Vol. 1 May, 1899 No. 1
An Unpublished Letter of Gen. Joe Hooker

Camp, James River, Va., July 7, 1862. - Hon. J.W. Nesmith. - Dear Nes: I have been anxious to write you for a long time, but the press of official duties and their character have prevented me from writing any one. Since the first of June, my life has been filled with events which have alike absorbed my time and thoughts. Since that date up to the 3d inst., scarcely a day has passed that I have not exchanged shots with the enemy. Often times they were merely affairs between the pickets, but sometimes I have had great battles to fight. From some cause the lion's share of the heavy work of this army has been thrown on my division. You will know how well it has been discharged when I tell you that it is the only division in the army of the Potomac that has uniformly slept on the field on which it fought, and I have been engaged with fearful odds against me.

As you well know, our line of operations has been transferred from York to James River, always a dangerous move to make in the face of a superior force, and we have not accomplished it without fearful sacrifices. We were compelled to abandon our wounded and sick, and destroy vast amounts of public property. Our losses in battle have been no greater than we had reason to expect - perhaps from that cause, the sick and stragglers, our numbers are reduced no doubt 20,000 from what they were when we started. Constituted as this army is, incompetent officers exercising the highest commands, the transfer to James River was the only alternative that remained to McClellan. It was repugnant to me, for I would sooner die game than retrograde a step except from compulsion. After the enemy had detached a large column to attack McCall and Porter, my plan would have been to have dashed for the city. At that moment I held the advance of the army, and was within five miles of his capital, but I was not consulted, and it may be well I was not. Porter's battle, of which the newspapers are full, was a disaster, or, if not that, the next thing to it. He lost 20 pieces of artillery, and between 3,000 and 4,000 prisoners. What will be done next, God only knows. We have a large army here, well found in artillery and other respects, and yet it is held on the defensive. It seems to want vitality and energy. It was disciplined too near Washington City to be successful without great changes in its officers high in rank - changes too great to expect. I must say, I look for no great results from this army, no matter how much it may be reinforced. It is not numbers that is to decide the fate of this rebellion. I only regret that I ever saw the Army of the Potomac. Had I gone to the south or west I might have done something worthy of being remembered. I learn that McClellan speaks kindly of me now - if so, it has been extorted from him. He attempted to ignore the battle of Williamsburgh, which had he turned it to the proper account would have enabled us to have been in Richmond ten days afterward. This is true. We are now reaping the fruit of his delay at Yorktown, and of his mistake at Williamsburgh. He invested Yorktown when it had but 15,000 men there, and at Williamsburgh he permitted the flower of their army to escape when with a single division I held it four and twenty hours. Since we landed on the Peninsula the enemy has had time to create an army to place his capital in an almost impregnable condition.

Hope you are well.
Truly yours,
Joseph Hooker.


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R. GESS SMITH