A reply to Wiley Sword's Letter to the Editor in the August 2009 issue of
In 2007 Sword published a book of essays titled, Courage Under Fire: Profiles in Bravery from the Battlefields of the Civil War. Astonishingly, in a book on the subject of courage, Sword elects to include an essay on Gen. John Bell Hood that has nothing to do with Hood’s renowned personal courage in a series of battles that ultimately cost him his left arm and right leg on the bloody killing fields of Gettysburg and Chickamauga. Rather, Sword clumsily attempts to tie his malicious essay on Hood into the book’s primary theme by entitling the Hood essay with the rhetorical question “What Kind of Courage?” In the essay, Sword relentlessly attacks Gen. Hood, asserting a lack of “moral courage” by the wounded hero.
As Sword did in his acclaimed 1991 book, Embrace an Angry Wind: The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah, in his latest effort he continues his obsessive vendetta against Gen. Hood, filtering from historical records any and all documented evidence that does not support his biased, agenda-based premise. In both books Sword misinforms readers by mischaracterizing the words and actions of both Gen. Hood and other prominent historical characters, and shamelessly censors all memoirists whose testimony does not support Sword’s prejudicial assertions.
Authors Scott Bowden and Bill Ward wrote in their 2003 book, Last Chance for Victory, "As is often the case in military history, if a story is repeated frequently by a legion of writers, it becomes accepted as fact by many readers. These stories acquire a life of their own and become part of the popular culture; their factual foundation is no longer questioned, much less critically evaluated." This is precisely the state of the legacy of John Bell Hood, as defined by Sword.
In The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah, Sword became fully invested in the desecration of the historical record as regarding Gen. John Bell Hood. In recent years, as his errors, omissions, and deceptions have become exposed, Sword has frantically clung to his portrayal of Hood. In an act of pathetic desperation, he has blamed the omissions on his editors, and falsely defined the motives of those whose research has identified and exposed his malfeasance.
One could argue that the reputation of a long-dead character is of no particular importance, except perhaps to their kin. However, in the case of a historical character as prominent as John Bell Hood, one of the eight full generals of the army of the Confederacy, the historical record of our nation and academic scholarship is soiled if a portrayal full of inaccuracies and omissions is accepted and embraced by academia. The ancient Roman historian Cicero realized this over two thousand years ago, writing, "The first law of the historian is that he shall never dare utter an untruth. The second is that he shall suppress nothing that is true. Moreover, there shall be no suspicion of partiality in his writing, or of malice."
The accuracy and integrity of Civil War scholarship is the true victim of Wiley Sword’s eloquently mesmerizing, yet factually compromised portrayals of Gen. John Bell Hood.
The following expose’ details Wiley Sword’s deceptions.
On page 193 Sword wrote, “General John Bell Hood is a complex subject. His various descendents and supporters today insist that he is unfairly maligned for his shortcomings, whereas his attributes should be emphasized.” After briefly acknowledging that Hood demonstrated physical courage in battle, Sword asks, “Yet where does virtue begin or end? Ultimately, Hood was one of the great failures of the war: a sad, tragic figure who failed in his greatest endeavors.” Many of Hood’s subordinates as well as his opponents disagree with Sword, who ignores and censors these memoirists. Samuel Mimms Thompson wrote in Reminiscences of the 41st Tennessee, "Many, we know, will disagree with us, but we think to calmly and impartially view General Hood’s course we will be forced to accord to him abilities of the highest order and a military commander with but few superiors. What became of General Hood for the remainder of the war we do not know, but if he was removed for failure in Tennessee, he was treated very unjustly. That he did so, we believe was no fault of his. He failed simply because he had not men and supplies to contend with the immense force that was against him."1 Sword adds, “Today, his (Hood's) story provides a remarkable insight into the incomplete role of physical courage in his life.” If the complete story of Hood were told, rather than a fact-filtered portrayal constructed and presented solely to support his biased premise, John Bell Hood the soldier would be viewed much differently, as would Wiley Sword the historian. Why is “the incomplete role of physical courage” even included in a book dedicated exclusively to courage and bravery in Civil War battles? It is apparent that Sword is so upset about the recent revelations of his journalistic and scholastic malfeasance in The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah that he felt compelled to release another salvo of slander at Hood in his latest book, even attacking Hood’s descendents and supporters.
