The Texas connection to the Battle of Gettysburg: John Bell Hood

A portrait of Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood. Photo from the Library of Congress

A portrait of Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood. Photo from the Library of Congress

On the eve of the 153rd anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), we look back at one of the less-recognized figures of those portentous days — Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood.

The commander of a Confederate division during Gettysburg, Hood is better recognized today by Texans as the namesake of Hood County (southwest of Fort Worth) and, of course, Fort Hood. (In case you’re wondering Bell County is named for Peter Hansborough Bell, third governor of Texas.)

Here are five fast facts about John Bell Hood …

  1. Hood was not a Texan, but was born in Kentucky. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy — though he was nearly expelled for excessive demerits — and served in California and Texas before the onset of the Civil War. When Kentucky took a neutral stance on the war, he decided to join the Confederacy representing his adopted state of Texas.
  1. Hood had a terrible proclivity for getting wounded in battle. During a reconnaissance from Fort Mason in 1857, he took an arrow through his left hand in a fight with the Comanches. At Gettysburg, he lost the use of his left arm entirely after an artillery shell exploded overhead. He didn’t lose the arm, but the shrapnel rendered it useless. Later that year, in the Battle of Chickamauga, he was shot through the right leg, this time losing it to amputation. Despite the increasing severity of his injuries, he returned to service in 1864, ultimately taking command of the Army of Tennessee.
  1. As the war’s youngest commander of an Army, Hood’s luck as a brash and aggressive fighter began to fail him. He met his match in Union general William Tecumseh Sherman, whom he could not dislodge from Atlanta, despite repeated attacks.This culminated in the Battle of Franklin in November of 1864, known as the “Pickett’s Charge of the West.” Staggering casualties would set the stage for the Battle of Nashville a few weeks later, which was a decisive defeat for Hood.
  1. At war’s end, Hood became a cotton broker and ran an insurance business in New Orleans. He married a New Orleans woman, Anne Marie Hennen, and proceeded to have 11 children over the next decade, including three pairs of twins. A yellow fever epidemic swept into New Orleans in 1878, ultimately killing Hood, his wife and their eldest daughter. Left behind were 10 destitute orphans.
  1. In her Civil War diary, South Carolina author Mary Boykin Chesnut described Hood: “When Hood came with his sad Quixote face, the face of an old Crusader, who believed in his cause, his cross, and his crown, we were not prepared for such a man as a beau-ideal of the wild Texans. He is tall, thin, and shy; has blue eyes and light hair; a tawny beard, and a vast amount of it, covering the lower part of his face, the whole appearance that of awkward strength.”

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