January 26, 2008

Today in history -- A legend is named

Thanks to History.com we celebrate today the appointment of a new commander of the Army of the Potomac.

What is not mentioned is the story that "Fighting Joe" was also upset that it was difficult to assemble his troops because they were frequently visiting the various brothels spread around town. He reportedly ordered all the brothels to set up shop in the 14th-15th Street area between F and Eye Street. (Conveniently enough, this was also the area where most of the newspapers were located.)

The prostitutes, now gathered in one area, were known as Hookers' Brigade (some say Division) and later shortened to just hookers.

January 26, 1863
Joseph Hooker takes over the Army of the Potomac

General Joseph Hooker assumes command of the Army of the Potomac following Ambrose Burnside's disastrous tenure.

Hooker was a West Point graduate and a veteran of the Seminole War and the Mexican War, and he had 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 he distinguished himself during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. He also continued to build his reputation as a hard drinker and womanizer. He earned the nickname "Fighting Joe," and received command of the First Corps in time for the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862. His corps played a major role in the Battle of Antietam in September, 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 had their own unique insignia. This helped to build unit pride and identity, and Hooker led a reenergized army into Virginia in April 1862. Hooker's appointment was part of 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, and the Union army suffered a decisive and stunning defeat. Lincoln's search for an effective commander continued, and he eventually replaced Hooker with George Meade.

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