Is historical curiosity dead?
Dr. Allen Guelzo has a good and well-deserved reputation as a historian, and he is a fine writer. I have never met him, and I do not believe I have ever corresponded with him. I am reading his new Gettysburg book, and it is a good single volume on the campaign/battle.
But . . .
Did he lapse into photocopy history mode by following Wiley Sword and Company in their interpretation of General John Bell Hood? It appears so. This is what he wrote about General Hood:
"John Bell Hood, an aggressive Confederate field general who suffered a mangled arm and an amputated leg, sustained himself on alcohol and opiates, and they in turn probably helped him lose his luckless campaign in Tennessee in 1864 by sapping his strength and deadening his judgment."
Source: Guelzo, Allen C. (2012-04-20). Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (Kindle Locations 5317-5319). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. [Submitted to me by a reader.]
And what credible sources did Dr. Guelzo use to conclusively state that Hood "sustained himself on alcohol and opiates"? Answer: None. Others had written it, so it must be true, right?
Note thereafter Guelzo's eyebrow-raising qualifier "probably" [one of Sword's favorite words] as to how this combination of mind-altering substances sapped Hood's strength and deadened his judgment. Really? Ah . . . no. None of this is remotely accurate. And it is not subjective and no longer even arguable on any level.
General Hood did not sustain himself or even use alcohol or opiates as Sword and others continue to endlessly prevaricate about, and historians who should know better copy without curiosity or question.
Stephen Hood's John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall, and Resurrection of a Confederate General (2013) unhorses these (and other) untruths and buries them under a flurry of stomping hooves. He does this in two ways: with newly found original firsthand sources, and a simple if time-consuming comparison of the "sources" originally used by Sword and others to characterize Hood as a drunk, crippled, drugged, hack of a leader.
This new book conclusively demonstrates that, even WITHOUT these newly discovered documents, the sources used by Sword and others were, in the author's opinion, hearsay or misread or intentionally misused (readers can decide, and the plentiful reviews on Amazon and elsewhere demonstrate that they are shocked by the mountain of evidence). The record is one secondary mistake built upon another, piled upon a third, each with its own new purple adjectives thrown in for good measure. If Stephen Hood had left this subject alone, there is no doubt some author would have soon described an inebriated General Hood selling crack and meth in an Atlanta ghetto during leave.
Even good historians make mistakes. This is but another example. Hopefully, at least regarding General Hood, it is the last one.
(And if you would like to see the Hood book trailer, click HERE.)