CS – Hood’s Report

Hood’s Letter to Longstreet
June 28, 1875

New Orleans, LA., June 28, 1875

General James Longstreet:
–General, I have not responded earlier to your letter of April 5th, by reason of pressure of business, which rendered it difficult for me to give due attention to the subject in regard to which you have desired information.

You are correct in your assumption that I failed to make a report of the operations of my division around Suffolk, Va., and of its action in the battle of Gettysburg, in consequence of a wound which I received in this engagement. In justice to the brave troops under my command at this period, I should here mention another cause for this apparent neglect of duty on my part. Before I recovered from the severe wound received at Gettysburg, your corps (excepting Pickett’s Division) was ordered to join General Bragg, in the West, for battle against Rosecranz; my old troops—with whom I had served so long—were thus to be sent forth to another Army—quasi, I May say, among strangers—to take part in a great struggle; and upon an appeal from a number of the brigade and regimental officers of my division, I consented to accompany them, although I had but the use of one arm. This movement to the West soon resulted in the battle of Chickamauga, where I was again so seriously wounded as to cause the loss of a limb. These severe wounds in close succession, in addition to the all-absorbing duties and anxieties attending the last year of the war, prevented me from submitting subsequently a report, as likewise one after the battle of Chickamauga, in which engagement—whilst you led the left wing—I had the honor of commanding your corps together with three divisions of the Army of Tennessee, respectively under A.P. Stewart, Bushrod Johnson and Hindman. Thus, the gallantry of these troops, as well as the admirable conduct of my division at Gettysburg, I have left unrecorded.

With this apology for seeming neglect, I will proceed to give a brief sketch, from memory, of the events forming the subject of your letter:

My recollection of the circumstances connected with the attempt, whilst we were lying in front of Suffolk, to reach General Lee in time to participate in the battle of Chancellorsville, is very clear. The order directing your corps to move to the support of General Lee was received about the time Hooker crossed the Rappahannock. Unfortunately we had been compelled by scarcity of forage to send off our wagons into North Carolina to gather a supply from that State. A short delay necessarily ensued, as couriers had to be dispatched for requisite transportation before the troop s could move. Every effort, however, was made to get to Lee at the earliest moment. If my memory betrays me not, you repaired in advance of your corps to Petersburg or Richmond, having issued orders for us to march with all possible speed to Lee, on the Rappahannock. I was most anxious to get to the support of my old chief, and made strenuous efforts to so; but, whilst on a forced march to accomplish this object, I received intelligence of our victory at Chancellorsville, and of Jackson’s mortal wound. We, nevertheless, continued our march, and eventually went into bivouac upon the Rapidan, near Gordonsville.

After the battle of Chancellorsville, preparations were made for an offensive campaign.
Accordingly, my troops moved out of camp, crossed the Rapidan about the 5th June, 1863, and joined in the general move in the direction of the Potomac. We crossed the river about the middle of the same month, and marched into Pennsylvania. Hill’s and Ewell’s Corps were in advance, and were reported to be in the vicinity of Carlisle. Whilst lying in camp, not far distant from Chambersburg, information was received that Ewell and Hill were about to come in contact with the enemy near Gettysburg. My troops, together with McLaws’s Division, were put in motion upon the most direct road to that point, which, after a hard march, we reached before or at sunrise on the 2d of July. So imperative had been the orders to hasten forward with all possible speed, that on the march my troops were allowed to halt and rest only about two hours, during the night from the 1st to the 2d of July.

I arrived with my staff in front of the heights of Gettysburg shortly after daybreak, as I have already stated, on the morning of the 2d of July. My division soon commenced filing into an open field near me, where the troops were allowed to stack arms and rest until further orders. A short distance in advance of this point, and during the early part of that same morning, we were both engaged in company with General s Lee and A. P. Hill, in observing the position of the Federals. General Lee—with coat buttoned to the throat, sabre-belt buckled round the waist, and field glasses pending at his side—walked up and down in the shade of the large trees near us, halting now and then to observe the enemy. He seemed full of hope, yet, at times, buried in deep thought. Colonel Freemantle, of England, was ensconced in the forks of a tree not far off, with glass in constant use, examining the lofty position of the Federal Army.

