Saturday, January 26, 2013

January 26, 1863

January 26, 1863:  On this  date, President Lincoln assigns Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker to command of the Army of the Potomac.  This assignment is accompanied by this letter:

Executive Mansion,
Washington, January 26, 1863.

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 it’s 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 criticising 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.

Yours very truly,

Major General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker

---Col. Rutherford B. Hayes, of the Union army, delighted that his wife and two sons have joined him at camp in West Virginia for a while, writes a quick note home to his mother:

Camp Reynolds, West Virginia, January 25, 1863.

Dear Mother: — Lucy with Birch and Webb arrived here last night safe and sound. We shall enjoy the log-cabin life very much — the boys are especially happy, running about where there is so much new to be seen. … I write merely to relieve anxiety about the new soldiers. — Love to all.



---In the Caribbean Sea, south of San Domingo, the CSS Alabama captures the steamer Golden Rule.  With no paperwork to support its captain’s claim that the cargo belonged to neutral parties, the Golden Rule is put to the torch after captain and crew are taken prisoner aboard the Rebel raider.

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