Year
1863

Joseph Hooker takes over the Army of the Potomac

On this day in 1863, Union General Joseph Hooker assumes command of the Army of the Potomac following Ambrose Burnside’s disastrous tenure.

Hooker,a West Point graduate, was aveteran of the Seminole War and the Mexican War, and served in the American West in the 1850s. When the Civil War erupted, Hooker was named brigadier general in the Army of the Potomac. He quickly rose to division commander, and distinguished himself during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. He also continued to build his reputation as a hard drinker and womanizer. Hooker received command of the First Corps in time for the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia,in August 1862. His corps played a major role in the Battle of Antietam in Maryland inSeptember, and when Burnside failed as commander, Hooker had his chance.

The general first had to deal with the sagging morale of the army. He reorganized his command and instituted a badge system, where each division hadits own unique insignia. This helped to build unit pride and identity, and Hooker led a re-energized army into Virginia in April 1863. Hooker’s appointment was part of President Abraham Lincoln’s frustrating process of finding a winning general in the East. After Irwin McDowell, George McClellan, John Pope, McClellan again, and then Burnside, Lincoln hoped Hooker could defeat Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It was a tall order, though, and Hooker was not up to the challenge. In May 1863, Hooker clashed with Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Virginia, and the Union army suffered a decisive and stunning defeat. Lincoln’s search for an effective commander continued, and in the summer of 1863Hooker was replaced with George Meade.

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