Did Gen. John Bell Hood not learn any military lessons from the past?

Psr77777

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It's interesting that on July 2nd at Gettysburg Maj. Gen. Hood came to Gen. Longstreet and proposed a flank attack on Big Round Top to go around the Union left.during the Altanta campaign Hood observed Gen
Sherman' successful flank attacks on Gen. Jonhston' army.
Yet on Nov 30 1864 at the Battle of Franklin when Ge. Nathan Bedford Forrest proposed a flanking attack on Gen. Schofield he rejected and instead ordered a disastrous frontal assault. Did he not learn any military lessons from the past?
 

Luke Freet

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It's interesting that on July 2nd at Gettysburg Maj. Gen. Hood came to Gen. Longstreet and proposed a flank attack on Big Round Top to go around the Union left.during the Altanta campaign Hood observed Gen
Sherman' successful flank attacks on Gen. Jonhston' army.
Yet on Nov 30 1864 at the Battle of Franklin when Ge. Nathan Bedford Forrest proposed a flanking attack on Gen. Schofield he rejected and instead ordered a disastrous frontal assault. Did he not learn any military lessons from the past?
Oh boy, this is actually a hard ball you've thrown us. Hard to really answer well.
Here's my stance: Hood didn't do a flanking manuever at Franklin because he had already attempted the exact same thing yesterday, with better conditions...and his army failed him. Spring Hill is one of the most spectacular failures made by a Confederate army in the whole war; the Confederate troops sat around waiting for an order to assault, letting the enemy army pass in the night as they sat along the road. Hood knows that Schofield wants to retreat north towards Nashville. If he moved in force to cross the Duck River and make that flanking march, he'd face worst results, as the enemy would expect just that. He wanted to remove Schofield's army, and he believed it was the only significant Union force in the state (not knowing that Thomas had 16th Corps and other forces marshalling in Nashville). Thus, he gambled, given the poor positioning of Wagner's division, that his men could carry the work and destroy 4th and 23rd Corps along the Duck River Bend. Of course, that gamble failed. But there was a higher chance for success than one gives credit for.
 

Joshism

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Yet on Nov 30 1864 at the Battle of Franklin when Ge. Nathan Bedford Forrest proposed a flanking attack on Gen. Schofield he rejected and instead ordered a disastrous frontal assault. Did he not learn any military lessons from the past?

Hood didn't believe his army had time to cross the river and get at Franklin's rear. Not his flanks, which were securely anchored on a river that could only be forded in a few places.
 

Coonewah Creek

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Or...you can believe some of Hood's major detractors and conclude that he thought Joe Johnston had ruined the offensive spirit of the AoT by fighting them from behind breastworks during the Atlanta Campaign...that, and the fact that the failure to carry out his orders at Spring Hill angered him beyond reason. He concluded his Army needed to be "disciplined." Thus, the suicidal frontal assault was ordered at Franklin.

You can "pay your nickel and take your choice"...
 

Jamieva

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It's interesting that on July 2nd at Gettysburg Maj. Gen. Hood came to Gen. Longstreet and proposed a flank attack on Big Round Top to go around the Union left.during the Altanta campaign Hood observed Gen
Sherman' successful flank attacks on Gen. Jonhston' army.
Yet on Nov 30 1864 at the Battle of Franklin when Ge. Nathan Bedford Forrest proposed a flanking attack on Gen. Schofield he rejected and instead ordered a disastrous frontal assault. Did he not learn any military lessons from the past?

he didn’t have time the sunset before 5 pm because of the battle being in mid December
 

Luke Freet

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Or...you can believe some of Hood's major detractors and conclude that he thought Joe Johnston had ruined the offensive spirit of the AoT by fighting them from behind breastworks during the Atlanta Campaign...that, and the fact that the failure to carry out his orders at Spring Hill angered him beyond reason. He concluded his Army needed to be "disciplined." Thus, the suicidal frontal assault was ordered at Franklin.

You can "pay your nickel and take your choice"...
This is pretty discreditted. There is a lot of anger directed towards Hood by the soldiers for what he did at Franklin, and they tried to wrapped their head around what happened by saying that Hood needlessly threw their lives away out of spite.
I'd rather make arguments in good faith about the individuals involved. Hood was obsessed with offensive action, but to say that this pushed him to "punish" the army, one with limited resources operating late in the war, unable to replace losses, like he's some sort of Soviet era officer, is just bollocks to me.
 

Nytram01

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It's interesting that on July 2nd at Gettysburg Maj. Gen. Hood came to Gen. Longstreet and proposed a flank attack on Big Round Top to go around the Union left.during the Altanta campaign Hood observed Gen
Sherman' successful flank attacks on Gen. Jonhston' army.
Yet on Nov 30 1864 at the Battle of Franklin when Ge. Nathan Bedford Forrest proposed a flanking attack on Gen. Schofield he rejected and instead ordered a disastrous frontal assault. Did he not learn any military lessons from the past?

