Mighty Red Pen

April 22, 2009

Fighting Joe Hooker’s personal battle

Filed under: Perilous punctuation — mighty red pen @ 6:53 pm
Tags: , ,

Hat tip to Krista, who wrote to tell me of this historical little tidbit. An editorial error may have given Civil War general Joseph Hooker the name by which he is still known today: “Fighting Joe” Hooker. As she recounted, “Hooker’s popular sobriquet was caused by an errant editor. The lack of one little dash changed history.”

Intrigued, I did a little poking around. I’m not super-knowledgeable about the Civil War, so if anyone knows anything about this, I’d be interested to hear more. But the story does seem to be widely accepted, as described here:

He saw as much combat as any other Potomac general that summer and fall, but his nickname, ironically, was the result of a clerical error—a newspaper headline, “Fighting—Joe Hooker,” mistakenly lost the dash and was printed as “Fighting Joe Hooker”—and Hooker took offense, complaining that it made him sound like a heads-down general who lacked cunning, skill, or brains.

And here:

Always popular with his men, Hooker lacked the confidence of his subordinate officers and was quarrelsome with his superiors. He was popularly known as “Fighting Joe”, a nickname he detested. When a newspaper dispatch arrived in New York during the Peninsula Campaign, a typographical error changed an entry “Fighting — Joe Hooker” to remove the dash and the name stuck. Lee occasionally referred to him as “Mr. F. J. Hooker” in a mildly sarcastic jab at his opponent.

Those troublesome editors, always changing the course of history. Don’t know when to put that red pen down, do they?

1 Comment »

  1. Some people say the victors write history. But the editors always get the last word.

    Comment by David — April 23, 2009 @ 10:44 pm | Reply


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