John Bell Hood was born on June 1 or June 29, 1831, at Owingsville, Kentucky. Hood’s parents were Dr. John W. Hood and Theodosia French Hood. Although Hood’s father wanted his son to pursue a medical career, the military achievements of his grandfathers enamored Hood.
U.S. Military Academy Cadet
Hood’s uncle, U.S. Representative, Richard French, obtained an appointment for Hood at the United States Military Academy in 1849. Hood graduated from the academy in 1853, despite receiving 196 demerits during his senior year, just four short of expulsion. After graduating from West Point, Hood served in California and Texas.
Hood resigned his U.S. Army commission on April 16, 1861, after the Battle of Fort Sumter (April 12-13, 1861) touched off the American Civil War. When Hood’s native state of Kentucky did not secede from the Union, Hood joined the Confederate Army as a captain in Texas. On February 20, 1862, Hood became commander of Hood’s Texas Brigade, and Confederate army officials promoted him to brigadier general on March 3.
Hood’s performance at the Seven Days Battles (June 25-July 1, 1862), defending the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, led to his promotion to division commander, serving under Major General James Longstreet. During the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 28–30, 1862), Longstreet had Hood arrested and ordered him to leave the army after Hood engaged in an argument with a superior officer. General Robert E. Lee later intervened and restored Hood’s command.
Hood’s outstanding performance at the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862) led to his promotion to major general on October 10, 1862. At the Battle of Gettysburg, on July 2, 1863, Hood lost the use of his left arm for the rest of his life from an artillery shell explosion.
Hood returned to action on September 18, 1863, in the Western Theater, along with Longstreet’s command. At the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19–20, 1863), Hood led the assault that resulted in the defeat of Major General William S. Rosecrans‘ Union Army of the Cumberland. During the battle, Hood received severe wounds and doctors had to amputate his right leg just below the hip. Hood’s courageous leadership at Chickamauga led to his promotion to lieutenant general on February 1, 1864.
On July 18, 1864, Confederate President Jefferson Davis promoted Hood to the temporary rank of full general. Davis also named Hood to replace General Joseph E. Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Although the Confederate Senate never approved Davis’ actions, Hood’s temporary promotion made him the youngest officer to achieve the rank of full general during the Civil War.
Like Johnston, Hood could not halt Major General William T. Sherman‘s advance on Atlanta. He tried to end Sherman’s siege of the city with four attacks, all of which failed and resulted in major Confederate casualties. After Sherman captured Atlanta, Hood tried unsuccessfully to prevent him from advancing on Savannah, Georgia by starting an offensive campaign in Tennessee, but Sherman did not take the bait.
Hood attempted several offensive actions in Tennessee toward the end of the Civil War and suffered a devastating defeat at Franklin on November 30, 1864. With the Army of Tennessee shattered and retreating into Mississippi, Hood resigned his command on January 23, 1865, reverting to his permanent rank of lieutenant general. As the war was concluding, Hood surrendered to Union forces in Natchez Mississippi on May 31, 1865.
After the Civil War, Hood took up residence in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he operated a cotton brokerage and an insurance company. In 1868, Hood married Anna Marie Hennen and fathered 11 children. An outbreak of yellow fever in 1879-1879 ruined Hood’s insurance company financially and left him impoverished. As the epidemic waned, Hood and his wife contracted the disease.
John Bell Hood died of yellow fever on August 30, 1879, just days after his wife succumbed to the same disease. Hood was buried in Lafayette Cemetery in New Orleans. Later, his body was moved to the Hennen family tomb at Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans.