31 October 2012 by Published in: Research and Writing 25 comments

I was given the privilege of having the first interview with Stephen M. “Sam” Hood about a remarkable find that Sam made pertaining to his ancestor, Gen. John Bell Hood.

Sam Hood is a graduate of Kentucky Military Institute, Marshall University (bachelor of arts, 1976), and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. A collateral descendent of General John Bell Hood, Sam is a retired industrial construction company owner, past member of the Board of Directors of the Blue Gray Education Society of Chatham, Virginia, and is a past president of the Board of Directors of Confederate Memorial Hall Museum in New Orleans. Sam resides in his hometown of Huntington, West Virginia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with his wife of thirty-five years, Martha, and is the proud father of two sons: Derek Hood of Lexington, Kentucky, and Taylor Hood of Barboursville, West Virginia.

Question: I understand that you are related to General Hood. How are you related to him?

I am a second cousin. I descend directly from his grandfather Lucas Hood, who was my great x 5 grandfather.

Question: When was this set of papers of General Hood’s discovered?

Well actually, they weren’t so much “discovered” as “realized.” I was invited to the home of a direct descendent in June to look through what was thought to be just boxes of routine family papers and memorabilia that had been passed down and accumulated through the decades. The descendent knew I was finishing my book and thought that maybe…just maybe…there might be something in the boxes that I could use in my manuscript.

Question: What did you do when you discovered the collection?

I was utterly stunned. The family had set me up in a vacant bedroom of their home to use as an office, and brought out 3 or 4 bankers boxes, and invited me to call for them if I needed any assistance.

Question: What was your reaction when you learned of the existence of this collection of papers?

After a few minutes with the collection, my priorities immediately changed. When I saw the incredible historical importance of many of the documents my top priority changed from seeking interesting information to helping them identify and secure the documents, which was done. The task actually took two trips of 3 days each, with my wife Martha accompanying me and assisting me on the second trip. The valuable papers were identified, placed in acid-proof folders, and physically removed to the owners’ bank safety deposit box. I made photocopies of everything to take home, where I began the process of transcribing the letters. It wasn’t until then that I started finding the historically important content of the letters.

Question: Without being too specific, as I know that you want to maintain some semblance of confidentiality regarding the specific contents, can you give our readers an idea of what’s in the collection?

Approximately 80 letters to Hood by high and lower ranked Civil War characters, Union and Confederate, wartime and postwar. Correspondents include Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, SD Lee, Braxton Bragg, James Seddon, AP Stewart, WH Jackson, SG French, William Bate, Henry Clayton, FA Shoup, Mrs Leonidas Polk, William M Polk, WS Featherston, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, David S Terry, Matthew C Butler, GW Smith, PGT Beauregard, Louis T Wigfall, George Thomas, WT Sherman, and numerous lower ranked officers, mostly members of commanders’ staffs. There are 61 postwar letters from Hood to his wife Anna, and 35 from Anna to him as he traveled in his insurance business. Also included are Dr John T Darby’s two highly detailed medical reports of Hood’s Gettysburg and Chickamauga wounds, and the daily log of Hood’s treatment and recovery from the day of his leg amputation until November 24 in Richmond. The collection also includes Hood’s Orders and Dispatches log and 4 volumes of Telegram logs for his entire tenure as commander of the Army of Tennessee. Additionally, Hood’s first and second lieutenant’s commission certificates from the US Army are in the collection, along with 4 remarkable documents: his original commission certificates for his ranks of brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, and full general in the Confederate Army. There are also numerous photographs and other ephemera of Hood, his children, and his grandchildren.

Question: In your opinion, what is the significance of this collection?

You should probably ask credentialed scholars this question, but I can’t imagine a discovery of Civil War documents being more profound than these.

Question: In your opinion, how does the unearthing of this collection change or impact the impression that the public has of John Bell Hood and his legacy to the American Civil War?

