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Hood: Advance and Retreat
Chapter 3c

When the Confederate Army fell back from Gettysburg, I followed our marching column in an ambulance, suffering very much from the wound received in my arm. In the same vehicle lay General Hampton, so badly wounded that he was unable to sit up, whereas I could not lie down. We journeyed together in this manner to Staunton, a distance of some two hundred miles. Along the pike were seen our wounded, making their way to the rear, and the noble women of Virginia, standing by the wayside to supply them with food, and otherwise administer to their wants.

I remained for a period of one month under medical treatment, first at Staunton and then at Charlottesville, whence I proceeded to Richmond. About the 14th of September my division passed through the Capital, under orders to join General Bragg in the West for the purpose of taking part in battle against Rosecranz. Although I had but partially recovered, I determined, for reasons already stated in my letter to General Longstreet, to place my horse upon the train, and follow in their wake.

I arrived at Ringgold, Georgia, on the afternoon of the 18th, and there received an order from General Bragg to proceed on the road to Reid's bridge, and assume command of the column then advancing on the Federals. I had my horse to leap from the train, mounted with one arm in a sling, and, about 3 p.m., joined our forces, then under the direction of General Bushrod Johnson and in line of battle. A small body of Federal cavalry was posted upon an eminence a short distance beyond. On my arrival upon the field I met for the first time after the charge at Gettysburg a portion of my old troops, who received me with a touching welcome. After a few words of greeting exchanged with General Johnson, I assumed command in accordance with the instructions I had received, ordered the line to be broken by filing into the road, sent a few picked men to the front in support of Forrest's Cavalry, and began to drive the enemy at a rapid pace. In a short time we arrived at Reid's bridge across the Chickamauga, and discovered the Federals drawn up in battle array beyond the bridge, which they had partially destroyed. I ordered forward some pieces of artillery, opened fire, and, at the same time, threw out flankers to effect a crossing above and below and join in the attack. Our opponents quickly retreated. We repaired the bridge, and continued to advance till darkness closed in upon us, when we bivouacked in line, near a beautiful residence which had been fired by the enemy, and was then almost burned to the ground. We had driven the Federals back a distance of six or seven miles. Meantime, the main body of the Army crossed the Chickamauga at different points, and concentrated that night in the vicinity of my command.

General Bragg having formed his plan of attack the following morning, I was given, in addition to my own division, the direction of Kershaw's and Johnson's Divisions, with orders to continue the advance. We soon encountered the enemy in strong force, and a heavy engagement ensued. All that day we fought, slowly but steadily gaining ground. Fierce and desperate grew the conflict, as the foe stubbornly yielded before our repeated assaults; we drove him, step by step, a distance of fully one mile, when nightfall brought about a cessation of hostilities, and the men slept upon their arms.

In the evening, according to my custom in Virginia under General Lee, I rode back to Army headquarters to report to the Commander-in-Chief the result of the day upon my part of the line. I there met for the first time several of the principal officers of the Army of Tennessee, and, to my surprise, not one spoke in a sanguine tone regarding the result of the battle in which we were then engaged. I found the gallant Breckinridge, whom I had known from early youth, seated by the root of a tree, with a heavy slouch hat upon his head. When, in the course of brief conversation, I stated that we would rout the enemy the following day, he sprang to his feet, exclaiming, " My dear Hood, I am delighted to hear you say so. You give me renewed hope; God grant it may be so."

After receiving orders from General Bragg to advance the next morning as soon as the troops on my right moved to the attack, I returned to the position occupied by my forces, and camped the remainder of the night with General Buckner, as I had nothing with me save that which I had brought from the train upon my horse. Nor did my men have a single wagon, or even ambulance in which to convey the wounded. They were destitute of almost everything, I might say, except pride, spirit, and forty rounds of ammunition to the man.

During that night, after a hard day's fight by his old and trusty troops, General Longstreet joined the Army. He reported to General Bragg after I had left Army headquarters, and, the next morning, when I had arranged my columns for the attack and was awaiting the signal on the right to advance, he rode up, and joined me. He inquired concerning the formation of my lines, the spirit of our troops, and the effect produced upon the enemy by our assault. I informed him that the feeling of officers and men was never better, that we had driven the enemy fully one mile the day before, and that we would rout him before sunset. This distinguished general instantly responded with that confidence which had so often contributed to his extraordinary success, that we would of course whip and drive him from the field. I could but exclaim that I was rejoiced to hear him so express himself, as he was the first general I had met since my arrival who talked of victory.

