Academic journal article Parameters

"Give Us Victories"

Academic journal article Parameters

"Give Us Victories"

Article excerpt

On 25 January 1863, Joseph Hooker was appointed to command the Army of the Potomac. He replaced Ambrose Burnside, in whom the country was and the President had lost confidence--after the failure and carnage of the Battle of Fredericksburg. The self-confident Hooker had gained a reputation for aggressiveness, as reflected in his sobriquet, "Fighting Joe." Well-known to President Lincoln, too, was Hooker's outspoken criticism of his administration and of previous Army commanders. The next day, the Commander-in-Chief met with his new top field commander and, during the interview, handed him the following note. Among other things, this extraordinary document provides a measure of both men and of the American civilian-military relationship:

   Major General Hooker
   Executive Mansion
   Washington, January 26, 1863

   General,

      I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of
   course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient
   reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are
   some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you.
   I believe you to be a brave and skillful soldier, which of course,
   I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession,
   in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a
   valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious,
   which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm.
   But I think that during Gen. Burnside's command of the Army, you
   have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as
   you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a
   most meritorious and honorable brother officer. … 
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