Did Hood Scheme His Way to Army Command?

OldReliable1862

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As a primarily Western theater buff, I "met" John Bell Hood as the half-disabled Lieutenant General, rather than the dashing brigade commander. The concept of Hood in the West is typically that he was a man promoted above his competence, and worse, helped bring about his superior's downfall to become commander of the Army of Tennessee.

However, what's the evidence in favor of this, and the evidence against?
 
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jackt62

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Hood would not be the first CW commander of either side to be promoted beyond his abilities. That being said, Hood was certainly pushing for higher command, and he was fortunate to enlist Jefferson Davis to his cause. And Hood did use that connection to open a second channel of communication to complain about Johnston during the Georgia/Atlanta campaign. Hood was a capable and aggressive brigade, division, and corps commander but the competencies necessary for army command (broad strategic and tactical thinking, logistic and administrative effectiveness) were not necessarily traits that were Hood's strong points. Lee was well aware of these deficiencies in Hood and gave a diplomatically phrased response to Davis, when asked about Hood's qualifications to lead the AoT. Let's also remember that by June 1864, the bench of possible army commanders was meager. Other possible contenders such as Hardee, had run afoul of Bragg, who wielded much influence with Davis in selecting a replacement for Johnston. I personally believe that relieving Johnston as AoT commander was a huge error on the part of Davis.
 

Jamieva

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Hood grew close to Davis while he was in Richmond recovering from his Gettysburg wound in the winter of 63/64. As others said, once he was placed in corps command in the AoT, he started corresponding directly with Davis about the situation as the campaign went on. But, I will say in Hood's defense, this was the norm for the AoT because Polk had engaged in similar behaviors for over a year.

His corps command performance was mixed at best.
 

Luke Freet

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Hood had excellent troops some of the best at both brigade and division command that always helps.
eh...I don't rated Hindman very highly. Stevenson was rather mediocre. Stewart stood out but was a very rigid type. Hindman's division was pretty solid in terms of its brigades and their commanders; Stevenson more middling; and Stewart had some great ones like Gibson and Clayton, but also had Baker (who from what I've gleaned from Chastel was a constant drunkard, though I have not read many other sources on the campaign and Chastel deemed Deas in Hindman's division as incompetent, which from all I can gather he was not).
The Army of Tennessee was a much uglier beast than the Army of Northern Virginia. It wasn't as well equipped in terms of weapons or clothing; most of the men wore stolen Union soldier's pants, as they had nothing else better. From what I've gleaned, Hood tried to have his corps and later the army try to fight like AoNV did, but this did not work given the "character" of the army.
 

Lubliner

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I can't help but look at this from the point of view at the beginning. I just happen to be reading a soldier's journal about the Texas brigade; First, Fourth, and Fifth: https://archive.org/details/hoodstexasbriga00poll/page/40/mode/2up which is 'Hood's Texas Brigade' by author J. B. Polley.

On page 27, "At the time he was promoted to generalcy, Archer ranked him by seniority, and was thus entitled to the promotion in preference to Hood."

He also states on page 20; "In the meantime, Wigfall had resigned his commission of brigadier-general, and to fill the vacancy thus created, President Davis promoted Hood to the rank of Brigadier and assigned him to the command of the brigade."
Davis claimed the right to appoint commanders.

Page 18; "In preparations for active operations in the field, there was a general shifting about of commands....In October 1862, Hood was made a major-general of a division composed of Law's, the Texas, Benning's, and Anderson's brigades."

He was known to be impetuous from the beginning. Meet him here and you may have a better understanding of the overall competence of General Hood.
Thanks,
Lubliner.
 