Sword begins his slanderous attack on Hood the child, writing “In the beginning, there was little in John Bell Hood’s background to suggest that he would become one of the more influential generals of the Civil War.” Both of Hood’s grandfathers were veterans of the Revolutionary War and the French and Indian War. Hood was especially close to his grandfathers as his father, Dr. John W. Hood, spent many months away from his family during frequent lengthy visits to Philadelphia, where he studied and later taught medicine. For Sword to conclude that there was nothing in Hood’s past to suggest a strong military aptitude is simply inaccurate.2
On page 194 Sword writes, “Born to a bluegrass-region doctor, Hood grew up with a streak of wildness and nonconformity about him. He was frequently in trouble.” This assertion by Sword is utter nonsense. No records exist that document any legal problems or behavioral misconduct by Hood during his younger years. Sword’s sole source for his insults to young John Bell Hood’s character is taken from John Dyer’s 1950 biography, The Gallant Hood. Checking Dyer’s sources reveal that he used a single source who stated that young John Bell Hood was a contrary, gregarious child. This source was a single distant relative whose comments on Hood were made over 100 years after Hood’s childhood years.3 What records exist actually reveal that Hood was not disrespected by his father, rather, to the contrary. In the late 1850s Hood was called upon by his dying father to return from the Texas frontier to tend to the family’s affairs, even though Hood had two brothers—one older, one younger—still living near Dr. John Hood’s home in Montgomery County, Kentucky.4
Sword then adds that Hood’s appointment to West Point was gained “through the influence of his uncle, a U.S. congressman.” Was this unusual, in the 1840s or even now? Does Sword claim to know that Hood would not have gained the appointment without his uncle? Sword continues, “...young Hood struggled with the academic curriculum, winding up forty-fourth in his class of fifty-two upon graduation in 1853.” Sword does not inform readers that Hood’s class started with 93 cadets in 1849 and 41 failed to graduate for various reasons. It could be argued that it would be more accurate to view Hood as ranked 44th out of 93 original cadets in his class.5 Furthermore, class ranking at West Point and other service academies has never been a fail-safe indicator of postgraduate accomplishment. Of the multitude of West Point graduates who served in the Civil War, many renowned commanders ranked low in their classes. In addition to well known West Point underachievers George Custer and George Pickett, others include Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Adjutant General Samuel Cooper, generals William Hardee, W.H.T. Walker, James Longstreet, Earl Van Dorn, D.H. Hill, Lafayette McLaws, W. Kirby Smith, Fitzhugh Lee and Joe Wheeler, and Union generals Ulysses S. Grant, Phil Sheridan, Don Carlos Buell, Winfield Scott Hancock, George Stoneman, George Crook, and Alexander McCook.6
On page 195 the cynical Sword states that Hood “seemed endowed with good luck equal to his bravery” and calls Hood “a rising star who just might be destiny’s darling,” attributing to mere luck Hood’s remarkable leadership and battlefield tactical prowess at the important Confederate victories at Gaines’ Mill and Second Manassas, where Hood’s brigade played a conspicuous part. Sword adds, “At Antietam his reputation continued to brighten, and ambition began to burn even brighter in his mind.” There are no known historical documents that reveal or even suggest a burning ambition within Hood. Even if Sword is correct, how many career soldiers are not ambitious? For that matter, how many authors and historians are not ambitious, hoping to attain notoriety, admiration and respect? Sword’s own reckless ambition has almost single-handedly destroyed the eternal reputation of a defenseless dead man, yet he chastises Hood for perhaps wanting to attain higher rank and responsibility. Sword then adds sarcastically, “He even wrote a letter to his ‘friend’ Robert E. Lee suggesting that smaller army corps might be desirable. Perhaps Lee would favor Hood with such a command?”8 Sword shamelessly conceals from his readers that soon after receiving Hood’s letter suggesting more but smaller corps, Lee indeed wrote a letter to Jefferson Davis suggesting exactly what Hood had proposed! The letter from Hood to Lee that Sword cites was written on April 29, 1863. Then, just 10 days later, on May 10, Lee wrote to Davis, "...I have for the past year felt that the corps of this army were too large for one commander. Nothing prevented my proposing to you to reduce their size and increase their number but my inability to recommend commanders. Each corps contains, when in fighting condition, about 30,000 men. These are more than one man can properly handle and keep under his eye in battle in the country that we have to operate in. They are always beyond the range of his vision, and frequently beyond his reach..."9 Sword should be asked how Hood, the ignorant subordinate who reached his position only through dumb luck, could have possibly conceived an idea that would be endorsed by Robert E. Lee himself? And how presumptuously inappropriate, as Sword implies, was it that Hood would actually sign a letter to Lee with “Your Friend”? Sword conceals from his readers the May 21, 1863 letter that Lee wrote to Hood in reply. Lee wrote, in part, “Although separated from me, I have always had you in my eye and thoughts...I rely on you much...I am much obliged to you always for your opinion...” and closed with “I am now and always your friend, R.E. Lee”10 Sword intentionally misinforms his readers, causing them to incorrectly infer that Hood and Lee did not have an especially close personal relationship.