General Lee was, seemingly, anxious you should attack that morning. He remarked to me, “The enemy is here, and if we do not whip him, he will whip us.” You thought it better to await the arrival of Pickett’s Division—at that time still in the rear—in order to make the attack; and you said to me, subsequently, whilst we were seated together near the trunk of a tree: “The General is a little nervous this morning; he wishes me to attack; I do not wish to do so without Pickett. I never like to go into battle with one boot off.”

Thus passed the forenoon of that eventful day, when in the afternoon—about 3 o’clock—it was decided to no longer await Pickett’s Division, but to proceed to our extreme right and attack up the Emmetsburg road. McLaws moved off, and I followed with my division. In a short time I was ordered to quicken the march of my troops, and to pass to the front of McLaws.

This movement was accomplished by throwing out an advanced force to tear down fences and clear the way. The instructions I received were to place my division across the Emmetsburg road, form line of battle, and attack. Before reaching this road, however, I had sent forward some of my picked Texas scouts to ascertain the position of the enemy’s extreme left flank. They soon reported to me that it rested upon Round Top Mountain; that the country was open, and that I could march through an open woodland pasture around Round Top, and assault the enemy in flank and rear; that their wagon trains were packed in rear of their line, and were badly exposed to our attack in that direction. As soon as I arrived upon the Emmetsburg road, I placed one or two batteries in position and opened fire. A reply from the enemy’s guns soon developed his lines. His left rested on or near Round Top, with line bending back and again forward, forming, as it were, a concave line, as approached by the Emmetsburg road. A considerable body of troops was posted in front of their main line, between the Emmetsburg road and Round Top Mountain. This force was in line of battle upon an eminence near a peach orchard.

I found that in making the attack according to orders, viz.: up the Emmetsburg road, I should have first to encounter and drive off this advanced line of battle; secondly, at the base and along the slope of the mountain, to confront immense boulders of stone, so massed together as to form narrow openings, which would break our ranks and cause the men to scatter whilst climbing up the rocky precipice. I found, moreover, that my division would be exposed to a heavy fire from the main line of the enemy in position on the crest of the high range, of which Round Top was the extreme left, and, by reason of the concavity of the enemy’s main line, that we would be subject to a destructive fire in clank and rear, as well as in front; and deemed it almost an impossibility to clamber along the boulders up this steep and rugged mountain, and, under this number of cross fires, put the enemy to flight. I knew that if the feat was accomplished, it must be at a most fearful sacrifice of as brave and gallant soldiers as ever engaged in battle.

The reconnaissance of my Texas scouts and the development of the Federal lines were effected in a very short space of time; in truth, shorter than I have taken to recall and jot down these facts, although the scenes and events of that day are as clear to my mind as if the great battle had been fought yesterday. I was in possession of these important facts so shortly after reaching the Emmetsburg road, that I considered it my duty to report to you, at once, my opinion that it was unwise to attack up the Emmetsburg road, as ordered, and to urge that you allow me to turn Round Top, and attack the enemy in flank and rear. Accordingly, I dispatched a staff officer, bearing to you my request to be allowed to make the proposed movement on account of the above stated reasons. Your reply was quickly received, “General Lee’s orders are to attack up the Emmetsburg road.” I sent another officer to say that I feared nothing could be accomplished by such an attack, and renewed my request to turn Round Top. Again your answer was, “General Lee’s orders are to attack up the Emmetsburg road.” During this interim I had continued the use of the batteries upon the enemy, and had become more and more convinced that the Federal line extended to Round Top, and that I could not reasonably hope to accomplish much by the attack as ordered. In fact, it seemed to me the enemy occupied a position by nature so strong—I may say impregnable—that, independently of their flank fire, they could easily repel our attack by merely throwing and rolling stones down the mountain side, as we approached.

A third time I dispatched one of my staff to explain fully in regard to the situation, and suggest that you had better come and look for yourself. I selected, in this instance, my adjutant-general, Colonel Harry Sellers, whom you know to be not only an officer of great courage, but also of marked ability. Colonel sellers returned with the same message, “General Lee’s orders are to attack up the Emmetsburg road.” Almost simultaneously, Colonel Fairfax, of your staff, rode up and repeated the above orders.

