Sunday, February 3, 2013

Civil War Sunday - Fighting Joe Hooker and What Isn't In a Name

As my regular readers know I enjoy American Civil War trivia, especially when it takes an unexpected turn.

On January 26, 1863, General "Fighting Joe" Hooker was given command of the Union Army, the latest of a series of failed generals at leading that army.  Lincoln was looking for a general who would be an aggressive fighter, and it seemed that Hooker would ft into that role.

He didn't succeed as head of the Union army, and his failures led to the Battle of Gettysburg, but we are getting way ahead of ourselves.

Because of his reputation for hard drinking, hard partying, and a "wild" lifestyle with the ladies despite being married, there is one thing General Hooker is generally given credit for - which turns out not to be true, after all.

Many people who do not study the Civil War know one piece of common trivia, which is that women who engage in the world's oldest profession have many names, among them "Hookers".  Guess where that name came from?

As the story goes,  General Hooker, eager to engage in his favorite lifestyle, turned his headquarters into - well, a red light district of sorts. The women so attracted to Hooker and the soldiers under his command who took advantage of the situation were, therefore, called - Hookers.

And still are today.

Nice story.  Except it isn't true, according to my research.

It would seem that the name may date from around 1835, referring to an area of New York City, shaped like a hook, that was used as a red light district for sailors.  And, it is possible the word's origins are even earlier, into the 1600's.  Not a bad 400 year run for a word that supposedly originated during the Civil War.

Apparently, advice columnist Ann Landers, of all people, helped to set us straight.

There still is more than enough Civil War trivia to keep us all entertained. Sorry, General.

5 comments:

  1. Hi...glad to discover your blog and the variety of topics. I love history and I'm also very interested in hearing these stories - this is yet another reminder that, before we get excited and share "facts," we need to make sure they're true! Great stuff.

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  2. This little snippet captured my interest. I didn't know about either of your explanations for the name. And, I love that a journalist uncovered the truth. Just goes to show that even we bloggers could have an impact--if enough people read our blogs.
    Please return the favor. The time differences between England and USA are causing me to miss out on comments. ;-)

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  3. Ann Landers! Well, who would have thought?

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  4. Fun post. How DO you keep finding such great topics to research?

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