SUBMITTED BY: Warren Grimes
John Bowden Hood, second son of Robert T. and Dicy Hood, was born in Wayne County, North Carolina, on April 1, 1843. At an early age he moved with the family into Bentonville Township, Johnston County, and here grew to manhood. Scarcely had he reached manhood when the Civil War rent the Nation in twain. Answering the State’s call for volunteers, he enlisted in the Confederate Army in Sampson County on 9 September, 1861 and marched forth to take a heroic part in one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the world.
At the beginning of hostilities, Mr. Hood was sent to the coast defense at Fort Fisher. Later he was transferred to Stonewall Jackson’s brigade and became a member of Jackson’s famous “foot cavalry.” Under this command he remained, taking part in all of those glorious valley victories until its immortal leader was summoned “to cross over the river and rest in the shade of the trees.” As a member of Company H, 120th Regiment, he went with Lee on his invasion of the North. The battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1, 2, 3, 1863. During these three days of battle nearly 35,000 young Americans fell, some never to rise again, some to survive for a short time only; the rest to go maimed through life.
John B. Hood saw as much of the carnage as any one man could see during the battle of Gettysburg. In after years the old rebel told and retold the story of the great fight as he saw and felt it. He was of the infantry and carried a musket into the fight. At nightfall of the first day, when the cease-fire order was given, his musket barrel was too hot for the cleaning process. After cooling time he swabbed the barrel, ate his evening meal, and lay down, his musket by his side; and there and in that manner he spent the night with the enemy just over the hill.
At dawn of July 2 desultory firing by both armies was resumed. By company deployment Hood was given shelter near a lock fence. Fire from the enemy’s line was incessant. He would load his piece, make a quick aim over the stone wall and fire, then –fall back and repeat the operation. By noon Minnie balls were flying and striking everywhere. One ball struck the rock fence sufficiently near his head to burn his face and almost blind his eye with fragments shattered from a stone.
The order to advance and charge was given and he moved along the rock fence in a crouching position, loading and firing at will. In all his previous battles under Old Stonewall, he had never seen such fierce combat. Men and horses alike were running wild, and alike, men and horses were falling everywhere. They had tangled with the enemy and were fighting with bayonet and clubbed muskets. In the thickest of the fight on the second day Private John B. Hood, of Company H. “Bloody Twentieth” met face on the Minie ball that had been cast for him. It struck him– on the left cheekbone just under the eye shattering it. It plowed its way through flesh and bone and made its exit near the angle of the jawbone and under the ear. He fell wounded nigh unto death and lay there in an open field and under the hot July sun with blood flowing and fever rising until night came on and the litter bearers came and carried him to the first aid station in the rear of Lee’s lines.
A day or two later, Lee began his retreat back into Maryland and Virginia. Hood was on one of the hospital wagons. By then fever was high, and to him it seemed at every jolt of the wagon he was struck again as pain would course through the injured face.
At length he reached the hospital. It was a crude affair with the flooring not nailed down. There were long rows of sick and wounded. He spent several days at this place. Each morning the doctors and orderlies would make their rounds. They had certain medications, one washbasin, one washrag and one towel. By these the wounds of each soldier was washed and dried. The doctor would force water through the hole in his face whilst the orderly would catch it in the basin as it dripped out. The next soldier down the line would get a bath from the same implements – basin, rag, towel and all. Gangrene was prevalent.
But his was a spirit that would not die. He at length returned to his command and saw much of the hardest part of the war in its closing days. He was wounded a second time at Spotsylvania Courthouse and was captured at Fisher’s Hill, Virginia on 22 September, 1864. He spent a miserable half-year as a prisoner of war at Point Lookout, Maryland. He was transferred to Boulware’s Wharf, James River, Virginia on 19 March, 1865 and exchanged with a Union soldier. He trudged his way homeward and spent the remainder of the year with his people helping them to recondition a community that had been laid waste by Sherman’s invasion. The Civil War cost him the loss of his elder brother, Whitley, whose death he ever mourned.
Soon after his return from the army, he married Miss Missouri B. Lee of Meadow Township. He and his wife built a home and raised 6 children in Meadow Township. He later donated land and lumber for the building of Hood’s Grove Baptist Church in 1903 and the one room school for the community.
John B. Hood outlived his wife and most of his children. Old age found him survived by only two of his children, Anna Hood Jernigan (Mrs. H. N. Jernigan), of Meadow Township, and Addie Hood Grimes (Mrs. W. F. Grimes), of Smithfield, and in the home of the last named child he spent his last days. The passing years did for the old man what the war with all its hardships could not do — they broke his spirit and bowed his head in grief. We watched this battle-scarred old soldier toddle about for a few more months, and when the last summons came, so gentle was the transition from this life to the next, we could hardly realize that death had claimed him at all.
John Bowden Hood died at one o’clock in the afternoon of July 3, 1924, in the eighty-second year of his life. Such a life needs no eulogy. It needs, however, to be told and retold. Such a life needs to be emulated. Such a life is the community’s best asset. The State and the Nation are in need of more lives like this one just closed.
. . . . . . . . . .
I compiled this story using two articles written by H. V. Rose in 1924 & 1953 for the Smithfield Herald. I also used information from Becky Owens at the Johnston County Heritage center. John B. Hood was my great grandfather.