• Donna Hechler Porter

A Fallen Lance: Robert Hooker

The Old South is replete with stories of the young soldier who, hearing his country was going to war, was determined to serve. Oftentimes, these young men lied about their ages at enlistment and/or ran away from home to a county where they were not known.


Oftentimes, such stories of valor and bravery are romantic and adventurous. Mostly, they are compellingly sad.

Robert Hooker was born to Nancy Jane McQueen and William Carroll Hooker about 1844 in Texas. No marriage record between Nancy and Hooker has been found, but there are a number of other marriages that occurred during this time that have missing marriage records, so on the face of it, the lack of a record is not particularly disturbing.


However, family tradition tells a different tale. Hooker was a known gambler and a drinking buddy of Sam Houston's. After the birth of a daughter in 1848, he is said to have abandoned Nancy. Whether he merely left her unwed with two children, or whether he walked out on a marriage has yet to be ascertained. He did take himself to Montgomery County where he later became a sheriff and a justice of the peace. One cannot help but read this part of the story without thinking of Nancy's mother, Jane McQueen, and her abuse at the hands of her husband, Leroy D. Bean, whom she eventually divorced. It is not known if the older Hooker ever acknowledged his children by Nancy. Hooker later married while Nancy was alive, and he had a sizeable estate that he somehow managed to hang onto despite the ravages the Civil War perpetrated on others. It is the fact he married that gives credence to the belief that he never married Nancy in the first place.


At any rate, young Robert Hooker not only grew up without his father, but the man was living only a few counties over. One can imagine young Robert growing up angry and resentful. In 1850 he was living with his grandmother, Jane McQueen Bean. In 1860 he was living with his mother. No doubt he spent his childhood going back and forth between the two, and no doubt the small family of three struggled to make ends meet even as Hooker maintained a sizeable estate with other children only a few counties over.


When the Civil War broke out, Hooker rushed to the effort. Whether it was for the adventure or for another reason is not known. He first enlisted in uncle Capt. John Thomas "Jack" Bean's company, Company K, 13th Texas Cavalry Regiment. At the muster-in at Camp Burnett in March of 1862, he was rejected because he was not eighteen years old.


Going home was likely a bitter pill to swallow. Robert either turned eighteen a few weeks later, or he became a substitute and such was not stated on his war records. At any rate, on 22 April 1862, less than a month later, he enlisted at Woodville in Company F, 1st Texas Infantry, Hood's Texas Brigade, under Lt. Col. Willson.


While Bean's company saw service mainly in the Louisiana area and most of that was non-combat, Hood's Brigade was in the thick of the fighting back east. If Robert Hooker signed up for adventure, he surely found it.


He served two months in Hood's Texas Brigade, and then, at the First Battle of Cold Harbor on 27 June 1862, he was wounded in the left shoulder. He was probably admitted to a camp hospital, and he was absent from duty when a company muster was taken in the days following the battle.


Two months later, at the end of August 1862, he was back with his company for muster. At the end of August, he likely saw service in the Second Battle of Manassas. Less than a month later, on 17 September, he participated in the Battle of Antietam.


And then, sometime near the beginning of December he became ill. On 12 December 1862, he was sent to Richmond, Virginia. The following day, he was admitted to Chimborazo Hospital No. 4 in Richmond due to a fever.



Civil War Hospital


He must have battled his way past this illness, for he returned to duty on 3 January 1863, a few days into the new year. A month later, by the time the February muster was taken, he had been promoted to 4th Captain.


And then, on the 24th of February, he was admitted once again to Texas Hospital in Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia. He succumbed to pneumonia and a week later, on 6/7 March 163, he passed away.



He is that fallen lance that lies as hurled,

That lies unlifted now, come dew, come rust,

But still lies pointed as it plowed the dust.

If we who sight along it round the world,

See nothing worthy to have been its mark,

It is because like men we look too near,

Forgetting that as fitted to the sphere,

Our missiles always make too short an arc.

They fall, they rip the grass, they intersect

The curve of earth, and striking, break their own;

They make us cringe for metal-point on stone.

But this we know, the obstacle that checked

And tripped the body, shot the spirit on

Further than target ever showed or shone.


Robert Frost




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