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Re: Fighting Joe Hooker

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  • Jim Rosebrock
    Colleagues Fighting Joe Hooker by Walter Hebert came in the mail recently. For a 60+ year old book, it is a very good like you all said. I havent completed
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2008
      Fighting Joe Hooker by Walter Hebert came in the mail recently. For a 60+ year old book, it is a very good like you all said. I havent completed it but am past the Maryland campaign. I was hoping for a little more about Hooker in that campaign. The author covered Hookers operations as a division commander in the III Corps on the peninsula with fellow division commander Phil Kearney in some detail and I was hoping for a similar treatment in Maryland. What is interesting is the chapter on "Administrative Joe". For all his braggadocio, Hooker was a very competent organizer and administrator in his own right. Had he not got the Army of the Potomac back on track after the Burnside period, who knows what the summer of 63 would have looked like


      joseph_pierro <joseph_pierro@...> wrote: Jim:

      I reviewed it YEARS ago, when it was reissued in reprint, for one of
      the journals (Journal of Military History, I think). here's what I
      had to say at the time.



      Fighting Joe Hooker by Walter H. Herbert (Indianapolis: Bobbs-
      Merrill, 1944; Bobbs-Merrill, 1944; Reprint. Lincoln, NE: University
      of Nebraska Press/Bison Books, 1999), 366 pages, Introduction,
      Preface, Maps, Photographs, Notes, Bibliography, Index, $15.95.

      "It is regrettable that Joseph Hooker's military
      career will always be remembered primarily in terms of his direction
      of the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville." If the national
      memory has remained unchanged in the fifty-seven years since that
      assessment was first penned, it is not due to any lack of effort on
      the part of its author. Walter H. Hebert's Fighting Joe Hooker --
      still the only full-length biography of the Massachusetts-born
      general available -- masterfully restores attention to contributions
      long forgotten in the wake of that defeat.
      A West Point graduate in the class of 1837, Hooker
      distinguished himself in the Mexican War, where his administrative
      excellence quickly earmarked him as a highly-prized staff officer for
      numerous politicians-turned-generals in the armies of both Zachary
      Taylor and Winfield Scott. Such service proved a mixed blessing; by
      war's end he advanced from first lieutenant to brevet lieutenant
      colonel, but had also earned Scott's enmity by testifying on behalf
      of his commanding officer, Gideon Pillow, during Scott's abortive
      court-martial of that officer. With peace at hand, Hooker was
      transferred to the Pacific Division, but the monotony of garrison
      duty contrasted unfavorably with the booming opportunities in gold-
      feverish California, and he resigned from the Army. He undertook
      numerous business ventures, failing in all, and as debts mounted
      (including an unrepaid sum from William Sherman), the formerly
      abstemious Hooker began earning a reputation for drink and
      dissolution which would cling thereafter. But by the outbreak of the
      Civil War, Hooker had managed to redeem himself through a string of
      lucrative political appointments, and he offered his services to the
      U.S. Army.
      However no response was forthcoming; General-in-Chief
      Scott had not forgotten Hooker's "disloyalty." Arriving in
      Washington, Hooker spent weeks in a fruitless attempt to secure a
      command, until a chance meeting with President Abraham Lincoln
      following the defeat at Manassas provided an opening. Mentioning his
      rebuffs from Scott, Hooker -- in blunt trademark language --
      declared, "I was at the battle . . . the other day, and . . . I am a
      damn sight better General than you, sir, had on that field." Hooker
      left the room with a regimental command; by October 1861, he had an
      entire division.
      Over the next fifteen months Hooker amassed an
      exceptional combat record -- along with the sobriquet "Fighting Joe"
      (though Hebert convincingly dispels the tale about it first appearing
      as the result of a mistyped newspaper headline). In George
      McClellan's advance up the Peninsula, Hooker was consistently in the
      van, his division sustaining 25% of the army's entire casualties. He
      shone on defense at Glendale, participated in the overwhelmingly
      successful repulse at Malvern Hill, and played a key role in
      maintaining the army's orderly retreat after Second Manassas.
      To radical Republicans bemoaning the "timidity" of West
      Pointers, Hooker appeared the ideal soldier, and his well-founded
      reputation for aggressive action and hard fighting made it impossible
      for his superiors -- towards whom Hooker directed a string of very
      public criticisms -- to deny him advancement. McClellan named him to
      corps command during the Maryland campaign, and Ambrose Burnside
      elevated him to lead one of the grand divisions at Fredericksburg.
      During both operations Hooker turned in one of the few good
      performances among the army's senior-most commanders, and with
      Burnside's resignation in January 1863, Hooker was given command of
      the army. It would last only five months.
      Hebert gives Hooker high marks for his early achievements
      in that role: restoring morale from its "Mud March" nadir,
      establishing an efficient military intelligence bureau, and
      consolidating the cavalry into a separate corps which soon faced its
      Southern counterpart on an equal footing. As for the
      Chancellorsville campaign, Fighting Joe Hooker provides a credible
      description of events and cogently outlines the mistakes made -- by
      Hooker and his subordinates -- during its execution. Those hoping
      for insight into why Hooker's normally combative instincts deserted
      him will be somewhat disappointed, however, as the work merely
      accepts implicitly the explanation traditionally attributed to Hooker
      himself: that he "simply lost faith in Joe Hooker" (a story since
      disproved by Stephen W. Sears in his 1996 Chancellorsville).
      Chancellorsville was Hooker's "big chance and he
      unquestionably fumbled. But he was never to repeat his error; always
      afterward when assigned to the offensive he pushed it aggressively."
      After a period of military inactivity following his relief in June
      1863, Hooker was sent to the Western theater as overall commander of
      the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, whereupon he opened the "Cracker
      Line" to break the siege of Chattanooga and seized Lookout Mountain
      in the "Battle Above the Clouds." None of Hooker's accomplishments,
      however, impressed U.S. Grant (no doubt soured on Hooker after
      sustained grumbling by Sherman), and he received little credit for
      his contributions. When the two corps were consolidated to form the
      Twentieth, he repeated his Peninsula performance, fighting at the
      front of the advance from Ringgold Gap to Atlanta and sustaining more
      casualties than any other corps in Sherman's three armies. But as in
      Tennessee, nothing could pry even a grudging admission of good work
      from his overall superior (when Hooker reported the heavy losses he
      sustained at Peachtree Creek, Sherman snapped, "Oh, most of 'em will
      be back in a day or two."). Passed over in favor of former
      subordinate O.O. Howard (whom Hooker held most responsible for the
      Chancellorsville debacle) as head of the Army of the Tennessee, his
      patience came to an end. He submitted his resignation, and never
      again saw field service.
      Overall, Fighting Joe Hooker's flaws are slight, and
      these mostly a function of time. Its hand-drawn maps will strike
      some readers as amateurish, and its sourcing -- while comprehensive
      for its time -- has been surpassed in sections by primary materials
      since uncovered (especially regarding the Western campaigns). But
      none of this detracts from the convincingness of the author's thesis
      that the evidence not only "conclusively substantiates his power to
      lead men into battle," but that Hooker might even have proved a
      successful army commander had he ever been presented with a second
      opportunity for independent command. Readers may take issue with
      this last bit of hypothesizing, but careful consideration of Hebert's
      narrative will strip away much of the irony which has since attached
      itself to the name "Fighting Joe," and force one to conclude -- at a
      minimum -- that the last casualty of Chancellorsville was the
      soldierly reputation of one of the finest combat officers in Federal

      You rock. That's why Blockbuster's offering you one month of Blockbuster Total Access, No Cost.

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