Sunday, January 26, 2014

I Think He Is Harder On Me

United States President Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter on January 26th 1863 to Union General Joseph Hooker upon his ascending to command of the Army of the Potomac.

Union General Joseph Hooker was the fourth in a line of commanding General of the Army of the Potomac, a part of President Abraham Lincoln’s search for a general who would give him a victory.  When Hooker was given command, Lincoln placed a letter in his hand stating Hooker’s good and bad qualities it commended his bravery, military skill, and confidence, as well as the fact that the President knew Hooker had undercut Union General Ambrose E Burnside.  Hooker told Noah Brooks; a reporter, that it was the kind of “letter as a father might write to his son. It is a beautiful letter, and, although I think he was harder on me than I deserved, I will say that I love the man who wrote it."

It was only five months later that Lincoln replace Hooker with Union General George G Meade right before the Battle of Gettysburg.

The letter written January 26, 1863 follows as:
Major General Hooker:

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and a skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during Gen. Burnside's command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals, who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of its ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticizing their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army, while such a spirit prevails in it.

And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.

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