On January 26, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln relieved General Ambrose Burnside of his command of the Army of the Potomac following the disaster known as the Fredericksburg Campaign. He was replaced by General Joseph Hooker. Hooker couldn’t do the job either, and it took Lincoln a few more tries to find the right guy; General Grant.
I know, I know, you don’t care.
But, there are some interesting tidbits about these two men of war which I find intriguing.
Many folks believe the term hooker when used for a lady of the evening comes from the fact that General Hooker often let his soldiers consort with prostitutes. (Seems hooking UP with fallen women was a Civil War pastime, and nearly 40% of the Union Army had the clap or some other STD.)
The term’s origin, though often attributed to the General, is partly truth and partly fiction.
Most dictionaries tell us that Corlear’s Hook in New York City was an area of brothels which were frequented by sailors. Long before the Civil War the neighborhood was well known where prostitutes were brazen, solicitous, and plenteous according to Edwin Burrows.
“So notorious was the Hook’s reputation as a site for prostitution that the local sex workers were nicknamed Hookers.”
But, “Fighting Joe” does get some of the cred. Though the term predated the Union General, he did make it more popular when he hosted “fallen doves” at his parties. His parties were as notorious as his guests, who were referred to as “Hooker’s Division.”
And to top it off, the soldiers in the Army of the Potomac renamed the gang of whores as “Hooker’s Legions”. A Legion is a 1,000, BTW.
So, although we can’t blame him for the word, he did help to cement it in the American Lexicon.
As to Burnside, well, look at the man…
…he gave us side burns.
Gosh, I miss the 70s!