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Why did Hood Fail at Atlanta?

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by General Butterfield, Aug 8, 2017.

  1. General Butterfield

    General Butterfield Sergeant

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    Why did Hood Fail at Atlanta?

    Been reading through a few books on the Hood/Atlanta campaign by Richard McMurry, Stephen Davis, Stephen Hood and have been trying to get a feel for why Hood failed. The potential reasons I've found are numerous: It was Hood's personal issues wounds/drug use, It was Hood's level of experience, it was the wrong strategy, he didn't understand the capabilities of the AoT.

    Here's my take on it:
    I don't think it had anything to do with his personal issues, i think the addiction claims have been largely debunked. I also don't put his defeat on his level of experience, he might not have been completely prepared for this new role but he certainly had alot more first hand experience then most generals on taking command.

    In regard to the strategy, I have in the past thought the best move would have been keeping Johnston in command and hoping for a miracle at Peach Tree Creek but I have started to rethink it a bit. I don't fault Hood's aggressiveness and I think it was the best chance to hold Atlanta. Hood was well in line with the strategy that Lee employed in his 62 defense of Richmond. Sherman, in similarity to McClellan at Richmond, was in an awkward position around Atlanta with numerous openings for the Confederates to exploit. Had Johnston stayed in command I don't think the Confederacy would have been able to hold out as long in Atlanta, or Richmond in 62 for that matter, but perhaps the army would have been more intact going forward.

    The final point I think is probably the most valid. Soldiers in the AoT called Hood a "dandy" from the AoNV, to them the entire war Lee's army had got best men-material while they were starved of resources. I'm not sure Hood ever full understood the capabilities of the AoT and treated it like the AoNV. He expected them to be able to preform a serious complex counterattacks what they were simply unable to do effectively. His men were not of the same quality and his subordinates failed t live up to his plans. In my opinion had Hood been in command of the AoNV at Atlanta he very well might have emerged victorious.

    What do you think?
     

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  3. contestedground

    contestedground Sergeant

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    Because Sherman wasn't McClellan. :smile:
     
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  4. ivanj05

    ivanj05 First Sergeant

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    Hood failed because by the time he assumed command the situation was more or less unrecoverable. Which isn't to say he couldn't have done better than he ended up doing.
     
  5. General Butterfield

    General Butterfield Sergeant

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    Haha though Heintzelman-Sumner-Franklin-Porter weren't Thomas-McPherson.:smile:

    EDIT: I do think Sherman lucked out to an extent, he could have easily suffered a Gaines Mill style defeat and been forced to withdraw. Hood's army being in terrible shape and Thomas's brilliant generalship really saved the day.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  6. Tin cup

    Tin cup 1st Lieutenant

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    Just in the Battle of Atlanta it was poor planning, not knowing the terrain when he sent those worn out boys of Hardee's Corps on a wayward march to try to flank the Yanks. Not knowing the true position of the Yanks due to poor (Wheeler) Cav recon.

    Kevin Dally
     
  7. highplainsdrifter59

    highplainsdrifter59 Sergeant

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    As mentioned earlier, when Hood took over command it was pretty much a lost city, meaning Atlanta. Then factor in just a few day in command Hood takes an aggressive attempt at Peachtree Creek which ends in a failure. Few days later Hood again attacks on the 22d and fails.
    How could Hood really plan such bold moves in such a short time is my question? He didn't even known what he had, where they were to make a attack with any type of success. At best Hood was just shooting from the hip....his only good one too. Then on the 22nd, he was asking a lot from Hardee to do for a night march, then attack boldly the next day. I do not even think Hood knew his total strength and certainly the capability of the commanders in charge. Plus, Hardee wasn't really pleased with Hood being in command. Cheatham in a new position, this outcome was worse off than at Peachtree Creek.
    All in all the plan wasn't bad, it was the making sure that everyone else was on the same page and understood what was expected of them. Hood had no idea what would happen.....bad things did happen.
    Hood was brought into command the AOT for the sole purpose to attack and fight off Sherman's army from the grip he had on the city. I blame Davis, Bragg partly to press Hood in doing something way before any solid information could be attained for Hood to make sound judgements. Of course you can blame Johnston for falling back faster than a lightning bolt can streak across the sky toward Atlanta.
    The results were devastating for Hood and the army, the losses were to never again be brought back to amount to no more than a wandering army skirting on up to Nashville then the Carolina's for the final destruction of a once proud army that began 1864 with a hope.
     
  8. General Butterfield

    General Butterfield Sergeant

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    Yeah your post was spot on. We can also add Stephan D. Lee to the list who is normally a very good commander. According to McMurry, Hood's planned attack at Ezra Church was supposed to be a surprise attack on unprepared enemy but Gen. Howard saw it coming and dug in. Stephan D. Lee instead of reporting the change of events to Hood just continues with the plan and attacks, 3,000 casualties....
     
  9. Tin cup

    Tin cup 1st Lieutenant

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    I'm finding that Hardee wasn't as "reliable" as claimed to be. He didn't show any real aggressiveness, or support for Hood at Peachtree Creek, or much of anything elsewhere in the Atlanta area.

