General Winfield Scott Hancock

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General Winfield Scott Hancock

General Winfield Scott Hancock
Compiled Military Service Record

General Winfield Scott Hancock
General Winfield Scott Hancock.jpg
(Battles & Leaders)

Winfield Scott Hancock  (Union)
Biographical data and notes:
- Born Feb. 14, 1824, in Montgomery Square, PA
- Pre-enlistment occupation: US Army Officer
- Winfield Scott Hancock died on Feb. 9, 1886, at Governors Island, NY
- He is buried at Montgomery Cemetery, Norristown, PA
- Graduate USMA 07/01/1841
- 31 years of age at time of enlistment
- Enlisted on Nov. 7, 1855, as Captain
Mustering information:
- Commissioned into Quartermaster's Dept (Regular Army) on Nov. 7, 1855
- Commissioned into General Staff (U.S. Volunteers) on Sep. 23, 1861
- Discharged due to promotion from General Staff (U.S. Volunteers) on Aug. 12, 1864
- Discharged due to promotion from Quartermaster's Dept (Regular Army) on Aug. 12, 1864, (Prior service in US Army since 07/01/1841)
- Commissioned into General Staff (Regular Army) on Aug. 12, 1864
- Promoted to Brig-Gen (Full, Vol) on Sep. 23, 1861
- Promoted to Major-Gen (Full, Vol) on Nov. 29, 1862
- Promoted to Brig-Gen (Full, Army) on Aug. 12, 1864
- Promoted to Major-Gen (Brevet, Army) on Mar. 13, 1865
- Promoted to Major-Gen (Full, Army) on Jul. 26, 1866

Winfield Scott Hancock History
General Winfield Scott Biography

HANCOCK, WINFIELD SCOTT, major-general, was born at
Montgomery Square, Pa., Feb. 14, 1824, and was sent in early
boyhood to Norristown academy. There, he first began to
display his military tastes by continually marching and
countermarching with his playmates, among whom he organized a
military company, of which he was chosen captain. In his
fifteenth year the boy received a marked expression of public
esteem, in being appointed to read in public at Norristown the
Declaration of Independence. In 1840, at the age of sixteen,
he entered the West Point military academy, as a member of a
class that graduated twenty-five, among whom were Gens. U. S.
Grant, George B. McClellan, William B. Franklin, William F.
Smith, Joseph J. Reynolds, Rosecrans, Lyon, and others of the
Federal army, and Longstreet, Pickett, E. K. Smith, and
"Stonewall" Jackson of the Confederate army. Hancock was
graduated on June 30, 1844, and was brevetted second
lieutenant of the 6th infantry July 1. He was afterward sent
to join his company in the Indian country, near the Red River,
on the border of Texas, and in this rough but exhilarating
duty he remained until 1846, when he was commissioned second
lieutenant in a company stationed on the frontier of Mexico,
where he remained until the outbreak of the Mexican War. His
first active service in that conflict was at the National
bridge, on the way from Vera Cruz to Puebla, where he was in
command of a storming party, and captured the bridge and a
strong barricade. He was brevetted first lieutenant "for
gallant and meritorious conduct in the battles of Contreras
and Churubusco in the war with Mexico." Between 1848 and 1855,
he served as regimental quartermaster and adjutant on the
upper Missouri, being ordered to Fort Snelling, Minn., in
1849. In 1855, Lieut. Hancock was appointed quartermaster with
The rank of captain, and ordered to Florida, where the
Seminole War was going on, and where, under Gen. Harney, he
performed difficult and arduous service. Next occurred the
disorders in Kansas, and he was ordered to Fort Leavenworth,
and after the Kansas troubles were over he accompanied Gen.
Harney's expedition to Utah. Following the Utah outbreak, he
was ordered to join his regiment, the 6th infantry, at
, and made the trip with sixteen soldiers, a distance
of 709 miles, in twenty-seven days with a train of wagons. He
was next ordered to Benicia, Cal., and the entire journey
which he made from Fort Leavenworth to that station, 2,100
miles, was performed by Capt. Hancock on horseback. Later, he
was stationed at Los Angeles, Cal., where he was when the
Civil war broke out, with a depot of military stores under his
control, which he succeeded in holding until the arrival of
reinforcements. He was then ordered to the east, reaching
Sept. 4, 1861, when he reported at Washington for
service. He was at once commissioned brigadier-general and
placed in charge of a brigade, consisting of the 5th Wis., the
6th Me., the 48th Pa., and the 4th N.Y. infantry. In the
spring of 1862, the division of which his brigade was a part
was assigned to the 4th army corps and had its first serious
conflict with the enemy at Lee's mill on April 16. He saw
sharp fighting at Williamsburg and Frazier's farm and in the
Maryland campaign. At the battles of South Mountain and
Antietam, he commanded the 1st division of the 2nd army corps,
which fought brilliantly during the second day of the battle
of Antietam. In the battle of Fredericksburg, he again
commanded the same division in the magnificent attempt to
storm Marye's heights, Dec. 13, 1862, when he led his men
through such a fire as has rarely been encountered in warfare.
The following spring Hancock's division fought at
Chancellorsville, and on June 25, he was ordered by the
president to assume command of the 2nd army corps. In the
fight of July 3, at Gettysburg, he commanded the left center,
the main point assailed by the Confederates, and was shot from
his horse, being dangerously wounded, but remained on the
field until he saw that the enemy's attack had been repulsed
by his corps. For his services in this campaign Gen. Hancock
received, on April 2l, 1866, a resolution of thanks passed by
Congress. His wound kept him from active duty until March,
1864, when he resumed command in the spring campaign of that
year, and fought in the battles of the Wilderness and
Spottsylvania, also at the second battle of Cold Harbor and in
the assault on the lines in front of Petersburg. On Aug. 12,
1864, he was appointed brigadier-general in the regular army
"for gallant and distinguished services in the battles of the
Wilderness, Spottsylvania, and Cold Harbor, and in the
operations of the army in Virginia under Lieut.-Gen. Grant."
In the movement against the South side railroad in October of
that year Gen. Hancock took a leading part. On Nov. 26, he
was called to Washington to organize a veteran corps of 50,000
men, and continued in the discharge of that duty until Feb.
26, 1865, when he was assigned to the command of the military
division and ordered to Winchester, Va. After the
assassination of President Lincoln, Gen. Hancock's
headquarters were transferred to Washington, and he was placed
in command of the defence of the capital. On July 26, 1866,
he was appointed major-general of the regular army, and on the
10th of the following month assigned to the command of the
Department of the Missouri. Here, he fought the Indians until
relieved by Gen. Sheridan, when he was placed in command of
the fifth military district, comprising Texas and Louisiana.
In 1868, he was given command of the division of the Atlantic,
with headquarters in New York city. The following year, he was
sent to the Department of Dakota, but in 1872, was again
assigned to the division of the Atlantic, in which command he
remained until the time of his death. In 1868, and in 1872,
Gen. Hancock was a candidate for the Democratic presidential
nomination, and in 1880, was nominated by the Democratic
convention at Cincinnati. The election in November, however,
gave the opposing candidate, James A. Garfield, a majority in
the electoral college. More than any other officer on either
side, perhaps, he was the embodiment of chivalry and devotion
to the highest duties of the soldier. Gen. Grant, best
qualified to judge, said of him: "Hancock stands the most
conspicuous figure of all the general officers who did not
exercise a general 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 very conspicuous personal appearance, tall,
well-formed, and, at the time of which I now write, young and
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 presence with his command in the
thickest of the fight won him the confidence of troops who
served under him." He died at Governor's island, New York
harbor, Feb. 9, 1886.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 8

