Lee Shartle Harford, Jr.

Lee Shartle Harford, Jr.

Joseph Hooker

Joseph Hooker

“FIGHTING” JOE HOOKER (19th Century)

No general in the Union Army of the Potomac earned a better combat record than Joseph Hooker.  Few leaders in the other armies on both sides equaled his management and skill on the battlefield.  As a senior level commanderhe surpassed all others in his abilities to organize and maintain an independent army.  In battle or on campaign, he was never intoxicated nor did he ever lack courage and nerve.  The soldiers under his command loved him, for no officer took care of his men as well as Joe Hooker.  It is no surprise that such superior performance quickly earned him the sobriquet “Fighting Joe” early in the war, and by 1863 many considered him the“Fightingest” general in the Union Army.On two occasions he held the defeat of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia within his grasp, at the battles of Antietam and Chancellorsville, only to be severally wounded at the critical moment and robbed of decisive victory.  To his disadvantage, however, he did not always behave as the model Victorian gentlemen and tended to be too outspoken, especially concerning the performance of his superiors.

Born 13 November 1814 on the main street of Hadley, Massachusetts to a long line of prominent landowners and town officials, Joseph Hooker spent his childhood destined for the ministry or the dry-goods business.  Educated at the Hopkins Academy, possessing an avid interest in military history, and proud of his family’s service in the colonial wars and the American War for Independence, he attended the West Point Military Academy 1833 to 1837.  Graduating in the middle of the class, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 1st Artillery Regiment, which was deployed to Florida against the Seminole Indians.  Subsequent service with this unit moved him to Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and finally back to Florida.  During the Mexican War (1845 to 1848), Hooker served as the chief of staff for five different general officers gaining invaluable experience in the military administration of division-sized units (2,500 to 3,500 soldiers), the largest organizations in American armies into the mid-nineteenth century.  As a result, few officers were as prepared as Joe Hooker for general officer command when the Civil War broke-out.  For superior performance in Mexico, he received brevet promotions three times, the third to lieutenant colonel for his actions in leading troops at the storming of Chapultepec.  The army commander, General Winfield Scott, mentioned him for conspicuous gallantry in his after action report.  Following the war, he served in California as the adjutant general of the Pacific Division.  There he resigned from the army on 21 February 1853 due to dissatisfaction with his very low army salary.  He eventually achieved appointment as the Superintendent of Military Roads in Oregon and a colonel in the State Militia.

In May 1861, a month after the firing on Fort Sumter and President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to form an army to suppress the rebellion of the cotton-states, Hooker traveled to Washington, DC, to offer his services as a general officer in the new military force.  Witnessing the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run (21 July 1861) as a civilian observer, he visited and reported to Lincoln that: “I was at Bull Run the other day, Mr. President, and it is no vanity in me to say that I am a dammed sight better general than any you had on that field.”  The meeting quickly led to his commissioning as a brigadier general.  General Hooker’s advancement in responsibility and rank proceeded rapidly with each successive battle due to his sound and aggressive leadership at each level of command.  These battles included, Williamsburg (5 May 1862), the Seven Days (26 June – 1 July 1862), Second Bull Run (29-30 July 1862), Antietam (17 September 1862), and Fredericksburg (13 December 1862).  By January 1863, Lincoln had appointed him a major general and commander of the Army of the Potomac.  Since the start of the war this unit had suffered a series of defeats and draws, with no clear victories, and existed at its lowest confidence level during the entire war when Hooker assumed command.  Surprising everyone, in a few months, using his experienced talents as a military executive and administrator, Hooker reformed and revitalized the army, moving its morale to a new high point in the conflict.  Nearly 135,000 men strong, it was the largest field army in American history to that point, and “Fighting Joe” believed it to be “the finest army on the planet.”  Meanwhile, he developed a brilliant tactical master plan to outmaneuver the Army of Northern Virginia with a double envelopment, compelling General Robert Lee to attack the main force of Hooker’s army or attempt retreat to Richmondunder the duress of absolute defeat.  This effort culminated in the Battle of Chancellorsville 1-6 May 1863.  This battle evolved for the most part as Hooker had intended, but he suffered a debilitating wound just at the very moment his decisive counterattack was about to launch.  With the loss of the Union commander at a critical point in the fighting, the Confederate army gained the upper hand and the battle was lost.

