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and prudence in a critical movement, with a body of troops altogether insufficient to the purpose for which it had been dispatched. In the action which resulted, he had displayed perfect command over his men, high tactical skill, and decisive energy—energy, that is, applied in exactly the right way and at exactly the right moment. He had defeated and routed a superior force of the enemy, led by two of their ablest captains. It was no fault of his that the absence of the commander in chief and the divided counsels at the Whittaker House prevented the destruction of the enemy. No wonder that McClellan telegraphed that night, "Hancock was superb." In his report on the operations of the day, General Smith wrote: "The brilliancy of the plan of battle, the coolness of its execution, the seizing of the proper instant for changing from the defensive to the offensive, the steadiness of the troops engaged, and the completeness of the victory, are subjects to which I earnestly call the attention of the commander in chief for his just praise."
With such a striking opening of his career upon the Peninsula, it might well have been expected that, in the succession of terrific battles which took place before McClellan was finally driven away to the James River, Hancock's brigade would have found many opportunities to distinguish itself, and to exalt the fame of its commander. But, by one of those curious fortunes which mark the course of war, it came about that this excellent body of troops passed through the entire campaign without once again becoming severely engaged with the enemy. It lay under arms within sound of the terrific conflict which raged for hours on the afternoon of the 31st of May and on the morning of the 1st of June, when the corps of Keyes, Heintzelman, and later of Sumner, were wrestling with nearly the whole force of Johnston's army. During the Seven Days' Battles— while other divisions and brigades were frightfully cut up in one action, only to be engaged the next day, and the next—Hancock's command was but once called to meet the enemy, and then in a minor affair. This was on the fatal 27th of June, when Porter's corps, re-enforced by Slocum's division, was bearing the brunt of the tremendous attack of Stonewall Jackson's divisions, then just arrived from the Valley. At a critical moment the enemy made an attempt to break through Hancock's advanced position at Garnett's Farm, close down by the Chickahominy, hoping thus to cut the communications between Porter and the remaining corps of McClellan, already under orders to retreat to the James. The attacking force was commanded by General Robert Toombs. Hancock's dispositions for defense—both with his infantry, re-enforced by two regiments from the Vermont brigade, and with artillery which had been sent to him for the purpose—were of the same masterly character as at Williamsburg; and, after a short contest, the enemy was driven from the field. During the night Porter's beaten divisions crossed the Chickahominy and took up the route for the James. Hancock was withdrawn to his former position at Golding's, intrusted with the duty of covering the retreat. Late in the day, as he was retiring under orders, another, but comparatively slight, attack was made by the adventurous enemy, which was easily thrown off, only one of Hancock's regiments being engaged.* On the 29th, Hancock's troops were in support of Sumner, at Savage Station, and on the 30th took their share of the tremendous shelling which was inflicted upon Smith's division at White Oak Swamp. Immediately after this they were sent forward to the James River, and were thus out of reach at the great battle of Malvern Hills, on the 1st of July.
But while, as related, Hancock's brigade had borne far less than its proportional share of the fighting on the Peninsula, the reputation of its commander had steadily advanced, as the result of his prompt execution of orders, the discipline his troops had exhibited in camp and upon the march, and his own fine bearing and intelligent action during the successive exigencies of the campaign. Franklin's corps was one of the last to arrive at Centreville for the re-enforcement of Pope's army, in August; so that again Hancock's command failed to be engaged with the enemy in actions which are now of the highest historical interest. Still again, in the Antietam campaign, Hancock's brigade was destined to be kept out of the fight in a truly remarkable degree. At Crampton's Pass, on the 14th of September, it only exchanged artillery fire with the enemy, and at Antietam, on the 17th, it supported a powerful battery of many guns on the right of the Union line, without entering further into the action. Franklin had, indeed, on coming up about noon, been desirous of throwing in his powerful corps at the Dunker Church, to retrieve the fortunes of the day.; but Sumner, who had been profoundly shocked by the losses of his own divisions, especially Sedgwick's, forbade the movement.
* In this attack Colonel L. Q. C. Lamar, afterward Secretary of the Interior and a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, fell a prisoner into Hancock's hands.
It has been said that Hancock's brigade was engaged at Antietam only in support of artillery. After Sumner's refusal to allow Franklin to deliver an attack at the Dunker Church—the scene of Sedgwick's terrible repulse—the Sixth Corps remained inactive during the afternoon of the 17th of September. For Hancock personally, however, much was yet in store. At noon of that momentous day —the bloodiest single day in the annals of the great war—tidings were brought to headquarters that the gallant Richardson, commanding the First Division of Sumner's Second Corps, had fallen in the battle around Piper's House. At once Hancock was sent for in haste, and from McClellan's own lips received the order to proceed with all dispatch to Richardson's line, and assume command of that division. Though scarcely another brigade commander had been so little engaged in action since the army took the field in April, there had not been a moment's hesitation in selecting the officer who should succeed to the vacant division when the news arrived of Richardson's mortal wound; nor on Hancock's part was there the slightest doubt or fear upon receiving that sudden and unexpected promotion on the field of battle. It is generally more or less of an experiment to advance even a capable and efficient brigadier to the charge of a division. The natural range of his powers may be found to have been exceeded. Even should he in time grow up to the position, it is most likely that the new command will be exercised at first with too much either of timidity or of rashness, with somewhat less than a full grasp of the situation, with comparative feebleness of authority and influence over the unfamiliar body. No such painful interval of self-distrust, or of real inadequacy to new and larger responsibilities, marked Hancock's successive promotions. The very day he was advanced from captain and quartermaster to brigadier-general, he was, in every sense, a general officer, confident of his powers, rejoicing in the exercise of his functions, and thoroughly master of