John Bell Hood was born on June 29, 1831 in Owingsville, Bath County, Kentucky, the second son of Dr. John W. Hood and Theodosia French Hood. Although in his autobiography he stated that he was of English ancestry, later genealogical research indicates that his paternal lineage was Dutch/Scandinavian. Hood's father was a student physician living in Winchester, Kentucky, and moved to Owingsville in 1823, shortly after his marriage. Around 1833, the family moved from Owingsville to a farm in Montgomery County, Kentucky, approximately three miles west of the town of Mt. Sterling. John Bell would live here until his departure for the United States Military Academy at West Point in July 1849.
John Bell's love for the adventure of military life is thought to have been founded in the influence of his paternal grandfather Lucas Hood, a crusty veteran of the Indian Wars who had fought under "Mad Anthony" Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, and his maternal grandfather James French, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Against the wishes of his father, who had urged him to pursue a medical career, John Bell enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West point in 1849, and graduated in 1853.
After receiving his commission as a brevet second lieutenant in the United States Army, he was assigned to duty at Fort Scott, California in February 1854. In October 1855 Hood was promoted to second lieutenant of cavalry and assigned to the newly formed elite Second Cavalry Regiment at Fort Mason, Texas, commanded by Col. Albert Sydney Johnston and Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee. In a battle with Indians at Devil's River, Texas on July 20, 1857 he received the first of his combat wounds, his left hand being pierced by an arrow. On November 17, 1858 he was promoted to first lieutenant and placed in command of Camp Colorado, Texas. In September 1860 he received orders to report to West Point to serve as Chief Instructor of Cavalry. However, at Hood's personal request to U. S. Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, the order was rescinded, and he remained with the Second Cavalry Regiment. On April 16, 1861, with the outbreak of the Civil War, Hood tendered his resignation from the United States Army.
In early May of 1861 Hood received from Confederate Headquarters in Montgomery, Alabama, a commission as a lieutenant in the Confederate Army, and was ordered to report to Major General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia. Hood was promptly assigned to serve under Col. J. B. Magruder at Yorktown, Virginia. Within three months Hood, whose initial duties were primarily the training of cavalry companies, would receive promotions to captain, major, and then lieutenant colonel. In the summer of 1861 he was promoted to full colonel, and given command of the Fourth Texas Regiment. On March 7, 1862 Hood was promoted to brigadier general and placed in command of the Texas Brigade of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. In October 1862, following the Battle of Antietam, Hood was promoted to Major General at the recommendation of General Lee.
As one of Lee's most effective and respected brigadier generals, Hood commanded the legendary Texas Brigade in the Seven Days Battles, Antietam, Second Manassas, and Gettysburg, where he was severely wounded, permanently losing the use of his left arm. In late 1863 Hood's service under Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia ended when he was assigned to the Army of Tennessee, to serve as a division commander under General Braxton Bragg. At the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863, Hood received his most serious wound, resulting in the amputation of his right leg. During his convalescence General James Longstreet recommended him for further promotion.
On February 1, 1864 Hood was promoted to lieutenant general and was assigned to serve as a corps commander under General Joseph E. Johnston. Arriving in Dalton, Georgia on February 4, 1864, Hood served under Johnston throughout Union General William T. Sherman's north Georgia campaign during the spring of 1864. On July 17, 1864 Hood received a temporary promotion to full general, and in a highly controversial move, President Jefferson Davis relieved Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee, replacing him with Hood. Hood commanded the defending Confederate forces in the siege of Atlanta from that time until evacuating the city on September 2, 1864.
On November 19, 1864 Hood's Army of Tennessee departed Florence, Alabama for an ill-fated invasion of Tennessee. On November 30, Hood's forces suffered staggering losses in a decisive defeat at Franklin, Tennessee at the hands of a Union force commanded by his West Point classmate Gen. John Schofield. Two weeks later, the Army of Tennessee was routed at Nashville on Dec. 16 by his former U. S. Army colleague Gen. George Thomas. After a humiliating retreat to Tupelo, Mississippi, Hood resigned his command on January 23, 1865, reverting back to his permanent rank of lieutenant general.
During the waning days of the Confederacy, Hood was ordered by Davis to travel to Texas and attempt to raise an army of 25,000 troops. However, learning of the surrender of Gen. Kirby Smith in Texas, Hood surrendered to Federal authorities in Natchez, Mississippi on May 31, 1865. After receiving his parole, Hood proceeded to New Orleans, Louisiana, the city that would ultimately become his post-war home.
After the war Hood entered the cotton brokerage and insurance businesses. On April 30, 1868 he married native New Orleanian, Anna Marie Hennen. Over the next ten years he would father eleven children, including three sets of twins. Hood would lose all of his modest fortune during the winter of 1878-1879 due to a yellow fever epidemic that had closed the New Orleans Cotton Exchange, and wiped out almost every city insurance company. Later that year, on August 30, 1879, John Bell Hood would die of yellow fever within days of his wife and oldest child. His ten orphaned children, all under the age of ten, were left destitute. They would ultimately be adopted by seven different families in Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky.
Hood, his wife, and three children are buried in the Hennen family tomb in Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans.
S. M. "Sam" Hood
The following sources were used in the research of this work:
- The Gallant Hood, by John P. Dyer, Konecky and Konecky, 1950
- Advance and Retreat, by John B. Hood, Blue and Grey Press, 1985
- Hood: Cavalier General, by Richard O'Connor, Prentice-Hall, 1949
- Hood?s Texas Brigade: Lee?s Grenadier Guard, by Harold B. Simpson, Landmark, 1999
- The Tunis Hood Family: Its Lineage and Traditions, by Dellman O. Hood, Higginson, 1960
- Personal genealogical records of Mrs. Ruth Hood Maddix, New Boston, Ohio
- Personal genealogical records of S. M. "Sam" Hood, Huntington, West Virginia