General John Bell Hood... A Summary...

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

rbasin

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jan 31, 2013
Messages
2,547
Location
Tampa, Fl
I would certainly agree that Johnston became an enemy during and after the war, but there has been the birth of a misconception concerning Hood's relationship with Cheatham in the last few years.

Cheatham was in fact recommended for promotion to Lieutenant General on more than one occasion by Hood prior to the failure at Spring Hill. Hood saw Cheatham as a competent, reliable subordinate - and never had to recommend him for promotion. That changed however on the night of November 29, 1864. Hood arrived with the majority of his infantry at 4 p.m. in the vicinity of Spring Hill. The sun set at 4:30. Cheatham quickly deployed his troops and commenced an attack, but as the action increased, the sun sank, and due to a failure of Hood communicating orders to one of Cheatham's subordinates, the opportunity to seize the pike passed with darkness.

Hood had failed. He - however - was reluctant to accept the responsibility and chose his lead commander to take the fall. This is something that Cheatham was never made aware of until the army was in front of Nashville. Hood had sent two telegrams to the War Department. The first was sent on the 7th of December that read, "I withdraw my recommendation in favor of the promotion of Major General Cheatham for reasons which I will write more fully." That was the entirety of that telegram. The next morning, Hood sent another telegram that read, "A good Lieutenant General should be sent here at once to command the corps now commanded by Major General Cheatham. I have no one to recommend for the position." That was the entirety of the second telegram.

However, later in the day, Cheatham - after hearing rumors that the general was displeased with him - went to Hood's headquarters at the John Overton House. What exactly was said there will never be known, but at the end of the meeting, Cheatham apparently left under the impression that all was well. Hood had in fact left him that impression, and had even written him a note similar to the one he gave Stewart absolving him of any blame for the failure at Spring Hill.

Lastly, the third telegram that Hood sent was apparently sent immediately following his meeting with Cheatham. This telegram stated, "Major General Cheatham made a failure on the 30th of November, which will be a lesson to him. I think it best he should remain in his position for the present. I withdraw my telegrams of yesterday and to-day on this subject."

To me, this is like when testimony in a trial has to be struck, and the jurors are told to forget what they just heard. Ridiculous... huh?

Three days later, on December 11th, Hood wrote a letter to Secretary Seddon that stated:
"Major General Cheatham has frankly confessed the great error of which he was guilty, and attaches much blame to himself. While his error lost so much to the country, it has been a severe lesson to him, by which he will profit in the future. In consideration of this, and of his previous conduct, I think that it is best that he should retain, for the present, the command he now holds."

From my many moons of researching Cheatham and Hood on this specific subject, I can unequivocally state that there was at least a rumor in the army that Cheatham had been drunk at Spring Hill, but that same rumor included Hood. But what I do know, is that Cheatham walked away from that meeting feeling good. In fact, Cheatham never learned that he was being held responsible for the failure at Spring Hill until after Hood's report was published in the newspapers. But, the war was practically over, and when it passed, so did any ill feelings that Cheatham may have had. He doesn't appear to be the type that would really hold a grudge - he would just punch you in the face and get on with it. But with the war over and no one in his face to punch, Cheatham let it go. That is until after Hood's death and the publication of Hood's memoirs that Cheatham undoubtedly heard about through old war colleagues.

When Cheatham finally read what Hood wrote - it made his blood boil. He had not said anything about the war since its end. He just wanted to get back to living, which is what he did. Cheatham couldn't help it if Hood had died and wouldn't be able to defend himself against Cheatham's "attacks." But in fact, what Cheatham would write in the end, was far from any attack, but a defense of himself, but more-so the men that Cheatham led. By December, 1871, Cheatham delivered his reply to Hood's attacks on himself and what he considered were against the "rank and file." Cheatham's arguments are hard to decipher - he jumps around in his dialogue so much, that it is tough to figure. But one thing that is clear in all my studies: Cheatham didn't give a **** until Hood attacked his men. Then and only then did he defend himself and his men against the "querulous calamities" of General Hood's "attempt at history."