After this urgent protest against entering the battle at Gettysburg, according to instructions—which protest is the first and only one I every made during my entire military career—I ordered my line to advance and make the assault.

As my troops were moving forward, you rode up in person; a brief conversation passed between us, during which I again expressed the fears above mentions, and regret at not being allowed to attack in flank around Round Top. You answered to this effect, “We must obey the orders of General Lee.” I then rode forward with my line under a heavy fire. IN about twenty minutes, after reaching the peach orchard, I was severely wounded in the arm, and borne from the field.

With this wound terminated my participation in this great battle. As I was borne off on a litter to the rear, I could but experience deep distress of mind and heart at the thought of the inevitable fate of my brave fellow-soldiers, who formed one of the grandest divisions of the world renowned army; and I shall ever believe that had I been permitted to turn Round Top Mountain, we would not only have gained that position, but have been able finally to rout the enemy.

I am, respectfully, yours,
J. B. Hood

Source:

Hood, John B., Advance & Retreat, The Autobiography of General J. B. Hood, Konecky & Konecky, NY. ISBN 1-56852-184-7.  pp 59-65.

20 Responses to CS – Hood’s Report

  1. Bob Carey says:

    WGD:
    Thank you this interesting post.
    Granted that Oates may have known about the supply train based on the scouting reports, I do believe that Evander Law did.
    What is troublesome to me about Hood’s letter is that he implies that he followed Longstreets’ orders. If this is so than how did Laws’ brigade end up near the Round Tops? By my eyeball reckoning his line of march was approximately at a 45 degree angle to the Emmitsburg Road. I believe that Hood wanted to try to flank the left of AOP , and get in the rear of said army despite the orders of Lee and Longstreet. His main problem was his lack of manpower to accomplish this feat, and of course the fact that he was wounded early on in the attack.
    Does Longstreet’s reply to Hoods’ letter exist, assuming that he did reply?

    • WG Davis says:

      Actually, Law did step off exactly as Lee wanted it to be,, and immediately was forced to the right due to the fact that Benning, and Robertson immediately ran into resistance, with Robertson requesting support from Anderson. Anderson swung to his right to get nearer to Robertson. Additionally, with Kershaw on the right of McLaws’ Division on the move straight across just to the left of the Peach Orchard, Lee’s plan went out the window. [Kershaw changed his plans on the march because expecting to have Barksdale on his immediate left, and hearing Barksdale’s Drummer sounding assembly which informed him that Barksdale was not going to be on his right, so rather than angle left to assault the Peach Orchard he veered to the right and headed for the woods behind the Rose Farm.

      With Anderson and Kershaw both essentially going straight across Emmitsburg Road there was simply no other place for Hood’s men to go than to slide to the right, which is exactly what they did. In the process, regiments got tangled up and mixed in with the wrong brigades, as the 4th and 5th Texas did.

      The mere presence of Humphreys Division on the Emmitsburg Road and Graham’s Brigade plus Artillery in the Peach Orchard was enough to redirect the bulk of the attack. Actually, Barksdale and Wofford were about the only ones who followed any track resembling what Lee had ordered.

      Once that first gun is fired, and the first step of an assault is taken, any plan is subject to on the fly change. Additionally the ground itself, which had not been properly scouted, was not very helpful to the Confederates. What looked like and easy gentle approach to LRT from Emmitsburg Road hid from their eyes the swales and ridges in between, especially Houck’s Ridge.

      Lee’s plan was set forth on a map, and maps are flat. With no real appreciation of the terrain at the south end of the battlefield, Lee should not have expected anything resembling a coordinated attack with every unit on the track laid out on his flat map. elevations and depressions in the ground will eat clock more than crossing either flat or near flat ground. One unit may even be forced to move across both, flat on one flank and hills and depressions on the other. The flank on flat ground will have to stop or slow down to allow the other flank to catch up and dress their lines.

      Longstreet should have just accepted Lee’s orders and then done what Hood and Law begged him to do. That ground had been well scouted.

      WGD

      • WG Davis says:

        That should read Kershaw…just to the right of the Peach Orchard.

        • WG Davis says:

          Also, in reply to your last question, I do not know if Longstreet ever replied to Hood. That letter was written by Hood right as the Lost Cause effort was starting to heat up. It sounds like Longstreet would have asked Hood for his report in order to defend himself.

