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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1844

Vol. II

(Born Pa.)

Winfield S. Hancock

(Ap'd Pa.)


Winfield Scott Hancock: Born Feb. 14, 1824, Norristown, PA.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, July 1, 1840, to July 1, 1844, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Bvt. Second Lieut., 6th Infantry, July 1, 1844.

Served: on frontier duty at Ft. Towson, I. T., 1844‑45, — and at Ft. Washita, I. T., 1845‑47; on Recruiting service, 1847; in the War with

(Second Lieut., 6th Infantry, June 18, 1846)

Mexico, 1847‑48, being engaged in the Defense of Convoy at the National Bridge, Aug. 12, 1847, — Skirmish at Plan del Rio, Aug. 15, 1847, — Capture of San Antonio, Aug. 20, 1847, — Battle of Churubusco, Aug. 20,

(Bvt. First Lieut., Aug. 20, 1847, for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct
in the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco, Mex.)

1847, — Battle of Molino del Rey, Sep. 8, 1847, — and Assault and Capture of the City of Mexico, Sep. 13‑14, 1847; in garrison at Jefferson Barracks, Mo., 1848; as Quartermaster, 6th Infantry, June 30, 1848, to Oct. 1, 1849, and Adjutant, Oct. 1, 1849, to Nov. 7, 1855, at Regimental headquarters at Ft. Crawford, Io., 1848‑49, — St. Louis, Mo., 1849‑51, — and Jefferson Barracks, Mo., 1851‑52, 1852‑55; as Asst. Adjutant-

(First Lieut., 6th Infantry, Jan. 27, 1853, to June 5, 1860)

General of the Department of the West, headquarters at St. Louis, Mo., June 19 to Nov. 27, 1855; and on Quartermaster duty at Ft. Myers, Fla.,

(Captain, Staff — Asst. Quartermaster, Nov. 7, 1855)

1856‑57, during Hostilities against the Seminole Indians, — Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., with troops, quelling Kansas disturbances, Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, 1857, and at Depot, Jan. 1 to Mar. 31, 1858, — at Headquarters of Utah reinforcements, May 15 to July 15, 1858, — on March, with 6th Infantry, from Ft. Bridger, Utah, to California, Aug. 13 to Nov. 15, 1858, — and Chief Quartermaster of Southern District of California, at Los Angeles, May 5, 1859, to Aug. 3, 1861.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: in the Defenses of Washington, D. C., Sep., 1861, to Mar., 1862; in the Virginia

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Sep. 23, 1861)

 p202  Peninsular Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Mar. to Aug., 1862, being engaged in the Siege of Yorktown, Apr. 5 to May 4, 1862, — Battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862, — Battle of the Chickahominy, June 27, 1862, — Action of Golding's Farm, June 28, 1862, — Battle of Savage Station, June 29, 1862, — Battle of White Oak Swamp, June 30, 1862, — and Retreat to Harrison's Landing, July 1‑4, 1862; on the Movement to Centreville, Va., Aug.‑Sep., 1862; in the Maryland Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Sep. to Nov., 1862, being engaged in the Battle of Crampton's Pass, South Mountain, Sep. 14, 1862, — Battle of Antietam, Sep. 17, 1862, — Reconnoissance from Harper's Ferry to Charlestown, Va., Oct. 10‑11, 1862, — and March to Falmouth, Va., Oct.‑Nov., 1862; in

(Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Nov. 29, 1862, to July 26, 1866)

the Rappahannock Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Dec., 1862, to June, 1863, being engaged in the Battle of Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862, — and Battle of Chancellorsville, May 2‑4, 1863; in the Pennsylvania Campaign, June‑July, 1863, in command of 2d Corps of the Army of the Potomac, being engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1‑3, 1863, where he was severely wounded in the repulse of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet's attack upon our left centre,​1 which he at the time commanded; on sick leave of absence,

(Major, Staff — Quartermaster, U. S. Army, Nov. 30, 1863)

disabled by wound, July 4 to Dec. 27, 1863; in command of, and recruiting, 2d Army Corps, Jan. to Mar. 1864; in the Richmond Campaign, commanding 2d Corps of Army of the Potomac, being engaged in the Battle of the Wilderness, May 5‑6, 1864, — Battles of Spottsylvania, May 9‑20, 1864, — Battle of North Anna, May 23‑24, 1864, — Battle of Tolopotomy, May 29‑31, 1864, — Battle of Cold Harbor, June 3, 1864, and Operations in its vicinity, June 3‑12, 1864, — March to James River, June 12‑15, 1864, — and Battle before Petersburg, June 16‑18, 1864; on sick leave of absence, on account of breaking out of Gettysburg wound, June 19‑27, 1864; in Operations about Petersburg, in command of 2d Corps, Army of the Potomac, being engaged in the Battles of Deep Bottom

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Aug. 12, 1864)

(in command), July 27‑29, and Aug. 15‑20, 1864, — Battle of Reams's Station (in command), Aug. 25, 1864, — Battle of Boydton Plank Road (in command), Oct. 27, 1864, — and Siege of Petersburg, June 15 to Nov. 26, 1864; at Washington, D. C., organizing 1st Army Corps of Veterans, Nov. 27, 1864, to Feb. 27, 1865; and in command of Department of West Virginia, and temporarily of the Middle Military Division and Army of the Shenandoah, Feb. 27 to July 18, 1865, — and of the Middle

(Bvt. Maj.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Spottsylvania, Va.)