The odd thing is, there are newspaper accounts that report that Hood attended Cheatham's wedding in March of 1866. Only other thing I have to add, is that Cheatham's Division never had any other official designation other than Cheatham's division. Brown was given command of that division at the reorganization in September, 1864 and I have not seen any official documents that named it "Brown's" with the organization of Carter's, Strahl, Gist's and Gordon's brigades. In the end, Cheatham did retain command of his old division, but that was only because there were so many generals at Bentonville and immediately following it at the surrender. Just 2 cents!:D
Cheatham's response, to me, is very clear and concise. Its in Battles and Leaders Volume 4.
 
Joined
May 18, 2005
Messages
1,495
Location
Spring Hill, Tennessee
Cheatham's response, to me, is very clear and concise. Its in Battles and Leaders Volume 4.
I thought so too at first, but then when I tried to dissect it, I saw that he had a whole lot of "before this," and "I had already," and "prior to this." Although it seems straight forward - see how fun it is placing the event in chronological order!
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

EricAJacobson

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 15, 2012
Messages
540
Cheatham quickly deployed his troops and commenced an attack, but as the action increased, the sun sank, and due to a failure of Hood communicating orders to one of Cheatham's subordinates, the opportunity to seize the pike passed with darkness.

Hood had failed. He - however - was reluctant to accept the responsibility and chose his lead commander to take the fall.
I think Cheatham was quite responsible for also communicating with HIS subordinates. Hood failed, and so did Cheatham. Cheatham did not take the fall - he earned it right along with Hood.
 
Joined
May 18, 2005
Messages
1,495
Location
Spring Hill, Tennessee
I think Cheatham was quite responsible for also communicating with HIS subordinates. Hood failed, and so did Cheatham. Cheatham did not take the fall - he earned it right along with Hood.
No doubt, my contention has always been that EVERY commander failed on the field in one way or another that day. That included Cleburne and Forrest. However, it doesn't erase the fact that Hood did attempt to pin the blame on the only non-West Pointer of his corps commanders. Cheatham's failure at Spring Hill was no more damaging than was Stewart's failure to block the pike after darkness north of Spring Hill, or Lee's failure to maintain contact with the rear guard of the Federal army - that would have drastically slowed the withdrawal.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

EricAJacobson

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 15, 2012
Messages
540
No doubt, my contention has always been that EVERY commander failed on the field in one way or another that day. That included Cleburne and Forrest. However, it doesn't erase the fact that Hood did attempt to pin the blame on the only non-West Pointer of his corps commanders. Cheatham's failure at Spring Hill was no more damaging than was Stewart's failure to block the pike after darkness north of Spring Hill, or Lee's failure to maintain contact with the rear guard of the Federal army - that would have drastically slowed the withdrawal.
I contend Cheatham and Forrest are right at the top as far as corps commanders. Forrest never figured out exactly what they were facing in the early afternoon (Wagner's Division) and Cheatham's actions bogged everything down as the sun set. Moreover, Forrest, as the eyes and ears, did little to alert anyone to the fact that the ENTIRE enemy army was escaping. Then Stewart added to the mess. And Lee basically did nothing to press the issue. Ultimately, Hood was the commander and the responsibility rests with him. As he stated in memoirs, he failed to bring on battle at Spring Hill. Cheatham, on the other hand, never admitted much of anything, and blamed Hood for everything.
 

Jamieva

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Messages
4,262
Location
Midlothian, VA
Which in a bit of irony is the cherry on top of the AoT sundae of its 4 years of existence. playing a big game of teh top generals playing point the finger.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

John S. Carter

First Sergeant
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
Messages
1,456
The whole issue is that Davis was inept as a commander in chief when selecting officers,with Lee being the exception.By the time that Sherman was in front of Atlanta all the qualified offiers were either dead or out of service.Why he selected Hood was that Hood had campaigned for that command,he knew he could not git Virginia so this was the next .position.Has to Davis is that all that he knew about Hood was how he and his Texans had performed therefore he must be a able army commander.With Johnston in Davis view not able to restrain Sherman then with Hood promoting himself and his record as it stood.Davis,not listening to Lee or anyone who opposed Hood,he made that infamous selection .What would Lincolon had done?Can you see Davis in charge of that army?He did say that he rather have had a army. How did he git on Stone Moutain?
 