    Kevin Dally
     
  10. Tin cup

    Tin cup 1st Lieutenant

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    I disagree, Johnston did not fall back in the exaggerated manner you claim, and I hardly find ANY Yanks who berates Johnston's tactics, Sherman complained on it being one big Indian fight! Sherman was GLAD when Hood took over, he knew Hood would "Beat his brains out, beat his brains out", and: “About 10 A.M. of that day (July 18th), when the armies were all in motion, one of General Thomas's staff-officers brought me a citizen, one of our spies, who had just come out of Atlanta, and had brought a newspaper of the same day, or of the day before, containing Johnston's order relinquishing the command of the Confederate forces in Atlanta, and Hood's order assuming the command. I immediately inquired of General Schofield, who was his classmate at West Point, about Hood, as to his general character, etc., and learned that he was bold even to rashness, and courageous in the extreme; I inferred that the change of commanders meant "fight." Notice of this important change was at once sent to all parts of the army, and every division commander was cautioned to be always prepared for battle in any shape. This was just what we wanted, viz., to fight in open ground, on any thing like equal terms, instead of being forced to run up against prepared intrenchments; but, at the same time, the enemy having Atlanta behind him, could choose the time and place of attack, and could at pleasure mass a superior force on our weakest points. Therefore, we had to be constantly ready for sallies.


    We agreed that we ought to be unusually cautious and prepared at all times for sallies and for hard fighting, because Hood, though not deemed much of a scholar, or of great mental capacity, was undoubtedly a brave, determined, and rash man; and the change of commanders at that particular crisis argued the displeasure of the Confederate Government with the cautious but prudent conduct of General Jos. Johnston."

    Kevin Dally
     
  11. highplainsdrifter59

    highplainsdrifter59 Sergeant

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    Sherman loved having a commander like Johnston in front of him. Sherman moves up, Johnston falls back. Mind you from May until mid July, Johnston fell back over 100 miles. In those miles that he fell back, Johnston had prepared entrenchment,rivers, mountains to hold to. Great defensive spots that when the Union army came upon them, they wrote to attack and push the Confederate army from these places would be a huge cost of life for their men.
    Johnston HISTORY provides enough facts that he was not an aggressive or an offensive general.
    Johnston problem was the same as always, he fell back at the drop of the hat and he always hat his hat in his hand willing and able to drop it.
    When Hood became commander, Sherman's response was he will attack, never have I read where Sherman worried about an attack with Johnston.
     
  12. mofederal

    mofederal Sergeant Major

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    I think Hood was running out of men, he was aggressive, and launched four massive attacks. Peachtree Creek, Atlanta, Ezra Church and Jonesboro. All failed, and he had failed Johnston at the Battle of Cassville, before taking command. Hood began the campaign with around 50,000 men, by it's end the casualty total for the Confederate Army of Tenn. was 35,000. true the Sherman lost 35,000 men, but he could afford it. Sherman knew his opponent. Sherman took 100 days to reach Atlant against Johnston. Once he reached Atlanta he defeated Hood in 45 days or so. Aggression has it's costs, in this case the loss was in men and Atlanta.
     
  13. AUG351

    AUG351 Captain Forum Host

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    The AoT had been fighting a constant battle since the beginning of the campaign. Nearly every day they were either marching, digging or skirmishing, with a battle here and there. Despite that many still gave their all on July 22; after the flanking march its amazing Hardee's Corps was still able to fight as it did in the heat and rugged terrain.

    By July the army was not in the same condition as the ANV was at Chancellorsville, however quality-wise I think they (the troops) were just as capable. The circumstances were different and the corps and army commanders were different. Under the same circumstances I don't think the ANV could have done much better.
     
  14. Tin cup

    Tin cup 1st Lieutenant

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    You might want to READ again what I quoted what Sherman said about Joe Johnston! You know, where he says: "...the cautious but prudent conduct of General Jos. Johnston."

    Kevin Dally
     
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  15. General Butterfield

    General Butterfield Sergeant

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    Was that not due to the brilliance of a certain Union general cough cough Butterflied. :D
     
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  16. major bill

    major bill Major Forum Host

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    To be fair to Hood, was there any generals who could have saved Atlanta? I am sure the Union Army could have been damaged but was there any real hope of defeating them? I am not sure Sherman would have retreated even if his army was damaged. Almost any battle would damage Hoods Army almost as much as the union Army.
     
  17. Jamieva

    Jamieva 2nd Lieutenant Forum Host

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    Hardee was pouting because Hood was picked to replace Johnston and not him (forgetting that he had command of the army after Bragg was relieved and he begged to be replaced himself).
    Hood's leadership style was like Lee's where he laid out the battle plan and then expected his subordinates to carry it out with no oversight as the battle went on. Well that worked in the ANV, but this was not the ANV
    Sherman only had to cut I believe 1 more railroad to completely cut off Atlanta when Hood took over.
     
  18. wausaubob

    wausaubob 2nd Lieutenant

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    By May of 1864 the Army of the Cumberland, commanded by George Thomas, had too much firepower to be defeated. When George Thomas organized another army in Nashville, that army too, used dismounted cavalry, armed with repeating weapons to crush Hood's defenders.
    The United States' Army of the Tennessee, by July of 1864, was similar. They were hard core fighters and marchers. The commander leading them did not matter that much. The overall experience level of the army was unequaled in any of the Civil War armies.
    There is nothing that John Bell Hood could have done that would have made any difference.
    Railroads, logistics, portable pontoons, repeating rifles, African American workers, the Confederate's had no chance in the West.
     
  19. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    Very simply put the US Army of the Cumberland and the Army of the Tennessee were not the Army of the Potomac; I rather expect they had something to do with Hoods failure.
     
  20. Gladys Hodge Sherrer

    Gladys Hodge Sherrer Sergeant

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    I agree with your summation. The men (many former POWs and some wounded) were utterly exhausted, demoralized, half starved, ill-equipped and sick. They no longer fully trusted their leadership.
     
  21. highplainsdrifter59

    highplainsdrifter59 Sergeant

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    I read it just fine, but being "cautious but prudent conduct" just follows what I wrote, Sherman wasn't worried about an attack coming from Johnston. Those words describes Johnston very well, he was cautious and very prudent in his generalship.
     

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