He was assigned to the direction of the left wing, and placed me in command of five divisions: Kershaw's, A. P. Stewart's, Bushrod Johnson's, and Hindman's, together with my own. The latter formed the centre of my line, with Hindman upon my left, Johnson and Stewart on the right, and Kershaw in reserve. About 9 a.m. the firing on the right commenced; we immediately advanced and engaged the enemy, when followed a terrible roar of musketry from right to left. Onward we moved, nerved with a determination to become masters of that hotly contested field. We wrestled with the resolute foe till about 2.30 p.m., when, from a skirt of timber to our left, a body of Federals rushed down upon the immediate flank and rear of the Texas brigade, which was forced to suddenly change front. Some confusion necessarily arose. I was at the time on my horse, upon a slight ridge about three hundred yards distant, and galloped down the slope, in the midst of the men, who speedily corrected their allignment. At this moment Kershaw's splendid division, led by its gallant commander, came forward, as Hindman advanced to the attack a little further to the left. Kershaw's line formed, as it were, an angle with that of the Federal line, then in full view in an open space near the wood. I rode rapidly to his command, ordered a change of front forward on his right, which was promptly executed under a galling fire. With a shout along my entire front, the Confederates rushed forward, penetrated into the wood, over and beyond the enemy's breastworks, and thus achieved another glorious victory for our arms. About this time I was pierced with a Minie ball in the upper third of the right leg I turned from my horse upon the side of the crushed limb and fell—strange to say, since I was commanding five divisions—into the arms of some of the troops of my old brigade, which I had directed so long a period, and upon so many fields of battle.

Long and constant service with this noble brigade must prove a sufficient apology for a brief reference, at this juncture, to its extraordinary military record from the hour of its first encounter with the enemy at Eltham's Landing, on York river, in 1862, to the surrender at Appomattox Court House. In almost every battle in Virginia it bore a conspicuous part. It acted as the advanced guard of Jackson when he moved upon McClellan, around Richmond; and, almost without an exceptional instance, it was among the foremost of Longstreet's Corps in an attack or pursuit of the enemy. It was also, as a rule, with the rear guard of the rear guard of this corps, whenever falling back before the adversary. If a ditch was to be leaped, or fortified position to be carried, General Lee knew no better troops upon which to rely. In truth, its signal achievements in the war of secession have never been surpassed in the history of nations.

The members of this heroic band were possessed of a streak of superstition, as in fact I believe all men to be; and it may here prove of interest to cite an instance thereof. I had a favorite roan horse, named by them " Jeff Davis; " whenever he was in condition I rode him in battle, and, remarkable as it may seem, he generally received the bullets and bore me unscathed. In this battle he was severely wounded on Saturday; the following day, I was forced to resort to a valuable mare in my possession, and late in the afternoon was shot from the saddle. At Gettysburg I had been unable to mount him on the field, in consequence of lameness; in this engagement I had also been shot from the saddle. Thus the belief among the men became nigh general that, when mounted on old Jeff, the bullets could not find me. This spirited and fearless animal performed his duty throughout the war, and after which he received tender care from General Jefferson and family of Seguin, Texas, until death, when he was buried with appropriate honors.

When wounded I was borne to the hospital of my old division, where a most difficult operation was performed by Dr. T. G. Richardson, of New Orleans. He was at the time Chief Medical Officer of the Army of Tennessee, and is now the President of the Medical Association of the United States.

The day after the battle I was carried upon a litter some fifteen miles to the residence of Mr. Little, in Armuchee Valley. I remained there about one month under the attentive care of Mr. and Mrs. Little, the parents of the gallant Colonel Little, of my division, and under the able medical attendance of Dr. John T. Darby.

I then received intelligence from General Bragg that the enemy was contemplating a raid to capture me. I at once moved to Atlanta, and thence to Richmond.

General Longstreet, has since the war, informed me that he telegraphed the authorities of the Confederate Government from the battle field, on the day I was wounded, urging my promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General, and was kind enough about the same time to send the following letter:


" September 24th, 1863.

"GENERAL:—I respectfully recommend Major General J. B. Hood for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General, for distinguished conduct and ability in the battle of the 20th inst. General Hood handled his troops with the coolness and ability that I have rarely known by any officer, on any field, and had the misfortune, after winning the battle, to lose one of his limbs.

