When the Confederate Army fell back from Gettysburg, I
followed our marching column in an ambulance, suffering very much from the
wound received in my arm. In the same vehicle lay General Hampton, so badly
wounded that he was unable to sit up, whereas I could not lie down. We
journeyed together in this manner to Staunton, a distance of some two hundred
miles. Along the pike were seen our wounded, making their way to the rear, and
the noble women of Virginia, standing by the wayside to supply them with food,
and otherwise administer to their wants.
I remained for a period of one month under medical
treatment, first at Staunton and then at Charlottesville, whence I proceeded to
Richmond. About the 14th of September my division passed through the Capital,
under orders to join General Bragg in the West for the purpose of taking part
in battle against Rosecranz. Although I had but partially recovered, I
determined, for reasons already stated in my letter to General Longstreet, to
place my horse upon the train, and follow in their wake.
I arrived at Ringgold, Georgia, on the afternoon of the
18th, and there received an order from General Bragg to proceed on the road to
Reid's bridge, and assume command of the column then advancing on the Federals.
I had my horse to leap from the train, mounted with one arm in a sling, and,
about 3 p.m., joined our forces, then under the direction of General Bushrod
Johnson and in line of battle. A small body of Federal cavalry was posted upon
an eminence a short distance beyond. On my arrival upon the field I met for the
first time after the charge at Gettysburg a portion of my old troops, who
received me with a touching welcome. After a few words of greeting exchanged
with General Johnson, I assumed command in accordance with the instructions I
had received, ordered the line to be broken by filing into the road, sent a few
picked men to the front in support of Forrest's Cavalry, and began to drive the
enemy at a rapid pace. In a short time we arrived at Reid's bridge across the
Chickamauga, and discovered the Federals drawn up in battle array beyond the
bridge, which they had partially destroyed. I ordered forward some pieces of
artillery, opened fire, and, at the same time, threw out flankers to effect a
crossing above and below and join in the attack. Our opponents quickly
retreated. We repaired the bridge, and continued to advance till darkness
closed in upon us, when we bivouacked in line, near a beautiful residence which
had been fired by the enemy, and was then almost burned to the ground. We had
driven the Federals back a distance of six or seven miles. Meantime, the main
body of the Army crossed the Chickamauga at different points, and concentrated
that night in the vicinity of my command.
General Bragg having formed his plan of attack the following
morning, I was given, in addition to my own division, the direction of
Kershaw's and Johnson's Divisions, with orders to continue the advance. We soon
encountered the enemy in strong force, and a heavy engagement ensued. All that
day we fought, slowly but steadily gaining ground. Fierce and desperate grew
the conflict, as the foe stubbornly yielded before our repeated assaults; we
drove him, step by step, a distance of fully one mile, when nightfall brought
about a cessation of hostilities, and the men slept upon their arms.
In the evening, according to my custom in Virginia under
General Lee, I rode back to Army headquarters to report to the
Commander-in-Chief the result of the day upon my part of the line. I there met
for the first time several of the principal officers of the Army of Tennessee,
and, to my surprise, not one spoke in a sanguine tone regarding the result of
the battle in which we were then engaged. I found the gallant Breckinridge,
whom I had known from early youth, seated by the root of a tree, with a heavy
slouch hat upon his head. When, in the course of brief conversation, I stated
that we would rout the enemy the following day, he sprang to his feet,
exclaiming, " My dear Hood, I am delighted to hear you say so. You give me
renewed hope; God grant it may be so."
After receiving orders from General Bragg to advance the
next morning as soon as the troops on my right moved to the attack, I returned
to the position occupied by my forces, and camped the remainder of the night
with General Buckner, as I had nothing with me save that which I had brought
from the train upon my horse. Nor did my men have a single wagon, or even
ambulance in which to convey the wounded. They were destitute of almost
everything, I might say, except pride, spirit, and forty rounds of ammunition
to the man.
During that night, after a hard day's fight by his old and
trusty troops, General Longstreet joined the Army. He reported to General Bragg
after I had left Army headquarters, and, the next morning, when I had arranged
my columns for the attack and was awaiting the signal on the right to advance,
he rode up, and joined me. He inquired concerning the formation of my lines,
the spirit of our troops, and the effect produced upon the enemy by our
assault. I informed him that the feeling of officers and men was never better,
that we had driven the enemy fully one mile the day before, and that we would
rout him before sunset. This distinguished general instantly responded with
that confidence which had so often contributed to his extraordinary success,
that we would of course whip and drive him from the field. I could but exclaim
that I was rejoiced to hear him so express himself, as he was the first general
I had met since my arrival who talked of victory.
