Johnson Hagood was born on February 21, 1828 in Barnwell, South Carolina. He attended Richmond Academy in Augusta, Georgia and, in 1847, graduated first in his class from The Citadel in Charleston. He was admitted to the bar in South Carolina, but never actively practiced law, deciding instead to be a planter.
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Hagood was appointed brigadier general and assistant adjutant general of the South Carolina Militia, before being named colonel of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers. He participated in the Battle of Fort Sumter and the First Battle of Manassas, and he was promoted to brigadier general on July 21, 1861. Because he was at best a mediocre tactician, his military career was mostly uneventful. He played a role in the 1864 Overland Campaign, fighting in the battles of Drewry's Bluff and Cold Harbor.
In December 1864, Hagood's brigade was sent to Wilmington to aid in the defense of Fort Fisher. During the First Battle of Fort Fisher, December 24-27, 1864, the brigade was with Gen. Robert F. Hoke's division, stationed at Sugar Loaf on Federal Point, north of Fort Fisher. Hagood's men were part of the fort's garrison during the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, January 13-15, 1865. The brigade served as the main force in defense of Fort Anderson, on the west bank of the Cape Fear River after the fall of Fort Fisher. Partially due to Hagood's shortcomings as a commander, Fort Anderson and the remainder of the Cape Fear region fell to the Federals in February 1865. Hagood and his brigade remained with Hoke's division throughout the rest of the war, seeing action at the Battle of Wyse Fork, March 8-10, 1865, and the Battle of Bentonville, March 19-21, 1865. The brigade was surrendered, along with the rest of the Confederate army, at the Bennett farm near Durham in late April 1865.
Hagood returned to South Carolina and resumed his life as a planter. He was elected comptroller general of the state from 1876 to 1880. He then served from 1880 to 1882 as governor of South Carolina. Hagood died in Barnwell on January 4, 1898. The town of Hagood, South Carolina is named for him, as is the football stadium at The Citadel.