What was Joseph Hooker's biggest mistake in the Chancellorsville campaign?

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

General JJ

Cadet
Joined
Jan 24, 2019
Hooker gets a lot of criticism from most historians today. So I'm wondering, what do you think was his biggest mistake?
Right off the bat, I can think of a number of mistakes he made that people criticize him for:

-retreating on May 1st to a defensive position around Chancellorsville, instead of pushing forward and getting out of the Wilderness

-leaving the right flank of the army (XI Corps) exposed to a flank attack

-evacuating Hazel Grove and giving the enemy a perfect artillery position (I personally think this was the most critical mistake)

-withdrawing across the river from his bridgehead
 

W. Richardson

Captain
Joined
Jun 29, 2011
Location
Mt. Gilead, North Carolina
Hooker gets a lot of criticism from most historians today. So I'm wondering, what do you think was his biggest mistake?
Right off the bat, I can think of a number of mistakes he made that people criticize him for:

-retreating on May 1st to a defensive position around Chancellorsville, instead of pushing forward and getting out of the Wilderness

-leaving the right flank of the army (XI Corps) exposed to a flank attack

-evacuating Hazel Grove and giving the enemy a perfect artillery position (I personally think this was the most critical mistake)

-withdrawing across the river from his bridgehead


I feel all of those you mentioned can be attributed to being mistakes made by Hooker. To sum them all up, I would say Hooker lost control of the situation (losing confidence in himself and his plan) and allowed Lee to take the initiative.


Respectfully,
William

One Nation,
Two countries
Confed-American Flag - Thumbnail.jpg
 

Deleted User CS

Retired User
Joined
Mar 18, 2015
General JJ. I think you have mentioned all of the major mistakes that can be attributed to Hooker's conduct at Chancellorsville. Also, our friend, William, makes an excellent point in stating that Hooker lost the initiative to Lee which was one factor contributing to Hooker's further collapse and eventually his demise as commander of the Army of the Potomac. David.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Hooker gets a lot of criticism from most historians today. So I'm wondering, what do you think was his biggest mistake?
Right off the bat, I can think of a number of mistakes he made that people criticize him for:

-retreating on May 1st to a defensive position around Chancellorsville, instead of pushing forward and getting out of the Wilderness

-leaving the right flank of the army (XI Corps) exposed to a flank attack

-evacuating Hazel Grove and giving the enemy a perfect artillery position (I personally think this was the most critical mistake)

-withdrawing across the river from his bridgehead
One of the key reasons Hooker's plan failed was he failed or his subordinates failed to replace Hooker as Commander in Chief when he was severely injured .
Steven Sears in his book Chancellorsville gives a good argument that Hooker was an excellent general but poorly served by his subordinates I.e. General Howard's staff deliberately ignored creditable reports of Jackson's flanking move against XXI Corps and General Stoneman's lackadaisical efforts to destroy Confederate rail lines.
Leftyhunter
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

jackt62

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
Hooker gets a lot of criticism from most historians today. So I'm wondering, what do you think was his biggest mistake?
Right off the bat, I can think of a number of mistakes he made that people criticize him for:

-retreating on May 1st to a defensive position around Chancellorsville, instead of pushing forward and getting out of the Wilderness

-leaving the right flank of the army (XI Corps) exposed to a flank attack

-evacuating Hazel Grove and giving the enemy a perfect artillery position (I personally think this was the most critical mistake)

-withdrawing across the river from his bridgehead
All excellent critiques of Hooker at Chancellorsville! Overall I would add that Hooker's plan of a double envelopment of the ANV was brilliant and was falling into place when Lee did not respond the way Hooker had hoped for. Rather than withdrawing towards Richmond and leaving his flanks exposed, Lee chose to stand and fight, and counterattack. Consequently, Hooker was caught flatfooted, stalled his offensive in the worst possible location (the Wilderness), and assumed a defensive posture which basically ended his hopes of success.
 

Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
Once the Stoneman raid bogged down in the mud, it should have been canceled. The army should have had its cavalry screen once the element of surprise was lost, but Hooker sent it off on its ill-fated and ill-considered raid anyway. That's why there was no cavalry on his right flank where there should have been on May 2, and had there been a cavalry screen, Jackson never would have gotten onto the flank undetected. To me, that's the gargantuan error that cost Hooker the battle.
 

