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Reminiscences Of Winfield Scott Hancock

by Charles L. Webster And Company

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Although named for America’s top military hero of the day, Winfield Scott, Hancock was not originally intended for a military career; nevertheless he was destined to become one of the best corps commanders in the Union army. An 1844 graduate of West Point, he served in the infantry during the Mexican War with distinction before transferring to the quartermaster’s department.

During the Civil War, at the battle of Antietam, Israel Richardson was killed and Hancock was sent to command his division in the Second Corps, thus beginning a historic association. At Fredericksburg his division took part in the costly assaults on Marye’s Heights and at Chancellorsville he skillfully covered the Union withdrawal. Hancock stepped up to the Second Corps leadership. With the fall of John Reynolds early on the first day at Gettysburg, Mead dispatched Hancock to take over that wing of the army and decide whether the battle should be fought there or not. This was a high honor since Oliver O. Howard, a senior officer, was already on the field.

On the second and third days of the battle, Hancock directed the Union center until wounded by a nail and by wood fragments, possibly from his saddle, were driven into his thigh by enemy fire. After a long recovery, he returned in time for the Overland Campaign. He fought well at the Wilderness and was brevetted Major General for crashing through the Confederate salient at Spotsylvania. At Cold Harbor his troops were slaughtered in a futile assault ordered by Grant.

Following the Confederacy’s collapse he came into conflict with Grant who objected to his lenient treatment of the South. He was mustered out of the volunteer service on July 26, 1866, the same day that he received the appointment of Major General. Remaining in the army, he held various departmental commands and was a potential Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1868. Hancock died on February 9, 1886, at Governors Island still on active duty. This is a digital reprint of the C.L. Webster shoulder board edition, "As Published in 1887".



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