Thursday, November 14, 2013

Outside review of Hood on Hood

Having selectively read only around 60% of Sam Hood's aggressively revisionist John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General (Savas Beatie, 2013), I'll not be formally reviewing it here and have mostly avoided comment. However, the critical views, both positive and negative, expressed in Zac Cowsert's recent "Emerging Civil War" review so closely match my own that I thought I would mention it here for those that may have been wondering what I thought about the book.


  1. HI Drew, I am sorry to learn you won't be reviewing it, but you can't do them all. Here is another review:

    We have seen many reviews, almost all positive, but almost none of which provide examples of the author's strongest arguments, i.e., Wiley Sword's treatment of the historical record vis a vis Hood. As someone who has been a longstanding reader and admirer of Sword (whom I know lightly and have met on several occasions), his "mistakes"-- people can read them and determine for themselves which if any were intentional misstatements -- have done more to color the Hood waters than any other writer.

    As a publisher and observer of such things, I am trying to understand why reviewers seem unwilling to discuss them openly, since what he wrote and what he relied upon is simply a factual discussion: Sword wrote X. His cite is Y. This is what Y says.

    Thanks again for all you do for CW publishing, Drew.

  2. Drew: Thanks for linking that review. Mr. Cowsert mirrors almost exactly my own impression after reading the book - a very worthwhile study which makes a strong case that much of the accepted historiography about Hood (especially regarding Atlanta and Franklin/Nashville) is largely wrong - but also one that at times comes across as a strident brief for Hood on virtually everything he ever did. In particular, I made note of the rather silly calculation that the Lee letter contains five favorable comments and one negative, without regard to the context, Lee's style of communicating, or the importance of the "one". Overall, this is a positive review and I'm not sure how it could be read as anything else - as opposed to an assessment that the book is entirely faultless.

  3. Thanks for linking to the review. I'll have to eventually get to the book.

    It's really something how Hood has become such a minefield. Now if we could have a strident brief in defense of Braxton Bragg. That would turn Civil War history on its head.

    Reading again 'Two Wars: An Autobiography Of General Samuel G. French' (which is available online) I don't think Wiley Sword started 'Hood bashing'. Some of the best parts of the autobiography are from French's diary and Hood doesn't come off too well. I mean French was THERE and rips Hood far more than Wiley Sword ever did. I find it fascinating reading and actually one of the best officer accounts of the war (especially the diary sections which should have been added to the OR.)


  4. Also, I meant to add some of the harshest words for Hood fighting at Franklin is contained in the excellent book 'One of Cleburne's Command: The Civil War Reminiscences and Diary of Capt. Samuel T. Foster' (Univ of Texas 1980).

    Foster was a Texan no less and really let Hood have it in a few paragraphs. I think his venom is worse than any that Wiley Sword (or other historians) could come up with. Again, he was there. He had every right to be critical of Hood.

    He served, fought, and his comrades died because a fight was forced on November 30th, 1864 that should not have been made.


  5. Following up on Chris's point, Eric Jacobson did an excellent job of brushing away some of the over-wrought "analysis" of Hood's tactics at Franklin (especially his motivation) while still leaving those tactics open to strong criticism. It seems to be inevitable that authors who propose a revised look at someone like Hood have a tendency to overcompensate.


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