One of the more remarkable aspects of our Civil War is the amount of new information about it that is still being uncovered, and I am not referring to minor pieces of new information like the diary maintained by a Civil War mule skinner before he was trampled to death on October 29, 1863 in the charge of the mule brigade! New documents keep trickling out about major figures of the War. Such is the case with General John Bell Hood in Stephen M. Hood’s groundbreaking The Lost Papers of Confederate General John Bell Hood. A collateral descendant of the General, this is a companion volume to his The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Confederate General, in which he dispelled many historical myths about Hood, and which I reviewed here.
This book collects 200 plus documents, thought lost to history, but lovingly maintained generation after generation by the General’s descendants.
These documents help flesh out the General’s career and give new insights into the many controversies surrounding his tenure in command of the Army of Tennessee. They also help the General, after one hundred and fifty years, give his point of view on one of the most controversial military careers of the Confederacy. (He was ill-served in that task by the publication after his untimely death of his rough and unfinished memoir, Advance and Retreat.) I have studied the Civil War now for half a century, and I was literally stunned at the wealth of important new information revealed in this book.
Mr. Hood is a defender of the General, and he makes no bones about it, but he is first of all a scholar and all who study the Civil War are in his debt for the trail he blazes in the study of General Hood, a major figure of the Confederacy who has received shockingly little sustained examination, instead of rote repetition of myths, like his supposed addiction to pain killers due to his wounds, that have no historical basis. With the two books that he has written, Stephen M. Hood has made it impossible for these myths to be repeated by writers, at least those with any self-respect as researchers, about the War. The age of myth as to General Hood has finally ended, and the age of serious study has begun.