation at Chickamauga. However, his commitment to his cause and country proved stronger than his injuries. He could not be kept from command. Hood went on to lead reckless offensives in the Atlanta campaign and finally wrecked his army at the battles of Franklin and Nashville in a failed attempt to recapture Tennessee. After the war Hood became involved in business in New Orleans and died from yellow fever in 1879, leaving ten orphaned children.

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