He was assigned to the direction of the left wing, and
placed me in command of five divisions: Kershaw's, A. P. Stewart's, Bushrod
Johnson's, and Hindman's, together with my own. The latter formed the centre of
my line, with Hindman upon my left, Johnson and Stewart on the right, and
Kershaw in reserve. About 9 a.m. the firing on the right commenced; we
immediately advanced and engaged the enemy, when followed a terrible roar of
musketry from right to left. Onward we moved, nerved with a determination to
become masters of that hotly contested field. We wrestled with the resolute foe
till about 2.30 p.m., when, from a skirt of timber to our left, a body of
Federals rushed down upon the immediate flank and rear of the Texas brigade,
which was forced to suddenly change front. Some confusion necessarily arose. I
was at the time on my horse, upon a slight ridge about three hundred yards
distant, and galloped down the slope, in the midst of the men, who speedily
corrected their allignment. At this moment Kershaw's splendid division, led by
its gallant commander, came forward, as Hindman advanced to the attack a little
further to the left. Kershaw's line formed, as it were, an angle with that of
the Federal line, then in full view in an open space near the wood. I rode
rapidly to his command, ordered a change of front forward on his right, which
was promptly executed under a galling fire. With a shout along my entire front,
the Confederates rushed forward, penetrated into the wood, over and beyond the
enemy's breastworks, and thus achieved another glorious victory for our arms.
About this time I was pierced with a Minie ball in the upper third of the right
leg I turned from my horse upon the side of the crushed limb and
fellstrange to say, since I was commanding five divisionsinto the
arms of some of the troops of my old brigade, which I had directed so long a
period, and upon so many fields of battle.
Long and constant service with this noble brigade must prove
a sufficient apology for a brief reference, at this juncture, to its
extraordinary military record from the hour of its first encounter with the
enemy at Eltham's Landing, on York river, in 1862, to the surrender at
Appomattox Court House. In almost every battle in Virginia it bore a
conspicuous part. It acted as the advanced guard of Jackson when he moved upon
McClellan, around Richmond; and, almost without an exceptional instance, it was
among the foremost of Longstreet's Corps in an attack or pursuit of the enemy.
It was also, as a rule, with the rear guard of the rear guard of this corps,
whenever falling back before the adversary. If a ditch was to be leaped, or
fortified position to be carried, General Lee knew no better troops upon which
to rely. In truth, its signal achievements in the war of secession have never
been surpassed in the history of nations.
The members of this heroic band were possessed of a streak
of superstition, as in fact I believe all men to be; and it may here prove of
interest to cite an instance thereof. I had a favorite roan horse, named by
them " Jeff Davis; " whenever he was in condition I rode him in battle, and,
remarkable as it may seem, he generally received the bullets and bore me
unscathed. In this battle he was severely wounded on Saturday; the following
day, I was forced to resort to a valuable mare in my possession, and late in
the afternoon was shot from the saddle. At Gettysburg I had been unable to
mount him on the field, in consequence of lameness; in this engagement I had
also been shot from the saddle. Thus the belief among the men became nigh
general that, when mounted on old Jeff, the bullets could not find me. This
spirited and fearless animal performed his duty throughout the war, and after
which he received tender care from General Jefferson and family of Seguin,
Texas, until death, when he was buried with appropriate honors.
When wounded I was borne to the hospital of my old division,
where a most difficult operation was performed by Dr. T. G. Richardson, of New
Orleans. He was at the time Chief Medical Officer of the Army of Tennessee, and
is now the President of the Medical Association of the United States.
The day after the battle I was carried upon a litter some
fifteen miles to the residence of Mr. Little, in Armuchee Valley. I remained
there about one month under the attentive care of Mr. and Mrs. Little, the
parents of the gallant Colonel Little, of my division, and under the able
medical attendance of Dr. John T. Darby.
I then received intelligence from General Bragg that the
enemy was contemplating a raid to capture me. I at once moved to Atlanta, and
thence to Richmond.
General Longstreet, has since the war, informed me that he
telegraphed the authorities of the Confederate Government from the battle
field, on the day I was wounded, urging my promotion to the rank of Lieutenant
General, and was kind enough about the same time to send the following
" HEADQUARTERS, CHATTANOOGA,
" September 24th, 1863.
"GENERAL:I respectfully recommend Major General J. B.
