HOOD, John Bell (1831-1879), General, C. S. A. Autograph letter signed ("John B. Hood") to Gov. Beriah Magoffin of Kentucky, Camp Wood, Texas, 23 January 1861. 2 pages, 4to, blue paper.
HOOD PLEDGES HIS SWORD TO DEFEND KENTUCKY AGAINST EITHER THE UNION OR CONFEDERACY
Here Hood, who would become one of the most effective and aggressive Confederate combat leaders, clarifies an earlier offer of service. In that first letter, dated 15 January 1861 (and which Christies sold in December 2003, lot 225), he volunteered "my sword & my services to my native state, and shall hold myself in readiness to obey any call, the Governor of said state may choose to make upon me. I was reared in Montgomery County, Ky. where my family now live, and was educated at West Point." Eight days later he sends this clarification: "In offering my Services to the State of Kentucky, I fear I was not explicit enough. And have the honor to explain my position more fully. I am still an officer of the Army, and so long as my State remains in the Union, I feel it my duty to continue as such. But when Kentucky leaves the Union to form some other Association of States, or if to remain alone, it is my desire to serve her in either case. As I do not wish to be an Officer of a government, to which my native State must of necessity be regarded as a foreign power. So whenever Kentucky leaves the Union, I shall, with the greatest pleasure obey any call from the governor of said State."
For Southerners like Hood, and indeed for many Northerners, state and regional loyalty trumped any national identity. As James McPherson points out, the signal achievement of the Union victory was to create a new sense of nationhood, one that was reflected in grammar: before the war, Americans used the national noun in the plural form: "the United States are..." but after 1865 "the United States is..." became the accepted usage. One had emerged out of many.
In Hood's case, however, secession fever after Sumter swept away his "Kentucky first" policy. Kentucky never seceded but John Bell Hood did, resigning his commission in April 1861 and winning a command of the "Texas Brigade." His commitment cost him dearly. Wounded at Gettysburg, he recovered only to lose his right leg at Chickamauga. Undeterred, he recovered and simply had himself strapped into his saddle when he led the Army of the Tennessee "in a series of disastrous but gallant offensives" in Georgia and Tennessee (Boatner, 408). Not until 31 May 1865 did he lay down his sword.