Monday, July 22, 2019

Book News: Stephen Davis's two-part John Bell Hood military biography

The Fall/Winter catalogs are out for many publishers, and Stephen Davis's John Bell Hood project is perhaps the brightest news to come out of Mercer University Press's schedule. This coming December they will release Texas Brigadier to the Fall of Atlanta: John Bell Hood, the first of two volumes. Only having the brief publisher's description to go on, it appears to be strictly a treatment of Hood's Civil War career and not a full account of the controversial Confederate general's life.

"In this work,..., Hood's rise in rank is chronicled. In three years, 1861-1864, Hood rose from lieutenant to full general in the Confederate army." With the first book taking readers through Sherman's thorough defeat of Hood's army and his capture of Atlanta, that leaves the second book to be devoted entirely to the 1864 Tennessee Campaign. It will be interesting to read Davis's extended take on Hood's tenure in gray. No one will dispute that Hood was one of the best brigade and division commanders in the Confederate Army, but he proved a lackluster corps commander and disastrous army commander.

From the description: "Davis emphasizes Hood's fatal flaw: ambition. Hood constantly sought promotion, even after he had found his highest level of competence as division commander in Robert E. Lee's army. As corps commander in the Army of Tennessee, his performance was good, but no better. Promoted to succeed Johnston, Hood did his utmost to defend Atlanta against Sherman. In this latter effort he failed. But he had won his spurs, even if he had been denied greatness as a general."

Hmm. I'm sure the author will fully develop the context for his argument surrounding the chief source of Hood's downfall, but ambition might alternatively be regarded as a requirement rather than a fatal flaw in any low-ranking officer seeking professional advancement in the thoroughly politicized volunteer armies of the day. And few individuals of any confidence and talent have such perfect self-knowledge as to immediately recognize their peak competence and refuse to risk flying higher. Anyway, I am greatly looking forward to getting a copy of the book when the time comes.

1 comment:

  1. Drew

    Looking forward to this 2 volume publication. Not sure Hood should have risen as far as he did, but I'm always interested in an expert on A subject presenting a new study.

    Don H.


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