Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Just Finished Reading - Hood's Texas Brigade

During (and following) the Civil War, some regiments and brigades achieved legendary status. The Stonewall Brigade, the Iron Brigade, the Irish Brigade, and certainly Hood's Texas Brigade, among a few others, stand out for their fighting ability. 

In Hood's Texas Brigade: The Soldiers and Families of the Confederacy's Most Celebrated Unit, author Susannah J. Ural examines these westerners who fought primarily in Gen. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia to try to explain why they were so extraordinary. Ural is able to credit the Texans' effectiveness to several factors. 

First, from early on, the brigade identified themselves with the Confederate cause. Most of the men (or their parents) and their families had moved to Texas as the United States was expanding. Many had benefited from the institution of slavery and the success it brought them socioeconomically through agricultural pursuits. When war came in 1861 with the secession of the Lone Star State, a rush to arms filled the ranks of what would be the core of the Texas Brigade (1st, 4th, 5th infantry regiments). 

Secondly, there was a strong bond between the officers and enlisted men in the brigade. Several attempts were made to install officers in regiments against the enlisted men's wishes, which created difficult situations and several officers' resignations. Once acceptable officers were placed, unit morale soared. The officers took care of the men as best they could and the men fought as as hard as they could for their officers. 

Thirdly, the men demonstrated a commitment to a growing reputation and showing that Texans were the best troops in the Army of Northern Virginia. Instead of staying in the Trans-Mississippi or Western Theater, these Texans believed that the war would be fought and won in Virginia and desired to be where they could make the greatest impact. 

And fourthly, the Texans had a tremendous support structure back home. The soldiers' families back on the plains, plantations, and pine woods of East Texas were as committed as the soldiers themselves to attaining Confederate independence. 

That final point is where this book, in my opinion, surpasses several other unit histories. As the subtitle suggests, Ural takes time to tell the stories of the soldiers' families on the home front and how their encouragement sustained the men in the most difficult times. Through high battle casualties, disease, and periodic supply shortages, the solders could always rely on the home folks. This support system contributed toward reduced desertion figures for the Texans as compared to many other units. 

Hood's Texas Brigade provides historians with an excellent example of how unit history should be written. Getting to know the Texas Brigade inside and out helps us better understand why so many Confederates went to such great lengths in their efforts for independence. I highly recommend it.


  1. I will put this one on my list. Lee often used the Texans as his storm troopers. Proud that Hood was a native of Kentucky.