John S. Carter

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Hood would not be the first CW commander of either side to be promoted beyond his abilities. That being said, Hood was certainly pushing for higher command, and he was fortunate to enlist Jefferson Davis to his cause. And Hood did use that connection to open a second channel of communication to complain about Johnston during the Georgia/Atlanta campaign. Hood was a capable and aggressive brigade, division, and corps commander but the competencies necessary for army command (broad strategic and tactical thinking, logistic and administrative effectiveness) were not necessarily traits that were Hood's strong points. Lee was well aware of these deficiencies in Hood and gave a diplomatically phrased response to Davis, when asked about Hood's qualifications to lead the AoT. Let's also remember that by June 1864, the bench of possible army commanders was meager. Other possible contenders such as Hardee, had run afoul of Bragg, who wielded much influence with Davis in selecting a replacement for Johnston. I personally believe that relieving Johnston as AoT commander was a huge error on the part of Davis.
There is one question that no one has asked; If not Hood then who? Who else did the war department have to command the the army of the West? It seem as thought it was ''this general could not do the job so we give this general the opportunity to prove how much of the army he can loose."This command was one of favoritism not of ability,no one would replace Ms.Lee even after Gettysburg.Lee was in command of the ANV and as long as he in was in the field he would remain.Davis had the other army and he placed whoever pleased and complimented him that would be his commander.Was there any general that could have made any difference in the outcome in the West.There seem to have been instilled in this army a desire to avoid any offensive move and yet when it went defensive this resulted in grand losses if not defeat ,DEFEND became the password -defend Vicksburg.defend Knoxville,Defend Chattanooga,Defend Atlanta,and finally even Lee with Defend Richmond.They became castles of the war with the armies entrapped behind trenches.As with Hood his defense was to offer up his army on the alter of continuous failure,Not even Lee could have altered the fate of this army.The sadness is the human loss and the hardship that this strategy brought.As long as Lee fought Davis would continue the war regardless who commanded the army.of the West ;so ,if not Hood who At what point should Hood had been released ,?Should he had fought in the Washington mood of small battles or like the Roman general who fought Hannibal by avoiding direct battle one of endurance?Let the cities be taken but remove war ordnance like Starlin did against Adolph and the turn suddenly and give battle.but the South did not have that freezing weather.Hood allowed his emotions to direct his planning,that is wrong even for a lt.Personal feelings of a Captain Quid is not good,So Hood is replaced does this better the Confederates chances?Hood caused a loss of military at Franklin losses that he could not afford compare to the Northern.It is accepted now ,that even it both armies Hood and Lee and united the outcome would have been extended war ,more losses and the same outcome,Lee and Grant would have met on a different ground ,The Day that Dixie Died was at Franklin and not Richmond.
 
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Not sure how one distinguishes between scheming for personal command and advocating for an active defense of Atlanta.

The case for the latter rightfully had to be made IMO.
 

Lubliner

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Actually when I think about it, these generals, if they had any couth needed to use a bit of diplomacy in stating their desires and designs on higher command. I remember to begin with Johnston was very adamant concerning seniority with Lee at the beginning of the war. So in dealing with such a brazen personality, I would think Hood had to use a bit of 'finesse' in dealing with the general while communicating with President Davis.
Lubliner.
 

OldReliable1862

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Not sure how one distinguishes between scheming for personal command and advocating for an active defense of Atlanta.

The case for the latter rightfully had to be made IMO.
I don't think anyone is making that claim, at least as far as I know. The thread is discussing the claim that Hood supposedly undermined Johnston and ingratiated himself with Davis and Bragg to advance himself.
 
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I don't think anyone is making that claim, at least as far as I know. The thread is discussing the claim that Hood supposedly undermined Johnston and ingratiated himself with Davis and Bragg to advance himself.
However it does coincide with the fact an active defense of Atlanta needed to be made, which it was increasingly looking like JJ wouldn't make.......so again would seem rather hard to separate the two
 

OpnCoronet

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I think that to the degree that Hood undermined Johnstons conduct of his dense of Atlanta, Hood did undermine Johnstons position as commander of the AoT.

