Friday, August 17, 2012

General Hood on the battle of Franklin

In Chapter XVII of his Advance and Retreat Hood describes winning the battle of Franklin. After the battle Schofield left his dead and wounded and ran off to Nashville. Hood only regrets that the screw-up of his lieutenants at Spring Hill put Schofield in position to escape. Hood makes a defense of his decision to attack Schofield and Nashville, but none of his decision to attack (nor of the manner of attack at) Franklin. The only failure Hood admits to in regard to Franklin is "the failure of my cherished plan to crush Schofield's Army before it reached its strongly fortified position around Nashville."

Hood presents a different version than I previously encountered of Cleburne's attitude and the circumstances right before his death at Franklin:

"Soon after Cheatham's Corps was massed on the left, Major General Cleburne came to me where I was seated on my horse in the rear of the line, and asked permission to form his Division in two, or, if I remember correctly, three lines for the assault. I at once granted his request, stating that I desired the Federals to be driven into the river in their immediate rear and directing him to advise me as soon as he had completed the new disposition of his troops. Shortly afterward, Cheatham and Stewart reported all in readiness for action, and received orders to drive the enemy from his position into the river at all hazards [Hood's italics]. About that time Cleburne returned, and, expressing himself with an enthusiasm which he had never before betrayed in our intercourse, said, 'General, I am ready, and have more hope in the final success of our cause than I have had at any time since the first gun was fired.' I replied, 'God grant it!' He turned and moved at once toward the head of his Division; a few moments thereafter, he was lost to my sight in the tumult of battle. These last words, spoken to me by this brave and distinguished soldier, I have often recalled; they can never leave my memory, as within forty minutes after he had uttered them, he lay lifeless upon or near the breastworks of the foe."

Comment: I have read disparaging accounts of Advance and Retreat, that it was an unfortunate piece of defensiveness that did Hood no service, but in these modern times people mistake "defensiveness" an attitude, from "a defense," which is the sort of thing a philosopher might make if his theory is attacked, or the sort of thing that Hood made (in 1880, 15 years after the end of the Civil War) if information he witnessed was described in words he knew to be untrue. A defense can be but isn't necessarily defensiveness. Something written so long after the events doesn't strike me as a good candidate for an example of "defensiveness."

Hood isn't much of a writer, but he has marshaled some convincing evidence about actions of his that have been attacked by his enemy Joe Johnston and others. He quotes extensively from witnesses to various of his actions, much like a comment General Schofield made. 

Personally, if I were a Confederate solder back then, I would rather be in Joe Johnston's army than John Hood's. My chances of survival would have been much better. But now that historians have described all the things facing Jefferson Davis, we can see that from a political standpoint he needed victories. He didn't need the army preserved as Joe Johnston was bent upon doing with retreat after retreat. He needed a fighting general who would bring him victories. Unfortunately he didn't put Hood in there early enough or with the right support. Jefferson Davis should receive the blame for that and not Hood IMO.

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