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the date November 13, 1814. He entered West Point as a cadet in 1833 and graduated in 1837, being then appointed second lieutenant in the artillery and sent to Florida, where the war with the Seminole Indians was going on. He afterwards served on the northern frontier, where he was promoted first lieutenant, and when the Mexican War broke out was there at the start, taking a distinguished part under General Taylor in the siege and capture of Monterey.
His later service in Mexico was under General Scott, in whose army he fought gallantly in the several battles near the capital, including the storming of Chapultepec. His excellent conduct in these engagements was rewarded with the brevet ranks of captain, major and lieutenant-colonel, and the commission of captain. He was Captain Hooker in 1853 when, tired of a military life, he resigned his command and engaged in agricultural occupations near Sonoma, California, where he bought a large estate which he managed successfully for five years.
In 1858 he was appointed superintendent of military roads in Oregon and when war broke out in 1861 he was a colonel in the California militia. We have told above how he hastened to Washington and through the President's favor got a brigade. During the autumn of 1861 he had charge of the defences of Washington and in 1862 took part in McClellan's invasion of the Peninsula.
We first hear of him as a fighter after the fall of Yorktown and during the stand of the retreating Confederates at Williamsburg. Hooker was in advance in the attack on this place, where he sharply assailed a strong Confederate position, and for nine long hours kept up the fight alone, the dreadful state of the roads, turned into deep mud by heavy rains, preventing reinforcements from reaching him. It was late in the afternoon when General Phil Kearney came up and relieved him, allowing him to withdraw his fearfully thinned regiments. The stubborn fight here won from his men the complimentary title of “Fighting Joe Hooker," while his promotion to major-general of volunteers was dated May 5, the day of this fight.
Hooker saw his next fighting in the fierce battle of Fair Oaks, and had daringly advanced to a point within four miles of Richmond when General McClellan ordered him back from his perilous reconnoissance, saying that he could not afford to lose Hooker and his men. As may be presumed, Hooker played his part bravely in the Seven Days' battle, doing signal service at Charles City Cross-Roads on June 29, where his division helped to hold a vital position on the flank of the army in its noted “ change of base.” He fought gallantly also in the battle of Malvern Hill, on July 1.
All readers of history know the events that followed McClellan's repulse- Jackson's advance against General Pope, the hasty recall of McClellan to Washington, the march northward of Lee, the great Confederate victory on the old battle-field of Bull Run, Lee's subsequent invasion of Maryland, and the climax of this active series of events on the bloody field of Antietam. In all these movements Hooker was prominent. In the Bull Run battle his division did good service at Bristow Station, Manassas, and Chantilly, and it was especially active in the campaign in Maryland.
Again under McClellan, he commanded the first corps and with it gallantly carried the Confederate positions in the north pass of South Mountain, opening a way for the advance of the main army. At Antietam he had the honor of opening the battle, crossing the creek with the division under his command and advancing through the woods, where he struck Hood's corps, and drove it back. That night his men rested on their arms on the ground they had won.
He opened the fight also on the next day, September 17, advancing at dawn with about eighteen thousand men and vigorously attacking the Confederate left, under Stonewall Jackson. The contest was severe and obstinate, but Hooker was aided by an artillery fire from beyond the creek. This enabled him to push back the Confederates with heavy loss through the first line of woods and across an open field which had been covered thickly with standing corn. It was the famous “corn field " fight of the battle. While the fight was at its height, about nine o'clock, Hooker, who was in the van of his lines, received so severe a wound in the foot that he had to be carried from the field. He had done noble work, but the rest of the battle had to be fought without “ Fighting Joe's ” aid. Recognition of his services came three days later, in a promotion to the grade of brigadier-general in the regular army.
Hooker was in fighting trim again in December, when Burnside, who had taken McClellan's command, was facing Lee at Fredericksburg, with the Rappahannock flowing between. The crossing of that stream took place on the 12th, Hooker's corps being kept in reserve, "to spring upon the enemy in their retreat," in the event of their being beaten. They were not beaten. The charging troops were terribly decimated by Lee's guns. Thousands fell on the field, and at last Burnside, despairing of success, ordered Hooker across, with such of his force as he had in hand, saying doubtfully, “That crest must be carried to-night.”
Hooker crossed, but a rapid survey of the field showed him that the task set was an impossible one, and he sought Burnside, begging him to desist from further attacks. His arguments were fruitless. Burnside would not change his plan, so Hooker ordered Humphreys with his four thousand men to charge Lee's works with empty muskets, using the bayonet only. The result was as Hooker had predicted. When near the fatal stone wall which they were sent to storm, a terrible hail of rifle balls laid nearly half their number prostrate on the field, the remainder rushing back. This ended the frightful contest, the Union army losing nearly fourteen thousand men in that one day's work of death.
This bloody failure closed Burnside's career as a commander-in-chief. He devised plans to flank Lee and march upon Richmond, but he was checked by an order from the President, who had been advised by some of the generals that the feeling against him in the army was so bitter that it would not be safe to lead them against the enemy. When news of this reached Burnside he was exasperated. He believed that his generals were conspiring against him to cause discontent in the army, and asked the President for the ignominious dismissal from the service of some of them, especially of General Hooker. Lincoln did not agree with him and suggested that Burnside, under the circumstances, had better himself give up the command. This was done, and Hooker was appointed in his place.
The new commander lost no time. His plans were like those of Burnside, to flank Lee and put Richmond in danger, and as soon as the army was strengthened and got into good fighting condition he put it on the march. Heavy rains hindered the movement for a time, but in late April the troops were led up the Rappahannock, which they soon crossed, reaching a place called Chancellorsville, ten miles southwest of Fredericksburg, on the 30th.
It was Hooker's idea that Lee would hasten towards Richmond for its protection, but the alert Confederate commander did not look at things in that way. He preferred to fight rather than to flee. Hooker was now in a region well named the Wilderness, a forest of shrub-oaks and pines and tangled undergrowth, broken by ravines and morasses, where he might be taken at a disadvantage by one familiar with the ground. Lee's army was only half as strong as Hooker's, but the works he had built south of the river helped to equalize the two forces, and he marched boldly on his antagonist, leaving a division at Fredericksburg to protect it from attack.
On the ist of May, 1863, the two armies faced each other in the ugly Wilderness woodland and before the day was over some sharp fighting took place. But the next day was the great day of battle. Lee, feeling himself too weak to risk a frontal attack, tried a perilous expedient. He divided his army into two, sending Stonewall Jackson with twenty-five thousand men on a long sweep through the woods to surprise Hooker's rear.
Had Hooker known of this desperate effort he could have destroyed Lee's army by fighting it in detail. But the flank movement proved completely successful. While Lee was making active demonstrations in front, as if about to attack in full force, Jackson was pushing through the dense jungle of the Wilderness towards the rear. Just before six o'clock in the evening, when the men of the eleventh corps were preparing for