EDITOR’S NOTE: ECWer Stephen Davis has had published the second volume of his study of Confederate General John B. Hood’s generalship in 1864. This piece is from his second volume, released this past autumn by Mercer University Press.
After the fall of Atlanta, President Davis created a “super-department” in the western theater (as he had done in late ’62, with Joe Johnston as commander). This time he put G. T. Beauregard in charge, with authority to coordinate the operations of Hood’s Department of Tennessee and Dick Taylor’s Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana.
Davis personally conveyed his idea of a “Military Division of the West” in visits with both generals in September 1864. Hood quickly agreed. (He feared he would be relieved when the president visited him at Palmetto, Ga.).
But Hood, as it turned out, didn’t like having a new boss, and he showed it in several ways during the next few months. After Beauregard assumed command on October 17, Hood did not go through him to communicate with Taylor at Montgomery, which chain of command would require.
Hood even lied to Taylor on October 20: “I have not seen General Beauregard,” although he very much had ten days before in northwest Georgia.
Hood refused to keep Beauregard informed of his movements, angering the Creole as he sought to meet up with Hood in north Alabama. When Bory finally caught up with Hood at Decatur on October 27, he “cautioned him anew, in a more pointed manner, against the irregularities of his official proceedings” (Roman, 1884).
Then, when Beauregard, through his adjutant, Col. George Brent, asked for a written statement of his planned advance into Tennessee, Hood was short and evasive in his reply.
Hood also refused to go through Beauregard in his communications with Richmond.
On October 30, after Brent asked for a report on Hood’s activity from early September to date, Hood answered that he had been too busy and sick to comply.
[Roman: Hood “began to chafe under the supervision exercised over him by General Beauregard”; the Creole even complained to Richmond on November 6.]
On December 11, after Franklin and before Nashville, Hood wrote a report and sent it directly to Richmond, with only a copy to his superior officer. Beauregard’s endorsement, once he got it: “General Hood does not seem to understand that he is responsible directly to these Headquarters, and not to the War Department.”
After Nashville, on December17 Hood telegraphed Seddon and Beauregard from Spring Hill about his defeat. But because of the rickety telegraph system, Colonel Brent in Montgomery didn’t receive it. December 25: “I have nothing official from Hood.” The 27th: “No intelligence yet from Hood.”
By December 27 Hood had retreated back across the Tennessee River. Brent and Beauregard were already hearing rumors of Hood’s disaster at Nashville. More, through Northern newspapers, officials in Richmond were reading about Thomas’ massive victory.
Beauregard to Cooper, Dec. 27: “I have no advices whatever from that quarter, and…am apprehensive some reverse may have occurred.”
Brent to Bory, Dec. 29: “No tidings yet from General Hood.”
A frustrated Beauregard, then in Charleston, notified General Cooper in Richmond that he was going to travel to Hood’s army at Corinth to find out for himself. Before he left, he asked President Davis on December 31 if he could relieve Hood of command—and this, without his having heard officially from Hood about his disastrous campaign. (Davis answered yes on January 2.)
Meanwhile Hood continued his evasion, responding to Brent’s request for an update by referring him to his dispatch sent from Spring Hill on December 17.
Beauregard to Brent, January 7: “Order General Hood, in writing, to make report of his operations from Tuscumbia to Nashville, and back to Tupelo. I have telegraphed him to same effect.” (Hood did not write the requested report.)
Sensing he was about to be fired, on January 13 Hood asked to be removed from army command. Seddon quickly accepted, so when Beauregard arrived at Tupelo on the 15th, he was relieved that he would not have to issue the pink slip.
CONCLUSION: it was not so much his disastrous Tennessee Campaign that brought down Hood, so much as his effort to conceal from Beauregard and Richmond the extent of his army’s collapse.