There are a few specific items that are quite profound. Letters from three separate officers identify Hood’s subordinate who was responsible for the Confederate failure at Spring Hill. A senior commander explains Patrick Cleburne’s behavior before and during the Battle of Franklin–characterized in modern Civil War scholarship as being peculiar–and it had absolutely nothing to do with General Hood. In one letter SD Lee makes some very serious charges against William Bate at the Battle of Franklin.

A letter sheds new light on the nature and intent of Hood’s correspondence with Richmond authorities in the spring of 1864, characterized by Hood’s critics as “poison pen” letters intended to undermine Joseph Johnston. Several letters back up claims that Hood made in his memoirs concerning controversies with Johnston, including the Cassville Affair, and Johnston’s heavy losses during the Atlanta Campaign, mostly due to desertions.

Dr Darby’s medical reports are fascinating, and include detailed daily records of the medications prescribed to Hood.

There is much more important historical information, although not so controversial.

Question: What are your intentions for the collection?

I have none. The owners, who insist on complete anonymity at this time, intend to retain all the original documents as treasured family artifacts. However, copies of all the documents will be released to a yet-to-be-determined public repository at some time in the future. I have begun work on an annotated book of the papers, which I hope to complete by next spring for publication next fall (2013.) Since the papers will be cited, copies will have to be made public at that time if not sooner.

Question: Have you used these newly-discovered documents in your forthcoming book, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General?

Yes. I was able to transcribe many, but not all of the letters, and none of the orders and dispatches or telegram logs. I was able to include much of the important information in my forthcoming book, John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General (Savas Beatie Publishing, Spring 2013.) (It was originally to be titled History versus John Bell Hood but the publisher felt the new information justified the new title.)

Question: What would you like for the readers to know about your book?

Thanks for asking this question, Eric. Even without the newfound information I have always felt that available historical records disprove many of the outlandish charges that have been made against JB Hood in modern Civil War literature. Authors like Wiley Sword have cherry picked the records, filtering out of their books all evidence and testimony that doesn’t paint Hood as an incompetent scoundrel. My book reveals to readers, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story.” Also, the paraphrasing used by critical authors is often remarkably misleading, and in many cases the exaggeration and hyperbole completely distorts the accurate context. My book is 100,000 words of examples of concealment of historical evidence and distortions, but it could have been 200,000 words long.

The newfound information just reinforces what the available historical records reveal about JB Hood had authors not had an agenda.

Eric: Thanks to Sam Hood for granting me this interview, and thanks to Sam for sharing this vital information with me.

My opinion is that this is, perhaps, THE most important find in my lifetime. This treasure trove of letters has the potential to dramatically change how history perceives John Bell Hood, and it certainly will help to change how history remembers Hood. This is certainly an exciting find, and I’m pleased that Sam chose to share these insights with me.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. tps
    Wed 31st Oct 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Thanks Eric for this wonderful interview. We are so pleased to be able to bring this book out next Spring, and we know the Civil War community will enjoy it. We will be slowly releasing some excerpts, and other items, including interviews and so forth, on our website at http://www.savasbeatie.com.

    Theodore P. Savas
    Managing Director

  2. Thu 01st Nov 2012 at 4:59 am

    Great interview, thanks for bringing it to us. I am greatly looking forward to both the new biography of Hood and the release of these documents. The latter will surely be the most anticipated release of 2013. It is amazing to think that we can have new information of this potential magnitude to look forward to nearly 150 years after the conflict has ended- it makes you think about what else may still be out there hidden away in attics. I can barely contain my anticipation of what the Hood documents may reveal, particularly regarding Patrick Cleburne at Franklin!

  3. Herb Sayas
    Thu 01st Nov 2012 at 10:43 am

    Wow !!! You can’t get more authentic than with the materials that Sam has found, read and in the process of annotating. I was excited when I found out that Sam’s book is soon to be available, but this second book is a must for my civil war collection. Primary sources are the gold standard of the researcher. Sam, thank you for making this available to all of us who study the civil war, visit civil war sites, and help to preserve civil war battlefields and artifacts.

  4. Thu 01st Nov 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Great job Eric. Learned a lot.

  5. Charles DiVincenti
    Thu 01st Nov 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks for the sneak-peek at the forthcoming book. Pray we see some type of publication regarding the recent discovery of letters, orders, etc…Very honored to know Mr Sam Hood! Glad to see Genl Hood get a fair shake. Deo Vindice!

