John Bell Hood, United States and Confederate States Army officer, was born at Owingsville, Bath County, Kentucky, on June 1, 1831, the son of John W. and Theodocia (French) Hood. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1849, and graduated forty-fourth in the class of 1853; his classmates included Philip H. Sheridan, James B. McPherson, and John M. Schofield. He was brevetted on July 1 as a second lieutenant in the Fourth Infantry. After service in Missouri and California, he was promoted on March 3, 1855, to second lieutenant and assigned to Company G of the elite Second United States Cavalry, with which he served on the Texas frontier. Hood, commanding a reconnaissance patrol from Fort Mason, sustained an arrow wound to the left hand in action against the Comanches near the headwaters of the Devils River on July 20, 1857. This was one of the most severe fights engaged in by the Second Cavalry in Texas. Hood was promoted to first lieutenant on August 18, 1858, but resigned from the army on April 16, 1861. Dissatisfied with his native Kentucky's neutrality, Hood declared himself a Texan.
Upon his resignation from the United States Army, he was commissioned a captain in the regular Confederate cavalry on March 16, 1861, and on September 30 was appointed colonel of the Fourth Texas Infantry, superseding Robert T. P. Allen. On March 3, 1862, Hood was promoted to brigadier general and given command of what became known as Hood's Texas Brigade, perhaps the finest brigade of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. This unit, originally composed of the First, Fourth, and Fifth Texas Infantry and the Eighteenth Georgia regiments, plus the infantry companies of Wade Hampton's legion, displayed remarkable courage at the battle of Gaines Mill, Virginia (June 27, 1862); Hood's superiors noticed and, on October 10, 1862, promoted him to major general. His division, which he commanded at Second Manassas (Second Bull Run), Sharpsburg (Antietam), Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg, originally consisted of his own Texas brigade under the command of Jerome Bonaparte Robertson, plus those of Evander McIvor Law, Henry Lewis Benning, and Micah Jenkins. At Gettysburg Hood received a severe wound to his left arm, which was incapacitated for the rest of his life. In the autumn of 1863 he and his division accompanied Gen. James Longstreet's First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia to Tennessee, where the corps played a crucial role in the battle of Chickamauga. Hood's command spearheaded the Rebel attack that broke the Union line on September 20, but Hood was shot in the upper right thigh, a wound that necessitated the amputation of his leg. On February 1, 1864, after a period of convalescence, he was promoted to lieutenant general and transferred to the Army of Tennessee, where he was given command of a corps consisting of the divisions of Thomas C. Hindman, Carter L. Stevenson, and Alexander P. Stewart. Hood managed his corps aggressively during the Atlanta campaign, and on July 18, 1864, he was given command of the Army of Tennessee, superseding Joseph E. Johnston, and a temporary promotion to the rank of full general. This promotion, however, was never confirmed by the Confederate Congress. William T. Sherman forced the evacuation of Atlanta on September 1, 1864, and Hood, hoping to force him back out of Georgia, moved his army onto the Union line of communications in Tennessee. Sherman responded to this threat to his rear by detaching Gen. George H. Thomas's command to deal with Hood while he led the rest of his army toward Savannah, Georgia, and the sea. Strapped to his saddle, Hood led his men toward Nashville, but met disastrous defeats at Franklin on November 30 and at Nashville on December 15 and 16. As the remains of the Army of Tennessee retreated toward Tupelo, Mississippi, it sang, to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas," "You can talk about your Beauregard and sing of General Lee, but the Gallant Hood of Texas played Hell in Tennessee." Relieved of command at his own request on January 23, 1865, Hood was attempting to make his way to Edmund Kirby Smith's army in Texas when the Confederacy collapsed. Accordingly, he surrendered to federal authorities at Natchez, Mississippi, on May 31, 1865.
After the war Hood moved to New Orleans, where he was involved in merchandising, real estate, and insurance businesses. He died there of yellow fever on August 30, 1879. His wife, the former Anna Marie Hennen, and eldest daughter preceded him in death by only a few days, and the couple left ten orphans. General Hood was originally buried in Lafayette Cemetery, New Orleans, but was reinterred in the Hennen family tomb at the Metairie Cemetery. His memoir, Advance and Retreat (1880), is one of the classics of Confederate literature. Hood County is named in his honor, as is Fort Hood in Bell and Coryell counties.