Belmont University Research Symposium (BURS)


John Bell Hood, Commander-Incompetent: The Failed Final Southern Offensive in Tennessee

Publication Date

Winter 12-2021


Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, College of


History, Department of

BURS Faculty Advisor

Dr. Peter Kuryla

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation


For years, one of the commonly held views among American Civil War history enthusiasts was the preeminence of Confederate military leadership to that of the Union’s. While there were many talented commanders on both sides, one less often discussed topic involves those commanders whose performances left something to be desired. One such commander was General John Bell Hood, who led the Confederate Army of Tennessee during one of the final campaigns of the Civil War. The Franklin-Nashville Campaign was the last gasp of the Confederate war effort and would require a highly skilled commander. Unfortunately for the Confederacy (And thankfully for the Union) there was no such figure. Hood believed himself to be the man to ascend to greatness and achieve victory; however, this was not the case. Hood led the Confederacy in a final fool-hearty campaign in which he failed to achieve almost every objective because of his shortcomings managing his army's logistics, communications, and his poor decision making as a commander. Additionally, his attack at Franklin wasted lives unnecessarily as he rejected council from his subordinates due to his pursuit for personal glory. Hood attempted to shift blame in his own postwar account of the campaign while memoirs from other commanders in both the Union and Confederacy reveal the totality of Hood’s incompetence. Accounts from average soldiers paint poignant pictures of the fruitless campaign and grizzly battle at Franklin. Even some of the regular Confederate soldiers questioned their general's abilities. Instances like this campaign can help break down some of the myths promulgated by Lost Causers and Neo-Confederates who often cling to CSA military officials as saints and instead depict these figures and events in realistic terms. This campaign was not a sacrificial final stand but rather a reckless bloodletting and should be remember as such.

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