Saint Jude

First Sergeant
Joined
Oct 15, 2018
Location
Heaven
Steven Sears in his book Chancellorsville gives a good argument that Hooker was an excellent general but poorly served by his subordinates I.e. General Howard's staff deliberately ignored creditable reports of Jackson's flanking move against XXI Corps
Personally, I don't find Sears's argument about Hooker credible in the least, and my research has convinced me that he is completely wrong about both Howard and Sedgwick. I wouldn't recommend his book to anyone interested in the battle.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

W. Richardson

Captain
Joined
Jun 29, 2011
Location
Mt. Gilead, North Carolina
Once the Stoneman raid bogged down in the mud, it should have been canceled. The army should have had its cavalry screen once the element of surprise was lost, but Hooker sent it off on its ill-fated and ill-considered raid anyway. That's why there was no cavalry on his right flank where there should have been on May 2, and had there been a cavalry screen, Jackson never would have gotten onto the flank undetected. To me, that's the gargantuan error that cost Hooker the battle.

Eric,

I had forgotten all about that !! Thank you for posting that to the thread and I agree with you on it being the error that cost Hooker the battle.

Respectfully,
William

One Nation,
Two countries
Confed-American Flag - Thumbnail.jpg
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Personally, I don't find Sears's argument about Hooker credible in the least, and my research has convinced me that he is completely wrong about both Howard and Sedgwick. I wouldn't recommend his book to anyone interested in the battle.
Well it's an interesting view point. All major Civil War he have pro and con biographies or certainly different interpretations.
Leftyhunter
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
One of the key reasons Hooker's plan failed was he failed or his subordinates failed to replace Hooker as Commander in Chief when he was severely injured .
Steven Sears in his book Chancellorsville gives a good argument that Hooker was an excellent general but poorly served by his subordinates I.e. General Howard's staff deliberately ignored creditable reports of Jackson's flanking move against XXI Corps and General Stoneman's lackadaisical efforts to destroy Confederate rail lines.
Leftyhunter
Look at what Eric said at #8. There was no cavalry on Hooker's right and so there were no "creditable reports" of a flanking maneuver. Plus, the maneuver itself was pretty incredible, given its size and speed. The XXI Corps was caught completely off guard and it cost Hooker the entire enchilada.

"Oh, what will the country think?!," asked Father Abraham, bent over at the waist.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Look at what Eric said at #8. There was no cavalry on Hooker's right and so there were no "creditable reports" of a flanking maneuver. Plus, the maneuver itself was pretty incredible, given its size and speed. The XXI Corps was caught completely off guard and it cost Hooker the entire enchilada.

"Oh, what will the country think?!," asked Father Abraham, bent over at the waist.
Except you omitted the fact as Sears documented that a Captain from an Ohio Artillery unit observed Jackson's troops moving towards XXI Corps and his report was ignored by Howard's staff.
Leftyhunter
 

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
Except you omitted the fact as Sears documented that a Captain from an Ohio Artillery unit observed Jackson's troops moving towards XXI Corps and his report was ignored by Howard's staff.
Leftyhunter
What Captain? Where and at what point in the march? Every Union written account I've ever read indicates total surprise.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

dhh712

Private
Joined
Jul 12, 2014
Location
Gettysburg, PA
I would have said leaning on the porch post at Chancellor House; but, Coonewah beat me to it.
Yep, and then not turning command over to Couch (I recall he was next in line, if my memory is serving me correctly) when he became incapacitated. Surely there were other errors before that, yet that's my opinion that someone who'd suffered (from what I've read) a pretty bad head injury probably shouldn't have been left in command. Then there likely would have still been the defeat yet the Confederate victory may not have been so complete as it was, possibly. There's always enough speculation to go around.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Jamieva

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
I agree with others that have posted May 1. Don't stop his flanking force in the Wildnerness they needed to keep pressing forward. When they stopped, they effectively passed the initiative to Lee and Jackson. The AotP was too passive from there to the end of the battle. The battle was still very winnable after Jackson's attack. But every action was defensive.
 

OldReliable1862

Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Jul 2, 2017
Location
Georgia
Personally, I don't find Sears's argument about Hooker credible in the least, and my research has convinced me that he is completely wrong about both Howard and Sedgwick. I wouldn't recommend his book to anyone interested in the battle.
As someone interested in learning about the war in the East, would you like to recommend alternatives?
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top