          WGD

          • Bob Carey says:

            WGD:
            I would concur with your thought that Longstreet was looking for support in his “Lost Cause” struggles with Early and such, however, in the realm of speculation do you think that Hood’s letter to Longstreet was affected by the blossoming “Lost Cause” rhetoric following Lee’s death. Waiting anxiously for your thoughts.

  2. WG Davis says:

    I think it was still a bit early [I beg your pardon for the use of that word] for the weight of the Lost Cause effort to be felt much beyond Virginia. I’d think that at some time subsequent, when the LC effort was underway on a wider basis, Longstreet might have used Hood’s “report” in response to attack, at least in part.

    In reading these two posts [Hood and L:aw], I find striking similarities. They were likely written within ten or fewer years from each other. Both men took the same action before the assault began: sending scouts out, and on their return, appealing desperately to their superiors to change the attack path: Law to Hood, and in turn Hood to Longstreet.

    Certainly Law’s report was written as a preventive measure to get his role laid out in public and certainly he would have seen Hood’s letter to Longstreet which would have been published if not by Hood, then by Longstreet.

    WGD

    • Bob Carey says:

      WGD
      Thanks for the reply.
      This may be a bit on the micro analysis side, but since Hood mentioned
      Texas scouts and Law was in immediate command of the Texans do you think that only one scouting party was sent out that afternoon?

      • wgdavis says:

        Actually no, and here is why: Law was not in command of the Texas troops until Hood went down, near the peach orchard, after the assault had started.

        Here is what Hood wrote:

        “This movement was accomplished by throwing out an advanced force to tear down fences and clear the way. The instructions I received were to place my division across the Emmetsburg road, form line of battle, and attack. Before reaching this road, however, I had sent forward some of my picked Texas scouts to ascertain the position of the enemy’s extreme left flank. They soon reported to me that it rested upon Round Top Mountain; that the country was open, and that I could march through an open woodland pasture around Round Top, and assault the enemy in flank and rear; that their wagon trains were packed in rear of their line, and were badly exposed to our attack in that direction. As soon as I arrived upon the Emmetsburg road, I placed one or two batteries in position and opened fire. A reply from the enemy’s guns soon developed his lines. His left rested on or near Round Top, with line bending back and again forward, forming, as it were, a concave line, as approached by the Emmetsburg road. A considerable body of troops was posted in front of their main line, between the Emmetsburg road and Round Top Mountain. This force was in line of battle upon an eminence near a peach orchard.”

        Here is what Law wrote:

        “In order to gain information upon this important point, I sent out a detail of six picked men as scouts, with instructions to move as rapidly as possible to the summit of Round Top, making a detour to their right, and “feeling” down from that point, to locate the left of the Federal line. The entire absence of Federal cavalry on our right, as well as other indications leading to the same conclusion, convinced me that the Federals, relying upon the protection of the mountain, considered their flank secure; that it was therefore their most vulnerable point. Impressed with this view, I further instructed the scouts when they reached the summit to observe carefully the state of affairs on the other side, and send a “runner” back to me with such intelligence as they might be able to gain. A few moments after they had started, I saw in the valley, some distance to our right, several dark figures moving across the fields from the rear of Round Top in the direction of the Emmitsburg road. These on being captured proved to be Federal soldiers, who seemed surprised at our sudden appearance in that quarter, and who, on being questioned, stated that they had surgeon’s certificates and were “going to the rear.” They indicated “the rear” by pointing toward Emmitsburg, and in reply to the question where they came from, they said from the “medical train behind the mountain” — referring to Round Top. They also stated that the medical and ordnance trains “around the mountain” were insecurely guarded, no attack being expected at that point; and that the other side of the mountain could be easily reached by a good farm road, along which they had just traveled, the distance being a little more than a mile. On my way to convey this information to General Hood, I met a messenger from my scouts, who had reached the crest of Round Top. He reported that there was no Federal force on the summit, and confirmed in every particular the statements of the prisoners I had just captured. If there had previously been any question in regard to the policy of a front attack, there now remained not a shadow of doubt that our true point d’appui was Round Top, from which the Confederate right wing could be extended toward the Taneytown and Baltimore roads, on the Federal left and rear.”