(Major-General, U. S. Army, July 26, 1866)

Department, July 18, 1865, to Aug. 10, 1866.

Served: in command of Department of the Missouri, Aug. 20, 1866, to Sep. 12, 1867, being engaged on Expedition against the Indians of the Plains, 1867; Member of Board for Retiring Disabled Officers, at Philadelphia, Pa., Nov. 27, 1865, to Aug. 30, 1866, — and to make recommendations in regard to Ordnance, Jan. 30 to June 4, 1866; in command of the Fifth Military District, Nov. 29, 1867, to Mar. 16, 1868, — of the Division of the Atlantic, Mar. 31, 1868, to Mar. 5, 1869, — of the Department of Dakota, May 17, 1869, to Dec. 3, 1872, — of the Division of the Atlantic, headquarters, New York city, Dec. 16, 1872, to Feb. 9, 1886 (leave of absence, Dec. 3, 1883, to Jan. 30, 1884), and of the Department of the East, Dec. 16, 1872, to Oct. 29, 1873, and Nov. 8, 1877, to Feb. 9, 1886; and as Member of the Court of Inquiry in the case of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Dyer, Nov. 9, 1868, to May 15, 1869, — and of Board to examine Officers  p203 unfit for the proper discharge of their duties, etc., Oct. 17, 1870, to June 3, 1871.

Died, Feb. 9, 1886, at Governor's Island, N. Y.: Aged 62.

See Annual Association of Graduates, U. S. M. A., 1886, for an obituary notice.º

Buried, Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA.

Biographical Sketch.

Major-General Winfield Scott Hancock was born, Feb. 14, 1824, at Norristown, Pa., and died Feb. 9, 1886, at Governor's Island, New York harbor, the headquarters of the Military Division of the Atlantic, the command of which he had held from December 16, 1872, up to the day of his death.

Upon his graduation from the Military Academy, July 1, 1844, he was promoted to be a Bvt. Second Lieutenant in the Sixth Infantry, from which lowest grade he rose, by faithful service and acknowledged merit, to be in twenty-two years a Major-General in the Regular Army.

General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William Farrar Smith, who was a Cadet with Hancock at West Point, and subsequently his intimate friend, pays the following tribute to his memory:—

"His handsome face and figure and pleasing manners made him a favorite with his brother cadets and the officers of the institution. His progress through the course of study was not conspicuous in any way, and he was graduated with his class in 1844. He was assigned to the Sixth Infantry as a Brevet Second Lieutenant. In 1846 he went with his regiment to Mexico, and was with the army under General Scott, operating from Vera Cruz. During the campaign which followed the capture of Vera Cruz, Hancock was noted, as a subaltern can only be, for personal courage with his company on the fields of Contreras, Churubusco, Molino del Rey, and the storming of the gates of the City of Mexico. For his conduct on the field he received the brevet of First Lieutenant. When peace was announced his regiment left Mexico, and was stationed at Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis.

"In January, 1850, he married, and from that time a woman's love and devotion were with him to the close of his life. In November, 1855, he was appointed a Captain in the Quartermaster's Department of the Army, and there learned the methodical habits of a conscientious disbursing officer.

"The opening of the year 1861 found him at his post in California, and, filled with devotion to his country, he warmly espoused the part of the Federal Government. With the true ambition of a soldier, he sought service in the line of the Army, was appointed a Brigadier-General of Volunteers in September, 1861, and was assigned to the command of a Brigade in the Army of the Potomac. Mindful of the fact that 'a mere multitude of brave men armed to the teeth make neither a good army nor a national defense,' from the day he joined his command he was unremitting in giving military instruction of all kinds to his officers, and in his attention to the comforts and welfare of his men. No brigade in the Army was better fitted than his for a campaign when the movement to the Peninsula began, in the spring of 1862.