Sword then moves the timeline to the winter of 1863/1864 and states, “The pain and trauma of his wounds (his lost leg at Chickamauga) were but a reminder to Hood that his bravery on the battlefield had earned him recognition as a Southern war hero despite the lack of important results in his new command position.” This assertion by Sword is outrageous to the point of delirium. In the new position to which Sword aludes, Hood, in temporary command of a small division at Antietam, held the Confederate left flank at bloody Miller’s Cornfield, despite being outnumbered 6 to 1. Afterward Hood was promoted to major general by Stonewall Jackson, who wrote, “...it gives me pleasure to say that his (Hood’s) duties were discharged with such ability and zeal as to command my admiration. I regard him as one of the most promising officers of the Army.”11 Hood’s next division command was at Gettysburg, where he was wounded early in the battle. Finally, at Chickamauga, Hood’s division was instrumental in the key Confederate breakthrough at the Brotherton cabin, beginning the route of the Federal army. For his performance at Chickamauga Hood was promoted to lieutenant general by his corps commander, James Longstreet, who wrote, “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...”12 How could Sword possibly characterize Hood’s performance at Antietam and Chickamauga as unimportant unless he was trying to mislead his readers?
Sword renews the unwarranted and unsubstantiated criticisms of Hood on page 196, writing, “Like a highly placed watchdog, Hood surreptitiously kept up a correspondence with the Davis administration, repeatedly discrediting Joe Johnston in deceitful commentaries about decisions and maneuvers during the Atlanta Campaign.” Why doesn’t Sword, either in The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah or Courage Under Fire provide examples of the commentaries he characterizes as deceitful? Why doesn’t Sword also criticize the numerous other Civil War commanders who routinely bypassed their immediate commanding officers by corresponding with their superiors? Interestingly, Sword does not condemn Hood’s fellow corps commanders who, during the Atlanta Campaign, themselves corresponded with Richmond authorities, complaining of Johnston’s tactics. For example, on June 22, 1864, just three weeks before he was relieved of command, Johnston's trusted subordinate, close confidant and corps commander Gen. William Hardee, wrote to Jefferson Davis, "If the present system continues we may find ourselves at Atlanta before a serious battle is fought."13 Another of Johnston's corps commanders, Gen. A. P. Stewart, had earlier written to Davis's military advisor Braxton Bragg on March 19, 1864, "Are we to hold still, remaining on the defensive in this position until (Sherman) comes down with his combined armies to drive us out?"14 Maj. Gen. William Bate, a division commander under Johnston and then Hood, also corresponded with Richmond authorities and wrote to Bragg on August 13, 1864, "I think our Army is now convinced of the ill effects of our long 'backslide' and that it might have been avoided by delivering battle north of the Etowah. With few exceptions, Gen. Hood has grown in favor with his command. As I told you, I had some apprehensions to the effect of the removal of Gen. Johnston for he was popular with his troops-but the opinion is gradually gaining lodgment in the popular mind of the army and country that in all such matters the President knows what is best and is generally correct."14.1 Furthermore, Hood was himself the subject of critical letters from his own subordinates who Sword never accuses of betraying their commander. After the fall of Atlanta, one of Hood's own division commanders, Maj. Gen. Samuel G. French, an old friend of Jefferson Davis, sent Davis a letter asking for intervention by Richmond, writing, "Several officers have asked me to write to you in regard to a feeling of depression more or less apparent in parts of this army."15 Also, Gen. S.D. Lee wrote to Hood's immediate superior Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard on Dec. 25, 1864, wishing to discuss "recent events in Tennessee."16 On Jan. 2, 1865, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest wrote to Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana commander Lt. General Richard Taylor, "The Army of Tennessee was badly defeated and is greatly demoralized..." and requested permission to visit Richmond to confer with officials. 17 After the fall of Atlanta, on Sept. 3, 1864, while still a corps commander under Hood, Hardee wrote directly to Davis, "Unless this army is speedily and heavily reinforced Georgia and Alabama will be overrun. I see no other means to avert this calamity. Never in my opinion was our liberty in such danger..."17.1 If corresponding outside or around the chain of command is so condemnable, why does Wiley Sword only condemn John Bell Hood?
