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Joseph Hooker
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Born:November 13, 1814, Hadley, Massachusetts
Died: October 31, 1879, Garden City, New York

Joe Hooker as he looked as commander of the Army of the Potomac
Major General Joseph Hooker
Commander of the Army of the Potomac from January-June, 1863, “Fighting Joe” Hooker would end his military career in Georgia, first fighting under Ulysses S. Grant at Chattanooga and, later, William Tecumseh Sherman in the Atlanta Campaign. He personally conceived the plan for the Battle of Lookout Mountain and nearly turned Johnston’s flank at Kennesaw Mountain.

Born the son of a store owner in Hadley, Massachusetts, Joe Hooker grew up on the banks of the Connecticut River. His mother and a schoolteacher brought Joe to the attention of George Grennell, then a member of the House of Representatives. Grennell backed the youth in his quest to enter West Point, the U. S. Army military school on the banks of the Hudson River in New York. Upon graduation Hooker was sent to Florida to participate in the Second Seminole War.

During the Mexican American War, Joseph Hooker was brevetted three times, reaching the rank of major. He was frequently assigned to chief-of-staff duties although his title was normally adjutant. During this time he also saw action, commanding portions of brigades in battle. When Winfield Scott realized the problem he had with Gideon Pillow, the commanding general selected Hooker to assist Pillow. Hooker stayed with Pillow from just after Cerra Gordo until Mexico City, and testified for his commander when Scott brought Pillow up on charges.

Scott turning control of the U. S. Army to George McClellan in 1861 was probably the best thing that could of happened as far as Hooker was concerned. Scott, as General-in-Chief, had sandbagged Hooker's promotion to brigadier general in the summer of 1861, so Joseph Hooker watched the Battle of Bull Run as a spectator. Hooker’s friends in the Senate saw that he was not forgotten and he made General shortly after McClellan assumed command of the Army of the Potomac.

During the Peninsula Campaign, Fighting Joe held a position across the Warwick River while his old friend, John Magruder, kept the U. S. Army at bay. When the Confederates withdrew to Williamsburg, Hooker advanced his division to drive off the Rebel rear guard. He ran headlong into James Longstreet, who decided to turn Hooker’s flank. Hooker called for support, but Bull Sumner was unaware the situation was as bad as it was. Sumner decided to let Samuel Heintzelman support his own troops, so Hooker was forced to wait for Jesse Reno to arrive to support his line. Luckily for Hooker, Baldy Smith was less that a mile to his right and Smith pushed Winfield Scott Hancock into a redoubt near Longstreet’s line. Unable to drive Hancock off, Longstreet withdrew.

On the second day of the Battle of Seven Pines, Joe Hooker pushed the Confederate forces back to their original starting point. The Seven Days Retreat began with a Union victory engineered by Joseph Hooker, the Battle of Oak Grove. Over the next week, Confederate forces drove Hooker and the Union Army back to Harrison’s Landing on the James River. During this time Hooker protected the Union wagon train heading south during the Battle of Glendale but was only lightly involved in the fighting.

McClellan withdrew from Harrison’s Landing and returned to the vicinity of Washington D. C., and Hooker’s division was transferred to John Pope’s Army of Virginia. Last of the Union divisions to pass through Manassas Station before the rail line was cut by Stonewall Jackson, Hooker, along with Phil Kearney, struck Jackson’s men at the unfinished railroad grade during Second Bull Run. Because of his success, Hooker was made corps commander before Antietam. After driving Daniel Harvey Hill from Turner’s Gap in the Battle of South Mountain, it was Fighting Joe’s Third Corps that kicked off the action at the northern end of Antietam on the morning of September 17, 1862. During the bloodiest day in American history, Joseph Hooker was wounded in the foot.

Out of action from his painful foot wound for three months, during which time Ambrose Burnside replaced McClellan, Hooker returned to engage the Confederates at Fredericksburg as commander of Burnside’s Center Grand Division. After three months of Burnside, Lincoln decided to give overall command to Hooker. Aware of behind the scenes maneuvering while Burnside was in command and statements made by Hooker about the "country needing a dictator," the President wrote a famous letter to Hooker in which he stated "Only those generals who gain success can be dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship."