"On the 5th of May, at Williamsburg, he showed the effect of his labors with his troops by winning a brilliant victory over a superior force sent against him in an isolated position. In that little battle were displayed on his part tactical skill and personal gallantry, and by his command steadiness under fire, and a capability for being manoeuvred on the field of battle. From that day through the war his career was one of hard work and skillful handling of men. Through it may be seen his steady growth in the higher knowledge belonging to his profession, and  p204 the acquirement of a reputation for promptitude, gallantry, and ability which finally made him, as he was aptly termed by a distinguished Confederate General, the 'thunderbolt of the Army of the Potomac.'​a

"Amid all the changes and dissensions in that Army, it was noted of General Hancock that his loyalty to the General in command was steadfast, and that, indulging in no criticisms on his superiors, he labored to keep his command as a perfect military machine, ready for work at an instant's call. The battles and marches, in which he played his part so well, belong to a volume rather than to a short sketch. In the desperate Battle of Gettysburg his is the prominent figure, and it may be asserted, without reflecting upon others, that his presence, before that of any other individual, was necessary to the victory. Severely wounded in the movement of his triumph, he dictated a dispatch which gave joy to the entire North. Taking the field after his recovery from his wound, he took part in the bloody campaign of 'the Wilderness,' and was, with his command, the mainstay of the Army of the Potomac. On the 12th of August, 1864, he received the long-deserved promotion to the rank of Brigadier-General in the Regular Army. This was followed by his elevation to the grade of Major-General in July, 1866.

"In November, 1867, he was sent to the Southwest, being assigned to one of those nondescript commands initiated by the Government for the purpose of keeping the military and civil power under one head till the Seceding States had been satisfactorily 'reconstructed.'

"The despotic power which Congress gave to the commanders of the 'military districts' formed in 'the States lately in rebellion' would naturally be attractive to a military man. General Hancock was known only as a thorough soldier, methodical, brilliant, and honorably ambitious, and it was supposed that he, like others, would keep up the semblance of a civil power to cover a military despotism. The country was surprised at his first order on assuming command, which announced in the strongest terms his belief that 'the great principles of American liberty,' as of all liberty which has ever existed in any nation, lay in certain inalienable rights of the people, and the subordination of the military to the civil power; and all his ability and all his labors were directed towards the lifting up and strengthening of the civil power, that it might once more take its proper place in the land he had been sent to govern.

"His orders and letters written during his short term of service in the Fifth Military District would have made his fame great if he had never been known on the field of battle. His policy of reconstruction, although entirely within the plain reading of the acts of Congress, was not acceptable to those in authority, and, March 16, 1868, after less than five months of service in the 'Fifth Military District,' he was relieved from command and ordered North. From that day to the close of his life he was occupied in the uneventful details of a command in the peaceful regions of the country. His duties were always carefully and strictly performed, and no detail of official business was too small to escape his supervision.

"In 1880 he was nominated by the National Democratic Convention as the candidate of the Democratic Party for the high position of President. His past life was thoroughly examined, and he went through the ordeal of a fierce political campaign unscathed, and leaving a record better known and more brilliant than at its beginning. He accepted his defeat with equanimity, and was in his heart glad that he was spared from the excessive labors of the Chief Executive of the nation.

"It has been said that our fellow-graduate of West Point, Winfield Scott Hancock, was as a subaltern faithful and gallant, as a disbursing officer methodical and conscientious, as a leader of troops laborious and brilliant.

 p205  "In his social hours he was kind and gentle; on duty he was attentive and severe; on the battlefield, owing to his magnificent presence and conspicuous courage, he was always the prominent figure. His coolness and quickness of eye gave him higher qualities as a General. As a citizen he was thoroughly imbued with a love for real liberty, and a 'government by the people.'

"In every position in which he was placed he showed himself thoroughly equal to the calls made on his intellect, leaving to those who loved him a firm faith in his ability to fill with distinction any position of responsibility in the wide range of our government.

"Can aught more ever be said of any man? Can a better type be offered as an example to the civilian or the soldier?"

General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant, in his Memoirs, says: "Hancock stands the most conspicuous figure of all the general officers who did not exercise a separate command. He commanded a corps longer than any other one, and his name was never mentioned as having committed in battle a blunder for which he was responsible. He was a man of conspicuous personal appearance. Tall, well-formed, fresh-looking, he presented an appearance that would attract the attention of an army as he passed. His genial disposition made him friends, and his personal courage and his presence with his command in the thickest of the fight won for him the confidence of the troops serving under him. No matter how hard the fight, the Second Corps always felt that their commander was looking after them."

The Author's Note:

1 The thanks of Congress were tendered, May 30, 1866, to Major-General Hancock "for his gallant, meritorious, and conspicuous share in that great and decisive victory" (Gettysburg).

Thayer's Note:

a So Cullum, following an 1886 obituary pamphlet by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States and other contemporary sources (and so also of course the entire Internet, that endless font of garbles, lies and nonsense); but I've been unable to find which Confederate general said this, if any ever did: the moniker is always attributed, as here, to "Confederate opponents", "a distinguished Confederate general", "his countrymen of the South", etc. If you know something better than this, please pass it on.

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Page updated: 4 Jul 14