The Battle of Franklin Trust Chief Operating Officer Eric A. Jacobson announced today at Carnton Plantation the discovery of several hundred documents, letter and orders of Confederate General John Bell Hood. While conducting research for an upcoming book on the general, West Virginia’s Sam Hood, a collateral descendent and student of the career of Hood, was invited to inspect a collection of the general’s papers, held by a descendent.
Savas Beatie will be publishing this upcoming book by Sam Hood entitled John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General in spring 2013, a detailed point by point defense of General Hood’s career.
As timing would have it, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General was completed before this recent document discovery. Much of his book argues that known evidence before the recent cache find has been misinterpreted or blatantly misused by many latter-day authors. Hood critically notes several authors who he believes perpetuated the use of Hood as a target for Lost Cause architects. Some of the newly discovered information on the Atlanta Campaign, the Spring Hill affair, and the Battle of Franklin will be included in Sam Hood’s upcoming book, but since the total collection will take several months to transcribe, more important information on John Bell Hood - the man and the soldier - cannot, by necessity, be revealed until later.
In making today’s announcement, Sam Hood said, “I felt like the guy who found the Titanic, except for the fact everyone knew the Titanic was out there somewhere, while I had no clue that some of the stuff I found even existed.”
Sam Hood added, “General Hood is certainly no stranger to controversy. During his colorful military career and with historians ever since, he has remained a controversial and tragic figure of the Civil War. Long noted for the loss of Atlanta and what some consider reckless behavior at the November 30, 1864 Battle of Franklin after a lost opportunity for possible victory at Spring Hill, he has often been the subject of ridicule and blame for the demise of the Confederacy in the West.”
Eric Jacobson, who has viewed a portion of the collection said, “This is one of the most significant Civil War discoveries in recent history. These documents also tell us as much by what they don’t say. One major example is the discovery of Hood’s medical journal, kept by his doctor, John T. Darby, during the war. As they are being transcribed it will be interesting to see what, if any, use of painkillers is mentioned, and how judicious his doctors were in prescribing opiates. Hood was much more multi-faceted than how he has been portrayed by some as a simple minded and poorly equipped commander.”
Jacobson has been one of only a few contemporary Army of Tennessee historians to give Hood the benefit of fatigue, fog of war and failures of subordinates as part of the breakdown of the Army of Tennessee in late 1864.
Some of the items found include recommendations for promotion, handwritten by Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet. Also uncovered was wartime correspondence between General Hood and generals R. E. Lee, Braxton Bragg, Louis T. Wigfall, and other senior commanders as well, as his four general officer commission papers. Roughly seventy post-war letters from other Civil War notables were also discovered, mostly concerning the controversy with Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and used to compose Hood's memoir Advance & Retreat. Hood added, “This is just the tip of the iceberg on the expansive collection.”
“I spent three days photocopying and inventorying,” added Sam Hood. “I held in my hands documents signed by Jefferson Davis, Longstreet, Jackson and Lee.”
Keith Bohannon, professor of history at the University of West Georgia, says most of Hood’s biographers assumed that Hood’s papers, other than those known to be archived, were lost or destroyed. “Some of John Bell Hood’s official papers were presumably sold to the Federal government near the time of his death in 1879,” Bohannon said. Hood and his wife, Anna Marie, both died in New Orleans from yellow fever and left behind ten orphaned children. Before his death at age 48, Hood was in poor financial condition and was working to sell this information to better the financial plight of his family, according to Bohannon.
“I have been fighting to correct some of the misperceptions and vicious myths of General Hood for years,” added Sam Hood. “These documents will shed a lot of light that will change some of those views.”
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