Historian and author Stephen Hood will speak at the Beauvoir Presidential Library Lecture Series in Biloxi at 2 p.m. Saturday .
The topic will be the research he performed for his book, “John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of Confederate General.”
A West Virginia native, past president of the board of New Orleans’ Confederate Memorial Hall Museum, retired construction company owner, and former celebrated college soccer coach who served in the U.S. Navy Reserve, Hood is also a kinsman of General Hood who spent years touring Civil War battlefields and absorbing the history of that conflict partly to educate himself about the general’s military exploits.
Finding his kinsman’s legacy to be incorrectly related by late 20th Century historians such as Thomas Connolly and Wiley Sword (The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah), Hood began years of research aimed at setting the record straight.
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Set to publish his book, “Rise and Fall,” Hood was contacted by the general’s descendant who offered him that star-crossed leader’s private correspondence, long since presumed lost to history.
Hood, who acquired the nickname “Sam” years before learning that it was also General Hood’s moniker, now travels the country addressing historical societies on his favorite subject. Interestingly, his book is not a biography, but a series of essays, each aimed at the spurious claims made by other historians based on secondary sources or “pure myth,” and applying a well-documented corrective to each.
Referring to the sources he utilized in this book prior to finding the general’s letters, Hood said, “Those documents were available to everyone else. It’s not as though I used a metal detector to dig them up myself.”
Specifically, Hood demonstrates that other generals such as Joe Johnston and Frank Cheatham were not entirely forthcoming in their attempts to rewrite the history of such Western Theater battles as those for Atlanta and Nashville.
Hood offers actual written orders showing that his cousin directed Cheatham to attack Union soldiers retreating at Spring Hill, the only real chance Hood had of defeating them before Franklin. Cheatham failed to follow those orders because he thought it too dark to attack. Hood utilizes primary sources to reveal that Spring Hill was lost primarily to miscommunication rather than Hood’s allegedly faulty leadership.
If General Hood was such an overaggressive leader, his kinsman asks, then why not attack the Yankees at Columbia rather than slipping around them as he did? Hood argues that the general had no choice but to attack Franklin head on when a swollen river prevented a flanking movement, and he could not allow his opponents to escape without a fight to further fortify Nashville without risking the mass desertion by troops weary of Johnston’s Fabian strategy of conceding half the South without offering a single major battle.
To the charge of going too far in the opposite direction of favoring his famous relative, Hood replies, “guilty as charged. I’m not attempting a balanced approach; I’m offering the balance that previous historians have entirely left out of their work.”
Stephen Hood is an engaging speaker with an extraordinary command of Civil War facts and a love of military history for its own entertaining sake that is as charming as it is compelling.
“I love learning about soldiers for the same reason I appreciate what policemen and firefighters do,” he said, “always amazed at how they manage to do what they do in the face of almost certain extraordinary harm.”
Historian and Author Stephen Hood
What: Lecture on Revising the history and legacy of CSA General John Bell Hood
When: Nov. 12 at 2 p.m.
Where: Beauvoir Presidential Library Lecture Series, 2244 Beach Blvd., Biloxi