Winfield Scott Hancock
MAJOR-GENERAL WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK.
WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK, one of the most brilliant, generals of the recent war, is the son of Benjamin Franklin Hancock and Elizabeth his wife, both natives of Montgomery county, Pennsylvania. In a retired part of this county, near Montgomery Square, he was born
Amid the pleasant scenes and associations of this thriving town, with parents possessing more than average education, intelligence and patriotism, he and his twin brother Hilary B.,
He was at that time regimental adjutant, was repeatedly mentioned in the official reports of the day; and, in August, 1848, was brevetted first lieutenant for gallantry in these actions, dating from 20th August, 1847. He was also present when the Mexican commissioners entered the American camp, with proposals of peace—which were rejected by General Scott—and he shared the proud triumph of the 14th September, 1847, when that general, at the head of 6000 war-worn veterans, entered the City of Mexico, as its captors. The war closed soon after, and Hancock—serving for a time with General Cadwallader, at Toluca, and having been advanced to the position of regimental quartermaster, was one of the last Americans who left the soil of Mexico. His services, together with those of other Pennsylvania soldiers, were appropriately acknowledged by the Pennsylvania legislature, in a series of resolutions, of which a copy was presented to him. He was next stationed at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, Wis., until the summer of 1849 then, until the autumn of 1855, he served as regimental adjutant, on the staff of his old Mexican war colonel, Brigadier-General J. S. Clarke, at Jefferson Barracks and St. Louis, Mo.
On the 24th of January, 1850, he married Almira, the daughter of Mr. Samuel Russell, a wealthy and highly esteemed merchant of that city; and, in November 1855, was made assistant quartermaster, with rank of captain.
During 1856, he was stationed as quartermaster at Fort Myers, near St. Augustine, Florida ; and, in November of the same year, was assigned to duty in the United States quartermaster general's department, for the Western district, in Utah Territory, and accompanied General Harney on his expedition to Kansas, and the regions beyond. From Utah, he was transferred, still in the department, to Benicia, California, where he was brought into intimate social and official relations with that sterling soldier, General Silas Casey ; thence, to the old Spanish town of Los Angeles, Lower California. Here he remained two years, attaining a great degree of personal influence in that region, so that, when, in 1801, the civil rebellion broke out, and certain restless spirits tried to turn the Golden State into the secession stream, his voice and example, as well as his cool, calm courage and caution, contributed most powerfully to stem the tide of rebellion, and to hold that grand young commonwealth firmly to its loyalty to the Union.
But he burned for a more active part in the defence of that Union, and, at his own request, was transferred to the East. Reaching New York city in September, 1861, he stopped not
When the Army of the Potomac, in October and November 1862, marched to Falmouth, Va., Hancock's column was on the extreme right, and in perfect order, and at the battle of Fredericksburg, December 13th, his men crossed the river in open boats, under fire, scaled the banks, drove off the enemy, and formed the pontoon bridge, taking, also, conspicuous part in the subsequent heavy fighting of that disastrous day. On the 29th of November, on the nomination of General Burnside, he was appointed Major-General of Volunteers. In the battle of Chancellorsville, May 2d—4th, 1863, Hancock's skill turned the fortunes of the day ; and he was soon after appointed by President Lincoln to the command of the Second Army Corps.
When the rebel advance into Pennsylvania was so suddenly checked at Gettysburg, July 1st—3d, 1863, Hancock was present with this gallant corps, near the centre of the Union lines; and, he was, at first, in command of the field. His dispositions and plans, made during the critical interval which elapsed before the arrival of Meade, were so admirable, that that gallant general, on his arrival, saw no reason to change them. On the third day of that great battle, Hancock was wounded severely, but would not be taken to the rear. He was obliged to go home to recover from his wound; was received at Norristown by his fellow-citizens, and borne to his home on a stretcher, on the shoulders of soldiers of the Invalid Corps. His recovery was gradual but sure—and the admiration felt for his patriotic services were manifested by numerous presentations, receptions, etc. His Norristown friends gave him a service of nine pieces of gold and silver plate ornamented with the trefoil badge of the Second Corps, and valued at $1600. When he had so far recovered as to be able to travel to West Point, he was honored with public receptions in his native county, at New York, West Point, and at St. Louis, where he went to see his family, and where, also, he received from the Western Sanitary Fair a superb sword.
