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General Hancock's course at this time, were much disposed to look upon his measures and reports merely as a political “card,” played by an ambitious officer; but those who had known him long were well aware that he was always fond of discussions regarding the powers of the General Government, and maintained opinions on the subject of a highly conservative character.
IT has been shown that Hancock's career at West Point was in no sense distinguished. He was as far as possible from being one of those prodigies who, appearing every now and then in college or academy, command, often in an absurd degree, the admiration of their fellows, and arouse expectations of a general conflagration when once they shall get into the world. Nor was this failure of Hancock to attract special attention during his undergraduate life due to diffidence or modesty or early disadvantages on his part, or to adverse conditions in the Academy, or to envy or jealousy on the part of his comrades. The fact is, there was no reason at all why Hancock should make a mark at West Point. The qualities which, in their degrees and proportions, made him eminently powerful and successful as a corps or wing commander were not those which would give academic distinction; while the bigness of the plan on which he was cut out, though not as yet made up, and his youth and comparative immaturity upon entrance, caused his career to be, on the whole, rather less than more conspicuous than might have been conjectured from his subsequent achievements. And again, although the young soldier was soon to be brought into the midst of stirring events, and was to be given an opportunity to show his mettle, under the eyes of great captains, in great and memorable actions, he was not destined to win early renown. We shall not truly appreciate Hancock if we fail to see that he was not of that kind. His ultimate success was to be pre-eminently through character, which in a subaltern affords small ground for distinction, and through training, which requires years of experience in petty duties and small commands. Graduating from the Academy on June 30th, Hancock was, on the 1st of July, 1844, brevetted second lieutenant in the Sixth Infantry. The company to which he was assigned was then stationed at Fort Towson, in the Indian country, near the Red River and the Texan border. The region abounded in the noblest of game, and the officers of the army posts were quite as much occupied in the pursuit of it as in regimental work. Hancock was a keen sportsman, and the exhilarating life of the two years spent here were admirably suited to bring out the spirit of the man and fill up his frame. On the 18th of June, 1846, he received his commission as second lieutenant, and was assigned to a company of the Sixth, then stationed on the borders of Mexico, where war was impending. But his progress to the front was destined to be long delayed. First the commanding officer at Fort Washita, deeming his services necessary at his post, refused to allow him to join his company. Then he was sent to Fort Scott, on the Missouri frontier, and afterward to Cincinnati, to assist in mustering in volunteers. It was not until Taylor's army had overrun northern Mexico, fighting the battles of Palo Alto, Resaca de la Palma, Monterey, and Buena Vista, and Scott with his column had captured Vera Cruz and had fought the battle of Cerro Gordo on his victorious march up the valley of Mexico, that the young lieutenant was, in consequence of his urgent petition, permitted to go into the field. Landing at Vera Cruz, he was assigned to duty with a command composed of fourteen companies of infantry, from various regiments, under Colonel Milledge L. Bonham, forming a part of the command of General (afterward President) Pierce, which was to be thrown forward to re-enforce Scott. The march of this column was accomplished without formidable resistance, though not without much annoyance from parties of guerrillas, which beset the road and seized every opportunity to harass the troops and cut off stragglers, couriers, and convoys. Hancock came frequently under fire; and at the National Bridge, August 12th, he commanded a company which took part in dislodging a considerable body of the enemy who had fortified the heights and inflicted no small loss upon our troops. On arriving at Puebla, Hancock joined his own regiment. The army of invasion, thus re-enforced, resumed its forward movement, nearly eleven thousand strong. The enterprise, fortitude, and composure with which that perilous march to the Mexican capital was conducted by the lionlike chieftain against vast odds can never be too highly applauded; but this narrative does not call for any account of the strategy of the campaign, or any description of Scott's splendid victories. Regarding the young officer, youngest of the lieutenants of his regiment, whose presence furnishes the only reason for here referring at all to these operations, it is enough to say that he bore himself with promptitude, energy, and courage. The captain of his company having been wounded at Churubusco, Hancock was left in command. In the column of assault at Molino del Rey, on the 8th of September, he found himself by the side of Longstreet, Pickett, Armistead, and Edward Johnson, all of whom he was to meet as enemies on other fields. It was Edward Johnson whom, with his division, he captured in the Salient, at Spottsylvania, on the 12th of May, 1864. Armistead fell within Hancock's line on the 3d of July at Gettysburg. Pickett will ever be famous as the leader of the division which was directed upon “The