An award-winning biography of one of the Confederacy’s most successful—and most criticized—generals.
Winner of the 2014 Albert Castel Book Award and the 2014 Walt Whitman Award
John Bell Hood died at forty-eight after a brief illness in August 1879, leaving behind the first draft of his memoirs, Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies. Published posthumously the following year, the memoirs immediately became as controversial as their author. A careful and balanced examination of these controversies, however, coupled with the recent discovery of Hood’s personal papers—which were long considered lost—finally sets the record straight in this book.
Hood’s published version of many of the major events and controversies of his Confederate military career were met with scorn and skepticism. Some described his memoirs as merely a polemic against his arch-rival Joseph E. Johnston. These opinions persisted through the decades and reached their nadir in 1992, when an influential author described Hood’s memoirs as a bitter, misleading, and highly biased treatise replete with distortions, misrepresentations, and outright falsifications. Without any personal papers to contradict them, many writers portrayed Hood as an inept, dishonest opium addict and a conniving, vindictive cripple of a man. One went so far as to brand him a fool with a license to kill his own men.
What most readers don’t know is that nearly all of these authors misused sources, ignored contrary evidence, and/or suppressed facts sympathetic to Hood. Stephen M. Hood, a distant relative of the general, embarked on a meticulous forensic study of the common perceptions and controversies of his famous kinsman. His careful examination of the original sources utilized to create the broadly accepted facts about John Bell Hood uncovered startlingly poor scholarship by some of the most well-known and influential historians of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These discoveries, coupled with his access to a large cache of recently discovered Hood papers, many penned by generals and other officers who served with Hood, confirm Hood’s account that originally appeared in his memoir and resolve, for the first time, some of the most controversial aspects of Hood’s long career.