        All of Law’s men were from Alabama. Hood specifically states: “Before reaching this road, however, I had sent forward some of my picked Texas scouts to ascertain the position of the enemy’s extreme left flank.”

        Similarly, Law writes: “In order to gain information upon this important point, I sent out a detail of six picked men as scouts, with instructions to move as rapidly as possible to the summit of Round Top…”

        I think six is the standard for a scout of this type, and it was prudent of both to do this. The difference is in the mission they were given: Hoods men “…to ascertain the position of the enemy’s extreme left flank.” while Law’s men were told where to travel, and what to look for along the way.

        Let me address what I think might be a point of confusion that I recently had a forehead-smacking experience over. Both Hood and Law refer to “Round Top Mountain” as if it is one peak all the way up to the lower end of Cemetery Ridge, thus including under the name Round Top, all three elevations: Big Round Top, Little Round Top, and Munshower’s Knoll, where Sickles was supposed to be. Once you grasp that concept and re-read these sections of the reports of Hood and Law, then you will grasp that they are not talking about scouting the big mountain, but the one with the signal station. Law’s statement, “On my way to convey this information to General Hood, I met a messenger from my scouts, who had reached the crest of Round Top. He reported that there was no Federal force on the summit, and confirmed in every particular the statements of the prisoners I had just captured. If there had previously been any question in regard to the policy of a front attack, there now remained not a shadow of doubt that our true point d’appui was Round Top, from which the Confederate right wing could be extended toward the Taneytown and Baltimore roads, on the Federal left and rear.” defies credulity if you apply it to the peak of Big Round Top. But apply it to Munshower’s knoll, and the north slope of Little Round Top, then you actually have a road on which to base your line, elevations to defend it, and a relatively open path to the right. To do this, however, you must account for and neutralize Ward’s Brigade on Houck’s Ridge. However, the clock interferes with all of this because by the time they stepped off help was on the way: Hazlett’s Battery and Fifth Corps coming over Blacksmith Shop Road from Baltimore Street just south of Powers’ Hill. Once again, the terrain, the road network, the initiative of the unit commanders of the AoP, and the clock all conspire to thwart the Rebs at almost every turn.

        Here are questions to ponder:

        1. Where was the man who made the map? Jed Hotchkiss was born in New York, taught school near Harrisburg, PA, and rode though this area more than once before the battle, once on the way south, and the other during the Antietam Campaign.

        2. Why wasn’t Wesley Culp consulted for his knowledge of the terrain and road network around Gettysburg. He grew up at the foot of Culp’s Hill in the farm just off East Middle Street.

        Two resources that Lee could have used to make his decisions, and in possession of information and detail [at least Culp was], that would almost certainly have forced Lee to back off after Day 1.

        • Bob Carey says:

          WGD
          As far as your questions I’ll take them one at a time.
          1. Jed Hotchkiss was either with Lee or Hill, although I believe that he probably had a good knowledge of the main roads in the Gettysburg area I doubt if he had any useful information of the farm lanes or logging roads. Since the west face of LRT was cleared of trees the year before the battle did any logging roads exist at the time of Hotchkiss’s visit?
          2. I believe that Wesley Culp was in Johnson’s Division of Ewell’s Corps and therefore did not arrive on the field until late on the first day, he was on the left
          flank of the Confederate line. The fact that he was a Gettysburg native was known on a company level and possibly on the regimental level, however beyond that is probably a bit of a stretch. unless his regimental commander showed the initiative to go up the chain of command. Lee was headed toward Harrisburg until the spy Harrison changed his mind. I believe the real fault lies with the absence of Stuart.

  3. WG Davis says:

    I doubt Stuart would have been able to scout that close to the Union lines. What Lee did not have was anything close to an appreciation of the strength of the Union position due to the TERRAIN and the ROAD NETWORK that allowed Meade to move troops internally with ease and speed. That road network magnified the edge the terrain alone gave. On top of that, the approaches almost the entire length of the Union fishhook were comparatively gentle slopes compared to the approaches the enemy had to take.

    It seems to me that Lee should have found at least some Copperheads to give him some terrain info, and whoever knew about Wesley Culp [and it WAS known since he was allowed to visit the family] should have pushed that knowledge up the line.