In June and July 1863, General Lee maneuvered the Army of Northern Virginia northward through the Blue Ridge Mountains into Maryland and Pennsylvania with the objective of cutting the critical Union rail hubs at Harpers Ferry and Harrisburg.Hooker paralleled his advance thirty miles to the east in order to protect Washington, DC and to search an opportunity to destroy the rebel army, strung-out and on the march, but then requested to be relieved of command because he felt a loss of confidence by Lincoln and Major General Henry Halleck, the General-in-Chief, US Army, in his leadership abilities, which was approved on 28 June.  As a major battle developed around Gettysburg, “Fighting Joe” traveled to Washington, DC, to obtain another assignment, which finally materialized in the fall following a major defeat of the Union Army of the Cumberland at Chickamauga, Georgia 19-20 September.  Hooker was given the mission of moving two army corps (XI & XII), called “Hooker’s Easterners”, totaling 25,000 men and 3,000 horses and mules,from Virginia to Tennessee by railroad, a journey of 1,157 miles, to relieve the besieged Union forces of Major General William Rosecrans and Major General George Thomas that were near starvation in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Hooker’s performance as a commanding general in the western theater was a record of one success after another.  After moving his command by rail in just nine days (as outlined above), Joe attacked on 26 October from Bridgeport, Alabama toward Chattanooga and in two days opened the “cracker line” (supply line) to Chattanooga, saving Thomas’ Army of the Cumberland from certain destruction.  Then on 24 November, Hooker executed a clever attack to dislodge the Confederate forces from Lookout Mountain, opening the counterattack to break the siege of Chattanooga.  The next day, while Thomas’ forces attacked on his left flank, “Hooker’s Easterners” attacked Missionary Ridge directly to the east of the mountain, seizing the critical Rossville Gap and threatening the escape of the Confederate army along the railroad toward Atlanta.  Completely unhinged, the siege quickly lifted as the Rebels fled south into Georgia.  The next spring, the XI & XII Corps were merged under Hooker’s command to form the XXth Corps.  During the Atlanta Campaign (May-September 1864) Hooker’s XXth Corps, normally ahead of the other units in pursuing and attacking, suffered the highest casualties of any other corps of the three Union armies advancing on that vital railroad junction.  The common belief in Sherman’s army group was that “Joe Hooker fed his men the best and fought them the best, of any of the corps commanders.”  The battles his corps fought in included Rocky Face Ridge – Dug Gap (5-14 May 1864), Resaca (13-16 May), Dallas-New Hope Church (25-28 May), Kennesaw Mountain-Kulps Farm(26 May-3 July), and Peach Tree Creek (20 July).  The command of the Army of the Tennessee opened with the death of Major General James McPherson during the Battle of Atlanta (22 July 1864).  Hooker felt that the promotion should go to him, as the commander of the “fightenest” corps and the senior corps commander.  When Major General Oliver Howard received the appointment, Joe again requested relief of command, this time citing injustice, which was approved on 28 July 1864.  He would not hold a field command again.

Just six months prior to that, on 28 January 1864 the Congress had given thanks “…to Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, and to the officers and soldiers of the Army of the Potomac, for the skill, energy, and endurance which first covered Washington and Baltimore from the meditated blow of the advancing and powerful army of rebels led by General Robert E. Lee….”Then in May 1865, the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War published a report stating that the failure at the Battle of Chancellorsville was due to four major reasons: (1) the stampede of the Eleventh Corps, then commanded by General Oliver Howard, on the Union right flank; (2) General Joseph Hooker’s severe concussion at 9 AM on 3 May 1863 at the Chancellorsville Manor; (3) General John Sedgwick’s failure to advance on Chancellorsville; and finally (4) General George Stoneman’s failure to attack the Confederate railroad supply junctions in the rear of the Confederate army.  Thus, the Congress of the United States exonerated Hooker of any blame for the Chancellorsville disaster.

General Hooker finished out the war and the post war period commanding various military departments: (1) Northern Department(1 October 1864 – 27 June 1865); (2) Department of the East (15 July 1865 – 13 August 1866); and (3) Department of the Lakes (23 August 1866 – 1 June 1967).  During this period, on 3 October 1865, Olivia Augusta Groesbeck(1825–1868) and he married in Cincinnati, Ohio.  She was 40 years old and he was 50: As a result, they had no children.  Miss Olivia was from a leading and wealthy family in Cincinnati.  On 15 July 1868, Olivia died of consumption, leaving Joe with considerable real estate wealth in Cincinnati.  She was only 43 years old.  Three months later, 15 October 1868, he retired from military service as a Regular Army Major General.  In 1874, he moved his residence to a hotel in Garden City, Long Island, New York.  He spent his retirement visiting the old battlefields.  Joe Hooker died in the Garden City hotel on 31 October 1879 and was buried with his wife in the Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.  The numbers who came to view “Fighting Joe” Hooker in his casket in the City Hall of Garden City was exceeded only by the tribute to Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

FIGHTING JOE HOOKER (21st Century)

Portrayed by Lee Shartle Harford, Jr.