Sword’s misleading commentary continues, “From his initial aggressiveness on July 20, 1864, in attacking Sherman’s troops after they crossed the Chattahoochee River to the desperate battle at Ezra Church eight days later, Hood sacrificed twenty thousand men in a series of failed assaults that had the Union soldiers shaking their heads in disbelief. Sword’s casualty figures, like all other facts he presents that casts a negative light on Hood, is exaggerated and incorrect. According to Official Records, Confederate casualties at Peachtree Creek, Decatur (Atlanta) and Ezra Church numbered approximately 11,500, not 20,000.18 (In Sword's influential book, The Confederacy's Last Hurrah, he exaggerated Confederate casualties by an astounding sixty percent.) Sword terms the Confederate casualties in the three failed attempts to repel Sherman as “sacrificed.” Since no credible Civil War historian has ever questioned the necessity of the Confederate army to repel or delay Sherman’s march on Atlanta, what right does Wiley Sword have to term casualties incurred on the Confederate side as being sacrificed? With the impending northern elections and Lincoln’s sagging popularity, the survival of Atlanta was a paramount interest of the Confederate government.19 Union Major General James H. Wilson wrote in his post war memoirs "Under the Old Flag" that Hood’s campaigns "...were ably planned and needed nothing but heavier battalions, greater resources, and better subordinates to make them successful." The bold attacks on Sherman’s divided forces at Peachtree Creek, Decatur (Atlanta) and Ezra Church were thoughtfully conceived, although unsuccessful attempts to defeat Sherman’s numerically superior army.20
Sword added, “Hood’s recklessly aggressive use of his men clarified the aberration of Gaines’ Mill.” Here Sword continues to disrespect not only Hood, but the valor and resolve of Confederate soldiers; this time the Texans and Georgians whose courage and abilities resulted in Robert E. Lee’s important victory at Gaines’ Mill during the Seven Days Battles in Virginia in 1862. Sword calls Hood’s spectacular victory at Gaines Mill (which was ordered not by Hood, but by Lee) an “aberration” or in other words, a fluke.
Continuing, Sword writes, “...During a hurried visit to Georgia, President Davis kept him in command, and approved his plan to raid north with his depleted but still threatening army...Hood’s ‘invasion’ of Tennessee was driven by desperation, a need to do something to forestall the eminent loss of the war. Further, he knew that both his personal career and the fate of the army were at stake. His plight was as obvious as his uncertainty of what to do once he reached the enemy’s defenses.” Here Sword lies to his readers. It is a well documented fact that Jefferson Davis and the Confederate government sought the recovery of all or part of the state of Tennessee; it was not John Bell Hood’s delusional, quixotic pipe-dream. Davis, in a March 1, 1865 letter to Confederate Senator James Phelan, explained that Joe Johnston was given command of the Army of Tennessee early in 1864 and told to attempt to liberate Tennessee. Davis wrote, “...General Johnston entered upon his third important command—that of the army to recover the State of Tennessee from the enemy. In February 1864 he was informed of the policy of the Government for his army.”21 In Palmetto, Georgia on Sept. 26, 1864, Davis told the army, "Soon we commence our march to Kentucky and Tennessee. Be of good cheer, for within a short while your faces will be turned homeward and your feet will press Tennessee soil...We will flank Sherman out of Atlanta...Situated as he is in an enemy's country, with his communications all cut off, and our army at his rear, he will be powerless...this movement will be the 'ultima thule', the grand crowning stroke of our independence, and the conclusion of the war."22 Yet in spite of this and other documented evidence, Sword informs his readers that only after the fall of Atlanta did Jefferson Davis approve Hood’s “plan to raid north,” inducing the reader to infer that the Tennessee Campaign was nothing more than a desperate act by Hood to simply perpetuate a lost war.
