Tribute to the Famous Confederate Soldier.
A LIFE FILLED WITH NOBLE DEEDS AND FAITHFUL SERVICE.
Sketch of General Hood’s Military Career-Heroic Traits in His Character.
[From the New Orleans, La., Picayune, September 4, 1904.]
NOTE.–Tuesday, August 30, 1904, was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the death of General J. B. Hood.
Sadly and wearily,
Eyes dimmed by grief,
Thou, who has fought for us
With thy blood bought for us,
Freedom so brief–
Slumbereth now peacefully,
Resteth now fair,
Could I but have thee now,
Soothe from thy furrowed brow
All lines of care!
Bleeding and aching wounds
Counted for naught,
They did not pierce thy heart,
Injustice’s cruel dart
Such sorrow wrought.
Only the victor is
Honored and cheered,
But Defeat’s martyr must
To kind oblivion trust,
Yet, where is he so strong,
Fighting with Dignity
All the Malignity,
As thou hast done?
Though thou art dead and gone,
Better than fame
Thou hast to us bequeathed,
With holy memories wreathed–
A noble name.
Slumber now peacefully,
Thou didst thy share,
Thou hast not lived in vain;
Leaving the stormy main,
Rest thee now fair.
Busts of brass and alabaster, pillars of granite and basalt, columns of porphyry and marble yield to the tooth of time. In the palaces of nature even, the vast domes and cupolas, the towering peaks and rugged crags, fashioned by subterranean fires or cleft by rushing torrents and polished by the sweep of winds, fall victims to decay.
Men’s spirit only lives. Its product, be it the thoughtful measure or the kindly deed, the word of wisdom or the noble sacrifice of self and substance on the altar to the common good, is never lost. Cast upon the broad bosom of the ever-surging sea of humanity, deep-running currents, whose secret courses the subtlety of human reason cannot fathom, carry it far and wide, into the habitations of the lowly and to the mansions of the great.
Sometimes a man is spared to see it return after its first circuit, enriched by the homage of the grateful and the tribute of the just; oftener, Time, measured by the stately march of stars, has conquered him. Fate in its irony and wisdom has denied him that gratification and silenced his senses.
Then, when he is resting in his grave, perhaps after a long journey over the thorn-studded path of disappointments, and the tombstone has solemnly mounted its lonely guard to warn off with silent, majestic and awe-inspiring gesture the noisy clamor of petty jealousies and strife, then the fields and gardens are ransacked for their blossoms and a wealth of fragrance is lavishly shed about the grave; then men will rise and outvie each other to do honor to the memory of one to whom they had perhaps denied the barest recognition while he was in their midst.
Perhaps ’tis better so. The lasting monument of Influence, based on the firm pedestal of the human heart, needs time to anchor and take root. But once unveiled, it draws with might and main. Men flock to its foot to find there the inspiration for noble effort or the worthy deed, a sculptured image or the graven word can never give. The poet’s unawakened fire is there lashed to flame; philosophers arrest their steps to ponder; the worn and footsore find repose, and others, weaker than the rest, some comfort and some rest.
At certain seasons the magnetic force of such a monument is doubled, trebled. ‘Tis then the mind calls afresh in long review the life of virtue and of strength, which gave it birth. And so, on this occasion, the recurring day of death of one whose memory will never fade, stirs me profoundly by the sweetness and the sadness of many recollections.
John Bell Hood was born at Owingsville, Bath county, Ky., June 1, 1831. Of an old family, originally coming from Devonshire, England, he inherited from his paternal side the military spirit, which decided his career, and that absolute, unflinching integrity of purpose that knows no bending. No man is greater than his mother–in which rule he was no exception. But through her he was endowed with those greater traits of character–a sympathetic heart, a soul responsive to the noble, great and good–by which nature understands to balance the grosser with the more spiritual, to make one harmonious whole.
Overcoming the opposition of his father–a widely-honored physician, who intended his son for the medical profession–Hood was nominated to the Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1853. For two years he saw service in California, was honorably mentioned in a dispatch in connection with an encounter with Indians, was promoted, and then made cavalry instructor at West Point, a most highly coveted appointment.
Then came a day when his conscience bade him resign his commission. I doubt not, it was a day of struggle and pain for him–for the time of terror and upheaval, when the whole continent was to tremble under the shock of the cannon’s roar, and the insatiable thirst of the earth for human blood was to be stirred, was at hand.
Matters of morals, ethics and emotions do not yield to the rigid application of mathematical formulae. The judge enthroned in each individual conscience is the sole and independent arbiter. A consensus of opinion of such judges, the highest tribunal on earth, is seldom had. One part decided, and if the other, relying on the soundness of its contention, refuses to submit, and the matter be weighty enough, and all means of arriving at an amicable settlement are exhausted, hell is let loose; slaughter becomes a motto. So the civil war broke out, and entering the army of the Confederacy, John Bell Hood became Colonel, and soon after Brigadier-General of the Texas Brigade.
If his military attainments and genius I will let others speak, better fitted for a keen analysis and criticism on matters of strategy than I am.
