War Period Signature with Rank
(1814-79) Born in Hadley, Mass., he was the grandson of a captain who fought in the Revolutionary War. Graduating in the West Point class of 1837, Hooker was commissioned 2nd lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Artillery. His first assignment was fighting in Florida in the 2nd Seminole Indian War. He served in the Mexican War in the campaigns of General Zachary Taylor, and General Winfield Scott, and was cited for gallantry in the battles of Monterrey, National Bridge and Chapultepec. Hooker left the army in 1853, and settled in Sonoma County, California where he was a farmer and land developer. He held a commission as colonel in the California Militia, 1859-61. When the Civil War broke out Hooker requested a commission, but his application was rejected very probably because of resentment held against him by General Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief of the U.S. Army. Hooker had testified against his former commander Scott in the court-martial case of Gideon J. Pillow (future Confederate General) for insubordination. After the Union Army's defeat at the 1st battle of Bull Run, Va., Hooker wrote a letter directly to President Abraham Lincoln whereby he complained of military mismanagement and touted his own abilities and qualifications and once again requested a commission. Lincoln consented and commissioned him brigadier general of volunteers, in August 1861. He commanded a brigade and then a division around Washington, D.C., as part of the effort to organize, and train the new Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George B. McClellan. During the 1862 Virginia Peninsula Campaign, he commanded the 2nd Division of the 3rd Corps, and made a good name for himself as a combat leader who handled himself well, and aggressively sought out the key points on battlefields. He led his division with distinction at the battles of Williamsburg and Seven Pines. He became extremely annoyed at the cautious generalship of General McClellan and openly criticized his commander's failure to capture Richmond. Commenting on McClellan's leadership, General Hooker was quoted as saying that, "He is not only not a soldier, but he does not know what soldier-ship is." Hooker was promoted to major general on July 26, 1862. Following the second battle of Bull Run, Va., Hooker replaced General Irvin McDowell as commander of the 3rd Corps, Army of Virginia, soon re-designated the 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac. During the Maryland Campaign, he led the 1st Corps at the battles for South Mountain, and at Antietam, where his corps launched the first assault of the bloodiest day in American military history, driving south into the corps of General Stonewall Jackson, where they fought each other to a standstill. Hooker, aggressive and inspiring to his men, left the battle that morning with a foot wound. The battle of Fredericksburg, Va., fought on December 13, 1862, was another Union debacle. Upon recovering from his foot wound, General Hooker was briefly made commander of the 5th Corps, but was then promoted to "Grand Division" command, that consisted of both the 3rd and the 5th Corps. He was contemptuous about Burnside's plan to assault the fortified heights of Fredericksburg, deeming it "preposterous." His Grand Division suffered terrible losses in their futile assaults which were ordered by General Burnside over General Hooker's vehement protests. Burnside followed up this battle with the humiliating Mud March in January 1863, and Hooker's criticism of his commander bordered on formal insubordination. He described Burnside as a "wretch ... of blundering sacrifice." Burnside planned a wholesale purge of his subordinates, including Hooker, and drafted an order for the president's approval. He stated that Hooker was "unfit to hold an important commission during a crisis like the present," but President Lincoln had run out of patience, and instead removed Burnside as Commander of the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln then appointed General Joseph Hooker to command of the Army of the Potomac, on January 26, 1863. Some members of the army saw this move as inevitable, given Hooker's reputation for aggressive fighting, something sorely lacking in his predecessors. Hooker's plan for the spring and summer campaign of 1863 was both elegant and promising. He first planned to send his cavalry corps deep into the enemy's rear, disrupting supply lines and distracting him from the main attack. He would pin down General Robert E. Lee's much smaller army at Fredericksburg, while taking the large bulk of the Army of the Potomac on a flanking march to strike Lee in his rear. Once Lee was defeated, he could move on to seize Richmond. Unfortunately for Hooker and the Union, the execution of his plan did not match the elegance of the plan itself. The Union and Confederate armies would fatefully meet in the epic battle of Chancellorsville, Va., fought on May 1,2,3, 1863, which has been called "Lee's perfect battle," because of his ability to vanquish a much larger foe through audacious tactics. Hooker had a devastating encounter with a cannonball while he was standing on the porch of his headquarters. The ball struck a wooden column against which he was leaning, initially knocking him senseless, and then putting him out of action for the rest of the day with a concussion. Political winds blew strongly in the following weeks as generals maneuvered to overthrow Hooker or to position themselves if Lincoln decided to do so on his own. On the eve of what would become the battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln had made his decision. On June 28, 1863, 3 days before the epic battle in Pennsylvania, General George G. Meade was promoted to the command of the Army of the Potomac, and accomplished what many considered to be the impossible, he defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and sent his celebrated Army of Northern Virginia, back to Virginia. General Hooker's military career was not ended by his poor performance in the summer of 1863. He went on to regain a reputation as a solid corps commander when he was transferred with the 11th and 12th Corps of the Army of the Potomac westward to reinforce the Army of the Cumberland around Chattanooga, Tennessee. Hooker was in command at the battle of Lookout Mountain, playing an important role in General Ulysses S. Grant's decisive victory at the battle of Chattanooga. He led his corps, now designated as the 20th Corps, competently in the 1864 Atlanta Campaign under General William Tecumseh Sherman, but asked to be relieved before the capture of the city because of his disgust with the promotion of General Oliver O. Howard, upon the death of General James B. McPherson. Not only did Hooker have seniority over Howard, but he blamed Howard for his defeat at Chancellorsville. Howard, who had commanded the 11th Corps, was routed by General Stonewall Jackson's famous flank attack. After leaving Georgia, Hooker commanded the Northern Department, comprising the states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, with headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, from October 1, 1864, until the end of the war. After the war, Hooker led President Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession in Springfield, Illinois, on May 4, 1865. He served in command of the Department of the East, and the Department of the Lakes following the war. He was mustered out of the volunteer service on September 1, 1866, and retired from the U.S. Army on October 15, 1868, with the regular army rank of major general. He died on October 31, 1879, while on a visit to Garden City, New York, and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio, his wife's home town.
War Period Signature with Rank: 2 3/4 x 1 1/2, in ink, Joseph Hooker, Brig. Gen., Comdg. Age toning. Very popular Civil War autograph.