On page 197 Sword explains Hood’s actions at Spring Hill, Tennessee, where Hood’s brilliant flanking maneuver had trapped Schofield’s outnumbered Union army on the road from Columbia to Nashville, “Hood’s well-conducted maneuver on November 29 to get in the rear of Schofield’s force was initially successful, but the greatly fatigued Hood opted to retire to the rear as the critical events unfolded that afternoon.” Hood had given multiple orders to his corps commander Gen. Frank Cheatham to attack and block the road and trusted that they would be carried out.23 Whether or not Hood was fatigued is irrelevant, but to imply, as Sword does, that fatigue was an issue is not supported by a scintilla of historical evidence. Hood shared the bedroom that evening with Tennessee Governor Isham Harris, who accompanied the Army of Tennessee on the invasion. In a letter to Jefferson Davis on Dec. 25, 1864, Harris wrote, "I have been with General Hood from the beginning of this campaign, and beg to say, disastrous as it has ended, I am not able to see anything that General Hood has done that he should not, or neglected anything that he should have done which it was possible to do. Indeed, the more that I have seen and known of him and his policy, the more I have been pleased with him and regret to say that if all had performed their parts as well as he, the results would have been very different.”24 Major James W. Ratchford, wrote in Memoirs of a Confederate Staff Officer: From Bethel to Bentonville, “Gen Hood said in his report that he gave Gen Cheatham positive orders in person, while in sight of the turnpike at Spring Hill, to attack the retreating enemy, and place his men across the pike. He said further that he sent staff officers to Cheatham several times after that, urging him to place troops across the pike to intercept the fleeing Federals. Maj Blanton and Maj Hamilton, both of Hood's staff, each told me personally that he had carried the orders to Gen Cheatham. That grand old hero (Gen. Hood) died without ever defending himself, allowing the world to believe that he was responsible for the failure."25 Col. Virgil Murphey of the 17th Alabama, recorded in his diary, "The same blow delivered with equal power at Spring Hill or Thompson's Station would have yielded us dominion over Tennessee. A failure to obey (Hood's) order lost us a noble commonwealth."26 Sword ignores these and similar testimonies of Confederate memoirists and diarists, and conceals the evidence from his readers.
Sword continues, “When an astounded and angry Hood pursued the fleeing enemy twelve miles to Franklin the following morning...” There is evidence that Hood was angry early the next morning, and why not? His orders to Generals Frank Cheatham and others to block the road had not been followed. Hood’s hopes that Schofield’s checkmated Union army would be forced to “surrender without a fight” had been dashed, and Hood surely knew that victory would now be costlier.27 Hood wasn’t the only angered Confederate. Numerous records exist chronicling the anger of Confederates from privates to generals. John Copley of the 49th Tennessee described the outrage of Nathan Bedford Forrest in his 1893 book, A Sketch of the Battle of Franklin, with Reminiscences of Camp Douglass. Copley wrote: "When we discovered their successful escape on the morning of the 30th, our chagrin and disappointment can be better imagined than described. General Forrest was so enraged that his face turned almost to a chalky whiteness, and his lips quivered. He cursed out some of the commanding officers, and censured them for allowing the Federal army to escape. I looked at him, as he sat in his saddle pouring forth his volumes of wrath, and was almost thunderstruck to listen to him, and to see no one dare resent it.”28
Sword then further misleads his readers by adding, “he (Hood) found the Union force fortified behind extensive earthworks that had been prepared for defense of the town a year earlier.” Earthworks were there, but were in need of rehabilitation. Extensive memoirs of Union soldiers describe the frantic nature of their work. These exhausted soldiers who had been awake and marching for approximately 60 hours. Hood and other Confederates witnessed the work being performed by the enemy and thought they were incomplete. Sumner Cunningham of the 41st Tennessee Infantry stood near Hood on Winstead Hill, two miles south of Franklin, and later recalled, "The enemy were greatly excited. We could see them running to and fro. Wagon trains were being pressed across the Harpeth River, and on toward Nashville.”29
