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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: FORT HOOD AND GENERAL HOOD

Wednesday, November 18, 2009



Like so many other Americans, I spent many hours in front of my television taking in the commentary that followed the tragedy of November 5 in which a terrorist went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood in Texas and murdered more than a dozen of our great military personnel while wounding more than two dozen others. Many of the brave dead were still quite young and just beginning their adult lives. I felt great sadness for those who were killed and their families left behind who can only wonder ,"Why?".

Unlike many of the millions who followed the reporting of this sad event, however, I had thoughts of a far different nature than they, I'm sure. I had thoughts of another tragedy that occurred roughly 150 years ago and lasted 4 years during which far more were killed and wounded and many more were affected for generations to come. My thoughts turned to the invasion of the South by military forces of the federal government and the tragic struggle that followed which resulted in more than 600,000 deaths of military personnel on both sides and even more wounded with many suffering the loss of limbs or their sanity. Countless hundreds of thousands of civilians were also victims of this invasion. Those not suffering loss of their own life generally lost family members and, frequently, their home, possessions and future.

I was reminded of these things because Fort Hood, the largest U.S. military installation in the country, is named for Confederate general John Bell Hood.

I found it interesting that throughout all the TV coverage that I watched, this fact was rarely mentioned. In fact, the only network that I saw mention this was Fox News Channel. Fox had a scroll across the bottom of the screen during one broadcast I was watching which stated that the installation was named for General John Bell Hood and identified him as a Confederate general. Kudos for Fox! In fairness, I've got to mention that I rarely watch any network for news other than Fox, although I did switch around a bit to get the flavor of the reporting. If any of you reading this happened to notice any other news network (CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC) mentioning this fact, please email me with this information.

The fact that a major U.S. military installation is named for a Confederate hero is really not all that unusual. Other major facilities in addition to Fort Hood include Fort Benning, Georgia, named for General Henry Benning; Fort Polk, Louisiana, named for General Leonidas Polk; Fort Bragg, North Carolina, named for General Braxton Bragg; Fort Gordon, Georgia, named for General John B. Gordon; Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, named for General A.P. Hill and Fort Lee, Virginia, which is named, of course, for General Robert E. Lee. Interestingly, the major helicopter post in the country, Fort Rucker, Alabama, is named for a Confederate COLONEL, Edmund Rucker.

I like to mention all this to the occasional "PC know-it-all" who challenges me with the silly statement that "all Confederates were traitors". After mentioning these forts and explaining that it is not the policy of the U.S. Military to name installations for traitors, I always challenge these types to locate any U.S. military installation named for Benedict Arnold. 'Nuff Said.

Well, now that you know that Fort Hood is named for General John Bell Hood, let me tell you a bit about the man. John Bell Hood was one of only eight Confederates to reach the rank of full general (equivalent to 4-star). Bear in mind that during the course of the War there were 425 men who would become general officers of the Confederacy. Of these, 328 would be appointed to the rank of brigadier general; 72 would become major generals; 17 would reach the rank of lieutenant general and only 8would attain the rank of full general.

Of these eight full generals (those who would command an army as opposed to a corps, division or brigade), John Bell Hood was the youngest. He had just reached the age of 33 when he was promoted to full general in July 1864. By the way, the other seven full generals of the Confederacy were Albert Sidney Johnston, Joseph E. Johnston, Braxton Bragg, Samuel Cooper, Pierre G.T. Beauregard, Edmund Kirby Smith and, of course, the magnificent Robert E. Lee. Of these eight, all had field commands during the War except for Samuel Cooper who served as both Inspector General and Adjutant General throughout the conflict which made him the ranking general officer of the Confederate Army, outranking even General Lee.

John Bell Hood was born in Owingsville, Kentucky, on June 1, 1831. He graduated from West Point in the Class of 1853. He served in the U.S. Army in both California and Texas. While serving on the Texas frontier, he came to the attention of his commander, Lt. Colonel Robert E. Lee, who thought highly of the young Hood.

Hood remained in the U.S. Army until April 17, 1861 when he resigned his commission as a 1st lieutenant. He immediately joined the Confederate Army and began a meteoric rise through the ranks. He distinguished himself as a fighter on many fields of combat and was promoted to the rank of brigadier general on March 3, 1862. He led the "Texas Brigade" at Gaines Mill, Second Manassas and Sharpsburg. He was promoted to major general on October 10, 1862 and commanded a division under General James Longstreet. He performed admirably at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg but was wounded severely at the latter and lost the use of his left arm.

Moving south, he commanded Longstreet's Corps at Chickamauga but was again injured severely and lost his right leg. For his admirable and distinguished service he was promoted to lieutenant general on February 1, 1864. He was assigned to a corps under General Joseph E. Johnston but assumed command of the Army of Tennessee when General Johnston was relieved of his command. Hood was promoted to full general on July 18, 1864.

General Hood's health had deteriorated badly and because of his two severe injuries he had to be strapped to his horse to ride. He was also having to take heavy doses of medication for the pain he was experiencing. He still directed the Army during the Atlanta campaign before marching his forces into Tennessee.

His army suffered shattering defeats at Franklin and Nashville for which General Hood received severe criticism from some quarters. Because of the criticism and his poor health, he was relieved of his command at his own request in January 1865 and reverted to his permanent rank of lieutenant general where he served under General Beauregard until surrendering in May 1865.

There is no doubt that General Hood was a superior commander at the brigade and division level and this competence was directly responsible for his rapid advancement through the ranks. His troops set standards to which other units aspired.

Because of the defeats in the Atlanta campaign to a far larger and better supplied army and the tragedies that occurred at Franklin and Nashville which were blamed on him, General Hood has been cast in an unfavorable light by some historians. I think this is unfair. By the time he assumed command of the Army of Tennessee, the inevitability of the outcome of the struggle was almost beyond doubt. The fighting forces of the South were worn paper thin and the supply lines were shattered. The struggle had been gallant but could not be maintained without fresh troops and resources which were not forthcoming.

I have long believed that General Hood's reasoning in Tennessee and his ability to make tactical decisions were greatly affected by the laudanum and other strong drugs he had to take to combat the pain he was experiencing. I have a great deal of admiration for General Hood based on his fighting spirit and his outstanding record during the first three and 1/2 years of the War. He gave all he had and then some. I think the decision by the U.S. Military to name Fort Hood in his honor was a wise and praiseworthy one.

After the War, John Bell Hood retired to New Orleans but, sadly, died at the young age of 48 in the yellow fever epidemic that swept the city. He is buried in Metairie Cemetery, very appropriately not far from the graves of General P.G.T. Beauregard and General Richard Taylor - two other stalwarts of the Confederacy.


Bob Hurst is a Southern Patriot who belongs to a number of historical, heritage and ideological organizations. He has a special interest in Confederate history. He also serves as Commander of Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Tallahassee and 2nd Lt. Commander of the Florida Division, SCV. He can be contacted at or 850-878-7010.


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