Having allowed the Federals to escape at Spring Hill, Hood had to attack them at Franklin to have any hope of preventing them from linking up with Thomas and dooming his campaign. A frontal assault against an entrenched enemy was far from ideal, but it may have been that Hood felt there was not time to organize a flank attack or else that he lacked the confidence in his subordinates to execute it - he had been critical of many of them since the Atlanta Campaign, and blamed Cheatham for the Spring Hill debacle - and so considered a frontal assault the best of the options available.
 

Coonewah Creek

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This is pretty discreditted. There is a lot of anger directed towards Hood by the soldiers for what he did at Franklin, and they tried to wrapped their head around what happened by saying that Hood needlessly threw their lives away out of spite.
I'd rather make arguments in good faith about the individuals involved. Hood was obsessed with offensive action, but to say that this pushed him to "punish" the army, one with limited resources operating late in the war, unable to replace losses, like he's some sort of Soviet era officer, is just bollocks to me.
Well, on this one I'm afraid we'll just have to "agree to disagree." I've done paid my nickel and made my choice. I think I've tried to be fair and have read much of the Hood apologist literature. I'm still not convinced. I certainly respect your opinion however.

Cheers!
 

Rhea Cole

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The answer is not that Hood did not learn from the past. In fact, he had learned lessons of the past all too well. During Hood’s long recovery from his wounds at Gettysburg & Chickamauga the nature of Civil War infantry tactics changed dramatically.

Where Hood saw cowardly behavior, CW infantrymen saw digging in at every halt essential for survival. The tactics Hood had learned from Lee fighting green soldiers & officers belonged to another era.

At Gettysburg, every single one of Lee’s set piece attacks failed. Not a single one of them, including the cavalry, even came close to achieving their objectives. Hood was a victim of one of those failed attacks, thus did not have the opportunity to learn the hard lesson that steady soldiers hunkered down behind earthworks were all but invulnerable.

Hood had not learned the lessons of the present. The overwhelming superiority of the defense over the offense was not broken until 1941. Tanks, flamethrowers, automatic small caliber weapons, radios & aircraft weren’t even objects of fantasy in 1863. Hood only knew how to do one thing & it was the wrong one.
 

Luke Freet

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The answer is not that Hood did not learn from the past. In fact, he had learned lessons of the past all too well. During Hood’s long recovery from his wounds at Gettysburg & Chickamauga the nature of Civil War infantry tactics changed dramatically.

Where Hood saw cowardly behavior, CW infantrymen saw digging in at every halt essential for survival. The tactics Hood had learned from Lee fighting green soldiers & officers belonged to another era.

At Gettysburg, every single one of Lee’s set piece attacks failed. Not a single one of them, including the cavalry, even came close to achieving their objectives. Hood was a victim of one of those failed attacks, thus did not have the opportunity to learn the hard lesson that steady soldiers hunkered down behind earthworks were all but invulnerable.
You are correct in many ways. For one, Hood only experienced three major battles in 1863: Gettysburg and Chickamauga. Both battles were offensive in nature, and the latter resulted in a local victory on Hood's front, and an overall tactical victory. Hood seemed to have begun grumbling about the quality of the AoT due to his experience there, chastising the "spirit" of the troops there (though most of this was chiding from the well uniformed AoNV troops towards the poorly equipped AoT troops whom they have heard little positive news from during the conflict). Chickamauga may have changed Hood's mind about frontal assaults, as (due to a complete coincidence) such an attack won the day on September 20th.
Chickamauga is often glossed over in Hood's story, as Hood was unable to write an action report due to his wounding, and he spoke little of the battle in his unfinished, extremely defensive memoirs. But I get the impression its what eventually lead to what happened on November 30th.

Hood had not learned the lessons of the present. The overwhelming superiority of the defense over the offense was not broken until 1941. Tanks, flamethrowers, automatic small caliber weapons, radios & aircraft weren’t even objects of fantasy in 1863. Hood only knew how to do one thing & it was the wrong one.
I'd say more 1940, with the Fall of France is when that paradigm really shifted.
 

Irishtom29

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I'd say more 1940, with the Fall of France is when that paradigm really shifted.

I think 1918, when the Brits got it all together--they used new infantry tactics based around the Lewis squad machine gun and developed a coordination of infantry, artillery, armor and air support---the Brits were very good at the new practice of air support of infantry. The British army of 1918 was the first modern army.

Note the riflemen of this British infantry squad carry magazines for the Lewis gun.