Continuing his unfounded and unsubstantiated attack, Sword states, “Incredibly, despite the great valor of Hood’s soldiers from Shiloh in 1862 to Allatoona just a month earlier, an alleged want of courage provided a graphic backdrop to the assault. Hood was strongly advised against making a frontal attack at Franklin by many of his senior generals. Yet Hood decided it was to be a remedial lesson in courage. His angry reaction to the protesters seemed motivated by smoldering resentment over the fiasco at Spring Hill the previous day. In his memoirs, Hood stated: ‘The discovery that the army, after a forward march of 180 miles was still seemingly unwilling to accept battle unless under the protection of breastworks, caused me to experience grave concern. In my inmost heart, I questioned whether or not I would ever succeed in eradicating this evil.’” Intense research by recent scholars including Eric Jacobson, author of For Cause and For Country: A Study of the Affair at Spring Hill and the Battle of Franklin, finds no empirical evidence whatsoever that Hood was angry or vindictive in the hours leading up to his decision to attack at Franklin. Most of his senior subordinates advised against an attack, and there is evidence that the pre-battle meeting was contentious, but Sword again leads the reader to infer that Hood was angry and vindictive. Sword is engaging in the most despicable form of deceitful scholarship by concealing from the readers the context of Hood’s full statement. In his memoirs, in addition to the above passage provided by Sword, Hood continued, “And I will here inquire, in vindication of its fair name, if any intelligent man of that Army supposes for one moment that these same troops, one year previous, would, even without orders to attack, have allowed the enemy to pass them at Rocky-faced Ridge, as he did at Spring Hill.” Hood explained in great detail that the Army of Tennessee had developed a propensity to want to fight defensively and that it was due exclusively to the influence of Joe Johnston’s tactics of perpetual retreat, from the initial phases of his command tenure with the Army of Tennessee at “Rocky Face Ridge” (Dalton) Georgia.30
Hood was not alone in noting the lack of aggressiveness that the army had seemingly developed. Army of Tennessee corps commander Stephen D. Lee wrote, "As a corps commander, I regarded the morale of the army greatly impaired after the fall of Atlanta, and in fact before its fall, the troops were not by any means in good spirits...the majority of the officers and men were so impressed with the idea of their inability to carry even temporary breastworks, that when orders were given for attack, and there was a probability of encountering works, they did not generally move to the attack with that spirit which nearly always assures success."31 Nowhere in any historical record is there evidence that Hood felt his soldiers lacked courage. And there certainly is no evidence to support the ludicrous assertion that Hood was punishing his troops or intentionally positioning certain units to sustain the highest casualties. Sword twists and distorts Hood’s words by selectively taking portions of his statements, fabricating meaning by filtering out selected excerpts, shamefully misleading his readers at the expense of scholarship and the honor of a defenseless dead man.
Furthermore, it was fundamental military science of the nineteenth century to refrain from allowing an army to obtain a defensive orientation. William T. Sherman explained as much in his Official Report on the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, "...I perceived that the enemy and our own officers had settled down to the conviction that I would not assault fortified lines. All looked to me to outflank. An army to be efficient must not settle down to a single mode of offense, but must be prepared to execute any plan which promises success. I wanted, therefore, for the moral effect to make a successful assault against the enemy behind his breast-works, and resolved to attempt it at that point where success would give the greatest fruits of victory."32
Sword's false assertions about Hood continues, “Terming what he saw as the Army of Tennessee’s reluctance to fight in the open a ‘stumbling block,’ Hood further resolved to place those he blamed for the Spring Hill debacle in the center of the attacking formation, where enemy resistance was certain to be the strongest.” This is another of Sword’s outrageous and slanderous assertions, supported by neither historical records nor common sense. With sunset on Nov. 30 at 4:30, and Schofield’s army only a few hours march from Nashville, time was short for Hood and the Confederate army. The first Confederate corps to arrive from Spring Hill was A.P. Stewarts’ Corps, and Hood ordered the column to the east, the furthest point of the anticipated attack. Arriving next was Cheatham’s Corps, and they were moved to the nearest positions. This is the sole reason that Cheatham’s Corps assaulted the center of the Union defenses, not a desire by Hood to intentionally punish any specific brigades or divisions. In The Confederacy’s Last Hurrah, Sword elaborates, claiming that Hood blamed Pat Cleburne for the failure at Spring Hill and intentionally positioned Cleburne’s Division to sustain the heaviest casualties. Sword conceals from the readers that just prior to the attack Cleburne was granted permission from Hood to approach the Union lines “in column” so as to expose the least broad front to enemy fire.33 If Hood wanted to punish Cleburne and his men, why would he have acceded to Cleburne’s request to minimize the exposure of his brigades?