Success, however, eluded Joseph Hooker. In the only major battle of his command, the Army of the Potomac lost the Battle of Chancellorsville to Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. About a month later, Lee began to move into Pennsylvania and Joseph Hooker was in Harper’s Ferry when he was relieved of command and replaced with one of his former brigadiers, George Meade. For the next two months, Hooker stayed in Washington, hoping to be reassigned a command, just as Ambrose Burnside had been, but nothing happened.

William Rosecrans and the Army of the Cumberland made good progress against Braxton Bragg in Tennessee and began moving into Georgia through the passes in Lookout Mountain. Since the start of his move, Bragg had put up little resistance, but as the Union troops came out of the passes, the Confederates decided to attack. The Battle of Chickamauga was the worst defeat in the history of the U. S. Army. Rosecrans, from nearby Chattanooga wired President Lincoln of the disaster that had befallen his army and that his position in Chattanooga was in danger.

In a council of war, Lincoln took the 11th and 12th Corps from the Army of the Potomac, put Joe Hooker in command and sent them by rail to Stevenson, Alabama, the closest Union controlled railhead to the action. From this point Hooker could help break the siege the Rebels had laid on Chattanooga and resupply the men in the city. Within a week Hooker was in Stevenson, working on plans to help the city, but nothing happened until Ulysses S. Grant arrived on October 18. Grant backed a bold plan by George Thomas to establish a new supply line. Hooker took Lookout Valley as the Army of the Cumberland, now under Thomas prepared to break out of Chattanooga.

With supplies pouring into Chattanooga from Stevenson and Bridgeport, Alabama, over the Cracker Line, Grant began working on a plan to break free from the Confederate stranglehold. Grant's original plan did not include an attack on Lookout Mountain, but when Carter Stevenson, in command of the Confederate forces on the mountain signaled he was concerned about his position, Grant decided to see what the problem was and ordered Hooker to demonstrate against west side of Lookout Mountain. After crossing Lookout Creek south of the Rebel flank, his men climbed to about 200 feet below the top of the mountain and swept the side of the mountain towards Craven’s House.

As Hooker’s men came into view a cheer went up from the men in Chattanooga preparing to attack Missionary Ridge the next day. The Union Army then brushed the Confederates off Craven’s House plateau and regrouped after 7 hours of fighting. Leaving Lookout Mountain Hooker headed to Rossville, where he began to attack the Rebel flank on Missionary Ridge. After the Rebel loss Hooker was ordered to pursue the retreating Rebels.

At Ringgold Gap he ran into Patrick Cleburne, the best tactical commander on either side during the Civil War. Cleburne, outnumbered 10-to-1, withstood repeated assaults from Sherman’s Army of the Mississippi on the north end of Missionary Ridge. Now it was Hooker’s turn to try and break the Irishman’s line. Marching four abreast in a reinforced skirmish line formation, Hooker’s men entered the gap. Cleburne waited until they were close to his concealed men, then gave the order to fire. Hooker’s line shuttered, then fell back, pulling outside the gap. The commanding general came to the front of his line and studied the situation. In the meantime, Patrick Cleburne was taking a huge chance. He moved his men to the flanks, leaving only a couple of companies within Ringgold Gap. As Hooker tested one side and then the other the Union general felt he was facing a sizable force and decided to wait for his artillery before attacking. This additional time gave the Confederate wagon train enough time to reach Dalton, where Bragg could protect it behind Taylor Ridge.

In May, 1864, Sherman, now in command of the federal troops in Georgia, began the Atlanta Campaign. Hooker's command had been consolidated into the 20th Corps on April 4, 1864 and placed under George Thomas in the Army of the Cumberland. This made the Army of the Cumberland huge (72,000 men) and Sherman would frequently borrow Hooker or others to serve James McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee or John Schofield’s Army of the Ohio. However, the former commander of the Army of the Potomac had problems with orders given him by generals that he outranked and frequently became a problem for Sherman to deal with. Hooker liked to write letters to almost anyone who would listen in the Lincoln Administration detailing his problems with Sherman.

