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armies that menaced it were commanded by men who had been trained in the country's service, many of them Hancock's fellow-students in the Academy, or his comrades in Mexico, Florida, and Kansas. What would come of it 2 What could come of it but destruction to the republic 2 Whatever should come of it, there was no question in Hancock's mind as to what his part and his place would be. For him there was not a moment of hesitation or indifference as to the coming struggle. To the very center of his being he was loyal to the Constitution and the laws; and he never valued his commission in the army so highly as when it gave him a right to be in the front rank of their defenders. He knew too many who, like his friend Armistead, had reluctantly and painfully broken the main ties of their lives in taking the other side, to indulge in puerile talk about “traitors and sour apple trees.” He knew too much of the Southern temper to make light of the task before the nation, or to predict a holiday parade for the Union armies; but with all his soul he stood by the Government, and never did his faith in the ultimate triumph of that cause waver, even amid disappointment, defeat, disaster, and disgrace. Indeed, I am disposed to think that in few things does popular opinion regarding the war commit a greater injustice than in disparaging the devotion of the officers of the regular army and in attributing a superior patriotism to the volunteer. The reasons for such a notion are not far to seek. The public mind was rightfully impressed by the splendid gallantry with which the generous youth of 1861, through their own free act and choice, cut themselves off from home and friends and rallied around the flag of the Union. On the other hand, the officers of the regular army were not less naturally looked upon as accepting their posts of danger almost as a matter of business, the course of their education and their professional interests practically leaving them no choice but to fight on the one side or the other. I believe, however, that public spirit was exceptionally strong among the officers of the regular army. They alone, of all the citizens of the United States, had been educated and bred under circumstances which made their country a constant object of regard, and which magnified and exalted every consideration relating to its honor and dignity. Those of us who remember the days before the war recall how common was the complaint that patriotism was dead; that the long reign of peace had fostered, at the best, civic virtues only ; and that professional ambition and the greed of gain had dwarfed nobler and less selfish sentiments. There was in those days no instruction given regarding public affairs in the common schools, and even in most of our colleges there was no teaching of American history. The ordinary citizen of Massachusetts, of Pennsylvania, of Michigan, encountered the Government of the United States literally at the door of the post office only. Even the Fourth of July had degenerated into a mere barbaric festival of noise and boyish folly.
But the young cadet at West Point was instructed in his duties to his native land. Every morning he saw the flag of the United States run up the staff amid the discharge of artillery, and at nightfall he heard it saluted as it fell. Under that flag he performed his mimic evolutions day by day, and all his life was lived in the name of his country. His instructors were officers of the United States, many of them men who had shed their blood in the cause. How idle, then, to assume that the graduate of West Point was less imbued and instinct with patriotic sentiment than the graduate of Harvard or of Yale ! And when the boy put on the dress of manhood it was the uniform of his country which he assumed. He was all his life an officer of the United States. Duty to the country became the very subject-matter of his professional career, the source, at once, and the aim, the beginning and the end, of his official life. Still, every morning the flag was saluted as it rose. Scarcely during the day did he pass out of the sight of that gay and glorious emblem of the nation's unity.
THE nation's necessity was, though in no mean sense, Hancock's opportunity. He was now to show what he went to West Point for; why he called himself a soldier; what his long years of service had qualified him to do for his country in the supreme crisis of its existence. Looking back upon the period which had elapsed since the close of the war with Mexico, any one who knew Hancock personally, and who is familiar with his career during the rebellion, must think that the service in which he had been engaged was precisely that best suited to develop the man to his highest capabilities of usefulness in the struggle which was before the nation. Absolutely destitute of asceticism, full of hearty fellowship, fond of ease and given to good cheer, his stirring ambition, his intense interest in his profession and his high standard of duty rendered those fourteen years one long term of military education. I doubt if there was an officer in the United States army who during that period—while political, social, and industrial forces were preparing the war of secession—learned so much that was to become of use when that great occasion came. Hancock was not a man of lofty intellectuality. He had courage —fiery, enthusiastic courage; positive, active, unfaltering loyalty to country and comrade; he had industry beyond measure; the ambition that stirs to do great deeds, and be worthy of high promotion ; above all, an unrest while anything remained to be done; a dissatisfaction with what was incomplete; a repugnance at all that was slovenly, clumsy, coarse, or half made up. I am disposed to believe that this period of Hancock's life was passed to even better advantage than if it had comprised active operations on the large scale against a powerful enemy. The time was to come—all too soon—when lives were to be thrown away by thousands and money by millions; when orders of infinite consequence were to be given as the result of one glance over a field as restless as the ocean after a storm ; when the conjectures of an officer on the picket line were to determine the movements of twenty thousand men on the morrow. Meanwhile the future commander of the Second Army Corps, of the left wing at Gettysburg and in the Wilderness, was being trained for his high duties by conducting the orders and correspondence of a military department, fitting out expeditions of a company or a squadron, supplying outlying posts, or conducting the business of a quartermaster's depot on the plains or on the Pacific coast. To a man who