About Robert Frederick Hoke
Robert Frederick Hoke (May 27, 1837 – July 3, 1912) was an American businessman, railroad executive, and a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War. Hoke and his division played a decisive role during the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864.
Early life and career
Robert Frederick Hoke was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina, the son of Michael and Frances Burton Hoke. His father was a lawyer, orator, and unsuccessful Democratic nominee for Governor of North Carolina in 1844, who died shortly after losing that election. His death "had lasting effects" on Robert Hoke's political viewpoint. He disliked politics and avoided involvement, rejecting the offer of the state's highest office, which was, coincidentally, the same office his father died trying to attain. Robert was educated at the Lincolnton Academy. His sister, Mary, was the mother of M. Hoke Smith. He was the second cousin of Confederate generals John Horace Forney, William H. Forney, and Robert Daniel Johnston.
After graduating from the Kentucky Military Institute in 1854, he returned home to manage various family business interests, including a cotton mill and iron works, for his widowed mother.
Civil War service
With North Carolina's secession from the Union, Hoke enlisted in Company K of the 1st North Carolina Infantry and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Within months, he was promoted to captain and was commended for "coolness, judgment and efficiency" in D. H. Hill's report of the Battle of Big Bethel. He was subsequently promoted to major in September.
Following the reorganization of North Carolina troops, Hoke was appointed as the lieutenant colonel of the 33rd North Carolina Regiment. He was cited for his gallantry at the Battle of New Bern in March 1862, where he assumed command of the regiment following the capture of its colonel, C. M. Avery. He led the 33rd throughout the Peninsula Campaign as a part of Lawrence O. Branch's brigade. Hoke was promoted to colonel before the Northern Virginia Campaign and fought at the Second Battle of Bull Run, in addition to the Maryland Campaign at the Battle of Antietam.
Upon Colonel Avery's return from captivity, Hoke was assigned as commander of the 21st North Carolina in Isaac Trimble's brigade in Jubal Early's division. Hoke commanded the brigade at the Battle of Fredericksburg and helped repulse an attack by Union forces under Maj. Gen. George G. Meade. Hoke was promoted to brigadier general on January 17, 1863, and assigned permanent command of Trimble's brigade, which was composed of five North Carolina regiments. He was severely wounded defending Marye's Heights in the Battle of Chancellorsville and sent home to recuperate. Command of his brigade passed to Col. Isaac E. Avery. Hoke missed the rest of the year's campaigns.
Hoke resumed command of his brigade at Petersburg, Virginia, in January 1864, and led it to North Carolina, where he organized attacks on New Bern and Plymouth. In the latter engagement on April 17, Hoke captured a garrison of 2,834 Union soldiers. The Confederate Congress voted May 17 to extend its Thanks for the action of Hoke and his men at Plymouth. Hoke was promoted to major general on April 23, 1864 (ranking from April 20), and was given command of what was called Hoke's Division in the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. His troops were summoned to Virginia in May when the Union Army of the James threatened Richmond and Petersburg. Given command of six brigades of infantry, Hoke served with distinction in several actions, including the Battle of Cold Harbor, where his division played an important role in stopping several Union attacks.
In December, Hoke's division was again sent to North Carolina when the state again was threatened by Union forces. Hoke fought at the defense of Fort Fisher on January 13–15, 1865. He also fought in the Carolinas Campaign and the Battle of Bentonville, where he repulsed several attacks by forces under Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman before overwhelming numbers began to push the Confederates back.
Hoke surrendered along with Joseph E. Johnston's army at Bennett Place near Durham and paroled on May 1, 1865. He was pardoned by the U.S. government on June 14, 1865.
After the war, Hoke returned to civilian life and engaged in various businesses, including insurance and gold mining. He became principal owner of an iron mine near Chapel Hill, North Carolina and another one in Mitchell County. He also served as the director of the North Carolina Railroad for many years. Hoke owned a resort and a bottled water company at Lithia Springs in Lincoln County.
Hoke had Northern ties, marrying Lydia Van Wyck, who was of a prominent political family from New York City, on January 7, 1869. They had six children, one of whom, Michael Hoke, became a famous orthopedist in Atlanta, Georgia and a founder of the Shriner's Children Hospital. One of his brothers-in-law, Robert Van Wyck, was Mayor of New York City and another, Augustus Van Wyck, was an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of New York, losing to Theodore Roosevelt.
Hoke died in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was buried with full military honors in Historic Oakwood Cemetery.
Before his death, Hoke County, North Carolina, was named in his honor. The Robert F. Hoke Chapter #78 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy was named for the former general, as was Camp #1616 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.