On page 198 Sword writes, “The massive frontal assault made no sense, commented one of the many Confederate commanders who were compelled to make the attack.” It is true that some of the Confederate commanders disagreed with Hood’s decision, but there were those who knew that there was no time to attempt a flank movement over the required distance of 10-12 miles with only three hours of daylight remaining. Several memoirists who Sword censors include the Union commander Gen John M. Schofield, who wrote: “Hood's assault at Franklin has been severely criticized. Even so able a general as J. E. Johnston has characterized it as ‘useless butchery'. These criticisms are based on a misapprehension of the facts, and are essentially erroneous. Hood must have been aware of our relative weakness of numbers at Franklin, and of the probable, if not certain, concentration of large reinforcements at Nashville. He could not hope to have at any future time anything like so great an advantage in that respect. The army at Franklin and the troops at Nashville were within one night's march of each other; Hood must therefore attack on November 30 or lose the advantage of greatly superior numbers. It was impossible, after the pursuit from Spring Hill, in a short day to turn our position or make any other attack but a direct one in front. Besides our position with the river on our rear, gave him the chance of vastly greater results, if his assault were successful, than could be hoped for by any attack he could make after we had crossed the Harpeth. Still more, there was no unusual obstacle to a successful assault at Franklin. The defenses were of the slightest character, and it was not possible to make them formidable during the short time our troops were in position, after the previous exhausting operations of both day and night, which had rendered some rest on the 30th absolutely necessary. The Confederate cause had reached a condition closely verging on desperation, and Hood's commander-in-chief had called upon him to undertake operations which he thought appropriate to such an emergency. Franklin was the last opportunity he could expect to have to reap the results hoped for in his aggressive movement. He must strike there, as best he could, or give up his cause as lost."34
A member of A.P. Stewart’s staff, B.L. Ridley, wrote in his 1906 publication, Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee, "It has been charged that he (Hood) gave the order to attack at Franklin because of chagrin at his failure at Spring Hill. This supposition does Hood great injustice. A Federal courier had been captured bearing dispatches between Thomas and Schofield of the Federal army. The tenor of the dispatches led Hood to believe that Franklin was not in a defensible position, and that therefore, as he expressed it, he thought his ‘time to fight had come’."35
L.A. Simmons wrote in his 1866 work, The History of the 84th Regiment Illinois Volunteers, "In speaking of this battle, very many are inclined to wonder at the terrible pertinacity of the rebel General Hood, in dashing column after column with such tremendous force and energy upon our center -- involving their decimation, almost their annihilation? Yet this we have considered a most brilliant design, and the brightest record of his generalship, that will be preserved in history. He was playing a stupendous game, for enormous stakes. Could he have succeeded in breaking the center, our whole army was at his mercy. In our rear was a deep and rapid river, swollen by recent rains -- only fordable by infantry at one or two places -- and to retreat across it an utter impossibility. To break the center was to defeat our army; and defeat inevitably involved a surrender. If this army surrendered to him, Nashville, with all its fortifications, all its vast accumulation of army stores, was at his mercy, and could be taken in a day. Hence, with heavy odds -- a vastly superior force -- in his hands, he made the impetuous attack upon our center, and lost in the momentous game. His army well understood that they were fighting for the possession of Nashville. Ours knew they were fighting to preserve that valuable city, and to avoid annihilation." Simmons added that the Federals quickly withdrew to Nashville after the battle as Franklin was "untenable." He also stated that with Schofield's corps absent from Nashville, the city was "scantily protected."36
Jefferson Davis, commenting on Hood’s Franklin attack in his postwar memoirs, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, wrote, "Hood had served with distinction under Lee and (Stonewall) Jackson, and his tactics were of that school. If he had, by an impetuous attack, crushed Schofield’s army...we should never have heard complaint because Hood attacked at Franklin, and these were the hopes with which he made his assault."37
Consistent with Swords propagandist behavior, none of these memoirists are revealed to the reader.
