Meeting of March 29, 2022

Alan Sissenwein on “Joseph Hooker: Greater Asset or Liability to the Union”

Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker is primarily remembered for having lost the Battle of Chancellorsville. His overall career in the Civil War, however, was a contradictory one, and Hooker remains an enigmatic figure. In the months before Chancellorsville, his administrative reforms to the Army of the Potomac, which included his efforts to raise morale at a time when it was hemorrhaging deserters, arguably saved it from dissolving. Other reforms provided the army with its first effective intelligence service and transformed its often-infective cavalry into a powerful force. As a division and corps commander, he usually fought well, but his overweening ambition and penchant for openly criticizing his fellow generals made him a source of dissension in the higher ranks of the Union army. This talk will ponder the question of whether Hooker was ultimately a greater asset or liability to the Union cause.

Alan J. Sissenwein, who became fascinated by history when he was a teenager, has been a member of the South Bay Civil War Round Table since 1997 and currently serves as its vice president. He has given several talks to the round table, most recently a series on the worst Union generals. A professional writer, he holds a Bachelor’s in history from UC Berkeley and a Master’s from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.