Friday, January 25, 2013

January 26, 1863 (Monday): A Tepid Welcome

President Abraham Lincoln

Washington, D. C., January 26, 1863.
Major-General HOOKER:
    GENERAL: I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appears to me to be sufficient reasons, and yet I think it best for you 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 skillful 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 General 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 a 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, 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.
    Your, very truly,



Numbers 1.
Camp near Falmouth, Va., January 26, 1863.
    By direction of the President of the United States, the undersigned assumes command of the Army of the Potomac. he enters upon the discharge of the duties imposed by this trust with a just appreciation of their responsibility. Since the formation of this army he has been identified with its history. He has shared with you its glories and reverses with no other desire than that these relations might remain unchanged until its destiny should be accomplished. In the record of your achievements there is much to be proud of, and, with the blessing of God, we will contribute something to the renown of our arms and the success of our cause. To secure the ends, your commander will require the cheerful and zealous co-operation of every officer and soldier in this army.
     In equipment, intelligence, and valor the enemy is our inferior; let us never hesitate to give him battle wherever we can find him.
     The undersigned only gives expression to the feelings of this army when he conveys to our late commander, Major-General Burnside, the most cordial good wishes for his future.
    My staff will be announced as soon as organized.

    Major-General, Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Official Records Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Pages 4&5.

Lincoln has appointed Hooker to command the Army of the Potomac, but it is hardly a warm welcome.  Hooker was a schemer and Lincoln here is concerned that his intrigues will come back to haunt him.  It is not an auspicous start.


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