Joseph Hooker

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Joe Hooker.jpg
Joseph Hooker

Major General

Born November 13, 1814
Died October 31, 1879

Joseph Hooker (November 13, 1814 – October 31, 1879) served as a Major General in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Born in Hadley, Massachusetts as grandson of a captain in the American Revolution, Hooker graduated from West Point in 1837.[1] Nicknamed "fighting Joe", he had a reputation for being aggressive in pursuit of war, women, and liquor.[2]

Hooker served in the Mexican War and later rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. After the war, he served as assistant adjutant general of the Pacific Division; he resigned in February 1853.[3] From 1859 to 1861, he held a commission as a colonel in the California militia. During the start of the American Civil War in 1861 he was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers. He commanded a brigade and later a division around the Washington, D.C. area.

Wounded at Antietam, Hooker was critical of General Ambrose Burnside for his faulures at the Battle of Fredericksburg. When Burnside sought Lincoln's support in getting Hooker removed, Lincoln removed Burnside instead and gave control of the Army of the Potomac to Hooker in January 1863. The headquarters for the confident commander were said to resemble "a combination of bar-room and brothel." In the period leading up to the battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, in 1863, Hooker employed an extensive system of scouts, spies, signal stations, and even observation balloons, but Confederate general Robert E. Lee had a much better intelligence picture of his enemy, thanks in good measure to his cavalry. Lee knew the strength, dispositions, and even the intentions of his enemy better than did Hooker, and also made better use of the information he had. Thus intelligence was a major factor in Lee's victory at Chancellorsville, despite the Union's two-to-one advantage in troop strength.[4]

From April 30 – May 6, 1863 he and his Army of the Potomac were defeated in the Battle of Chancellorsville by General Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Both Hooker and Lee had the same tactical ideas at the beginning of the campaign. Lee carried out his plans boldly while Hooker chose to go on the defensive and lose both his tactical and numerical advantages. Suddenly and without explanation, Hooker appeared to lose his nerve at Chancellorsville, and his forces took heavy losses and retreated. This great victory for the Confederacy set the stage for Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania which culminated in the Battle of Gettysburg. It became known as Lee's "perfect battle" because of his victory over an Hooker's army, which was twice as large.

Hooker led the Union Army northward to the Battle of Gettysburg until he resigned on June 28, 1863. Moved to the West, Hooker took part in victories at the Battle Above the Clouds and the Battle of Peachtree Creek.

He continued his career in the military by being appointed in charge of the Army of the Potomac's 1lth and 12th Corps. After rising to the title of Major General, he retired on September 1, 1866. Hooker died in Garden City, New York, on October 31, 1879, and is buried in Cincinnati.

Further reading

  • Hebert, Walter H. Fighting Joe Hooker. (1944) 366 pp.


  4. Jay Luvaas, "The Role of Intelligence in the Chancellorsville Campaign, April–May, 1863." Intelligence and National Security 1990 5(2): 99-115. 0268-4527