Recommended Reading: Winfield Scott Hancock: A Soldier's Life. Description: Hancock's Civil War generalship earned him the affection of his troops and the country's citizenry and the respect of his fellow officers, all of which were sustained and flourished during his post-war career as a Reconstruction military administrator, a Great Plains Indian overseer, commander of the Military Division of the Atlantic (states), during which time he earned the gratitude of the nation in quelling labor violence, and, finally, as a three-time seeker of the Democratic nomination for President (1868, 1872, 1880) and his party's nominee for that office in the 1880 election. Continued below...

David Jordan's WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK is an extensively referenced, solid, immensely readable biography and work of popular history. Jordan obviously thinks highly of the man. Even Hancock's less than illustrious stint as commander of the Military Department of the Missouri from August 1866 to August 1867, during which he stumbled around the Great Plains without a clue as to the nature and culture of the Indian tribes he was tasked with controlling, goes pretty much 'uncriticized.' After all, Hancock was only following the orders of his superior, General Sherman. And that's what Winfield did best all his life - follow orders.

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Recommended Reading: Winfield Scott Hancock: Gettysburg Hero (Civil War Campaigns and Commanders Series) (Hardcover). Description: Perry Jamieson's Winfield Scott Hancock: Gettysburg Hero is an enjoyable edition to the Campaigns and Commanders Series, published by the McWhiney Press. Jamieson tells of Hancock's remarkable career in entertaining and exciting prose and remarks on his legacy and current reputation among historians. Although this biography would appear brief to those not acquainted with the series, it is actually one of the longest yet published. This series is meant to give a shortened yet informative account of Civil War figures and events to those not yet familiar with them. Jamieson gives an outstanding portrait of Hancock as a genuine military hero and analyzes the role he played in saving the Union. Continued below...
For those who would want to learn more, he lists several extensive and acclaimed biographies of "Hancock The Superb." The maps and biographical sketches included are a great aide to those without prior knowledge of Civil War figures. Jamieson tells not only of Hancock's role in the war (although he does, of course, focus on it) but also recounts his admirable postwar service on the frontier as well as his failed presidential campaign. Also of note is the mention of the history behind the most famous Hancock monuments and memorials, including both the statue atop Cemetery Hill and in Washington DC, as well as others. This book is an excellent introduction to one of the finest commanders in American military history. It combines solid research and storytelling in an effective manner and does justice to the man and his memory.

