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ever lived, he was always something of a politician, in the sense that authority was exercised by him with tact and with a great deal of diplomacy. No man ever cultivated his personal and professional relations more carefully, or had a livelier sense of the virtue of courtesy, conciliation, and considerateness in the use of power. While still in school, at home, some native stirrings of martial spirit, quickened doubtless by the fact that he had been christened with the name of America's greatest living soldier, led him to organize a military company among his playmates, of which he became captain and at the head of which he paraded on the recurring festival of the nation. Many a boy has done as much who in after life was well contented with the avocations of peace; but those who have seen Hancock commanding an army corps with such delight in the exercise of authority, such a keen zest in military manoeuvres, may be excused for thinking that this boyish soldiering here meant something more than usual. At the age of sixteen the personal kindness of the member of Congress from the Montgomery district made the choice between politician and soldier;
and in 1840 Hancock entered West Point as a cadet.
He was afterward accustomed to express himself as feeling that this early entrance upon severe professional training was unfortunate. Many a lad is mature enough at Sixteen to take up such studies and exercises as those which characterize our noble Military Academy ; but Hancock at this age was but half grown. His large frame and powerful physique, his unfailing flow of animal spirits, and his impulsive disposition required a longer period of development in the preparatory stage. The severity of the requirements at West Point at this time may be judged from the fact that, although his class numbered nearly one hundred at the start, it was reduced at the end of the first year to fifty-four, of whom only twenty-five finally graduated. Among Hancock's contemporaries at West Point were many afterward highly distinguished in the war. In the class directly above his own—that of 1843—were Grant, Franklin, J. J. Reynolds, Augur, Ingalls, Hamilton, J. J. Peck, and Fred Steele. In the class next below his own—that of 1845—were Fitz John Porter, Hatch, Davidson, Sackett, Gordon Granger, Clitz, David A. Russell, Thomas J. Wood, William F. Smith, Charles P. Stone; and of those who joined the Confederacy, W. H. C. Whiting. In the class of 1846 were McClellan, J. G. Foster, Reno, Couch, Sturgis, Seymour, Stoneman, James B. Fry, Gibbs, G. H. Gordon, Innis H. Palmer; and of Confederates, Maxey, Wilcox, Pickett, and D. H. Maury. His own class—that of 1844—contained few men destined to become of note. The class was very Small, graduating, as stated, only twenty-five; and these were subjected to an extraordinary number of fatalities. Five of the twenty-five—a truly remarkable proportion—were killed in the war with Mexico within four years of their graduation. Five more died before the rebellion broke out. Six resigned before the war, and remained thereafter in civil life, of whom but one became distinguished. This was W. G. Peck, who recently died while professor of mathematics at Columbia College. Three resigned before the war, but entered the Confederate service, of whom but one—General and Governor Buckner, of Kentucky—attained high rank. One had been dismissed from the service before the rebellion. This left but five in the army in 1861. Of these, one was discharged on account of disability in 1863; another, the gallant General Alexander Hays, was killed in the Wilderness, May 5, 1864; the remaining three served through the war, Hancock and Pleasonton alone attaining conspicuous positions. Of all the members of the class of 1844 but three are living as I write—Buckner, Frost, and Pleasonton. With many of his classmates and contemporaries Hancock formed a close intimacy, being himself cordial, frank, and companionable. In scholarly rank he had not much to boast of, graduating number eighteen in a class of twenty-five. Hancock's record, as furnished me by Colonel John M. Wilson, Corps of Engineers, recently commanding the Military Academy, may be of interest:
WINFIELD SCOTT HANCOCK, OF PENNSYLVANIA.
Entered July 1, 1840, aged sixteen years, four months ; graduated June, 1844.
(44 members). (25 members).
General standing. . . . . . . . . 35 General standing. . . . . . . . . . I8 Mathematics... . . . . . . . . . . 36 Engineering. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2O French... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Ethics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . II Drawing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 | Infantry tactics............ 6 Rhetoric, grammar, and Artillery tactics . . . . . . . . . . . II
geography. . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Mineralogy and geology.... 9 Number of demerits...... I40 Number of demerits....... 46
In all military exercises Hancock excelled, and he showed marked aptitude for the routine of cadet life, qualified by a certain liking in the earlier years of the course for boyish escapades. The records of the Academy do not show that, while a cadet, he ever held the appointment of corporal or sergeant, but do show that he was appointed on the 23d of June, 1843, a cadet lieutenant, tenth in order of rank. The foregoing table shows that while his general average was far from high, he did well in drawing, in tactics, in natural history, and in ethics. The number of demerits, which appears somewhat formidable for the first half of his course, falls off markedly during the last half. Kent's Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States at this time formed a part of the course at West Point. To these, at his father's request, he added the reading, six times through, of Chitty's Blackstone, with the study of a law glossary. In a note under my hand General Hancock explains his father's wish by the remark, “In fact, he intended me finally to become a lawyer.” Resignations from the army soon after graduation from the Military Academy were in this period very common. I have already stated that nine of Hancock's small class did so resign, while to any one at all familiar with the history of the war the names of Grant, Sherman, McClellan, Hooker, Burnside, “Stonewall ” Jackson, and many others, will readily occur as among those who in other classes left the service for civil careers which were interrupted by the outbreak of the rebellion. Doubtless it was to the course of extra reading referred to, combined with the strong political bias acquired in his childhood, that Hancock owed that interest in matters of government and law which led him to take up so actively the question of the rights of citizens in the seceding States during his administration of the military district comprising Louisiana and Texas, in 1867–68. Those who held strongly by the reconstruction acts, and hence disapproved