  6. Dennis
    Fri 02nd Nov 2012 at 5:21 am

    Excellent! Thank you!

    Regards,
    Dennis

  7. Sarah Brooks
    Sat 03rd Nov 2012 at 11:40 am

    Very nice interview on the newly discovered personal papers of the “Gallant Hood” of Texas. The new biography should prove very interesting reading. Thank you very much for this article.

  8. John Foskett
    Sat 03rd Nov 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Thanks for this interview. It never ceases to astonish me that material like this is still lurking out there 125-150 years later. This is similar to Robert Garth Scott’s fortunate visit to relatives in the D.C. area and getting a call from a neighbor to come to her attic to look at “some Civil War stuff” – which turned out to be a steamer-trunk full of well-preserved orders, letters, journals, etc. of Orlando B. Willcox and the IX Corps. It just shows that you can never safely say “never” when it comes to the non-existent papers of a Rodes or a Thomas.

  9. Chris Evans
    Sun 04th Nov 2012 at 12:07 pm

    How awesome! This sounds amazing.

    Thanks for posting.

    Chris

  10. Tom Clemens
    Mon 05th Nov 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Good job Eric, thank you. I was excited to discover Carman communicated with hood, nothing spectacular, but neat. Wonder if Carman’s letter to Hood is in the collection.

  11. Sam Hood
    Tue 06th Nov 2012 at 11:31 am

    Mr Clemons:

    In the Hood papers is one letter from EA Carman to Hood dated Sept. 11, 1877. The content is itself not remarkable, but he tells Hood that when he returns home he will send Hood a copy of a letter from (Capt) Paul A Oliver to (Gen) Dan Butterfield detailing Oliver’s attack on Hood’s corps at Cassville. Carman did send the Oliver-to-Butterfield letter (dated March 3, 1877) which is also in Hood’s papers.

    Respectfully,

    Sam Hood

  12. Jacob Jackson
    Tue 06th Nov 2012 at 10:01 pm

    This sounds like a very interesting book…it’s going on my to-read list when it comes out.

    Plus, he’s a West Virginian. You can’t go wrong with that.

  13. Thu 15th Nov 2012 at 12:05 am

    Check out Gary Ecelbarger’s book on the Battle of Atlanta “The Day Dixie Died” for fair treatment of Hood on the July 22, 1864 attempt to repulse Sherman’s advance on Atlanta. He shows the plans that Hood developed were solid and simply put bad luck intervened or good depending on your perspective.

  14. Thu 15th Nov 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Eric and Mr. Hood,

    I am somewhat aware of how important and interesting these documents are thanks to Dr. Keith Bohannon, who I think is doing some transcribing work for Sam – Keith has mentioned the medical reports of Hood’s Chickamauga wounding as being amazing in detail.

    I would dearly love to know if there is anything else in there related to Chickamauga, especially with regard to General Hood’s actions on September 19.

    And short of finding copies of the long destroyed George Thomas papers, I can’t think of a more important find in ACW scholarship. How did you manage not ot have a heart attack when you first realized what you were seeing?

  15. Mohammad Abdelaziz
    Tue 21st May 2013 at 5:59 pm

    Good things happen to good people. Congratulations Sam.

    M. Abdelaziz

  16. Joe Walker
    Thu 01st Aug 2013 at 8:25 pm

    How did you get the name “Sam”, and when did you start calling yourself the name of the General?I am an old friend of Col. Simpson and wonder how he would react to your book. I have read the book, and wait for the “other shoe to fall” when all the historians you criticize get to responding to your calling them liars.

    Joe Walker -Waco (native from Atlanta)

  17. Sam Hood
    Thu 01st Aug 2013 at 8:46 pm

    Mr Walker,

    Not that you deserve an answer because you asked so rudely, but I was nicknamed Sam a month before I was born in 1952. There was a 6 month old baby in the neighborhood named Sam and my older brother would ask my pregnant mother when “our little Sam” was coming. When I was born he called me Little Sam. I am 60 1/2 years old and have had my nickname for 60 3/4 years.

