Joseph Hooker


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Hooker, Joseph

Hooker, Joseph, 1814–79, Union general in the American Civil War, b. Hadley, Mass. After fighting the Seminole and serving in the Mexican War, Hooker resigned from the army in 1853 and was for several years a farmer in California. At the outbreak of the Civil War he became a brigadier general of volunteers. He distinguished himself in subordinate commands in the Peninsular campaign, at the second battle of Bull Run, and in the Antietam campaign, and was made a brigadier general in the regular army in Sept., 1862. After the battle of Fredericksburg, Hooker severely criticized Ambrose Burnside, whom he succeeded (Jan., 1863) in command of the Army of the Potomac.

In Apr., 1863, he advanced against Robert E. Lee, but in the resulting battle of Chancellorsville, he failed to justify his nickname of “Fighting Joe.” Hooker followed Lee closely in the subsequent Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania, but, angered at General Halleck's refusal to send him reinforcements from Harpers Ferry, he asked on June 28, 1863, to be relieved. Hooker ably commanded reinforcements from the East in the Chattanooga campaign, and in 1864 he fought in the Atlanta campaign until General Sherman passed him over as successor to John B. McPherson.

Bibliography

See biography by W. H. Hebert (1944).

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Hooker, Joseph

(1814–79) soldier; born in Hadley, Mass. He graduated from West Point (1837), served with distinction in Mexico (1846–47), and left the army in 1853 to farm in California. Recalled on the outbreak of Civil War, he led a corps at Antietam and Fredericksburg (both 1862) and in January 1863 succeeded Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac. He had a reputation as an aggressive commander, although his nickname, "Fighting Joe," resulted from a dropped hyphen in a news dispatch (that was supposed to have read, Fighting—Joe Hooker) rather than from action in the field. (The claim that "hooker" as the term for a prostitute is derived from the campfollowers he allegedly tolerated is a completely false attribution.) Confident, efficient, and boastful, Hooker reorganized the army, improved soldiers' conditions, and promised to defeat Lee. Instead, the Confederate commander overmastered him at Chancellorsville (1863). Lincoln accepted his resignation on the eve of Gettysburg. He later held corps commands in the West under Grant and Sherman, and retired as a regular army major general in 1868.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.