Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Yankee on Hood

Steven Vincent Benet once wrote that General John Bell Hood was "All lion, none of the fox." Indeed, Hood was a fighter of the most gallant stripe, but as the quote indicates, not the most tactically sharp knife in the drawer. He again and again demonstrated his preference for offensive action. At Gaines' Mill in 1862, it had succeeded. At Antietam in the "bloody cornfield" he drove the Yankees. However, at Kolb's Farm, at the battles around Atlanta, and dreadfully at Franklin, Hood's dash proved disastrous.

When Hood was given command of the Army of Tennessee in July 1864, not only his charges took notice, the enemy did as well. Sergeant Fenwick Y. Hedley of the 32nd Illinois Infantry wrote about the Northerners reaction to the Confederate change in command:

"There was a camp story to the effect that, on receiving the news of Hood superseding Johnston, General Sherman called a council of officers, who had known the new Confederate commander personally, in order to learn something of his character. Several officers, who had been classmates with General Hood at West Point, expressed themselves in various ways, pertinent and otherwise; but the climax was reached when an old Kentucky colonel remarked that he 'Seed Hood bet twenty-five hundred dollars, with nary a p'ar in his hand!' This anecdote convinced all that such an exhibition of nerve was good evidence of the fighting qualities of the new commander. However this may be, Sherman was satisfied that the change of commanders betokened more vigorous measures, and made his dispositions accordingly, sending notice of the fact to every part of the army, and notifying his subordinates to be prepared, at all times, for sharp and unexpected battle. The troops grasped the import of Hood's appointment with as quick intelligence as the officers, and expressed great satisfaction with the assignment, regarding Hood as a hot-headed fellow, who would butt his brains out against their entrenchments, thus shortening the campaign and the war."

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