21082BC9-878C-4B9D-930D-6F7A22512643.png
 

Rhea Cole

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There is a bit of a misunderstanding about bypassing Franklin with the goal of surrounding the Union forces there. A good hard look at the map shows that getting around Franklin to cut off Slocum was not going to be physically possible. Slocum had no intention of staying in Franklin a minute longer than he had to. He had already forwarded miles of wagons, heavy artillery & other assets toward Nashville. If Hood had delayed a few hours, he would have found the Franklin works abandoned. The pass through the ridges toward Nashville via the Nolensville Pike was directly east on the all weather Franklin Pike. It was physically impossible for Hood's infantry to beat Slocum to the Triune crossroad during the few hours of daylight that were left.

Hood's intention of inflicting a defeat in detail to Thomas' force was a rational one. There is no question about that. What no serious military historian questions is Hood's mental state. How rational was his thinking? There is no evidence that Hood had any intel beyond the position of Slocum's men behind the works in front of Franklin. As always, from the time Hood ordered the attack it took hours for the army to assume their position. Forrest's worn out & jaded horses were incapable of making a sweep into Slocum's rear, so no fresh intel was available.

Anybody today can stand on Winsted Hill in the very position where the Army of the Tennessee deployed. What they beheld was a treeless expanse of cotton fields. The dire tactical situation was obvious to everybody. The veteran Yankees squinting back into the setting sun never seriously considered an attack likely. It was too late in the war for crazy moves like that. One man & one man only looked at that open approach & gave the order to advance. Whatever convoluted mental process had brought Hood to that moment, there is no reason to believe that he did not know that the men he was ordering forward were going to suffer terribly. What the point of that was is something I prefer not to think about.
 
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Rhea Cole

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Didn't Hood's Texas brigade successfully charge entrenched troops, including artillery, at Gains Mill in 1862?

John
He was not attacking dug in veterans, many of whom were armed with repeaters. In any case, Lee lost about 8,000 with 1,500 killed… Hood should have learned a lesson from that.

By contrast, Rosecrans learned from the repulse of CSA attacks at Corinth, Iuka & Stones River. He never sacrificed his men in a CSA style banzai attack.
 

Cavalier

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It is my impression that Hood's attack was successful and that the ANV won the battle of Gains Mill.

I think Porter lost 4000 in killed and wounded and 3000 missing, per my memory which could be faulty). If I recall Lee significantly outnumbered Porter so the Confederate losses don't seem unreasonable for troops attacking an opponent in very defenceable terrain with a good amount of artillery and good fields of fire. And I would think the 5th. Corps in 1862 would have been as veteran as their Confederate opponents. Just opinions though.

But, on the issue of repeating firearms, do we know what percentage of Union troops that had them? I ask because they would only be a factor if they were present in significant numbers wouldn't they?

Were not troops attacking entrenched opponents up until the war ended?

John
 
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Joshism

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It is my impression that Hood's attack was successful and that the ANV won the battle of Gains Mill.

Hood's attack was the breakthrough at Gaines Mill, albeit after several failed attacks by other units.

Porter's line was along Boatswain Swamp, a curving wooded creek with a plateau behind it. Union artillery on the plateau could not provide close fire support. It was a sharp contrast to the wide open battlefield at Franklin, surrounding most of the Peach Orchard, and in front of Cemetery Ridge.

It's worth noting that the assaults at Gaines Mill were not the original plan. Porter's right was in the air and Lee was occupying Porter's attention while Jackson turned his flank. Problem was Jackson was very tardy so Lee felt he had no choice but to make frontal attacks instead.
 

Rhea Cole

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Hood's attack was the breakthrough at Gaines Mill, albeit after several failed attacks by other units.

Porter's line was along Boatswain Swamp, a curving wooded creek with a plateau behind it. Union artillery on the plateau could not provide close fire support. It was a sharp contrast to the wide open battlefield at Franklin, surrounding most of the Peach Orchard, and in front of Cemetery Ridge.

It's worth noting that the assaults at Gaines Mill were not the original plan. Porter's right was in the air and Lee was occupying Porter's attention while Jackson turned his flank. Problem was Jackson was very tardy so Lee felt he had no choice but to make frontal attacks instead.
“… so Lee felt he had no choice but to make frontal attacks…” is exactly the lesson Hood should have learned from Gaines Mill.
 

Coonewah Creek

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Didn't Hood's Texas brigade successfully charge entrenched troops, including artillery, at Gains Mill in 1862?

John
OK...I have a bit of a "nit to pick" with the assertion that Hood's Texas Brigade broke Porter's line at Gaines Mill. While I count myself as one of the top fans of the Texas Brigade, at Gaines Mill unless one is also willing to share credit for the breakthrough with Law's Brigade, I have a problem.