Lee Harford was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as part of a family heritage in America dating back to the 1600’s, with ancestors who served in every major war the nation has fought since that time.  A distinguishing trait of his early years was a love for reading military and naval history.  After having participated successfully in the Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) program, he graduated high school from the Bordentown Military Institute in New Jersey, and matriculated at Norwich University in Vermont.  Upon completion of the Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) curriculum and the educational course of study at Norwich, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers and awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in History.

He entered Army active duty within six months of graduation and served eight years in Virginia, Germany and Kansas.  His military education includes completion of the Engineer Officer Basic Course, the Engineer Officer Advanced Course, both at Fort Belvoir, and graduation from the United States Army Command and General Staff College.  While stationed at Fort Riley, he left active service in order to complete his graduate studies in history at Kansas State University.  Meanwhile, he continued to serve the Army as a Reserve officer with special skill identifier 5X (Historian) in mobilization designee positions, first as a staff historian at Headquarters, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Virginia, then as a military history instructor at the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, and finally as the Army Deputy Chief Historian, at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington D.C.

In 1996, he mobilized and deployed to the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina as the Army Component Command Historian for the 20,000 troops of the US Army Europe contingent to the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR).  Besides acting as a theater of operations command historian, he supervised the operations of six military history detachments at the division and brigade levels.  Subsequently, he served in the same capacity when IFOR reverted to the UN-sanctioned, NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR).  Upon return from this deployment, he served the Army Reserve as an assistant professor of military science at the Georgia Institute of Technology teaching military history to ROTC cadets, until his retirement as a lieutenant colonel from the uniformed Army in 2002.

His professional education consists of a Master of Arts degree in Military History from Kansas State University and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in History from The Florida State University.  Prior to his appointment as the Director of History for the United States Army Reserve in March 1992, Harford was the Command Historian of the United States Army ROTC Cadet Command at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and prior to that an Assistant Professor of History at the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia.  During the period 1998 through 2011, he served during after-duty hours as an adjunct history professor at the Georgia Military College (Atlanta Campus), teaching United States history, world civilization history, and military history courses.  He has published several articles, chapters and books in the military history field.  In the last decade he taught 500 Army combat historians for war and educated 3,000 college students in history.

Current Civil War specific activities include participation in Civil War living history events, and the conduct of Civil War battlefield staff rides and tours for soldiers and college students.  He is the charter commander of the McPherson Camp # 1 in Atlanta of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), and an Associate Companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), both by decent from Private Patrick S. Harford who served in the Army of the Potomac 1861-1864.  His staff rides place participants on actual pieces of terrain where battles were fought and, from that experience, offer an operational situation to stimulate student conclusions or lessons learned. He also conducts living history, portraying Major General Joseph Hooker (USA), as a member of the Confederation of Union Generals (COUG) since November 2007, headquartered near Gettysburg.

Harford’s awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service, and the Army service medals associated with participation in the UN and NATO peacekeeping missions in the Balkans.  His honors include serving as a Fellow of the International Napoleonic Society (FINS), membership in the US Military Academy Military History Fellowship, the US Army Award for Excellence in the Study of Military History, membership in the Phi Alpha Theta International Honor Society in History, a Graduate Teaching Assistantship at Florida State University, and a Dissertation Fellowship at the Florida State University.

On 20 August 2011, he became a Compatriot of the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR) and, on 9 June 2012, a Patriot of theNational Society, Sons of the Revolution (NSSR), by descent from Ensign Samuel Darby (Derby), who served in the New York Militia during the Saratoga Campaign in the fall of 1777.  On 3 November 2011 [in the 235th year], he became a Member of theVeteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York (VCASNY) [constituting] TheMilitary Society of the War of 1812 (instituted 25 November 1790) by descent from Private George Darby who served in the New York Militia during the Plattsburg Campaign in the fall of 1814.  Since 1790, this historic military command has served the state and nation continuously, in both peace and war.

Lee Harford can be contacted through this web site at joseph.hooker@uniongenerals.org

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