Ordered to Washington, December 15th, 1863, he promptly obeyed, although his wound was not yet healed, and was detailed to the important duty of increasing the ranks of the army by his personal presence and exertions. He undertook the raising of 50,000 men for his corps (headquarters at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) with good success—the great cities of New York, Albany, and Boston, offering him every public and private facility. At Philadelphia, a public reception was given him; resolutions were offered by the city government, and the rare honor was his of having Independence Hall thrown open to his use on the 22d of February he reviewed the volunteer troops of the city; in New York City, the Governor's Room in the City Hall was placed at his disposal; at Albany, the Legislature tendered an official testimonial of respect, as, also, did the Legislature of Massachusetts and the merchants of Boston. In March, 1864, he was again ordered to the front, and led his old corps, the second, again in the advance, under Grant, upon Culpeper Court House, Virginia, participating in the battles of the Wilderness. At Spottsylvania, the made a magnificent charge at the head of his whole corps, and proved himself the man of the day, which he closed with the following brief despatch to General Grant. "General, I have captured from thirty to forty guns. I have finished up Johnson, and am now going into Early."
At Petersburg, Virginia, he personally rallied the Second Corps, and his force was always well in hand; no matter how much extended his lines were, they always responded promptly
Meantime other promotions had come to General Hancock; on the 13th of March, 1865, he had been brevetted Major-General in the United States Army for gallant and meritorious conduct a, the battle of Spottsylvania; and on the 26th of July, 1866, had been commissioned Major-General in the army.
While in command of the Department of the Missouri, his intercourse with both the President and General Grant had been very cordial; but in August, 1867, President Johnson determined to remove General Sheridan from the command of the Fifth Military District, which comprised Louisiana and Texas, and appointed General Hancock his successor. The latter could not immediately enter on his duties; but in November, 1867, he went to New Orleans and took command, revoking immediately several of General Sheridan's orders, and issued a special order, of which the second item (which we give below) was the most important portion.*
[*Footnote: "Second. The General commanding is gratified to learn that peace and
quiet reign in this department. It will be his purpose to preserve this condition of things. As a means to this great end, he regards the maintenance of the civil authorities in the faithful execution of the laws, as the most efficient under existing circumstances, In war it is indispensable to repel force by force. and overthrow and destroy opposition to authority; but when insurrectionary force has been overthrown and peace established, and
the civil authorities are ready and willing to perform their duties, the military power should cease to lead, and the civil administration resume its natural and rightful dominion. Solemnly impressed with these views, the General announces that the great principles of American liberty still are the lawful inheritance of this people, and ever should be. The right of trial by jury, the habeas corpus, the liberty of the press, the freedom of speech, and the natural rights of persons and the rights of properly must be preserved. Free institutions, while they are essential to the prosperity and happiness of the people, always furnish the strongest inducements to peace and order. Crimes and offences committed in the district must be referred to the consideration and judgment of the regular civil authorities, and these tribunals will be supported in their lawful jurisdiction. Should there be violations of existing laws, which are not inquired into by the civil magistrates, or should failures in the administration of justice by the courts be complained of, the cases will be reported to these headquarters, when such orders will be made as may be deemed necessary. While the General thus indicates his purpose to respect the liberties of the people, he wishes all to understand that armed insurrections and forcible resistance to laws will be instantly suppressed by arms."]
On these two questions there was a conflict of opinion between General Hancock and his superior officer, General Grant. President Johnson sanctioned General Hancock's course; but General Grant revoked his special orders, for carrying out sea the measures indicated above, and annulling the previous orders of General Sheridan and his own subordinate, General Mower.
The controversy between General Hancock and General Grant continued for about two months; but finally terminated in General Hancock's asking to be relieved from his command in January, 1806. He was made commander of the new military department of Washington, including Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia, by President Johnson. It is worthy of notice that early in the ensuing summer the States of Louisiana and Texas, as well as several other of the Southern States, were readmitted to the Union by Act of Congress, and placed under a strictly civil administration, as General Hancock had insisted should be done.
General Hancock retained his new command until the inauguration of President Grant, when, by the new arrangement or military commands, he was assigned to the Military Department of Dakota, embracing that Territory and part of Montana. There was an unpleasant state of feeling between him and President Grant, growing out of the Louisiana troubles, and he regarded this assignment of command, as he well might, as a virtual banishment. Subsequent correspondence has made the matter no better. General Hancock is still commander of the Department of Dakota, and though senior Major-General in his Military Division, he was, during the late absence for nearly a year of Lieutenant-General Sheridan, put under the command of one of his own juniors.
In personal appearance, General Hancock is decidedly one of the most dignified and imposing of our military officers of high rank. Of fine stature, and an intellectual, thoughtful face, a man evidently born to command, courteous, and gentlemanly in his manners, he possesses in a large degree that personal magnetism which enables him to exert a powerful influence over the men he leads. He is destined yet to exert a powerful influence in our national affairs. By the death of Generals Thomas and Halleck he stands next to the highest rank as a Major-General in the army of the United States.
Source: Source: Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the state of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country, by L. P. Brockett, M. D., Published by Ziegler and McCurdy, Philadelphia Penna; Springfield, Mass; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo., 1872
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