    Since you have read my book please tell me specifically what lies in my book deserve further explanation?

    Sam Hood

  18. Joe Walker
    Sun 04th Aug 2013 at 3:12 pm

    I am 67 years old and use the name on my birth certificate.

    I am not an anti-Hood person. In fact, I am an associate member of the “Hood’s Texas Brigade Asso- Reactivated” (one grandfather in Hood’s Div, ANV). Regarding your “lies” statement above, you are calling those who have made statements YOU consider as untrue and I am waiting on what response they will provide, not that you have not stated anything untrue that I can say. You got hot when I asked you about your name. I didn’t mean that to be rude, you took it that way. I still have many questions regarding the General’s appointment to the position and his behavior after his second wounding.

    I was at Hill College Friday and I know you have been there a few times. I know you have met me. I am a native of Atlanta and have researched the Atlanta campaign for 30 years. I just returned from Franklin/Nashville and spent time with a couple of Historians there and the Tenn State Museum. I pretend I know something about the Smith/Granbury brigade, enough to agree with you about Lundburg’s writings. I have known Danny Sessums for 35+ years as well, and his manuscript was written at least 25 years ago and he explained to me that he had errors in it that had not be corrected.

    You can be as rude as you want with me. I have thick skin.

    Joe, Joseph, Jose, Joey, whatever, Walker

  19. Joe Walker
    Sun 04th Aug 2013 at 3:26 pm

    BTW- Keith Bohannan is a friend of mine, and we have not had an opportunity to discuss your book at length. However, we did meet here in Texas in June and he spoke of it’s release in July.

  20. Sam Hood
    Mon 05th Aug 2013 at 11:24 am

    Joe,

    You asked me when I started calling myself the name of the General. I ddn’t give myself my nickname, and it has nothing to do with the General. Usually when someone inquires about my nickname, they politely ask “where’d you get the name Sam?” of sumsuch.

    Anyway, in my book I don’t call anyone a liar. I presented what various authors wrote (verbatim) about certain subjects, researched their sources, and gave my readers the full and accurate primary source, when there was one. I criticize authors for too often relying on assertions of previous authors instead of doing their own research, or for inaccurately paraphrasing. To be honest I don’t consider any of the authors referred to in my book as intentionally misleading their readers…except one, who I will not name.

    Sam

  21. Jim Niemi
    Fri 06th Sep 2013 at 6:37 pm

    I am 3/4 through the book and am impressed. It is not merely an attack on previous authors – Hood consistently leaves it up to the reader to form his own opinions concerning the contemporary documents and one’s analysis of them. The book is an excellent synopsis, with detail provided, on Hood’s Atlanta and Tennessee campaigns and is well written in a lucid, straight forward manner. I’ve enjoyed it very much and covers many minute details and poses important questions for the serious Civil War reader. Many discussions in Civil War circles have recently shown hesitation or have shown no interest in it at all because of it’s supposed vitriolic premise, but the author should be praised for his discretion. He could have been much more harsh. The contemporary evidence speaks for itself.

  22. rob11751
    Wed 29th Jan 2014 at 6:19 pm

    they should have court marshaled and hung Hood for what he did to the army of Tennessee, he was a butcher

  23. 44thIndiana
    Fri 14th Feb 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Mr. Hood –

    I purchased your book and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Like you I feel that General Hood, like General Longstreet and others, were the victims of a post-war rewriting of “history” skewed toward Virginians. You mention a number of books in yours. What is one book you would recommend reading on the Tennessee campaign that, in your opinion, is the least biased and provides a fair account towards all parties, good or bad?

  24. Professor Bennett
    Mon 28th Apr 2014 at 5:40 am

    I am excited to see the upcoming book regarding General Hood. I am always puzzled from his memoirs, Advance and retreat” little coverage of his only major success at Atlanta, Utoy Creek. Hood was a brave and daring General.

    Regards,

    LTC Perry Bennett, USA
    Army Historian

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