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June 27, 1863: Meade takes charge as rebels surge into Pennsylvania

Jun. 27, 2013 - 04:32PM   |  
Gen. George Meade, circa 1863.
Gen. George Meade, circa 1863. (Mathew Brady/Library of Congress)
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WASHINGTON — In the end, it appears Maj. Gen. “Fighting Joe” Hooker just didn’t have enough fight in him.

Five months after being tapped to lead the Union Army of the Potomac, Hooker tapped out today, offering his resignation to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

While Hooker’s aides say the general likely was just trying to make an impulsive point in a dispute with top military brass in Washington, Lincoln was quick to call his bluff.

V Corps commander Maj. Gen. George Meade will now lead the Army of the Potomac.

It’s likely Hooker would have been fired anyway. Top aides at the White House say Lincoln had already asked Maj. Gen. John Reynolds if he would consider taking over the Army of the Potomac, but Reynolds reportedly declined.

Lincoln had been increasingly frustrated with Hooker since the general’s embarrassing defeat in the Battle of Chancellorsville last month. In the weeks since, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia has succeeded in slipping past Hooker’s divisions, pushing through Maryland and into Pennsylvania while a rebel cavalry brigade threatens just outside the Federal capital.

Chambersburg resident William Heyser says another corps of Confederate troops passed through his town yesterday, just 45 miles from the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg.

“They passed on column after column, for hours,” said Heyser. “Many feel all is lost, after seeing this show of power in the face of our inadequate defense.”

A regiment of rebel troops remains in the town. There are similar reports of rebel troop movements through the nearby town of Gettysburg.

“They say they have entered upon a desperate enterprise, and will make Pennsylvania the battleground, instead of Virginia, that they will conquer or die,” said Heyser. “All say the heaviest battle of the war will be fought in this valley.”

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