Friday, August 17, 2012

The mental capacity and bravery of General Hood

In preparation for his Advance and Retreat, Hood read Sherman's memoirs and quotes from them on page 179 in regard to the morning of July 22nd, 1864 near Atlanta:

". . . Schofield was dressing forward his lines, and I could hear Thomas further to the right engaged, when General McPherson and his staff rode up. We went back to the Howard House, a double frame building with a porch, and sat on the steps, discussing the chances of battle, and of Hood's general character. McPherson had also been of the same class at West Point with Hood, Schofield, and Sheridan. We agreed that we ought to be unusually cautious and prepared at all times for sallies and for hard fighting, because Hood, though not deemed much of a scholar, or of great mental capacity, was undoubtedly a brave, determined, and rash man; and the change of commanders at that particular crisis argued the displeasure of the Confederate Government with the cautious but prudent conduct of General Joe Jackson."

Comment: Hood obviously took this as a great compliment; which initially surprised me, but upon reflection I could see his point of view -- sort of. He knew he was no scholar. In another place, upon the death of General McPherson, Hood writes, "Although in the same class, I was several years his junior, and, unlike him, was more wedded to boyish sports than to books. Often when we were cadets, have I left the barracks at night to participate in some merry-making, and early the following morning have had recourse to him to help me over the difficult portions of my studies for the day. . ."

I recall discussions with people who fancied they had sufficient mental equipment to be scholarly, but they simply weren't interested in pursuing anything of an intellectual nature. In their minds it was a matter of choice and not inherent capability. There is a bit of that in Hood's description of his West Point association with McPherson, and yet, as we know from his many pages of defense against General Joe Johnston, Hood was very capable of taking offense, but he clearly takes no offense at Sherman declaring him "no scholar" and of "no great mental capacity." It seems probable that the compliment that followed, namely that Hood was "undoubtedly a brave, determined, and rash man" outweighed any niggling concerns he might have had over having his mental capacity depreciated.

I recall something of an opposite nature from several years ago, along some border with my brother-in-law who was in the border patrol at the time and an armorer friend of his. My brother-in-law had been in the Army during Vietnam and I had been in the Marine Corps during Korea; so we teased each other quite a bit. We had been discussing some "what if" situation, what if such and such-nation or group attacked us -- the sort of thing Red Necks like to do -- what guns would we take and where would we go. My brother-in-law & his friend were much more into that sort of thing than I was, but at one point I held forth with some sort of theory, or some aspect of history, and they both looked at me blankly while I spoke. After I quite talking and my brother-in-law turned to his friend and said, "okay, you and I will take the guns and my Land Cruiser and head out into the desert. Helm here can stay behind and befuddle the enemy with his bullshit."

No comments: