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Joseph Hooker
Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Union Military
November 13, 1814 Joseph Hooker born, Hadley Massachusetts
October 13, 1847 Aztec Club founded by officers who fought in the Mexican-American War
  John Magruder
  P. G. T. Beauregard
  Ulysses S. Grant
  Robert E. Lee
  Joseph E. Johnston
  George McClellan
  Richard Ewell
July 31, 1861 11 Union officers are submitted to Congress to be promoted to brigadier general
  William B. Franklin
  Ulysses S. Grant
  Samuel Heintzelman
  William Tecumseh Sherman
  Ulysses S. Grant
May 5, 1862 Battle of Williamsburg

Major General James Longstreet [CS] nearly defeats Major General "Fighting Joe" Hooker [US] during a rear-guard action.
Virginia
  Peninsula Campaign
  James Longstreet
  Lafayette McLaws
  George McClellan
  Battle of Williamsburg
  William Farrar Smith
  Winfield Scott Hancock
  Jubal Anderson Early
  Samuel Garland
  Samuel Heintzelman
June 25, 1862 Battle of Oak Grove
Battle of The Orchards

Joseph Hooker [US] tries to push forward to gain ground for better positioning of McClellan's siege guns
Virginia
  George McClellan
  Seven Days Retreat
  Battle of Oak Grove
  Benjamin Huger
June 30, 1862 Battle of Frayser's Farm
Battle of White Oak Swamp [Alt.]
Battle of Glendale
Many other names

Robert E. Lee's [CS] last chance to cut the Army of the Potomac in two. George McClellan [US] withdraws to Malvern Hill.
Virginia
  Seven Days Retreat
  Battle of Glendale
  Samuel Heintzelman
  George Meade
  James Longstreet
  A. P. Hill
August 5, 1862 Union forces under Joseph Hooker retake Malvern Hill with only light Confederate resistance. These troops withdraw the next day. Virginia
August 27, 1862 Battle of Kettle Run Virginia
  Northern Virginia Campaign
  Second Manassas - Second Bull Run
August 29, 1862
August 30, 1862
Second Manassas[CS]
Second Bull Run[US]

General John Pope [US] lost to General Robert E. Lee[CS]. General James Longstreet's [CS] 28,000 man assault on August 30 was the largest simultaneous assault of the war in this Confederate victory.

Union losses 13,830

Confederate losses 8,350

Also includes: Manassas Plains, Gainesville
Virginia
  James Longstreet
  Robert E. Lee
  Stonewall Jackson
  Army of Northern Virginia
  Second Manassas - Second Bull Run
  Fitz-John Porter
  Northern Virginia Campaign
  John Pope
  Gouverneur K. Warren
  John Reynolds
  Army of Virginia
  Samuel Heintzelman
November 14, 1862 Ambrose Burnside reorganises the Army of the Potomac command structure into three Grand Divisions with the Right Grand Division under Major Edwin Vose Sumner, Central Grand Division under Joe Hooker and the Left Grand Division under William B. Franklin
  Edwin Vose Sumner
  Ambrose Burnside
  William B. Franklin
December 13, 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg

General Ambrose Burnside and the Army of the Potomac is soundly beaten by Lee's Army of North Virginia.
  Army of Northern Virginia
  Army of the Potomac
  Robert E. Lee
  Ambrose Burnside
  Lafayette McLaws
  Fredericksburg
  William B. Franklin
  Edwin Vose Sumner
  Jubal Anderson Early
  John Reynolds
January 20, 1863
January 22, 1863
Ambrose Burnside searches for another crossing of the Rappahannock. This is known as the "Mud March"
  Ambrose Burnside
January 25, 1863 Abraham Lincoln relieves General Ambrose Burnside [US} from command of the Army of the Potomac, replacing him with General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker.
  Abraham Lincoln
  Ambrose Burnside
  Army of the Potomac
January 26, 1863 In a letter to Joe Hooker, President Lincoln states that Hooker "...thwarted him (Burnside) as much as you could..."
  Abraham Lincoln
  Ambrose Burnside
  Letter, Abraham Lincoln to Joseph Hooker
February 5, 1863 General Joseph Hooker reorganizes the Army of the Potomac appointing J. F. Reynolds, Darius Couch, Dan Sickles, George Meade, John Sedgwick, W. F. Smith, Franz Sigel and Henry Slocum in command of individual corps. George Stoneman is named his cavalry chief. Smith's Ninth Corps is assigned to Newport News to increase pressure on Richmond
  George Meade
  Army of the Potomac
  William Farrar Smith
  John Sedgwick
April 5, 1863 After sailing from Washington, D. C. to Fredericksburg, Abraham Lincoln meets with Joe Hooker to discuss strategy in Virginia.
  Abraham Lincoln
May 1, 1863
May 4, 1863
Battle of Chancellorsville

General "Fighting Joe" Hooker's Army of the Potomac is defeated by Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia as it crosses the Rappahannock on the way to Richmond

Union: 17,268

Confederate: 12,821
Virginia
  Robert E. Lee
  Bloodiest Civil War battles
  Stonewall Jackson
  Army of Northern Virginia
  Army of the Potomac
  Lafayette McLaws
  Chancellorsville
  John Reynolds
  Darius Couch
  George Stoneman
June 28, 1863 George Meade [US] assumes command of the Army of the Potomac, replacing Joe Hooker.
  George Meade
  Army of the Potomac
  Battle of Gettysburg
  The Gettysburg Campaign
October 27, 1863 Battle of Brown's Ferry

Troops under William Hazen [US] secured a beachhead on the southern bank of the Tennessee River. "Baldy" Smith [US] built a pontoon bridge over the Tennessee and Joseph Hooker [US] took the Little Tennessee Valley
  Battles for Chattanooga
  William Farrar Smith
  Cracker Line
November 24, 1863 Battle of Lookout Mountain
Battle Above the Clouds

Joseph Hooker [US] engages forces under Carter Stevenson [CS] on the slopes of Lookout Mountain
Tennessee
Georgia
  Ulysses S. Grant
  Battles for Chattanooga
  Braxton Bragg
November 25, 1863 Battle of Missionary Ridge, Chattanooga

Three Union armies attacked the Army of Tennessee atop Missionary Ridge, east of downtown Chattanooga. Patrick Cleburne stopped William Tecumseh Sherman from the north, although outnumbered 10 to 1. Joe Hooker was seriously delayed by burnt bridges and failed to hit the southern end of Bragg's line near Rossville, Georgia. Thomas' Army of the Cumberland struck the center, breaking Bragg's line and forcing a retreat. Sheridan, ordered to pursue, was stopped dead in his tracks by William Hardee's rear guard action.
Tennessee
Georgia
  Ulysses S. Grant
  Battles for Chattanooga
  Braxton Bragg
  John Breckinridge
  George Thomas
  Philip Sheridan
  Army of the Cumberland
  William Tecumseh Sherman
  Patrick Cleburne
  William Hardee
  Army of Tennessee
November 26, 1863 Battle of Ringgold Gap

Patrick Cleburne's [CS] rear guard action against Joseph Hooker [US] following the defeat at Missionary Ridge gives Braxton Bragg time to establish a line in Dalton, GA
Georgia
  Battles for Chattanooga
  Patrick Cleburne
  Braxton Bragg
May 25, 1864 Battle of New Hope Church

"Fighting Joe" Hooker runs into John Bell Hood's entrenched line in Paulding County
Georgia
  Atlanta Campaign
  Joseph E. Johnston
  John Bell Hood
June 22, 1864 Battle of Kolb's Farm

To prevent Joe Hooker [US] and John Schofield [US] from outflanking the Confederate Army, General John Bell Hood [CS] attacks, without orders.
Georgia
  John Bell Hood
  Atlanta Campaign


Joseph Hooker

Known as "Fighting Joe" Hooker

Irvin McDowell, George McClellan, John Pope and Ambrose Burnside each had a chance at immortality leading a Union army in the east against the Army of Northern Virginia. None had been a success. Early in 1863, following Burnside's disastrous attack at Fredericksburg, Abe Lincoln considered three men for the role of Commander, Army of the Potomac, George Meade, John Reynolds and "Fighting Joe" Hooker. Although he would clarify his choice with a famous letter the following day, Lincoln selected Joseph Hooker.

Born on the banks of the Connecticut River in Massachusetts, Joseph Hooker was the youngest of four children, the others all girls. The family had been devastated by the War of 1812. Mom struggled to send Joe to a private school, where a young Hooker impressed a teacher who brought the aggressive youth the the attention of U. S. Representative George Grennell. Joe entered West Point on July 1, 1833. Although his classmates included men like John Sedgwick, Braxton Bragg and Jubal Early, it was Hooker's relationships with Henry Halleck, William Tecumseh Sherman and George Thomas that would play an important role in his later life.

After graduation he was brevetted Second Lieutenant into the artillery and went to the active military operations then underway in Florida (Second Seminole War). His unit was responsible for establishing Fort Pierce on the east coast of Florida and Hooker himself was noticed by General Winfield Scott. After the surrender of the majority of the Seminoles and their movement west, Hooker was stationed in Vermont and Maine. He also served as adjutant at West Point, a respected position.

With the expansion of the United States under James Polk, the Southwest had become the center of military activity and in 1845, Hooker moved west. Arriving in the Spring of 1846 after an extended layover in Pensacola, Florida, Hooker moved into a staff position in Zachary Taylor's army, then in the disputed territory of Texas. During the battle of Monterrey in the Mexican American War, Joe Hooker served as chief of staff, but aided his brigade commander by managing part of the troops. As a result he received a favorable report to Taylor, who in turn mentioned Hooker in a favorable light to Secretary of War William Marcy and brevetted him captain.

In April, 1847, Hooker was reassigned as Chief-of-Staff to Brigadier General George Cadwallader and was soon on his way to Vera Cruz. He joined Winfield Scott's army on July 8, 1847, during its' march from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. Once in Vera Cruz, the army was reorganized and Hooker became Gideon Pillow's adjutant, although his duties indicate it was more a chief-of-staff role. Captain Hooker was an invaluable part of Pillow's division and Pillow recognized the captain's ability on several occasions. Hooker had close contact with many of the men he fought with (and against) during The Civil War, but he worked closely with Franklin Pierce, a brigadier in Pillow's division. Hooker's brevet to major came following the battle of National Bridge, where Hooker seized the heights above the battle. He earned his last brevet at the battle of Chapultepec.

Unfortunately for Hooker, following the War with Mexico he was called at a court-martial to testify for General Pillow in his battle with Commanding General Winfield Scott. Although Hooker's testimony did not accuse Scott of any wrongdoing, the Lieutenant Colonel alienated Scott, which may have hurt his advancement later.

He spent the years after the Mexican-American War in California, sharing a house with George Stoneman, Philip Kearny and an old commander, General Persifor Smith. He relieved William Tecumseh Sherman as adjutant general when he arrived in California. Over the next few years he left the army and tried his hand at ranching and playing cards, and was unlucky at both. He seemed to be making a comeback in the late 1850s when he supported the winning state governor and a U. S. Senator. Joe Hooker's name was even suggested for a vacant Senate seat in Oregon, but a friend, Ned Baker, decided to run.

When The Civil War broke out Joseph Hooker headed east, to Washington D. C., where President Lincoln recommended he be given at least a regimental command. The idea was neatly pigeonholed by Winfield Scott, who had not forgotten his testimony before the court of inquiry. As a result of Scott's inaction, Joe Hooker rode into the Battle of Bull Run as a spectator.

Hooker's career was far from over. Lincoln felt Hooker would make a good commander, so he decided to bypass Scott's authority and have Congress make him a brigadier general. Sponsored by the Massachusetts delegation, Hooker's promotion sailed through Congress. Scott's resignation on October 31, 1861 was probably the best thing that could have happened to Hooker's career. It could not come an unhappier time for Hooker. Oregon Senator Ned Baker had been killed at the Battle of Ball's Bluff.

In April, 1862 Joe Hooker moved south with the Army of the Potomac to Fort Monroe. Although he technically reported to Samuel Heintzelman, Hooker was frequently on his own, a situation which pleased Fighting Joe to no end. His division held the northern end of the line during the Siege of Yorktown. The Battle of Williamsburg gave him the first chance to engage the Rebels and conditions were perfect - there was not a commanding general in sight. He felt McClellan had been too conservative at Ball's Bluff and Yorktown.

With an unprotected left flank, and dependable "Baldy" Smith to his right, Hooker pushed toward James Longstreet's Rebels anchored in Fort Magruder at 7:30 a.m. As the Union forces advanced, battling Longstreet's Confederates in a pouring rain, calls kept coming in for reinforcements to the left, which Hooker obliged. By 11:00 am his men reported crossing the Yorktown Road, but by this time they had slowed to a crawl. Even with a division of men, Hooker did not intend on having to carry the Confederate line by himself. Phil Kearny, Heintzelman's other division commander, was mired in the mud but moving towards the sound of battle. Edwin Vose Sumner refused to let Baldy Smith become involved.

Longstreet's furious rear-guard action was turning into a disaster for Joseph Hooker by 1 o'clock. The Union general was patching holes in his line and organizing a secondary line to withdraw to when Heintzelman arrived. Heintzelman did what he could in the rear, even getting an army band to play to calm the men. Batteries on the secondary line began throwing canister on the Rebels, which helped the infantry firm the front line.

About 2:30 pm word reached Hooker's embattled Yankees that reinforcements were near, doing even more to firm the resolve of the men now under furious attack. Phil Kearny found Heintzelman in the rear and was immediately ordered to "...report to Hooker." When Kearny arrived at Hooker's post he allowed Fighting Joe to place the reinforcements in the area of greatest need, then turned to him and said, "I believe I outrank you." Hooker agreed and turned command over to Kearny.

By this time, things were changing to the north of Hooker's position. "Baldy" Smith was told by a contraband that a redoubt north of Fort Magruder was unoccupied and a road to it was unprotected. Smith had the story verified by an engineer and requested permission to push a brigade forward. Sumner agree. Smith reinforced Winfield Scott Hancock's brigade and sent it to the redoubt, which eventually forced Longstreet's withdrawal from Fort Magruder.

Along with the Army of the Potomac, Joe Hooker's division skirted the Chickahominy to the north, crossing to the south at Bottom's Bridge on May 25. While two brigades headed south to form the extreme left wing of the Union army, the Excelsior Brigade stayed at Bottom's Bridge to guard the crossing. Late on the first day of Seven Pines, Hooker was ordered forward from the left wing. Even before arriving he had an effect on the battle, though. Sumner was lambasted for his failure to support Hooker at Williamsburg, so when fighting broke out at Fair Oaks Station he sent forward a division without orders. John Sedgwick rescued the right flank of the Union Army that day.

Hooker advanced two brigades to Silas Casey's position by dusk and prepared to attack. Early the next morning both brigades were to move forward without artillery support - the roads were too muddy - but, much to Hooker's surprise, only two regiments showed up. The other men were reassigned further north by Heintzelman. Undaunted by the reduction in force, Hooker led the two regiments against a Confederate force of two brigades. Although it appeared to Fighting Joe that the Rebels retreated in disarray as he attacked, it was an orderly withdrawal under orders from D. H. Hill.

On the first of The Seven Days Joseph Hooker had Cuvier Grover and Dan Sickles advance along the Williamsburg Road, heading west towards Richmond, Virginia. Grover, on the left flank of Hooker's line, ran into stiff opposition. Sickles, who had failed to keep up with Grover's advance, also ran into stiff opposition. They pushed on until 1:00pm when McClellan ordered a halt to the advance and came forward to see the situation. Although McClellan would later permit the troops to continue, the most significant gains of the day had already been made.

When Lee advanced north of the Chickahominy to the Battle of Gaines Mill, he ordered John Magruder to distract Fighting Joe. Friends from the Mexican American War, Magruder had Hooker so befuddled with his theatrics that a call went out to Union headquarters for support. After the Union loss at Gaines Mill Samuel Heintzelman came to Hooker and gave him some bad news - McClellan had decided to change his base of operation Hooker and Kearny would be covering the withdrawal from the west. As the two divisions moved east Confederates hotly pursued them, nipping at the Yankees heels, but Hooker (and Kearny) arrived at Glendale only a few men worse for wear.

Hooker lined up west of Quaker Road, guarding McClellan's wagon train while Kearny, George McCall and Henry Slocum covered the western approaches to the city. When the Confederates hit McCall's line, the Union left broke apart and Hooker moved men forward to support the crumbling line. The attacks continued Until dusk, when the Confederates withdrew. Because of his position on the field and the fact that he had only been partly involved, Hooker drew rear-guard duty, but the Confederates chose not actively pursue the retreating Union soldiers.

At Malvern Hill, Joseph Hooker was put near to the right-center of the Yankee's defensive line, away from most of the action, but a call for support from Fitz-John Porter led Hooker to move Dan Sickles brigade forward and they saw some action. In his last action of the Peninsula Campaign, Joseph Hooker seized Malvern Hill, but General Lee sent a corps to move Hooker's division from the hill. The division returned to Aquia Creek on August 23, 1862

Although never officially transferred from the Army of the Potomac, from Aquia Landing Hooker advanced in support of John Pope, commander of the newly-formed Army of Virginia. Hooker's men were the last to pass through Manassas Station before Stonewall Jackson cut the railroad on August 27, 1862 at the beginning of the Second Battle of Bull Run. Pope decided to sever the Confederate line at Gainesville, then let Hooker hit Jackson. Crossing Kettle Run Hooker's skirmishers ran into heavy resistance but Stonewall Jackson was already withdrawing.

Jackson ended up at the Unfinished Railroad grade and Hooker was assigned to support Kearny in an attack the following day. John Pope tried to find men to support this attack to no avail. By the end of the day the Union attacks had been repelled, a victim of Pope's inability to martial his forces. Hooker's division had been badly mauled. By the time Irvin McDowell's corps arrived near sunset, James Longstreet had supported and extended Jackson's Rebel line. On August 30, when Lee's army pivoted on Longstreet's line and chased the Army of Virginia from Second Bull Run, Hooker was held in reserve because of his earlier losses. At the end of the day he withdrew alongside the rest of the Union Army.

When Pope asked Hooker to check the Confederate Army at Centreville, Hooker initially said his men were in no condition to fight, although Fighting Joe would have loved the assignment. Pope told Hooker to commandeer any forces he needed on his way to Centreville and Hooker accepted. He secured and held the western approach with a mixed command made up of his own men and those of McDowell and William Franklin. When forward forces of Stonewall Jackson ran into Hooker's line, Jackson turned south and hit Jesse Reno's corps in the Battle of Chantilly. Hooker's old friend, Phil Kearny, would be caught by a Rebel MiniƩ-ball riding his line after sunset during the battle.

On September 5, 1862 Joseph Hooker took command of the Fifth Corps, replacing Fitz-John Porter. It was a command he held for exactly 1 day. George McClellan asked that Fitz be given back his command, so Hooker was given command of the Third Corps, Army of Virginia. His three division commanders, Rufus King, John Reynolds and James Ricketts had been battle-tested and both Reynolds and Ricketts had served time in Confederate prisoner-of-war camps. When word reached the North that Lee was moving into Maryland, Reynolds was ordered to assist Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin and Hooker chose George Meade, an able brigadier, as his replacement. King, on sick leave, would be replaced by John Hatch. Hooker was ordered to march down the National Road in support of Jesse Reno's corps, both under command of Ambrose Burnside, who McClellan put in charge of his Left Wing.

Blazed by George Washington during the French and Indian War and upgraded to a road during his term as U. S. President, the National Road was the path followed west by the earliest settlers. It crossed South Mountain at Turner's Gap. At Tabor Church Road Jesse Reno moved southwest toward Fox's Gap and Joe Hooker moved northwest, hoping to avoid engaging Confederate troops stationed in Turner's Gap, which was straight ahead. With Meade to the north, Hatch on Meade's left and Ricketts in close support, Hooker's corps advanced on a Confederate defensive line protecting Daniel Harvey Hill's men in Turner's Gap from a flanking movement. By nightfall Hooker had breached the line and Hill withdrew, ending the battle of Turner's Gap. During the battle, James Hatch was severely wounded and replaced by Abner Doubleday.

After the battle the schism between McClellan and his generals opened even more. McClellan credited his chief-of-staff (and his wife's father), Randolph Marcy with the victory. Ambrose Burnside credited Hooker and Jesse Reno with the victories at Turner's and Fox's Gap. The next morning word reached Hooker at breakfast that Lee was withdrawing rapidly towards Sheperdstown (present-day West Virginia). Hooker took the opportunity to ride at the head of a column into and beyond Turner's Gap after finishing breakfast.

Hooker's information was almost right. Lee was withdrawing, but not to Sheperdstown. He decided to wait at a small creek east of Sharpsburg, Maryland known as Antietam. Crossing north of the Rebel right flank on the Upper Bridge and Pry's Ford, Hooker's corps moved south along Hagerstown Pike on September 16, 1862. Thinking he had outflanked the Rebels, Hooker pushed forward a skirmish line, which was easily repulsed. Night fell quickly that cloudy evening, so Hooker called off his attack.

Daybreak brought a fresh assault, and Hooker's corps ran into Stonewall Jackson's men first at the Cornfield, and later at West Woods and Dunker Church. McClellan had promised to support any drive Hooker made, and that support came in the form of Joseph Mansfield's 12th Corps. With his three divisions fully engaged, Joe Hooker told Mansfield to hit the Rebel position in the Cornfield, where George Meade had been engaged for nearly two hours. Suddenly, Hooker's command post came under heavy fire from the Rebels. In the heaviest fighting he was hit in the foot and carried from the field.

George Meade assumed command of Hooker's Corp and with Mansfield's 12th Corp and Sumner's 2nd Corps entering the field, Meade withdrew to reorganize at 10:00 am. Mansfield would be killed and Sumner would lose 2,200 men in the next couple of hours of bloody fighting. Meanwhile, Hooker was transported to Centerville, Maryland and later to Washington D. C. There many important people journeyed to his bedside including President Abraham Lincoln and Vice-president Hannibal Hamlin. Salmon P. Chase was a frequent visitor as well as officers from Hooker's command.

Joseph Hooker had won the admiration and respect that he had been hoping for, but these men were also sizing him up for a new assignment, commander of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker, though, was a Democrat and did not support abolition, both of which presented a problem. To counter this criticism, Fighting Joe released a statement in support of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Still, when Lincoln decided to replace McClellan, the President chose Ambrose Burnside.

After rejoining the Army of the Potomac on November 15th, he was assigned the 5th Corps, replacing Fitz-John Porter, who was facing court-martial for his performance (or lack thereof) at Second Bull Run. The following day he became commander of the Center Grand Division consisting of the 3rd and 5th Corps. Sumner would be commander of the Right Grand Division and Franklin would be commander of the Left Grand Division. Once again, Hooker had commanded the 5th Corps for a single day; replacing him was Daniel Butterfield. In command of the 3rd Corps was an old friend from California, George Stoneman.

From the outset Joe Hooker was unhappy with Burnside's plan for Fredericksburg. He ordered the men outfitted with 60 rounds of ammunition (the normal amount would be 40 rounds). Sumner would cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg while Franklin would cross two miles downstream. Hooker would wait in reserve, then push his men across where it seemed most advantageous. He followed Sumner then joined him and Burnside at the Lacy House, north of the Rappahannock, to watch the battle.

After nightfall on December 12, 1862, Hooker was ordered to detach two of his best divisions to support Franklin's crossing. Burnside wanted to move two divisions against the Rebel flank and push it back so Franklin could move south towards Richmond on the Old Stage Road (also called the Richmond Stage Road). Burnside then ordered another of Hooker's divisions to hold Fredericksburg as Sumner's 2nd Corps advanced. Wave after wave of Sumner's men were mowed down by Longstreet's men at the Bloody Lane. By mid-afternoon it was Hooker's turn to pierce the Confederate line. After each of the 14 assaults Hooker made that day he asked Burnside to call off the attack, but the Commanding General refused.

In the aftermath of Fredericksburg more than 7,000 Union soldiers lay injured or dead beneath Marye's Heights. Hooker viewed the attack as a complete disaster, a feeling he would express to the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War and a feeling shared by Sumner and Franklin. Unfortunately, the committee decided Franklin, a friend of McClellan was the scapegoat and supported Lincoln's decision to continue with Burnside in command.

In spite of the loss at Fredericksburg it would be Burnside's ill-fated "Mud March" that led to Joe Hooker's appointment to command the Army of the Potomac. On January 25, 1863, Burnside was relieved of duty and Hooker was chosen as Commander of the Army of the Potomac. His appointment was met with positive popular sentiment, although some generals felt the trials facing Hooker were more than he could handle. George Meade thought Hooker could handle the fighting, but not the demoralized spirit of the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln objected to Hooker's expressed belief that government needed a dictator. Darius Couch simply objected to Hooker himself.

First order of business for a new commander is a chief-of-staff. Hooker's first choice, Charles P. Stone, was still under scrutiny for the failure at Ball's Bluff. His second choice was Major General Daniel Butterfield, who was forced to turn over command of the Fifth Corps following Fredericksburg because George Meade outranked him. On February 5, 1863 Hooker reorganized his army, doing away with Burnside's "Grand Divisions" and appointing John Reynolds, Darius Couch, Dan Sickles, George Meade, John Sedgwick, Franz Sigel, and Henry Slocum as his corps commanders. One major change made by Hooker was the establishment of a Military Bureau of Intelligence.

When the winter snows turned into the spring thaw, Hooker's stated goal of marching to Richmond had to be tested. Spring rains kept the Union Army in place in April, 1863 when Fighting Joe wanted to begin his campaign. With 3 corps opposite the Confederates in Fredericksburg he thought the Union Army could be around Lee's left flank quickly, but the crafty Rebel had Hooker outfoxed. Hooker moved to Kelly's Ford, site of a cavalry battle earlier in the year, and began pushing his men across with hopes of reaching the Rapidan, but not to advance further south than Chancellorsville. On the night of April 30 the Army of the Potomac made camp in the Wilderness.

While Sedgwick waited for orders to cross the Rappahannock, Lee moved west towards Hooker's main army near Chancellorsville. Jubal Early commanded Marye's Heights south of Fredericksburg with a reinforced division. On the afternoon of May 1, 1863, reports began rolling into headquarters of increased Rebel activity in unexpected places and Hooker order a withdrawal to a defensive perimeter around Chancellorsville. By the time orders reached his commanders they were already retreating under heavy fire. Still, nothing had been heard from the 3 corps under Sedgwick at Fredericksburg. Near 5:00 pm Hooker discovered the problem - a telegraph line had been severed and his order to cross the Rappahannock was never received.

Lee, on May 2, did something Hooker never expected. He split the Army of Northern Virginia in two, sending Stonewall Jackson on a flanking move to the west. Hooker misinterpreted the movement as a retreat, but a late Rebel attack on Hooker's right told him otherwise. That night word began reaching the commanding general that both Jackson and A. P. Hill had been wounded. Because of Hooker's tenuous position (some call it desperate) he had little time to enjoy the Rebel loss. Early on the morning of May 3 Hooker got word that Sedgwick had completed his crossing and was moving toward Hooker at Chancellorsville.

Shortly after 9:00am on May 3rd, the walls of the Chancellor house, where Hooker was staying, tumbled down under Confederate bombardment. Hooker was hit by the falling debris and turned his command over to Darius Couch. Four hours later Hooker resumed command, but the battlefield was again changing. Lee moved east towards Salem Church to engage Sedgwick's forces while J. E. B. Stuart had his Rebel forces push against Hooker's line. The battle on May 4 shaped up to be Lee against Sedgwick at Salem Church, where Sedgwick hit the Rebel line early in the morning, trying to break through to Hooker. Under intense pressure following the failed attacks, Sedgwick was forced to withdraw north of the Rappahannock. Over the next three days Hooker also withdrew, although his generals (except for Sickles) wanted to attack. His long awaited "advance to Richmond" would have to wait a little longer.


On June 4, 1863 Hooker recieved word of Rebel movement. Troops were being withdraw from the federal left. He pushed John Sedgwick's Sixth Corps accross the Rappahannock and discovered that JEB Stuart was preparing to raid with some 20,000 men (Stuart had half that amount). Hooker wanted to attack the rear of Lee's column moving west, but felt he wouldn't get the support he needed. It probably would have been a good move. By June 10, Washington was in an uproar over Lee's movement and very concerned about Pennsylvania, but Fighting Joe remained unconvinced of Lee's final goal. Hooker proposed a bold attack towards Richmond, a plan neither Halleck or Lincoln approved.

On June 13 the Army of the Potomac had no choice but to move west north of the Army of Northern Virginia. Hooker began shifting supplies and sending men north. Reports came into headquarters that Winchester and Martinburg had fallen into Rebel hands and Lee was once again crossing the Potomac. Three days later Darius Couch reported the Rebel Army 9 miles from Chambersburg and reports from Harper's Ferry had the Union garrison withdrawing to Maryland Heights under pressure from Lee.

Over the last five months, Hooker had enjoyed open access to President Lincoln but a misunderstanding between Halleck and Hooker over Harper's Ferry had Lincoln ending Hooker's access. Lincoln also ordered Hooker to obey the orders given by Halleck. With a significant amount of the Rebel army in the North, Lincoln did not want a misunderstanding to get in the way of field operations.

As Lee completed his crossing of the Potomac, the Union Army was concentrating to begin its crossing of the river. On June 27, Hooker rode to Harpers Ferry and decided that it was pointless to maintain a garrison there. William French, the garrison's commander, had orders from Halleck to remain, so when Hooker countermanded the orders, French wired Halleck. When Halleck wired to disregard Hooker's orders, Fighting Joe asked to be relieved from command. The next day, amid great secrecy, Hooker was relieved of command and George Meade became the Commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Halleck was concerned when Hooker arrived in Washington, D. C. He issued an arrest warrent for the man who had been commander of the largest Union Army. Hooker took his case to Lincoln, who let the general stay in the city. Lincoln did not want to give up on General Hooker - perhaps send him to Fort Monroe or the Department of Missouri. Then came a telegram from General William Rosecrans following the Battle of Chickamauga. The Rebels had won a great victory and it was possible that he might not be able to hold Chattanooga, a town Lincoln felt was as important as Richmond, Virginia.