In my understanding of the breakthrough at Gaines Mill, it went something like this. Piecemeal attacks against Porter’s center and left had only resulted in heavy Confederate casualties and units being repulsed or pinned down. The rear of the Confederate lines became so chaotic and confused that entire units trying to move forward against the Federals became separated and lost in a sea of human flotsam – wounded and stragglers. Whiting’s Division was the last to arrive on the battlefield. It made its way to a position behind A. P. Hill, just to the right of the Confederate center. As the sun was beginning to fade from view, Lee ordered Whiting forward against the entrenched Federals.

When Colonel Law received the order to advance , he moved out with his brigade in two lines. In the front line was the 11th​ Mississippi on the left and 4th​ Alabama on the right. In the rear line was the 2nd​ Mississippi and 6th​ North Carolina, respectively. The Texas Brigade formed on Law’s left, also in two lines. Hood’s first line contained, from left to right, Hampton’s Legion, the 5th​ Texas, and 1st​ Texas, with the 18th​ Georgia and 4th​ Texas in the second line.

After the advance began, General Hood apparently saw that a gap was developing between Law’s right and the left of Brigadier General George E. Pickett’s brigade of Virginians who were moving forward with Law. Hood took personal command of the 4th​ Texas and maneuvered it across Law’s rear to fill the gap. Apparently some of the men of the 18th​ Georgia also followed the Texans.

So, if we assume Hood led the demi-brigade (4th Texas and [part of] the 18th Georgia) and personally broke Porter's line with just these men, then fine, I'll go along with that. Personally I think we must give Law some credit also as I doubt just the 4th Texas and part of the 18th GA were enough to punch through the line (I'm willing to be proven wrong). The majority of the Texas Brigade (1st Texas, 5th Texas, and Hampton's Legion) were deployed to Law's left. That is my reasoning behind the fact that if you give the Texas Brigade credit for the breakthrough at Gaines Mill, you must be willing to share the credit with Law's Brigade (unless you're willing to give full credit to Hood's demi-brigade for the breakthrough).

Now to get back to the discussion point at hand, I agree with some others and think that Hood learned the wrong lesson at Gaines Mill.
 

Rhea Cole

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OK...I have a bit of a "nit to pick" with the assertion that Hood's Texas Brigade broke Porter's line at Gaines Mill. While I count myself as one of the top fans of the Texas Brigade, at Gaines Mill unless one is also willing to share credit for the breakthrough with Law's Brigade, I have a problem.

In my understanding of the breakthrough at Gaines Mill, it went something like this. Piecemeal attacks against Porter’s center and left had only resulted in heavy Confederate casualties and units being repulsed or pinned down. The rear of the Confederate lines became so chaotic and confused that entire units trying to move forward against the Federals became separated and lost in a sea of human flotsam – wounded and stragglers. Whiting’s Division was the last to arrive on the battlefield. It made its way to a position behind A. P. Hill, just to the right of the Confederate center. As the sun was beginning to fade from view, Lee ordered Whiting forward against the entrenched Federals.

When Colonel Law received the order to advance , he moved out with his brigade in two lines. In the front line was the 11th​ Mississippi on the left and 4th​ Alabama on the right. In the rear line was the 2nd​ Mississippi and 6th​ North Carolina, respectively. The Texas Brigade formed on Law’s left, also in two lines. Hood’s first line contained, from left to right, Hampton’s Legion, the 5th​ Texas, and 1st​ Texas, with the 18th​ Georgia and 4th​ Texas in the second line.

After the advance began, General Hood apparently saw that a gap was developing between Law’s right and the left of Brigadier General George E. Pickett’s brigade of Virginians who were moving forward with Law. Hood took personal command of the 4th​ Texas and maneuvered it across Law’s rear to fill the gap. Apparently some of the men of the 18th​ Georgia also followed the Texans.

So, if we assume Hood led the demi-brigade (4th Texas and [part of] the 18th Georgia) and personally broke Porter's line with just these men, then fine, I'll go along with that. Personally I think we must give Law some credit also as I doubt just the 4th Texas and part of the 18th GA were enough to punch through the line (I'm willing to be proven wrong). The majority of the Texas Brigade (1st Texas, 5th Texas, and Hampton's Legion) were deployed to Law's left. That is my reasoning behind the fact that if you give the Texas Brigade credit for the breakthrough at Gaines Mill, you must be willing to share the credit with Law's Brigade (unless you're willing to give full credit to Hood's demi-brigade for the breakthrough).

Now to get back to the discussion point at hand, I agree with some others and think that Hood learned the wrong lesson at Gaines Mill.
A friend of mine has an interesting angle on this. He compares Lee & Grant to quarterbacks & Hood to a fullback. If full backs were calling the plays it would be counter plays between the tackles every time. It is simplistic, but it does resonate.

This isn’t my sand box, but didn’t Hood loose the usual 30-40% in that attack? The profligate loss of NCO & officer talent was unsupportable.
 
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