Childhood & Early Life
John Bell Hood was born on June 1, 1831, in Owingsville, Kentucky, to John Wills Hood and Theodosia French Hood. He was a cousin of future Confederate general G. W. Smith and a nephew of US Representative Richard French. His father was a doctor who disapproved of his choice to pursue a military career.
His uncle French helped him get appointed at the United States Military Academy, where he faced near-expulsion in his final year with 196 demerits out of the permissible 200. Nevertheless, he ranked 44th out of 52 and graduated in 1853.
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After graduation, John Bell Hood was appointed as brevet second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Infantry and served at Fort Jones, California, before getting transferred to 2nd U.S. Cavalry in Missouri in 1855. He served under Col. Albert Sidney Johnston and Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee. Later, the unit moved to Texas.
On July 20, 1857, while fighting against the Comanches at Devil's River, Texas, he was severely injured by an arrow passing through his left hand. His bravery earned him the position of a first lieutenant in August 1858. In 1860, he declined to serve as the chief instructor of cavalry at West Point.
Continuing his services at Texas, he resigned from the US Army in April 1861 and was appointed as the cavalry captain in the Confederate army. He was then promoted to the colonel of the 4th Texas Infantry Regiment.
In March 1862, he became the brigadier general in command of the Texas Brigade during the Peninsula Campaign. His brigade successfully opposed the Union force during the Battle of Eltham's Landing. On June 27, 1862, during the Battle of Gaines' Mill, he led his brigade in a charge to break the Union line.
On July 26, 1862, he became the permanent division commander and his command was assigned to a division in General James Longstreet’s corps. He led his division bravely during the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862 and at the Battle of Antietam, in which he lost fifty percent of his division.
On October 10, 1862, he was promoted to become the youngest major general in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. After his distinctive performance in the Battle of Fredericksburg, his division participated in Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, in which he got a crippling wounding on his left arm.
He rejoined Longstreet’s corps which went to assist General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at the Western Theater. He led a charge at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, and while fighting, critically injured his right leg which was amputated. He was then promoted to lieutenant general for his bravery.
In the spring of 1864, he returned wearing an artificial leg to join General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Tennessee that was preventing General William T. Sherman’s advances toward Atlanta. When Johnston’s strategic withdrawal strategy proved futile, President Jefferson Davis replaced him with Hood.
After being temporarily promoted to full general, he aggressively launched four major attacks on Sherman’s forces - Battles of Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, Ezra Church, and Jonesborough. All failed with significant Confederate casualties and on September 2, 1864, he evacuated the city of Atlanta.
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During the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, he was unsuccessful in trapping General John M. Schofield’s Army of Ohio and in a fit of rage, he sent his men to break the fortified Union barrier, which resulted in several casualties in an attack that is often referred to as ‘Pickett's Charge of the West.’
Unwilling to back down, he attempted to lay siege on the city with his battered army. In mid-December 1864, at the Battle of Nashville, General George H. Thomas attacked and conquered Hood’s army, inflicting severe casualties.
After being decisively defeated, on January 23, 1865, he was relieved from his command at his own request. He was later sent to Natchez, Mississippi, where he surrendered in May 1865 to Union forces.
After the war, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he worked as a cotton broker and insurance agent. He later served as the president of the Life Association of America.
He wrote his memoir, ‘Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies,’ which remained unpublished.
Family & Personal Life
In 1868, John Bell Hood married Louisiana native Anna Marie Hennen and had eleven children with her, including three pairs of twins.
In 1878, due to the yellow fever epidemic, his insurance business collapsed.
On August 30, 1879, he died of yellow fever shortly after the deaths of his wife and eldest daughter, Lydia, due to the same disease, leaving his other ten children orphaned. His surviving children were later adopted by caring families.