" I remain, sir, very respectfully,

" Your obedient servant, " (Signed) J. LONGSTREET,

" Lieutenant General.,"

" General S. COOPER, " Adjutant and Inspector General.

" Endorsed: " Headquarters, near Chattanooga, September 24th 1863."

" W. D. 1988.

" J. Longstreet, Lieutenant General, recommends Major General J. B. Hood for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General for distinguished services in the battle of the 20th inst."

" I cordially unite in this just tribute.


" General."

" Respectfully submitted to the Secretary of War.

" By order ED. A. PALFREY,

" Lieutenant Colonel and Assistant Adjutant General

" Respectfully submitted to the President "

" I cannot too warmly express my appreciation of the character and services of this distinguished officer, and cordially concur in recommending his promotion, if only as an appropriate testimonial of the gratitude of the Confederacy.


" Secretary of War.

" 3d October, 1863."

" The services of Major General Hood, and his character as a soldier and patriot, are equal to any reward, and justify the highest trust. The recommendation to confer additional rank, as a testimonial, must have been hastily made. The law prescribes the conditions on which Lieutenant Generals may be appointed. Please refer to act.


" October 3d, 1863."

The subjoined extract from a letter of the Hon. Mr. Seddon, Secretary of War, addressed to Senator Wigfall will explain the endorsement of President Davis:


" October 14th, 1863.

* * * * "I have felt the deepest interest for your friend, and I trust I may say mine, the gallant Hood. He is a true hero, and was the Paladin of the fight. I need not say how willingly I would have manifested my appreciation of his great services and heroic devotion by immediate promotion, and but for some rigid notions the President had of his powers (you know how inflexible he is on such points), he, too, would have been pleased to confer the merited honor." * * *

I remained in Richmond, and, having been blessed, with a good constitution, rapidly recovered from my wound. By the middle of January, I 864, I was again able to mount my horse and enjoy exercise. My restoration was so complete that I was enabled to keep in the saddle when on active duty, and, during the remainder of the war, never to require an ambulance either day or night. Often President Davis was kind enough to invite me to accompany him in his rides around Richmond, and it was thus I was for the first time afforded an opportunity to become well acquainted with this extraordinary man, and illustrious patriot and statesman of the South. His wonderful nerve and ability, displayed at a most trying epoch of our history, commanded my admiration; he was not only battling with enemies abroad, but with a turbulent Congress at home.

It was during our pleasant excursions round Richmond that he imparted to me his purpose to largely re-enforce General J. E. Johnston's Army at Dalton, for the object of moving in the early Spring to the rear of the Federal Army, then concentrating at Chattanooga. He also expressed a desire to send me to command a corps under General Johnston. I was deeply impressed with the importance of this movement, and cheerfully acquiesced in the proposition of the President, but with the understanding that an aggressive campaign would be initiated. I was loth, indeed, to leave General Lee and the troops with whom I had served for so long a period.

I was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, left Richmond about the 1st of February, arrived at Dalton, Georgia, on the 4th, and reported for duty to General J. E. Johnston.

A short time before leaving the Capital General Breckinridge, whilst we were together in my room at the Spotswood Hotel, approached the seat I was occupying, and placed his hands upon my head, saying, " My dear Hood, here you are beloved by your fellow-soldiers, and, although badly shattered, with the comfort of having done noble service, and without trouble or difficulty with any man." In truth, the course of my official duties up to this hour had not, I might say, been ruffled in any degree. My relations with my superiors, as well as with officers of lesser rank, had been of a most friendly character. But alas, after a journey over a smooth sea for many days—aye three years—a storm suddenly arose which lasted not only to the close of the war, but a long period thereafter.

The foregoing chapters, which contain a brief record of my experiences up to the day I reported for duty in the Army of Tennessee, were written after the body of this work was prepared for publication. As the Dalton-Atlanta campaign presents no action which rises to the dignity of a general battle, and since the strictures of General Johnston demand my earnest attention, I shall here discontinue the relation of events in the order which I have thus far observed, and resume the narrative at the period I assumed command of the Army around Atlanta. I shall substitute a reply to the erroneous and injurious statements in my regard, brought forward by General Johnston, and which will sufficiently record the part I bore in the campaign of that Spring and early Summer.

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