4 Very good reasons why naming a military base after John Bell Hood was a bad idea

This article is not addressing the politics of renaming Fort Hood. Instead, we’re wondering how John Bell Hood got honored for anything.
fort hood
Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

There are a lot of people out there who think renaming bases previously named after Confederate generals and other prominent Confederates is a good thing. Others aren’t okay with it. A lot of people haven’t even noticed the controversy. This article is not addressing the politics of renaming Fort Hood. Instead, we’re wondering how John Bell Hood got honored for anything, anywhere.

Historians say that replacing Gen. Joseph Johnston with Hood as the commander of the Army of the Tennessee was the worst mistake the Confederates ever made. Even Robert E. Lee questioned if Hood should have been commanding an army in the field – and that’s just the beginning. There are a lot of reasons why Hood’s legacy should be as dead and buried as the rest of him.

Here are 4 reasons why naming a military base after John Bell Hood was a bad idea

1. He sabotaged his own army.

Hood wasn’t in command of the Army of Tennessee at the beginning of 1864, Joseph Johnston was. By the end of the year, Johnston was out, Hood was in, and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was sending Savannah, Georgia, to President Abraham Lincoln as a Christmas present. It happened because Hood thought Johnston wasn’t aggressive enough against Sherman.

As the Confederates fell back toward Atlanta, Johnston fought a series of battles to keep Sherman from advancing. He ordered Hood to attack Sherman’s flank at the Battle of Cassville. Instead, Hood saw the flank was reinforced and dug in defensively instead. Sherman’s Army was spread out and divided, giving the South a chance to severely weaken it. Instead, Hood took a pass by disobeying Johnston’s orders and the rebels were beaten back again.

2. Hood sabotaged Johnston for personal ambition.

In 1864, the rebels were in serious danger of losing the war. Rather than buckle down, Hood wrote letters to the Confederate Congress complaining about Johnston’s lack of aggression. When Interviewed by Braxton Bragg about it, he told Bragg he urged Johnston to take the offensive but Johnston refused (without mentioning the incident at Cassville, probably). Hood had also told Johnston a retreat was necessary on numerous occasions.

But Hood was ambitious and wanted the command despite the future of his entire country hanging in the balance. Rebel President Jefferson Davis removed Johnston and put Hood in command. Hood was more aggressive against Sherman, but that didn’t matter because Sherman repeatedly wiped the floor with Hood’s army.

john bell hood fort hood
John Bell Hood

3. Hood lost a lot of soldiers for very little gain.

It was not obvious that John Bell Hood saw his soldiers as people with lives who shouldn’t be sent to their deaths for nothing. The opposite is much more apparent. Hood was aggressive; you can’t take that from him, but it wasn’t his own life he was risking. At Atlanta, Hood attacked Sherman twice but took heavy losses. Sherman took Atlanta in September 1864 anyway. To make matters worse, Hood burned the city’s military facilities. When that burning was covered in Northern newspapers, it helped Lincoln’s reelection.

As Sherman marched to the sea, Hood marched into Tennessee. At the Battle of Franklin, which was a battle of equal numbers, Hood would call for what is now known as “The Pickett’s Charge of the West,” a disastrous attack that killed or wounded 13 generals and 55 regimental commanders, not to mention thousands of troops. At Nashville, he took on the underrated GOAT of the Union Army, George Henry Thomas.

4. The Confederate Congress made a special law to get rid of Hood.

At Nashville, Hood tried to entice Thomas’ Union army to leave the safety of its massive defenses by making diversionary attacks. Thomas wasn’t fooled (again, he’s the GOAT. Look him up). Not only did the attack not work, the already outnumbered Hood sent his best and most capable force (Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry) to do it. When Thomas finally did attack, he called the same attack twice, and it was successful both times. Hood only escaped because Thomas wasn’t able to cross the Tennessee River in time.

Back in Richmond, President Davis was letting his personal distaste for Johnston get in the way of decision-making, so the rebel Congress passed a special law that allowed Robert E. Lee to reinstate Johnston in February 1865. But by then, Hood’s Army was no longer considered an effective fighting force. Hood was exiled to the Trans-Mississippi Theater in March. It was too late for the Confederates to rally. Johnston fought Sherman in Carolina, but it was too late. Lee and Johnston both surrendered to the Union in April 1865.