    Would it not be SOP for any commander during the approach to a potential battle site to spread the word downward asking if anyone had ever “been here before?”

    At some point, given a chance to interview young Culp, surely Lee would have probably come to his senses and seen what Longstreet saw on the afternoon of the 1st: the enemy didn’t just hold the high ground, they held a superior formation with the ridge between two elevations at each end. And it was so superior that the number of troops required to fend off an assault would not be so high as a lesser high ground. The interior network of roads and lanes simply made the advantage greater.

    WGD

    • WG Davis says:

      Supposedly, Hotchkiss rode through the area during the Battle of Antietam. I suppose that Jackson sent him up there already planning for the next summer’s adventure into Pennsylvania.

  4. Bob Carey says:

    WGD
    I concur with your statement about Lee. He should have sought information from the local Copperheads. There were many in the area, as evidenced by Gordons’ receiving information as to the Wrightsville bridge defenses earlier in the campaign, the bouquet of flowers,if Gordon is to be believed. I do think that Lee did not put much stock into intelligent sources of the non-military nature, maybe this had some bearing on his decision making
    He seems to have relied a great deal on the report of Captain Johnson early on the second day but there is some doubt whether Johnsons’ report was accurate.

  5. Bob Carey says:

    I was just going through some of my photos of the battlefield and I came across one of the foundation of the Wentz farm. Wasn’t one of the sons of the Wentz family in the Confederate Army. I do recall a story I heard one year in Gettysburg about the son coming upon his families farm and finding his father asleep. This would put the son in McLaws division and because of location wouldn’t he be another untapped source of intel in regards to the left flank of the AOP. Your thoughts.

  6. Bob Carey says:

    I just finished Guelzo latest book on the battle. He mentions that there was a certain Lt. Crocker of the 9th Va. who was captured after “Picketts Charge”. I seems that Crocker was an alumnus of Pennsylvania College and therefore must have had a detailed knowledge of the terrain and road network in the Gettysburg area. Crocker along with Wentz and Culp are three members of the ANV who must have possessed detail information of the battlefield, there were possibly several others. Granted that Crocker did not arrive on site until late on the second day.
    Question to ponder. Did the Confederate high command fail to utilize available intelligence from members of their own army and the local copperheads and if so how did this affect the outcome of the battle.

  7. wgdavis says:

    They seem to have ignored local intel. They had a spy team, and they had the Copperheads, though I doubt the Copperheads were trusted.

    You see it in the movies, it is such a no-brainer. Grierson/Marlowe [John Wayne], in The Horse Soldiers, is presented with Deacon Clump [Hank Worden], who knows how to lead the Regiments through “Black Water Swamp” [“Lead kindly, light”].

    Certainly it had to happen. It should have been documented some way or another. They couldn’t simply rely on the maps because things get left off, or added, or moved, in the making of the map, and maps are flat and they had no clue how steep the Union sides of their elevations were as opposed to the sides the Rebs had to assault. I need to get over to the Battlefield Library and see if the regimental histories of the 2nd [Culp] and 9th [Crocker] VA Rgts. Maybe there is something there.

  8. Bob Carey says:

    I actually enjoy the “The Horse Soldiers” but I’m glad the screenwriters decided to make Wayne a railroad engineer instead of giving him Grierson’s real occupation. It’s tough to imagine the “Duke” teaching a room full of kids.
    I think the Union army utilized local intelligence very efficiently, especially from the slaves and the ex-slaves , however there was that one instance during the Kilpatrick raid into Richmond where Dalgrhen had a local black youth hanged for not being able to find a ford in the James river. One of the many tragic episodes of the war.

    • wgdavis says:

      I don’t think there was anything that was “right” about the Dahlgren Raid.

      WGD

      • Bob Carey says:

        I could never figure out how Kilpatrick retained his command, although Sherman requested him for his operations for the very reasons that many commanders would have sacked him. He was rash, reckless and to me a vain egocentric. A very poor commander.

        • wgdavis says:

          I could never figure out how Kilpatrick became a general. Apparently he had strong political pull. He was barely older than Custer and was promoted to Brigadier just a bit more than two weeks before Custer. I bet Custer understood him, though I believe Custer was more honorable.

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