January 13, 1865 (Friday the 13th)
“I respectfully request to be relieved from the command of this army,” wrote John Bell Hood to Richmondon this date. This was all his telegram, encoded in cipher, said. He had heard shortly before that P.G.T. Beauregard would arrived the day following, and he would only then have more to say about his request.
Beauregard had been on Hood for at least three weeks, hoping that he would send troops to Augusta, Georgia to defend the Carolinas against Sherman’s army now at Savannah. But no troops had been sent. Even worse, Hood had suggested that they either go into winter quarters or allow some to be furloughed. Reports coming from Richard Taylor painted a bleak and disparaging picture of Hood’s army, and when he received word that Beaureagard was to arrived the next day, perhaps Hood panicked, fearing that he was about to be relieved, and resigned his command.
It’s understandable why Hood would think such things. His campaign had been a disaster and his army all but destroyed. With him, he had now around 7,000 men fit for battle. But these men were under-fed, without shoes, and lacking winter clothes. Even blankets were a rare delight.
Though Hood resigned on this date, he would still be the commander of the Army of Tennessee for a few more days. He was alone in Tupelo, Mississippi, and though Beauregard would soon arrive, much had to be discussed. Beauregard was there to gather as many of these men as possible and send them east. But when he arrived and held a council, Hood insisted that there was no way to practically accomplish this before removing his sick and wounded from Tupelo. This would, he believed, take four more days.
Since Hood’s army was shattered, Beauregard didn’t exactly have his pick of the best men. Instead, he selected S.D. Lee’s Corps, now commanded by Carter Stevenson. This, he declared, was to be loaded upon trains as soon as trains were made available.
Beauregard’s official biographer put it this way: “General Beauregard could now realize the full truth of the reported disintegration and confusion of the Army of Tennesee. Very little – if anything – remained of its former cohesive strength. If not, in the strict sense of the word, a disorganized mob, it was no longer an army. None seemed more keenly alive to the fact, and suffered more from it, than General Hood himself. So humiliated, so utterly crushed was he, in appearance, by the disastrous results of his defeat and its ruinous effects upon his army, that General Beauregard, whom he had just apprised of his application to be relieved from its command, had not the heart virtually to disgrace him by ordering his immediate removal.”
It would take only two days for Richmond to accept Hood’s resignation. By the 15th, he would be replaced by Richard Taylor. Hood was to report to Richmond for further orders.
Upon leaving, Hood addressed his former command:
“In taking leave of you accept my thanks for the patience with which you have endured your many hardships during the recent campaign. I am alone responsible for its conception, and strived hard to do my duty in its execution. I urge upon you the importance of giving your entire support to the distinguished soldier who now assumes command, and I shall look with deep interest upon all your future operations and rejoice at your success.”