The author speaks out on his work: Texas Brigadier to the Fall of Atlanta: John Bell Hood

TexasBrigadierEvery Civil War historian hopes that her/his work will add a few nuggets to the literature. Here’s a candidate from my recent book, Texas Brigadier to the Fall of Atlanta: John Bell Hood (Mercer University Press, 2019).

In Stephen M. Hood, ed., The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood (2015) is the letter of General Polk’s widow to Hood, dated June 10, 1874: “I presume I have to thank you for a copy of the Times containing the second of your well discussed strictures on Gen. Johnston’s book.” (She was referring to Joe Johnston’s Narrative of Military Operations, which came out in the spring of 1874.)

Hmmm…which Times?

I guessed the New Orleans Times; Hood was living in the Crescent City, and a little rooting about led me to the paper. Then I contacted the Howard-Tilton Library at Tulane University, and learned that in its Louisiana Research Collection it had the Times of the 1870s—but only in original issues, not on microfilm, much less digitally; I’d have to come to NOLA to see them. Just then, Charles Nunez and the New Orleans Civil War Round Table invited me to speak. (See how the stars and the firmament of heavens were aligned for me?) I flew in early that day, Charles dropped me off at the library and sure enough, starting in May 1874, I found on the front page of the Times issue for May 10, “Gen. J. B. Hood’s Reply to Certain Statements Contained in Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s Book.” WOW! A second article appeared on May 31—the article Mrs. Polk had mentioned.

No historian, not even Hood biographer Richard McMurry, had discovered Hood’s several articles in the New Orleans Times (which blasted Johnston’s book, by the way, especially its narrative of the Atlanta Campaign, which Hood laboriously contradicted). I didn’t find any other “Reply” articles in June issues of the Times. Hood inserted his first and second ones into the middle of his memoir, Advance and Retreat (1880), with still more “Reply” text—my guess is that Hood had written more articles, but after publication of the first two saved them for the memoir he was already working on.

When Stephen Hood complains that the “Reply” chapters in in A & R read like a polemic, I want to say, Sam, they read like a polemic because Hood wrote them as a polemic.

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[Editor’s Note: The raves are in for Steve’s new book. Michael Harrington, in Civil War News, compliments Davis’ “encyclopedic knowledge of the Atlanta Campaign.” Drew Wagenhoffer, editor of Civil War Books and Authors, has written that Davis’ work is “among the finest overall accounts of the Atlanta Campaign,” and that it is “worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Albert Castel’s classic study,” Decision in the West (1992).]

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2 Responses to The author speaks out on his work: Texas Brigadier to the Fall of Atlanta: John Bell Hood

  1. The archives at Tulane are just fantastic. I really enjoyed reading through their collection of Civil War letters that were confiscated during the Union occupation. So cool that you were able to find that! Thank you for sharing!

  2. stephendavis says:

    Sheritta: I thank Sean Benjamin of the Library in my acknowledgements. You’re so right–they way cool!

    St.

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