But he was one of the bravest, who never spared himself, sharing with his men all the burdens, the joys and sorrows. He was more than merely their general officer commanding, he was their friend; doubly so, as they reciprocated his feelings. In the battle of Gaines’ Mills he received his first wound in the civil war.
Promoted for his valor to a Brevet Major-General, he served in both campaigns in Maryland, was engaged in the second battle of Bull Run, fought gallantly at Boonesborough, Fredericksburg, Antietam and Gettysburg, where he was again so severely wounded that he lost the use of his arm. In the following September he rejoined his command and was ordered to re-enforce General Bragg in Tennessee.
On the second day of the battle in Chickamauga he fought most splendidly, rallying the wavering troops, imbuing them with his spirit and charging the enemy at the head of the gallant Texans –to fall, badly wounded by a minnie ball. His leg had to be amputated, and when on the road to recovery he was offered a civil position, away from danger and personal risk, he refused without hesitation. His mind–his blood–aye, his life, he had consecrated to the active service at the front. He thought not of his own safety. He thought of his country and its cause.
After six months he returned to the field and was assigned to a command in General Johnston’s army, distinguishing himself repeatedly during the retreat of the army from Dalton to Atlanta. When in July, 1864, General Johnston was removed from the command, General Hood was placed at its head. In the desperate conflict of Atlanta, both sides lost heavily. The following November, though, he compelled the evacuation of Decatur and then made a movement into Tennessee, where he fought one of the fiercest battles in the whole war, at Franklin, September 30.
After the battle of Nashville, General Hood was forced to retreat. His opponents were numerically too strong. The campaign had proved disastrous, partly through the non-arrival of expected re-enforcements from the Transmississippi Department, and on January 13, 1865, General Hood requested to be relieved of his command. This request was finally granted, and on the 23d he bade farewell to the Army of Tennessee.
After a sojourn in Richmond for several weeks, General Hood then was ordered to Texas to form a new army, when the report of General Lee’s surrender reached him. It was not until in receipt of positive information of the surrender of General E. Kirby Smith that he rode into Hatche on the 31st of May, 1865, and there proffered his sword to Major-General Davidson, U. S. A., who bade him retain it and paroled the officers and men in General Hood’s company to proceed to New Orleans.
A battle is not comparable to a game of chess, in which two keen, agile and alert minds, the leaders of opposing armies, are pitted against each other in a struggle for victory. It’s more like a game of probabilities, in which the element of chance plays as important a part as cool calculation. For who can foretell the shower of rain that will retard the advance of the batteries to occupy their assigned places, to cover an attack or to divert the attention of the enemy at the preconceived psychological moment?
Who can, like Joshua, bid the sun stand still, lest the advantage gained during the combat of the day be lost or neutralized through the enforced suspension of activities in the night, when the enemy may have time to rally and secure re-enforcements. And who, lastly, can so control the spirits, so animate the mass of his troops that the supreme effort is propelled by “all” the available energy?
And yet he who has lost a battle has not only to bear the mortification of defeat, the soul-burning misery of failure, the awful, oh, how awful! feeling that all the sacrifices of life have been in vain, but also the almost crushing burden of reproach, which is then dealt out with so lavish hands.
General Hood learned not the just and unbiased criticism of his superiors. So great was he, indeed, so chivalrous, that, should he have erred deeply, he would not have hesitated, like Cotton Mather, to unbare his head at the corners of the street and ask forgiveness of everybody.
To mere slander he replied with the silence of contempt. And to the unjust strictures derogatory to his fair name and character, which were passed on him by his former comrade on the field, and echoed by many to whose honor it would have redounded more had they held their peace, General Hood replied towards the end of his life in a book, singularly temperate and liberal in tone, and free from all bitterness.
Retiring after the war to civil life, General Hood entered a business career and shortly afterwards married.
“How can any adversity come to him who hath a wife?” said Chaucer; and, truly, his wife was more–she was his comrade, counsellor, friend. A solace in his trials, a comfort in his hours of sadness, her gentle, winning and so tender devotion sweetened his life. Their home was a sanctuary–their union ideal.
So years of happiness rolled by until the scythe of Time was sharpened by the plague.
Preceded by his eldest child and his beloved wife, General Hood followed them to the grave within a week, breathing his last on the 30th of August, 1879.
Death, the master of princes and paupers, of saints and sinners, of the hale and broken, the happy and miserable–often so cruel–was merciful when he reunited them in the cold bosom of the earth.
He had lived fifty-eight years; not one fraction thereof had been allowed to pass without being devoted to the service of his fellow-men. Refined by sorrow, purified by aspirations, strengthened through self-reliance, and made gentle by an earnest faith in the things unseen, he was genial, generous and indulgent towards others and severe with himself. His aims were prompted by noble desires, and in politics his ideals for democratic action were high. He knew his powers and also his limitations.
And he had his limits as the sun has its spots.
Above all, the strong force of his character yielded an influence no oratory can command, and that influence is not ended–nay, it is only just beginning to sprout in our hearts.
IDA RICHARDSON HOOD.
Southern Historical Society Papers.
Vol. XXXII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1904.
In Memory Of General J. B. Hood.