chapter  12
18 Pages

Desperation and Destruction in the Final Year of the War

Of the five men who commanded the Confederacy's western army in the course of the Civil War none emerged with his reputation intact.1

Albert Sidney Johnston bore the ignominy of falling back from Kentucky to Mississippi, and could only partially restore his fame through the courage and determination he displayed at Shiloh. P. G. T. Beauregard floundered in the mud of Corinth before retreating further into Mississippi, and was abruptly removed from command after slightly more than two months. Braxton Bragg's star rose during the Kentucky campaign only to wane thereafter, while his victory at Chickamauga was soon tarnished beyond repair by high command intrigue and the disastrous collapse at Missionary Ridge. Joseph E. Johnston has consistently been the most controversial of the all the commanders of the Army of Tennessee. On the one hand he has been portrayed - not least by himself - as a modern-day Fabius, frustrated and finally undermined by politicians in Richmond. On the other, he failed to stop McClellan on the Peninsula in 1862 and had no answer to Sherman's strategy in the Atlanta campaign save to call for help from beyond his own theatre of operations. None of the army's ill-fated commanders, however, could empathise with Hamlet's dying words 'report me and my cause aright to the unsatisfied', more than John B. Hood. In the historiography of the Civil War few commanders have found so many detractors as the man who came to the command of the Army of Tennessee in July 186.. Indeed, Hood himself reflected in the aftermath of the Confederate surrender that he had received unjust criticism: 'I have never feared but I would get justice', he informed a friend, 'but expect it to be tardy.'2