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American History
Hood's Texas Brigade
contributed by Lu Hickey


A Gentleman's gentleman...

Many heroes, such as Generals George Rogers Clark, John Bell Hood and Colonel Daniel Boone were born in the Blue Grass State of Kentucky. 

John Bell Hood was born June 29, 1831 in Bath County Kentucky.  His father, Dr. Julius Hood taught John the aspects of medicine from a young age but John was not interested in becoming a doctor.  He longed to go to West Point Academy and become a  cavalry officer so he could serve his country as his grandfather and uncle had during the Revolutionary War.

Hood entered West Point in the autumn of 1849.  He graduated four years later as a second lieutenant and was dispatched to California under Colonels Johnston and Robert E. Lee.  The trying years of the Indian Wars taught Hood what he needed to know to successfully lead a cavalry unit in the army but Lee taught him more than Military Science.  Lee taught him the traits of a true Southern gentleman and advised him, " Never marry unless you do so into a family which will enable your children to feel proud of both sides of the house." The years together made a lasting bond between the two soldiers, Hood had respect and admiration for Lee and Lee felt a brotherly love for Hood.

In 1855, Hood received an appointment as Second Lieutenant of the Second Cavalry station in Jefferson Mo.  It was there  he met W.T. Sherman.  In his memoirs, Hood recalled this meeting and described Sherman's expression as " eye piercing and severe nervousness."  Hood attributed Sherman's agitation to the rumors of secession which were spreading like wildfire and his inability to identify Southern sympathizers.   Hood wrote "little indeed did I anticipate at that period the great theater of life upon which I was destined so soon to be thrown as a humble actor with him and others, who have since become so significant and prominent as American soldiers."

John Bell Hood's regiment left Missouri in November for Fort Belknap, Texas.  The men struggled through a severe freezing storm to arrive at Fort Belknap on Christmas Day. At Fort Belknap, Hood once again serves in the ranks of General Robert E. Lee.

The unit known as Hood's Texas Brigade formed in the winter of 1861 and originally consisted of the First, Fourth and the Fifth Texas Regiments, the Eighteenth Georgia Regiment and the Infantry from Wade Hampton's South Carolina Legion.  In March, 1862 Brigadier General John Bell Hood, a Kentuckian who had adopted Texas, replaced the first commander, Brigadier General Louis T. Wigfall.  Because of Hood's daring leadership and the heavy Texas component, the unit received its name.  It served in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and participated in at least twenty-four battles, including Antietam, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga where Hood was wounded and left the command.  During the Battle of the Wilderness Lee tried to lead the brigade in a charge but the men forced him back with the cry of " Lee to the rear"..At its height it contained about 4500 men but heavy casualties reduced that number to 617 at the time of surrender.  The brigade was highly praised by Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet.

Hood was generally well liked by his men but was never noted for his brilliant strategies.  On one occasion, the general berated a soldier for remaining by a warm fire and said, "I don't know why you are loitering here so far behind your command."  The soldier replied, " Yes, and what you don't' know, General Hood, would make a might damned big book."

Hood led his army to near destruction in Tennessee and the brigade serving elsewhere, added the following verse to its marching song, "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

And now I'm gonna southward
for my heart is full of woe,
I am going back to Georgia to see my Uncle Joe,
You may talk about your Beauregarde
and sing of General Lee
But the gallant Hood of Texas
played hell in Tennessee...

The year 1861 proved to be a year of decision for Hood.  When he learned that Texas had seceded from the Union and Kentucky had joined the Union, he marched his troops to Magnolia Beach Texas where they boarded ship to the north. He saluted his men, headed to Kentucky to resign his commission and went to Richmond to enlist in the Confederacy.

In Richmond, General Lee assigned Hood the job of training the Texas Brigade into a cavalry unit.  Hood proved himself a true leader and was promoted to Lt. General in the Army of Northern Virginia.  He suffered many physical losses during the war, one arm shattered and one leg lost. He felt he was not physically able to lead such a great army and he returned to Texas but did not stay long.  He moved on to Louisiana where he became a salesman for the Agriculture Department..There he met and married Anna and they became parents of eleven children.

John Bell Hood, wrote his memoirs in the early 1870's.  General Longstreet made the statement that Hood was responsible for the loss of the war and Hood, who had kept a journal on his army activities made a rebuttal to Longstreet.  Hood never lost his temper or had conduct unbecoming an officer.

Hood became known as the "Gentleman's gentleman".  He and his wife died in 1870 and their children were adopted by the State of Texas.  This devotion toward a leader was culminated by naming Hood County, Fort Hood and the Hood's Texas Brigade Association.

John Bell Hood had every reason to become bitter and resentful toward his Southern friends but his behavior did not allow that.  Throughout his lifetime, he touched many lives and had a smile for everyone.  General Lee was proud of his prodigy for he had learned the meaning of :  Life, Love, Honor and Respect.

My pride of John Bell Hood's Texas Brigade Association at Hillsboro Texas is supported by my ancestor serving in his unit...Thomas Peck Ochiltree, Company E, First Texas Infantry.


 

 


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