Sword adds, “Trapped beneath the enemy’s guns and fired into from front and flank, the surviving gray ranks sought shelter behind the bodies of the dead yet continued to fight, so their valor, questioned by John Bell Hood, was perhaps never so graphically demonstrated.” Sword continues to spare no shame in intentionally deceiving and misleading his readers by concealing Hood’s words of admiration and praise of his soldiers. In his memoirs, Advance and Retreat, Hood wrote, "The attack (at Franklin), which entailed so great a sacrifice of life, had become a necessity as imperative as that which impelled Gen. Lee to order the assault at Gaines’ Mill, when our troops charged across an open space, a distance of one mile, under a most galling fire of musketry and artillery, against an enemy heavily entrenched. The heroes in that action fought not more gallantly than the soldiers of the Army of Tennessee upon the fields of Franklin."38 Hood also praised the soldiers in his Official Report of the Battle of Franklin, writing, "Never did troops fight more gallantly."39 In his resignation letter Hood wrote, "When the fortunes of war were against us, the same faithful soldiers remained true to their flag, and with rare exceptions followed it in retreat as they had borne it in advance."40
On page 199 Sword continues, “His (Hood) decision to sacrifice the lives of so many in an unlikely military gambit was condemned as ‘murder’ by some of his men.” Yes, Sam Foster of Granbury’s Brigade famously wrote of his hope that Hood’s soul would be damned to Hell for eternity, and Sword always cites Foster’s censure of Hood.41 But Sword misleads his readers by never informing them of the other Battle of Franklin veterans who were sympathetic to Hood. Pvt. Sam Watkins wrote in Company Aytch, “He (Hood) was a noble, brave and good man, and we loved him for his virtues and goodness of heart...We all loved Hood, he was such a clever fellow, and a good man... Poor fellow, I loved him, not as a general, but as a good man. Every impulse of his nature was to do good, and to serve his country as best he could. General John B. Hood did all that he could. The die had been cast. Our cause had been lost before he took command. He fought with the everlasting grip of the bulldog and the fierceness of the wounded tiger. The army had been decimated until it was a mere skeleton...when he commenced his march into Tennessee.”42
Continuing his intentional deception, Sword adds, “Even worse, the enormity of this mistake was never admitted by Hood.” Sword conceals from the reader Hood’s unambiguous acceptance of blame in his memoirs where he wrote, "Whilst I failed utterly to bring on battle at Spring Hill..."44 In his Army of Tennessee resignation letter, of the Tennessee Campaign Hood wrote, "I am alone responsible for its conception..."45 At the end of the Nashville retreat, near Shoal Creek AL, W.G. Davenport of the 6th Texas Cavalry wrote that Gen Hood rode up and "Looking worn and tired but with kindly words for all, said to the soldiers, 'Boys, this is all my fault.'"46
Sword then adds, “When given a remedial task, to save Atlanta, Hood essentially lost an army—the key army that sustained the Confederacy’s heartland.” Here is where Sword continues to repeat his monumentally erroneous Confederate casualty statistics for the Tennessee Campaign. Whether Sword does so intentionally or innocently is not known, but even if unintentional, it demonstrates stunning ineptitude. According to a detailed analysis by respected historian Richard McMurry, Confederate casualties during the entire Atlanta Campaign were 35,000, "roughly divided equally between the period of Johnston's command and that of Hood."48 Johnston's tenure from March through mid-July 1864 accomplishing little and yielded over 100 miles of north Georgia to Sherman. After replacing Johnston as army commander, Hood, outnumbered 2-1, held Sherman at the gates of Atlanta for 45 days before evacuating his army on September 2, yet Sword characterized Hood's mission as a mere "remedial task." Sword ignores Hood's Union Cavalry adversary in the Tennessee Campaign, Gen. James H. Wilson, who wrote in his memoirs: "It was customary in both the Confederate and Federal armies after his (Hood's) advancement (replacement of Johnston) to decry both his performances and abilities, and this may account to some degree for the failure of his bold undertakings, but it has always seemed to me that they were ably planned and needed nothing but heavier battalions, greater resources and better subordinates to make them successful."49
On page 200 Sword concludes, “Courage is a complex matter to evaluate; for the display of physical courage is not necessarily or directly related to the exercise of moral courage. Which of the two is greater? Only God in His infinite wisdom can say. We might reasonably suspect, however, that a person’s success in the final judgment is related to choices made of right versus wrong rather than what other humans may consider the ultimate good. Character, the ability to determine and do that which is morally right based upon logic, common sense, and education, may very well be life’s ultimate quality. Said John Bell Hood in unintentionally ironic reflection, ‘To conquer self is the greatest battle of life.’” How far will Wiley Sword go to desecrate the eternal reputation of a defenseless dead hero, and what permanent damage will he promulgate upon Civil War history and scholarship to pursue his personal unholy war against one man? Volumes could be written on the hypocrisy in this final paragraph alone, but suffice it to say that empirical evidence proves that Wiley Sword will sacrifice his own personal honor in a pathetic attempt to defend his own indefensible assertions.