As to Hoods generalship, Lees comments to Davis as to his ability to one cannot do better than command the AoT. But, the fact that Davis chose Hood despite Lees only lukewarm approval, argue, to me, that those deficiencies cited by Lee were not those that Davis felt were required of the next commander of the AoT for its success.

Hoods main complaint, I gather, was that Johnston was continually giving up defensible positions which a more active commander might have at least prolonged the AoTs retreat. It is certainly true, IMO, that by the time Hood received the command in the outskirts of Atlanta, all the good defensible position in the Mtns of Northern Ga., from which to better fight effectively had already been given up.
 

jackt62

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I think that to the degree that Hood undermined Johnstons conduct of his dense of Atlanta, Hood did undermine Johnstons position as commander of the AoT.

Hood was said to have corresponded with Davis during the period from Dalton to the outskirts of Atlanta, in which Hood criticized aspects of Johnston's leadership. During Hood's convalescence in Richmond after his wounding at Chickamauga, he got close to Davis who befriended him. So given the lack of available candidates to take over from Johnston, it's no wonder that Davis chose Hood, despite Lee's lukewarm endorsement.
 

A. Roy

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The concept of Hood in the West is typically that he was a man promoted above his competence, and worse, helped bring about his superior's downfall to become commander of the Army of Tennessee.

However, what's the evidence in favor of this, and the evidence against?

I think this correspondence is fairly well-known, but here's an excerpt from Hood's letter to Bragg on 14 July 1864:

"During the campaign from Dalton to the Chattahoochee River it is natural to suppose that we have had several chances to strike the enemy a decisive blow. We have failed to take advantage of such opportunities, and find our army south of the Chattahoochee, very much decreased in strength. Our loss cannot be less than 20,000, without having fought a decisive battle ... Our present position is a very difficult one, and we should not, under any circumstances, allow the enemy to gain possession of Atlanta, and deem it excessively important, should we find the enemy intends establishing the Chattahoochee as their line, relying upon interrupting our communications and again virtually dividing our country, that we should attack him, even if we should have to recross the river to do so. I have, general, often urged that we should force the enemy to give us battle as to almost be regarded reckless by the officers high in rank in this army, since their views have been so directly opposite. I regard it as a great misfortune to our country that we failed to give battle to the enemy many miles north of our present position..."

(Source: OR, Vol 38, Chap 50, pp 879-880)

Roy B.
 

jackt62

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There is one question that no one has asked; If not Hood then who?

Good question without a satisfactory answer. The problem must be seen in the larger context of the Confederate government lacking a unified and consistent military strategy and command. Davis insisted on being the supreme warlord rather than appointing a general-in-chief of the southern forces. (That did finally happen with Lee in February 1865, much too late to make a difference.) Consequently, the southern military effort was hobbled by Davis' personal likes and dislikes of individuals (think Lee, Polk, Bragg, Hood, Pemberton vs. Johnston, Beauregard) regardless of their specific abilities or defects. This also led to the creation of individual military "fiefdoms," in particular that of Lee, whose Virginia-centric focus led to scarce resources and manpower being deployed in a narrow front of operations.
 

JeffBrooks

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Hood asserted to Bragg and Davis that he (Hood) had been the only voice in the AoT high command to advocate for a more aggressive policy against Sherman's forces during May, June, and early July of 1864. This was blatantly false. It was Hood, and not Johnston or Hardee, who had been the most strident in advocating an abandonment of the Cassville line (a move that bewildered Sherman). He also suggested that Hardee had been in favor of retreating, when there was nothing in the actual record to suggest that this was true. Basically, Hood knew that Davis wanted an aggressive policy and told Davis what he wanted to hear. In doing so, he treated both Johnston and Hardee in an unfair and dishonorable manner.
 

Nytram01

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At the very least, John Bell Hood knew exactly what he was doing when he met with Braxton Bragg and Joseph Wheeler near Atlanta to catalogue the ways Jospesh Johnston had failed, and how Hood would have persued a different and more aggressive strategy in his place.
 

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