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Hooker’s Nerve

November 2023
1min read


In “America’s Unknown Intelligence Czar” (October 2004), Stephen Budiansky offers excellent insight on otherwise little-known Civil War events. It is a shame that the “connect the dots” lessons learned then did not continue to be applied thereafter. But Budiansky does make one error. After saying that “it was Sharpe’s work that directly made possible Hooker’s brilliant march on Lee’s rear at Chancellorsville,” the author goes on to mention “Hooker’s subsequent sudden loss of nerve.”

What actually happened was that Hooker’s command post suffered a direct hit, and the general was knocked unconscious for some time, suffering a concussion. The Army of the time had no provision for replacing a commander injured in this fashion. Thus Hooker, when he eventually regained consciousness, strove to carry on, despite his injury and his having lost precious command-decision time necessary for assessing and reacting to fast-paced events, with the result that Budiansky correctly alludes to but misdiagnoses.

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