Joined
May 18, 2005
Messages
1,495
Location
Spring Hill, Tennessee
I think Cheatham was quite responsible for also communicating with HIS subordinates. Hood failed, and so did Cheatham. Cheatham did not take the fall - he earned it right along with Hood.
I contend Cheatham and Forrest are right at the top as far as corps commanders. Forrest never figured out exactly what they were facing in the early afternoon (Wagner's Division) and Cheatham's actions bogged everything down as the sun set. Moreover, Forrest, as the eyes and ears, did little to alert anyone to the fact that the ENTIRE enemy army was escaping. Then Stewart added to the mess. And Lee basically did nothing to press the issue. Ultimately, Hood was the commander and the responsibility rests with him. As he stated in memoirs, he failed to bring on battle at Spring Hill. Cheatham, on the other hand, never admitted much of anything, and blamed Hood for everything.
Understood, but neither Lee, Cheatham or Stewart blamed Hood for everything. Cheatham was the one that absorbed the blame and never said a word till Hood's memoirs came out. All of the corps commanders lived longer than Hood and none ever said a word till after Hood died except Lee, and his opinion changed between 1867-8 and 1890ish. Stewart always blamed Hood and Lee blamed Cheatham. It wasn't even an issue till Hood's memoirs were published. It was forgotten. Then Cheatham and Stewart rightly defended themselves against the implications from Hood. If your guilty you say nothing, if not you defend your honor.
 
Last edited:

EricAJacobson

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 15, 2012
Messages
540
Understood, but neither Lee, Cheatham or Stewart blamed Hood for everything. Cheatham was the one that absorbed the blame and never said a word till Hood's memoirs came out. All of the corps commanders lived longer than Hood and none ever said a word till after Hood died except Lee, and his opinion changed between 1867-8 and 1890ish. Stewart always blamed Hood and Lee blamed Cheatham. It wasn't even an issue till Hood's memoirs were published. It was forgotten. Then Cheatham and Stewart rightly defended themselves against the implications from Hood. If your guilty you say nothing, if not you defend your honor.
Well, we will agree to disagree about Cheatham. His account, as published in a Louisville paper and later the Southern Historical Society Papers, is riddled with errors, beginning with his statement that the Columbia Pike could not be seen anywhere between the Duck River and Spring Hill, which is 100% false. I can drive right now to at least two points on the old Davis Ford Road and see modern traffic moving on the pike with the naked eye. He and Brown also were/are completely at odds. Cheatham insisted on one thing, and Brown was adamant that it never happened, i.e. being told to refuse his right flank and advance. Those are just two glaring items.

I think Cheatham, like Hood, kept quiet because they did not feel it necessary to engage in the war of the pens. However, Johnston prodded Hood into writing, and Hood ultimately prompted Cheatham. However, Cheatham got the last word because the two men who could really take him to task (Hood and Ed Johnson) were both dead by the time his account was published. And his last word was that he (Cheatham) had done nothing wrong, and Hood simply called everything off and went to sleep. Nothing was that simple that night, and Cheatham knew it.
 
Last edited:
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Nytram01

First Sergeant
Joined
Sep 13, 2007
Messages
1,073
Location
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England
...I think Cheatham, like Hood, kept quiet because they did not feel it necessary to engage in the war of the pens. However, Johnston prodded Hood into writing, and Hood ultimately prompted Cheatham...
It was kind of circular.

Hood's account of the Atlanta Campaign was published during the War and contained a critical and ****ing assessment of Johnston's conduct as the Army of Tennessee's commander. Upon learning of the charges Hood levelled against him Johnston had wanted to take the matter before a court-marshal to challenge it and defend himself. The War ended before the matter could be resolved.

This, added the fact that he also never had his day in court to refute any charges Pemberton levelled against him for the Vicksburg Campaign, motivated him into writing a defense of his conduct which turned into his Narrative, and that in turn prompted Pemberton and Hood to write a rebuttal defending themselves, with all men criticising each other.
 
Joined
Mar 7, 2017
Messages
220
Location
Indianapolis, IN
Hood was a good soldier, just not a good army commander. He had courage and guts, but, he more often than not, was far too aggressive in his tactics. This was one of the main factors that caused him to suffer such a crushing defeat during the Franklin-Nashville campaign.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top