View single post by EricJacobson
 Posted: Sun Feb 24th, 2008 02:33 pm
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Joined: Fri Feb 22nd, 2008
Posts: 18

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No doubt Davis treated the Western Theater, aside from perhaps Mississippi, differently than the East.  That said, Davis and Johnston working together were a disaster for the Confederacy.  I don't think that could have been worded any better. 

However, I have to disagree about Sword's treatment of generals in the West, particularly Hood.  Sword literally goes out of his way to attack Hood.  He accuses him of taking laudanum, trying to impress his lady friend Sally Preston, and murdering his soldiers at Franklin among other things.  I have never quite figured out how or why a scholar delves into territory usually left for fictional writers.  I've wondered on that as well; that said Sword has always been a favorite author of mine, perhaps because of his writing style or perhaps a shared passion for the arms of the day.  IMO his Mountains Touched by Fire is the bets book on the subject. 
 I think Sword's book on Shiloh is hard to beat, but his Embrace An Angry Wind, although extremely well written, is just laden with anti-Hood innuendo.  Essentially Sword took all the old stories about Hood which still flow around Middle Tennessee and wrote them as fact.  The problem is nearly all are just that - stories - and ones which have no documentary background.

No doubt that Hood suffered heavy casualties after Johnston's dismissal and that he was not removed from command after Atlanta's fall.  But you have to consider that Davis wanted someone who would fight and he got that with Hood, for better or for worse.  I for one will not defend Hood based solely on his actions.  However, that does not mean Johnston gets the praise.  Both failed in their efforts to save Atlanta.  Again I agree, I don't think Hood the better general but I also don't see JEJ having a lot of other choices.  All he could do was continue to manuever and hope Sherman screwed up.
I believe 99.9% Johnston outright lied when he said he had a plan to attack at Peachtree Creek.  Johnston always claimed that Davis pulled the rug from beneath him just as he was about to attack, but could never provide any evidence.  Interesting that he never related such plans to Hood.

As I tried to explain in my book about Spring Hill and Franklin, Davis had few others choices by Sept. 1864 except to retain Hood.  He was not going to bring Johnston back, Beauregard was not an option, Lee wasn't coming west, Forrest and Cleburne were not qualified to be army commander, and Kirby Smith was running his kingdom west of the Mississippi.  Maybe Dick Taylor?  Do you know why neither Hardee or Cheatum were never considered?
Hardee had passed on permanent army command once before (after Bragg) and Davis was not going to ask him a second time.  That has much more to do with Davis than Hardee, but Davis is a hard fellow.  Cheatham had never been a corps commander.  Like Cleburne, a fellow divsion commander, Cheatham was never going to be considered for army command until he had passed the next level.  He also was a non-West Pointer.

It is easy to criticize Hood at Franklin.  Hood certainly knew the attack would be costly, but he also believed a flanking maneuver was not likely to succeed, not matter what Forrest thought.  Looking at a map and considering any flanking movement would have to fight through about 8,500 Federal soldiers and 14 cannon will show that Hood probably was correct in not attempting it.  Also consider that daylight was fast running out.  Again I see no flanking op as having much more than a snowballs chance.  But every time I look at that map & look at how the works have been described his attack fails under any & all circumstances. Even if he had waited for his arty his chances were poor not to mention attempting a night battle.
THANK YOU for at saying the flanking maneuver was not the guaranteed success so many people (although less today) thought it was.  The frontal assault is indeed desperate and costly.  However, consider this.  The Confederate army broke through the main line of defense in the center, blowing a 200 yard wide hole in it south of the Carter House.  If it had not been for Opdycke's brigade of veterans helping to plug that hole who knows what might have happened.  It is possible Hood could have split and destroyed much of Schofield's forces south of the Harpeth that night.  But Opdycke was never supposed to be where he was - a fact not know to Hood, Forrest, Cleburne, Cheatham, or anyone.  He didn't get in place till about 3 to 3:30, barely an hour before the attack.  The sledgehammer attack worked, but luck (always a big part of war) helped turn the day.

The Army of Tennessee did essentially die on the fields south of Franklin, but it did put up a heckuva fight at Nashville, all things considered.  The actions of those men on those fields, especially the redoubts, were nothing shy of increadible and the actions of the men who took them; I shudder to think about it.  Yet one more reason to respect those men on the sharp end.

In closing, this is not about praising or trying to elevate Hood, at least from my perspective.  It is simply an effort to provide balance.  Lee gutted his army at Gettysburg, but few will ever attack him like they do Hood.  Lee also continued fighting until his army was fragmenting and starving and only quit when he was surrounded.  Hood, in very basic terms, also fought to the very end.  More importantly, so did his men.

Hood is attacked, I think, because he failed so badly and his politicks of charachter assasination just aren't something one can easily get behind.  Lee was something else.

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