On the afternoon of September 20, Maj. Gen. John Bell Hood went down with a gunshot wound to the leg while rallying his troops. Let me throw out something that will be intentionally provocative: Was the shot that took out Hood the gunshot that led to the downfall of the Confederacy?
This appears on page 115:
The sudden appearance of [Federals] also sent [Bushrod] Johnson’s brigades into a panic, and a virtual stampede started across the Dyer field as men raced for the safety of the woods on the eastern side.
Seeing this, Gen. John Bell Hood rode in among the men of his old brigade. He grabbed the flag of his old regiment, the 4th Texas, and tried to rally his men—all the while still receiving fire from Harker’s men, who had now stopped at a fence line along a patch of woods a short distance to the north. Among his milling men, holding the flag and the reins of his horse with his disabled arm, Hood made an excellent target. He soon went down with a gunshot in his right thigh. Any hope of keeping the Texans in the fight now disappeared. They picked up their beloved commander and made their way to the rear.
Hood stayed in the West to recover from his wound even as the rest of his fellow Easterners from Longstreet’s First Corps went on to other assignments. During his convalescence, he was promoted to lieutenant general; he also struck up a friendship with Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
That combination of factors put Hood in a position to take over for General Joseph Johnston when Davis became too dissatisfied with Johnston’s defensive strategy in the summer of 1864. Hood, far more offensive minded, threw his outmanned army against Sherman’s superior forces outside Atlanta, thus losing the city; he did the same against Thomas at Franklin and Nashville later that fall. Historians have long criticized Hood–perhaps justly, perhaps not–for destroying the Confederacy’s main Western army.
If one buys the argument that, militarily, the war was won in the west (as I do), then one has to consider the loss of the Army of Tennessee as a major reason for that. That, therefore, requires an examination of Hood’s behavior as commander of that army. And how did Hood get promoted to command of the first place…?
Now that I’ve put that little earworm in your head, here’s another, different take: Check out Stephen Hood‘s new biography, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General. Taking advantage of Hood’s lost personal papers (the first time anyone’s had access to them), Stephen Hood explodes a lot of the common myths about his collateral ancestor.