Lincoln’s Letter to Major General Joseph Hooker
This letter was sent to Gen. Hooker upon his appointment as the new Commander of the Union Army of the Potomac, replacing Gen. Ambrose Burnside, following his failure and defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
Washington, January 26th, 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 appears 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 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 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 you 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 was 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 rick 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 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,