Recommended Reading: Commanding the Army of the Potomac (Modern War Studies) (Hardcover). Description: During the Civil War, thirty-six officers in the Army of the Potomac were assigned corps commands of up to 30,000 men. Collectively charged with leading the Union's most significant field army, these leaders proved their courage in countless battlefields from Gettysburg to Antietam to Cold Harbor. Unfortunately, courage alone was not enough. Their often dismal performances played a major role in producing this army's tragic record, one that included more defeats than victories despite its numerical and materiel superiority. Stephen Taaffe takes a close look at this command cadre, examining who was appointed to these positions, why they were appointed, and why so many of them ultimately failed to fulfill their responsibilities. Continued below...

He demonstrates that ambitious officers such as Gouverneur Warren, John Reynolds, and Winfield Scott Hancock employed all the weapons at their disposal, from personal connections to exaggerated accounts of prowess in combat, to claw their way into these important posts. Once appointed, however, Taaffe reveals that many of these officers failed to navigate the tricky and ever-changing political currents that swirled around the Army of the Potomac. As a result, only three of them managed to retain their commands for more than a year, and their machinations caused considerable turmoil in the army's high command structure. Taaffe also shows that their ability or inability to get along with generals such as George McClellan, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker, George Meade, and Ulysses Grant played a big role in their professional destinies. In analyzing the Army of the Potomac's corps commanders as a group, Taaffe provides a new way of detailing this army's chronic difficulties-one that, until now, has been largely neglected in the literature of the Civil War.


Recommended Reading: Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders (Hardcover). Description: More than forty years after its original publication, Ezra J. Warner’s Generals in Blue is now available in paperback for the first time. Warner’s classic reference work includes intriguing biographical sketches and a rare collection of photos of all 583 men who attained the rank of general in the Union Army. Here are the West Point graduates and the political appointees; the gifted, the mediocre, and the inexcusably bad; those of impeccable virtue and those who abused their position; the northern-born, the foreign-born, and the southerners who remained loyal to the Union. Continued below...

Warner’s valuable introduction discusses the criteria for appointment and compares the civilian careers of both Union and Confederate generals, revealing striking differences in the two groups. Generals in Blue is that rare book—an essential volume for scholars, a prized item for buffs, and a biographical dictionary that the casual reader will find absorbing.

Recommended Reading: Civil War High Commands (1040 pages) (Hardcover). Description: Based on nearly five decades of research, this magisterial work is a biographical register and analysis of the people who most directly influenced the course of the Civil War, its high commanders. Numbering 3,396, they include the presidents and their cabinet members, state governors, general officers of the Union and Confederate armies (regular, provisional, volunteers, and militia), and admirals and commodores of the two navies. Civil War High Commands will become a cornerstone reference work on these personalities and the meaning of their commands, and on the Civil War itself. Continued below.

Errors of fact and interpretation concerning the high commanders are legion in the Civil War literature, in reference works as well as in narrative accounts. The present work brings together for the first time in one volume the most reliable facts available, drawn from more than 1,000 sources and including the most recent research. The biographical entries include complete names, birthplaces, important relatives, education, vocations, publications, military grades, wartime assignments, wounds, captures, exchanges, paroles, honors, and place of death and interment. In addition to its main component, the biographies, the volume also includes a number of essays, tables, and synopses designed to clarify previously obscure matters such as the definition of grades and ranks; the difference between commissions in regular, provisional, volunteer, and militia services; the chronology of military laws and executive decisions before, during, and after the war; and the geographical breakdown of command structures. The book is illustrated with 84 new diagrams of all the insignias used throughout the war and with 129 portraits of the most important high commanders. It is the most comprehensive volume to any Union or Confederate general--and it can be found in here. [T]he photos alone are worth the purchase. RATED FIVE STARS by

Recommended Reading: Generals in Bronze: Interviewing the Commanders of the Civil War (Hardcover). Description: Generals in Bronze: Revealing interviews with the commanders of the Civil War. In the decades that followed the American Civil War, Artist James E. Kelly (1855-1933) conducted in-depth interviews with over forty Union Generals in an effort to accurately portray them in their greatest moment of glory. Kelly explained: "I had always felt a great lack of certain personal details. I made up my mind to ask from living officers every question I would have asked Washington or his generals had they posed for me, such as: What they considered the principal incidents in their career and particulars about costumes and surroundings." Continued below…

During one interview session with Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Kelly asked about the charge at Fort Damnation. Gen. Chamberlain acquiesced, but then added, "I don't see how you can show this in a picture." "Just tell me the facts," Kelly responded, "and I'll attend to the picture." And by recording those stirring facts, Kelly left us not only his wonderful art, but a truly unique picture of the lives of the great figures of the American Civil War. About the Author: William B. Styple has edited, co-authored, and authored several works on the Civil War. His book: "The Little Bugler" won the Young Readers' Award from the Civil War Round Table of New York. He is currently writing the biography of Gen. Phil Kearny.

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