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Such was the order which on the 1st of July sent Hancock forward to Gettysburg to take command of three army corps over two officers, Howard and Sickles, who were his seniors in rank. To the latter fact General Meade's attention was called ; but he replied that he could not help that. In this crisis he must have a man whom he knew and could trust; and he knew Hancock and could trust him. With such a commission no time was to be lost. The command of the Second Corps was turned over to Gibbon ; and soon Hancock was being driven at top speed in an ambulance, while with Morgan he studied the imperfect maps of the region, the best which headquarters could provide. The staff and the led horses followed. The duty which had been charged upon Hancock was more than that of extricating from peril the two corps at the front. Down to this moment it had been Meade's prevailing intention to take up the line of Pipe Creek, which had been carefully surveyed by the engineers, as that best suited for defensive action and as fully covering Baltimore. The advance of the left wing had been made only with a view to discovering the enemy's position and purposes; and even now it might be best, in spite of the opening action, to fall back to this line and await Lee's attack there. This Hancock was practically to decide for the commanding general; this it was for which he scanned the poor little map that had been furnished him.
Fast as the ambulance rolls along, it can not keep up with Hancock's impatient mind; and soon the led horses are brought up, and the chief is galloping to the front, where, at any time, anything may happen. Only those who have once been in such a case know how long a road can be, how the distance lengthens, and how the throbbing sounds of cannon work the hearer into an ecstasy of impatient rage. Conjecture goes wild with a thousand thoughts of possible disaster, and a sort of shame at being so far away stings the soul of the good soldier hastening to the relief of his overborne comrades. At the distance of about four miles from Gettysburg an ambulance is encountered escorted by a single officer. A word tells that it contains the body of the heroic Reynolds borne from his last battlefield. A deep silence falls upon the galloping staff, and nothing is spoken until " from the crest of Cemetery Hill the panorama of Gettysburg lies unrolled before them.
Beautiful as that landscape appears to the eye of the peaceful traveler, it is now a scene of terror, strewn with the dead and dying and with the wreck of battle. More painful still to witness are the disorderly groups of fugitives hurrying from the field or skulking behind cover. Down the Baltimore road to the rear pours a stream of panic-stricken men mixed up with led horses, artillery, ammunition wagons, and ambulances loaded with the wounded. In front, across the valley, Seminary Ridge, on which had occurred the sanguinary battle of the morning, is bristling with the battalions and batteries of Hill's corps; while Ewell, having seized the town with his right, is extending his left to grasp Culp's Hill, from which he would command the road to Baltimore. To hold Cemetery Hill, thus threatened, there is a single brigade not yet engaged—that of Colonel Orlando Smith, about one thousand strong, which had been left in reserve when Howard went forward to support Reynolds. Here and there remnants of other brigades have halted, unwilling to retreat farther, yet surveying with gloomy apprehension the fast-gathering masses of the Confederates. To the left, adown the crest of Cemetery Ridge the broken bands of the First Corps, which have done transcendent soldierly service during the long hours of the day, stand firmly in their place, to keep the position for which they have made such awful sacrifices. In front of them, and still farther to the left, is the one inspiring feature of the scene: Buford's splendid division of cavalry drawn up in line of battalions en masse, unshaken and undaunted in the face of the Confederate infantry. Upon this field of wreck and disorder now ap
* Hancock gives the hour of his arrival as half-past three. Howard says four o'clock. Probably no other general in the army had so many staff officers who habitually carried notebooks and recorded every incident or order, with the hour and the minute, as had Hancock.