Hooker moved his men from Lookout Valley (west of Lookout Mountain) to the valley west of Rocky Face at the start of the Atlanta Campaign. During the Battle of Resaca, Hooker held the north end of the battlefield. On May 14th, Hooker’s 20th Corps pushed towards a four cannon embankment under the command of Max Van Der Corput. As the XX Corps attacked, Rebel commander Carter Stevenson mounted a strong attack against Hooker’s flank. Federal troops under the command of future president Benjamin Harrison reached and captured the battery late on May 14 only to find out the rear of the fort was open. The regiment came under such heavy fire from John Bell Hood’s Corps that it was forced to retreat. Word reached Joseph E. Johnston that Union forces had crossed the Ooostanaula and were in his rear, so the Rebels withdrew the next morning.

After regrouping in Kingston, Georgia, Sherman decided to avoid a battle at Allatoona Pass and left his all-weather lifeline, the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Now Hooker’s XX Corps blazed the trail into the rolling hills south of the Etowah River. Johnston heard of Sherman’s unexpected move almost immediately and pushed Leonidas Polk and William Hardee to the west. On May 25, the XX Corps, with Sherman and Thomas riding with them, ran into heavy Rebel resistance near New Hope Church. Hooker worked on regrouping his widespread units, but Sherman was convinced the XX Corps was facing the Rebel flank. About 4:00pm Hooker attacked, hitting A. P. Stewart’s division at the center of Hood’s Corps. In heavy fighting, Hooker’s men were repulsed. Sherman, unwilling to admit to his mistake, blamed the loss on the delay in regrouping Hooker’s men.

Moving to Kennesaw Mountain, George Thomas had the XX Corps protecting the right flank of the Army of the Cumberland, extending north from Powder Springs Road. Sherman ordered John Schofield to extend this line to the south with his Army of the Ohio on June 20th. Two days later the federals began advancing near Powder Springs Road, pushing the Rebels back. Prisoners, though, were telling Hooker and Schofield that Hood’s Corps had been relocated south and the Union generals became concerned that Johnston was preparing to attack. The federals began building entrenchments and withstood an attack by Hood’s Corps. During the attack, in response to a question by Sherman, Hooker said he felt there must be three corps in his front – Johnston’s entire Confederate army. Sherman, Schofield and Hooker met alongside a road where a visibly upset Sherman let go on Joseph Hooker. From this day forward, Hooker realized his days in the Army of the Cumberland were numbered.

The end came a month later after the Battle of Atlanta. Commander of the Army of the Tennessee James McPherson was killed during the battle. Sherman replaced him with John "Blackjack" Logan but wanted an experienced officer (someone from West Point) to lead the army after the battle. Hooker fit the bill and he had commanded the Army of the Potomac, but Sherman chose Oliver Otis Howard. When Hooker found out, he resigned command of the XX Corps, no doubt to Sherman’s approval.

Fighting Joe Hooker probably thought that his performance in the Western Theater might get him a command in the East, but by July, 1864, the Grant-Sherman alliance was so strong that Lincoln would not rock the boat. Hooker’s time was over. He did not see action in any capacity again and he left the regular army in 1868. He married after the war and settled in Ohio, dying on a visit to New York.

Biographies of famous, not so famous and infamous people from the North Georgia area or who had an effect on North Georgia

Article Links
Allatoona Pass
Ambrose Burnside
Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Virginia
Army of the Cumberland
Army of the Potomac
Atlanta Campaign
Baldy Smith
Battle of Chancellorsville
Battle of Chickamauga
Battle of Glendale
Battle of Seven Pines
Benjamin Harrison
Braxton Bragg
Bull Sumner
Daniel Harvey Hill
George McClellan
George Meade
George Thomas
Harper’s Ferry
James Longstreet
John Bell Hood
John Magruder
John Pope
Joseph E. Johnston
Leonidas Polk
Robert E. Lee
Samuel Heintzelman
Second Bull Run
Seven Days Retreat
Washington D. C.
William Hardee
William Rosecrans
Winfield Scott Hancock

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