Hood for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General, for distinguished conduct
and ability in the battle of the 20th inst. General Hood handled his troops
with the coolness and ability that I have rarely known by any officer, on any
field, and had the misfortune, after winning the battle, to lose one of his
" I remain, sir, very respectfully,
" Your obedient servant, " (Signed) J.
" Lieutenant General.,"
" General S. COOPER, " Adjutant and Inspector General.
" Endorsed: " Headquarters, near Chattanooga, September 24th
" W. D. 1988.
" J. Longstreet, Lieutenant General, recommends Major
General J. B. Hood for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General for
distinguished services in the battle of the 20th inst."
" I cordially unite in this just tribute.
" Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.
" By order ED. A. PALFREY,
" Lieutenant Colonel and Assistant Adjutant
" Respectfully submitted to the President "
" I cannot too warmly express my appreciation of the
character and services of this distinguished officer, and cordially concur in
recommending his promotion, if only as an appropriate testimonial of the
gratitude of the Confederacy.
"J. A. SEDDON,
" Secretary of War.
" 3d October, 1863."
" The services of Major General Hood, and his character as a
soldier and patriot, are equal to any reward, and justify the highest trust.
The recommendation to confer additional rank, as a testimonial, must have been
hastily made. The law prescribes the conditions on which Lieutenant Generals
may be appointed. Please refer to act.
" October 3d, 1863."
The subjoined extract from a letter of the Hon. Mr. Seddon,
Secretary of War, addressed to Senator Wigfall will explain the endorsement of
" RICHMOND, VA.
" October 14th, 1863.
* * * * "I have felt the deepest interest for your friend,
and I trust I may say mine, the gallant Hood. He is a true hero, and was the
Paladin of the fight. I need not say how willingly I would have manifested my
appreciation of his great services and heroic devotion by immediate promotion,
and but for some rigid notions the President had of his powers (you know how
inflexible he is on such points), he, too, would have been pleased to confer
the merited honor." * * *
I remained in Richmond, and, having been blessed, with a
good constitution, rapidly recovered from my wound. By the middle of January, I
864, I was again able to mount my horse and enjoy exercise. My restoration was
so complete that I was enabled to keep in the saddle when on active duty, and,
during the remainder of the war, never to require an ambulance either day or
night. Often President Davis was kind enough to invite me to accompany him in
his rides around Richmond, and it was thus I was for the first time afforded an
opportunity to become well acquainted with this extraordinary man, and
illustrious patriot and statesman of the South. His wonderful nerve and
ability, displayed at a most trying epoch of our history, commanded my
admiration; he was not only battling with enemies abroad, but with a turbulent
Congress at home.
It was during our pleasant excursions round Richmond that he
imparted to me his purpose to largely re-enforce General J. E. Johnston's Army
at Dalton, for the object of moving in the early Spring to the rear of the
Federal Army, then concentrating at Chattanooga. He also expressed a desire to
send me to command a corps under General Johnston. I was deeply impressed with
the importance of this movement, and cheerfully acquiesced in the proposition
of the President, but with the understanding that an aggressive campaign would
be initiated. I was loth, indeed, to leave General Lee and the troops with whom
I had served for so long a period.
I was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, left
Richmond about the 1st of February, arrived at Dalton, Georgia, on the 4th, and
reported for duty to General J. E. Johnston.
A short time before leaving the Capital General
Breckinridge, whilst we were together in my room at the Spotswood Hotel,
approached the seat I was occupying, and placed his hands upon my head, saying,
" My dear Hood, here you are beloved by your fellow-soldiers, and, although
badly shattered, with the comfort of having done noble service, and without
trouble or difficulty with any man." In truth, the course of my official duties
up to this hour had not, I might say, been ruffled in any degree. My relations
with my superiors, as well as with officers of lesser rank, had been of a most
friendly character. But alas, after a journey over a smooth sea for many
daysaye three yearsa storm suddenly arose which lasted not only to
the close of the war, but a long period thereafter.
The foregoing chapters, which contain a brief record of my
experiences up to the day I reported for duty in the Army of Tennessee, were
written after the body of this work was prepared for publication. As the
Dalton-Atlanta campaign presents no action which rises to the dignity of a
general battle, and since the strictures of General Johnston demand my earnest
attention, I shall here discontinue the relation of events in the order which I
have thus far observed, and resume the narrative at the period I assumed
command of the Army around Atlanta. I shall substitute a reply to the erroneous
and injurious statements in my regard, brought forward by General Johnston, and
which will sufficiently record the part I bore in the campaign of that Spring
and early Summer.