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IN writing this life of General Hancock I have, with the kind permission of the Messrs. Charles Scribner's Sons, drawn freely, as occasion required, from my History of the Second Army Corps, published by that house in 1887. In the same spirit, I have introduced some paragraphs taken from my paper on General Hancock, read before the New York Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion in February, 1891, and from my address on General Sheridan, delivered before the City Government of Boston in December, 1888. I have also made use here, as in the History of the Second Corps, of the manuscript narrative of General Charles H. Morgan, long inspector general and chief of the corps staff.
I most painfully regret the indifference, if not aversion which for years after the war I felt toward all that related to the incidents of the great struggle. As in the case of most soldiers, I suppose, everything that brought back those days and nights of suffering and anxiety was unwelcome, and material which would now be of priceless value was neglected and scattered. When, in 1882, I took seriously up the task of writing the History of the Second Army Corps, many whose personal recollections would have enabled me not merely to speak with confidence of occurrences, dates, and order of events, but to give life and motion to the story, had died from the effects of hardships, privations, and wounds. Even during the four years devoted to that work scores of the most valued officers concerned with those great achievements, including three of the commanders of the corps, passed away, carrying with them knowledge never to be regained. And now, as I undertake to write this life of Hancock I have daily to grieve that it is beyond my power to ask this question and that question of Hancock himself, of Morgan, of Mitchell, of Wilson, of Parker, the briefest answer to which might serve to solve a difficulty or to cast a flood of light over what seems dark and inexplicable. It was probably in the nature of the case; but, oh, the pity! that the first years of peace were not taken to put down the personal experiences of hundreds of commanding and staff officers; to collate and compare the recollections of thousands of participants in the mighty truggle; and thus to give to those who shall come after us abundant material for a true and vivid history of the Civil War. F. A. W.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Portrait of Winfield Scott Hancock - . Frontispiece
Action of Boydton Road, October 27, 1864 . - • . 285