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gallant hood

The Life of Gallant Hood

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They called him, “Gallant Hood,” and the name stuck. Born a Kentuckian, on June 1, 1831, he became a Texan, by choice and the Lone Star State took to Her heart this young man who knew one plan of battle, “attack”, and one word of order to his troops, “charge!” 

He was the third son and fifth child of Dr. John W. and Theodocia Hood; the grandson of old Indian fighter Luke Hood. He entered West Point in 1849, graduating in 1853 and was immediately sent West where, as a young Lieutenant he fought in several Indian engagements. In one such engagement at Devil’s River, Texas he was severely wounded. 

On April 16, 1861, Hood resigned from the U. S. Army and joined the Confederacy at Montgomery, Alabama. Hood reported to McGruder on the Yorktown Peninsula and was almost immediately made a Major put in charge of the Calvary. The troops were then being fashioned from raw recruits into soldiers . . . and no action was forthcoming at this beginning stage of the war. For the restless and combative Hood, this was unbearable; he was determined to fight Yankees .. . . and he did! Taking a small detachment of Cavalry, he rode north in the night and flushed a large patrol of Yankee Calvary. Driving them into a dense thicket. Hood and his men charged them, killing some, taking many prisoner. It was a typical Hood attack: he went in with guns blazing and shot it out. He was praised by Lee and promoted to Colonel.

Then, from Texas, came fifteen hundred young adventurers, looking for a fight with the Yankees. They were farmers, ranchers, cowboys and here and there a trigger-happy gunman. They had good American names from Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee and dotted through them were such renowned gunmen as Dock Cantrell, Jesse Denton, Ike Noble and Sim Mathews. These Texans Hood understood, and they in turn understood him.

Except for the almost fanatical response of Forrest’s brigade to the leadership of “Old Bedford” there appears to have been no brigade in the Confederacy in which there was greater esprit du corps than in Hood’s Texas brigade. 

Thus it was formed; the famous Texas Brigade, led by John Bell Hood, who could whip any one of them in a fist fight; who never ordered but always said, “Come, let’s charge . . .. I’ll lead you.” The Texas Brigade began its story . . . written in blood and guns and fierce, wild charges against foes five times their strength in numbers. Until they forced from the reticent, quiet lips of the great Robert E. Lee, these words, “No Yankee has ever seen the backs of Hood’s Texas Brigade.”

Ordered to Eltham’s Landing to “fell out” the enemy, Hood and his brigade were surprised by a much superior force of Federals, who came down upon them from the left. Caught in a flanking movement, Hood gave the only command he knew to give when in trouble: “Charge!” Charge they did, and completely routed a Yankee force twice their numbers. Then came Seven Pines, where Hood was called into flanking action, and his men stood against superior numbers and shot it out, in typical Hood style. The Yankees could not stand against the gun slinging Texans. At Gaines Mill, Federal General McClellan had over fifty thousand troops in perfect position: above and behind them on a hill they had artillery, on the sides of the hill, behind breastworks and in trenches was his infantry, before him was a creek, a swamp and then a long open field, across which the Confederates must charge. It was across this field that Confederate A. P. Hill’s men charged, and dashed themselves to pieces against the terrible cannonade of Yankee artillery, then, D. H. Hill’s men charged, and fell by hundreds before they could reach the Federal lines. Unless the Federal lines could be broken. . . all was lost. General Lee called on Hood: “This must be done,” Lee said quietly, “Can you break this line?” Hood replied, “I will try.” Hood had boasted he could double quick his men to the gates of Hell and never break the line. Now everyone would know whether his was an idle boast or not. It was almost sundown when the brigade advanced, the line sweeping forward in sight of the enemy. Across the open field they came toward the Yankees. Hood at their head . . . as men dropped from their ranks, they quickly closed up . . . and continued . . . stepping across row on row of fallen Southerners. At the creek, they were given orders to fix bayonets, and then the command was roared back to them by Hood, “Charge!” Down into the creek ravine they wallowed under the deadly spittle of the belching artillery on the hill. Up on the other side they came and with the terrible rebel yell, attacked the first line of Yankees with cold steel. The line wavered, then broke running back on the second line of Yankees, who also broke under the terrific charge . . . up the hill they routed as the Confederates poured a deadly fire into their ranks: to the top of the hill swept the Confederates, into the mouth of the Yankee artillery . . . and routed that too. Through the gap poured the gray uniforms. Hood had broken through! Promoted to Brigadier General, he continued his hard-charging technique at Sharpsburg and received a promotion to Major General. At Rappahannock and Second Manassas, Hood rose to heights ascended by few men. At Gettysburg, his left arm was mangled and rendered useless, and at Chickamauga, where he led his men, pouring through the Yankee lines, his leg was shot off. Hood could have retired to peace, or to the relative peace of staff, but he would not; he was first, last and always, a combat officer.

Promoted to Lieutenant General, Hood was dispatched to service under Johnston, where he fumed and fretted, as Johnston retreated toward Atlanta before the forces of Sherman. The Army of Tennessee, with its back to the wall before Atlanta, had a change of commanders… Johnston was replaced by Hood. Sherman inquired of Schofield as to Hood’s character. Answered Schofield, “Hood is bold even unto rashness and courageous in the extreme… he will fight.” And fight he did, lashing at Sherman with the ragged, starved troops at his command… fighting with cold steel when bullets and powder were not forthcoming in the rapidly decreasing supplies of the Confederacy. But Hood was forced from Atlanta, and as the clouds of defeat darkened over the Southland, Hood took his Army across Northern Alabama and into Tennessee, determined to fight to the end.

With only 25,000 men, he struck the Yankees at Franklin in the bitter cold, his barefooted men flinging themselves against the breastworks and dying by the thousands. They had not eaten in ten days; with no shoes, ragged uniforms and virtually no ammunition, they hurled themselves again and again at the enemy in what historians declare to be the most unselfish and fierce charge in military annals. Then… the inevitable. 

On a dreary, cold, rainy night in late December 1864, a gaunt emaciated figure in the uniform of a full Confederate General, slumped wearily on the camp chair in his tent pitched by the side of the road near Nashville. His left arm dangled useless at his side… his right leg was a stump. His head was bowed in grief and despair, and great tears ran down his long face into his flowing beard. John Bell Hood had reached his end. Were it not for Forrest’s men covering the rear of his army, the Federals would probably be upon him… but the Yankee had an almost superstitious fear of “Old Bedford” and they kept their distance. That was the Army that swarmed out of the mists at Shiloh in 1862 and struck with such ferocity that it drove the Yankees cowering to the protective banks of the Tennessee. It bathed its wounds at Bloody Pond… and saw night and death snatch victory from its perch on her banners. Hood resigned his command, but characteristically he did not give up. He determined to go to Texas to raise more men… but Appamatox surrender caught him on the banks of the Mississippi… where he was captured. “The Gallant Hood’s” career was at an end. His tears were for his land, and his people. Everything he owned, he had given. He had spent his youth, his strength and his heart… and he left behind him a heritage for the coming generation of Southerners… a chapter of courage, gallantry and unselfishness surpassed by none, equaled by few.

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Great photo, great story. We need men like him now more than ever.

Source: The Southerner Magazine, August 1956
Author: Asa Carter (1925-1979)
Asa Carter was a great man.

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