Lincoln formed an Army out of the 11th and 12th Corps, Army of the Potomac, put Joseph Hooker in charge and sent them off by rail to help Old Rosy. He also sent Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman from the Mississippi. Taking the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad west to Cincinnati, then on to Louisville, Fighting Joe Hooker and two corps of men arrived in Stevenson, Alabama in six days. Hooker's biggest problem in Stevenson was that Braxton Bragg had perhaps the best cavalry amassed during the Civil War. Joseph Wheeler, Nathan Bedford Forest and Stephen D. Lee were in command of a significant force of horsemen that raided north of Chattanooga to keep Rosecrans off-balance and underfed.

To maintain his own supply line to the North, Hooker ordered the 12th Corps, now under Daniel Butterfield, to protect the railroad and telegraph lines north of the Tennessee River. His supply line was essential. Lincoln wanted a show of force to move west in support of Rosecrans, but the supplies, baggage and munitions would take longer to arrive. On October 12 Rosecrans asked Hooker to advance a division so he could extend his line along the Tennessee River and Hooker refused - his artillery had not arrived yet and since Chancellorsville Hooker was not of a mind to take a chance of defeat.

Ulysses Grant, in Louisville, ordered George Thomas to take command of the Army of the Cumberland when he found out about Old Rosy's plan to abandon Chattanooga. Thomas immediately approved "Baldy" Smith's plan to open a supply line from Bridgeport, Alabama. Fighting Joe met Grant at the Bridgeport station. Although a record of what was said at the meeting does not exist, the meeting did not go well for Hooker. Grant later said he didn't have time for men unhappy with the size of their command, but did not specify the target of his anger.

To open up Baldy Smith's line to Chattanooga, Hooker was instructed to take Lookout Valley on the west side of Lookout Mountain. Watching the Union Army march unopposed below him, James Longstreet hatched a plan to get some of their supplies for his Confederates. In a daring nighttime raid he attacked the railroad at Wauhatchie, but was repelled when Union reinforcements arrived more quickly than expected.

On November 24, 1863 Hooker began a demonstration against the Rebels on Lookout Mountain. Carter Stevenson had signaled Braxton Bragg that he was concerned about losing the mountain and Grant wanted to know why, so he ordered Hooker to probe the steep slopes. General Joseph Hooker, in perhaps his most brilliant offensive move of the Civil War, decided to cross Lookout Creek, then climb to about 150 feet below the rim of the mountain. Sweeping the cloud-covered mountain to the north, Rebel entrenchments, which had been designed to stop troops coming up the mountain, were useless. He quickly rolled up the Confederate line.

For two months the Rebels had held the Army of the Cumberland hostage in Chattanooga. In position to take Missionary Ridge the following day a cheer went up when Hooker's men swept across the Craven's House plateau shortly after the clouds broke. Confederates briefly fought for control of the plateau, but by 3:00 pm it was solidly in Union hand. That evening, as Hooker's men regrouped, Carter Stevenson withdrew from Lookout Mountain.

The plan for the next day called for William Tecumseh Sherman to attack Missionary Ridge from the north and Hooker from the south while George Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland demonstrated in front of the mountain. Sherman ran headlong into Patrick Cleburne while Stevenson did his best to block Hooker's approach. Following Rossville Road, Hooker was slowed by Stevenson burning bridges but that afternoon Hooker hit the Confederate line at the south end of the ridge. He began to roll up the Rebel left when Thomas's Army of the Cumberland hit the center and destroyed Braxton Bragg's position.

With the South retreating from Chattanooga, Hooker requested pursuit duty and followed the retreating butternuts to Ringgold. Marching in a reinforced skirmish line configuration (4 men across), Hooker entered Ringgold Gap when Patrick Cleburne's men opened fire. The initial volley caught the Union Army unaware and they fell back. Cleburne felt Hooker would probe his flanks so hee moved almost all his men to the left and right of the gap. Had Hooker pushed his men forward, they could have taken the gap, but Fighting Joe decided to play it by the textbook and spread his men out to the left and right only to find significant forces on either side. He decided to await his artillery, but he was recalled to Chattanooga.

In the winter of 1863-4 Hooker's men were spread across southern Tennessee protecting the railroad. Lincoln and Salmon Chase considered replacing George Meade with Hooker in command of the Army of the Potomac, but intended to offer the General-in-Chief spot to Ulysses Grant. Grant was not fond of Hooker and wanted Meade to continue in command. Lincoln was not about to argue with his most successful general, so Joseph Hooker was permanently reassigned to the west.



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Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Union Military

Joseph Hooker was last changed on - December 10, 2007
Joseph Hooker was added in 2005





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