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June 6, 1863: Lincoln clashes with Gen. Hooker

Jun. 6, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Brig. Gen. Joseph Hooker (Army)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is growing increasingly frustrated with his top commander on the eastern front, according to top aides.

Gen. Joseph Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac, is eager to begin an assault towards the Confederate States capital of Richmond, Va. Reports are circulating widely that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is shifting his army west from its Fredericksburg, Va., stronghold, movements believed to be in preparation for an invasion north across the Rappahannock River under the cover of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

If true, Hooker believes the front door to Richmond may be left largely unguarded, providing an opening to finally seize the Confederate capital.

“This is our golden opportunity to take the fight to the rebs,” said one of Hooker’s staff.

Lincoln, however, disagrees. With the Confederacy now on the offensive, the U.S. president is worried Hooker has lost his chance do much more than protect Washington from attack.

“In case you find Lee coming to the north of the Rappahannock, I would by no means cross to the south of it,” he told Hooker in a dispatch yesterday, a copy of which was obtained by Military Times.

“If he should leave a rear force at Fredericksburg, tempting you to fall upon it, it would fight in entrenchments and have you at advantage, and so, man for man, worst you at that point. While his main force would in some way be getting an advantage of you northward. In one word, I would not take any risk of being entangled up on the river like an ox jumped half over a fence and liable to be torn by dogs front and rear without a fair chance to gore one way or to kick the other.”

Hooker is the fourth commander to lead the Army of the Potomac in two years of fighting.

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