Reminiscences Of Winfield Scott Hancockby A. R. Hancock
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… See more details below
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. He was ordered East for quartermaster duties but arrived to a brigadier's star. Taking his brigade to the Peninsula, he led a critical flank attack at Williamsburg and continued to distinguish himself during the rest of the dismal campaign. During the battle of Antietam, Israel B. 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 F. 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.
Belatedly he received the thanks of Congress for this action. 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 atSpotsylvania. At Cold Harbor his troops were slaughtered in a futile assault ordered by Grant. Shortly afterwards Hancock's old wound broke open and he had to leave the army for a time.
Returning, he was humiliated by the defeat at Reams' Station and in November was forced to give up field command; he began recruiting the first Veteran Volunteer Corps. Results were poor and early in 1865 he took over command in Washington D.C., Maryland, West Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley. 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 in the regular establishment. Remaining in the army, he held various departmental commands and was a potential Democratic candidate for the presidency in 1868. In 1880 he was the nominee, but was defeated by James Garfield. Hancock died on February 9, 1886, at Governors Island still on active duty.
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