January 25, 1863 – Lincoln Names Joseph Hooker to Command the Army of the Potomac

On this day in history, Lincoln issued General Orders No. 20, which directed that Major-General A.E. Burnside be relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac to be replaced by Major-General Joseph Hooker.

Joseph Hooker

Joseph Hooker

Hooker was a veteran of the Mexican-American War. He was appointed in 1861 as a brigadier general of the Union Army. He began the war commanding a division of the Army of the Potomac around Washington D.C. under Major General George McClellan.

When McClellan failed to pursue Lee’s army after Antietam, Lincoln replaced him with Major General Ambrose Burnside.  Burnside led the army into battle at Fredericksburg, where Hooker commanded a “Grand Division” of two corps. Hooker and others were ordered to conduct multiple futile frontal assaults against Lt. Gen. James Longstreet’s position on the high ground of Marye’s Heights, all of which were repulsed with heavy losses. On December 15, Burnside withdrew his army in defeat, ending another failed Union campaign in the Eastern Theater. Then, on this day in history, Burnside too was removed from command and replaced by Hooker.

General Ambrose Burnside. Photo by Mathew Brady

General Ambrose Burnside. Photo by Mathew Brady

Hooker was defeated by the Confederate Army at the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30 to May 6, 1863). Lincoln relieved him from command just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg in July. Hooker returned to combat in November, helping the Union achieve victories in the Battle of Lookout Mountain and the Battle of Chattanooga. He also helped take the city of Atlanta, but left before the end of the Atlanta Campaign when he was bypassed for a promotion to command the Army of the Tennessee.

From October 1864 until the war’s conclusion Hooker commanded the Northern Department from headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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