Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

A Last Letter to General Hood

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on May 14, 2016

The ten surviving Hood children after their parents’ death in 1879.


I was looking through Sam Hood’s The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood, and wondered if there was any correspondence between Hood and William Tecumseh Sherman relating to the latter’s visit to New Orleans in 1879, when Hood and Sherman attended the theater together, and the former Confederate general made a speech in Sherman’s honor. Lost Papers doesn’t include correspondence from that visit, but does include a letter Sherman wrote a few months later, upon learning of the death of Hood’s wife, Anna Marie, from that perennial scourge of the Gulf coast, yellow fever:


Headquarters Army of the United States,
Washington D.C., Aug 26, 1879

General J. B. Hood
New Orleans

Dear General-

My family is all in the Allegheny Mountains and I am here alone at breakfast this morning at a hotel nearby. A friend read aloud the notice of the death of Mrs. General Hood.

Even yet though some hours have passed I cannot help thinking of that wonderful and beautiful group of children you paraded before us last winter at your home in New Orleans, and that you took my daughters Lizzie and Elly up to see Mrs. Hood in her sick bed. I know not why but I cannot banish the sight from my mind, and now write you this simple note to tell you that here in Washington there is one who thinks of you in your bereavement, and of those motherless children.

I shall send the paper to my daughter Lizzie to whom you committed the sacred trust of your war papers, which are I assure you absolutely safe and I believe she will write to offer you some words of consolation at a loss which touches the heart more than the loss of a father.

All we can do is to bow to the inevitable, and go on with the duties of life till we ourselves mark the Common destiny the Grave.

Accept the assurance of my heartfelt sympathy and of great respect.

Truly your friend,
W.T. Sherman


John Bell Hood likely never read this letter; he himself succumbed to the fever four days later, on August 30, leaving ten orphaned children behind.

I hope those of you in the Houston area will be able to attend Thursday’s Houston Civil War Round Table Meeting, to hear Sam Hood speak on his famous collateral ancestor. The HCWRT meets at the Hess Club, with a meet-and-greet beginning at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m. Spaces are available for the meeting, but reservations are required. Costs are $30 for dinner and speaker, and $10 for the speaker/presentation only. E-mail Don Zuckero at Reservations-at-HoustonCivilWar-dot-com by 6:00 p.m. on Monday. The Hess Club’s address is 5430 Westheimer, a short distance west of the Galleria. The club is situated on the corner of Westheimer Way and Westheimer Court. Free, convenient, and handicap-accessible parking is across the street.




9 Responses

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  1. betty giragosian said, on May 15, 2016 at 9:56 am

    Beautiful letter. Time is a wonderful healer, if we let it happen.

  2. Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on May 15, 2016 at 10:35 am

    I can’t read this inscription on the photograph, but I’m assuming that the image is that of Hood’s 10 children after they’ve been orphaned. A sad image.

    • Andy Hall said, on May 15, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Correct. There was no family who could take them all in, and they ended up scattered among several families all over the country. Sam Hood’s book provides short biographies of them, as best they can be traced. The last surviving daughter passed away in 1956.

      • Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on May 15, 2016 at 10:44 am

        Thanks, Andy. Taking in 10 children would have been a huge chore. I don’t even want to think about what would happen today.

        I wish I was close to Houston to take in Sam Hood’s talk; it sounds like a fascinating topic.

        • Andy Hall said, on May 15, 2016 at 11:01 am

          The book is quite an eye-opener when it comes to Hood’s severe injuries at Gettysburg and Chickamauga, and the extent to which they allegedly (1) impaired his ability to command afterward, and (2) may have led to his dependency on opiates or alcohol during later military service. The author really tears into the accepted narrative on these points, armed with detailed reports from the general’s physician, and tracing back the sources of various assertions about him. According to the author, there’s virtually no contemporary corroboration for the booze-and-drugs rumors, which he traces to some local lore picked up from old-timers c. 1940 in the area where Hood’s army suffered a minor defeat. And it then snowballed in the hands of modern historians from a simple assertion (75 years after the event) that “Hood was drunk that night” to open speculation about alcohol, laudanum and morphine. It’s crazy.

          Myself, I want to ask Sam Hood about this:

        • Andy Hall said, on May 16, 2016 at 2:10 pm

          You might find this interesting. I looked up some of Mary Chesnut’s diary entries from early February 1865 — after the disasters at Atlanta and Franklin, after Hood had resigned his command of the Army of Tennessee. General Hood (also “Sam”) was a friend of Chesnut’s and she knew him well. She said that at that time, February 1865, he was able to stand upright unassisted on his prosthetic right leg, and got around very well on crutches. He was still very slow and unsteady walking with only a cane. She noted that a confidante told her that Hood typically put in about 15 miles a day in the saddle when he was in the field, which is no small thing.

          So I think Sam Hood (the author) is right when he pushes back against the authors who have dismissed the general as “half a man” or merely “a cripple.”

          • Cotton Boll Conspiracy said, on May 16, 2016 at 2:26 pm

            All I need to consider is the fact that he remained in the army despite the many grievous wounds he suffered. Most men would have called it quits after losing their leg, especially given that they no longer had the use of one of their arms. He was one tough SOB.

            • Andy Hall said, on May 16, 2016 at 2:46 pm

              Mary Chesnut noted that the “Charlottesville leg” was serving him much better than the one his physician had ordered from Paris. Hah!

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