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high rank is certain to give a tone, not only to his own carriage and demeanor, but to the troops he may command, which the history of war shows to be a valuable corrective to certain tendencies toward deterioration from long-continued service in the field. Always stately and majestic yet never forbidding, except in some tremendous explosion of wrath; well dressed, well mounted; a soldier better deserving the appellation "The Superb" never led the march or rode along the line of battle.
Only one habit marred Hancock's otherwise invariable dignity and impressiveness under all circumstances—in his tent, among the camps, on review; on the march, whether in advance or retreat; in battle, whether in attack or defense. This was an extravagant indulgence, at times, in harsh and profane speech. A soldier is not likely to be altogether out of sympathy with the witty justice who defined swearing as "the unnecessary use of profane language." Whatever may be the occasions of civil life, no one who knows much of the tremendous exigencies of campaign and battle will judge very harshly of some extra vehemence of language on the part of a commander who feels that the lives of his men, and perhaps the destinies of his country, hang upon movements which he sees in danger of being defeated by the stupidity, the heedlessness, or the indolence of subordinates. Nor will the men of the late war, however scrupulous themselves in speech, assert that they held in higher respect any officer who never made use of profane language than they did many who sometimes indulged in it. Yet the traditions of the regular army of the United States upon this subject were distinctly bad. The camp-fire and mess-room tales regarding the extravagant profanity of a few generals had set a fashion among the officers coming into prominence at the outbreak of the Rebellion which caused a great amount, not merely of very unnecessary, but of very silly and weak swearing. With many it amounted to an affectation, and that among some of the most meritorious, honorable, and generally courteous commanders in the service. However this might make the unthinking laugh and spice the stories of the camp, it made the judicious grieve, for it unquestionably was carried so far at times as to impair the proper authority and influence of some excellent officers. I do not mean to intimate that Hancock was "a sinner above all the rest." But he was not free from the habit of the army in this respect, and indulged in much use of language that was less impressive than a grave rebuke would have been.
It remains to speak of but one more trait of Hancock's character before we proceed to tell of his actual entrance upon the War of the Rebellion. I refer to his abounding, unfailing hospitality. In her affectionate Reminiscences of General Hancock, his wife relates that while they were living at Fort Myers, though their family was small, their table was always stretched to its full capacity; and that the officers stationed at or visiting the post were accustomed to draw lots for the chairs which were placed for as many as could be seated. This story truly expresses the custom of Hancock's headquarters, whether in camp or in the field. The fare might be but bacon and hardtack; but, such as it was, every one was welcome to a share. Many hundreds of surviving officers of the war will remember the frank and genial invitation to a friendly glass with which an interview in his tent, perhaps not wholly pleasant in itself, almost invariably ended. Entertainment, indeed, was an instinct with him. I well remember his calling a young Confederate officer out of a small body of prisoners passing his tent, and saying to him with a courtesy that was inexpressibly winning, "Lieutenant, I am sorry to see you in trouble, pray take a glass of whisky and water with me." When, in August, 1864, I was a prisoner in the hands of the enemy, LieutenantGeneral Hill sent a staff officer to say that he had given orders to have me treated with all possible consideration, because Hancock had always been so kind to his (Hill's) soldiers, when prisoners.
A civilian might regard such a matter as of little importance from a military point of view, but every soldier will know better. It has been said th'at half the victories of diplomacy are won at the dinnertable; and likewise, while a first-rate soldier may be a curmudgeon, and while a commander may choose to rule entirely by mere force, that man who knows how to mingle diplomacy with authority, to smooth the asperities of service, and to conciliate universal regard, has a wholly additional source of power in handling large masses of men. Soldiers are punctilious, sensitive, and quick to take offense. Next to absolute justice, nothing goes further to anticipate and avoid causes of dispute and to keep troops united, harmonious, and enthusiastic, than courtesy, suavity, and hospitality at headquarters.
Such, in his character, bearing, and qualifications for service, was Hancock, when, at his own request, he was ordered East in the summer of 1861, that he might take an active part in the war which had broken out amid direful portents on the Atlantic slope. Upon his arrival in Washington, it was first intended that he should be assigned to duty as chief quartermaster on the staff of General Robert Anderson, of Fort Sumter fame, who had been appointed to the command of the Union troops in Kentucky. When one remembers that Philip Sheridan was sent away from the field to buy horses for the , army on the eve of the battle of Shiloh, he can be- 1 lieve that almost anything was possible to the men who were then selecting chiefs for the Union forces and assigning the officers of the regular army to their several stations. Fortunately such a blunder
was not committed in Hancock's case. His day for quartermaster service, valuable as that training had been to him, was past. So manifestly was he a commander in every lineament, in every motion, that it was seen to be absurd to keep such a soldier upon staff duty when an army of hundreds of thousands was to be officered; and, on the 23d of September, he was made a Brigadier-General of Volunteers, and assigned to the Army of the Potomac. In the organization of divisions, which took place during the winter, Hancock, to his great gratification, found himself commanding a brigade in the division of William F. Smith, universally known as Baldy Smith, who had been a student with him at the Academy, and with whom his relations had always been most intimate and cordial. General Smith, an officer of engineers, enjoyed a high reputation for intellectual ability, and not less for good fellowship and geniality. With such an agreeable association on the one side, and, on the other, with the difficult task before him of shaping and tempering four raw regiments * into a perfect instrument of war, which should not fail under the severest strain of military duty or break in the fiercest
* Fifth Wisconsin, Forty-ninth Pennsylvania, Forty-third New York, Sixth Maine. General Hancock's staff consisted at this time of his brother, Captain John Hancock, Assistant Adjutant-General, and Lieutenants W. G. Mitchell, Isaac B. Parker, and Charles S. McEntee, aids.