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was but an open secret to the army and the men of the time, that the successful leader owed all to some devoted staff officer or officers, some exceptionally gifted yet unaspiring lieutenant or lieutenants who braced him around, supplied his deficiencies of thought or temper, inspired him with fresh determination when he faltered, suggested the one possible path out of seeming destruction, or pointed to the cardinal manoeuvre of the impending conflict which should turn the scale of battle. In a word, whether for justice or for injustice, the popular mind is almost certain, as a war recedes into distance, to pass through the change indicated.
But while the tendency exists and operates continuously to bestow upon the one successful leader of a great war the entire praise for all that was done by his soldiery and his subordinate commanders, there is, in a single respect, a tendency which works in the opposite direction. One would not wish to say that even this exception always supplies a correction of the verdict of posterity where that verdict is most erroneous, for it must be confessed that the exception itself may be lightly made —is, in fact, often the result of mere popular favor, or is due to adventitious circumstances, sometimes to considerations little worthy of respect.
The exception to which I refer is that by which, in regard to most wars which attract considerable attention, some one general of division or commander of an army corps is selected for a popular hero, largely by virtue of peculiarly taking qualities, of conspicuous dash and martial spirit, of a figure romantic or heroic in a degree which captivates the public fancy. Thus, while the world attributes more and more to Napoleon the credit of all that was done in those great wars against half Europe, and the stars of Moreau and Kleber, Massena and Lannes, sink ever nearer and nearer the horizon, the fame of Michel Ney receives only added luster with time. Thus, while many an American to-day fails to recognize the name of Nathanael Greene, the picturesque figures of Israel Putnam and Anthony Wayne are scarcely less conspicuous than they were in the first years after the Revolution. The highly and severely intellectual character of the great commander's office rather repels than attracts the admiration of many minds. The truly popular" hero should be one somewhat below the highest, to whom men can draw closer than they can to the chief, who through the long vigils of the night plans in his tent the action of the coming day, revolving all the chances of an adverse fortune, receiving by booted and spurred messengers the last word from the skirmish line, and issuing orders with the punctilio of a secretary of state. Men love, the rather, to think of the daring leader of corps or division who, in executing those orders, forms in the darkness the dense column of assault, or dashes along the very front of raging battle, the inspiration of every soldier, the incarnate genius of war.
These remarks are appropriate to the place of the subject of this memoir among the illustrious soldiers who have been taken for the purposes of the present series. Of them all, Hancock was the only one who never had a separate command. All the others, perhaps through most of the campaigns to which they owe their fame, exercised the full authority, bore the whole responsibility, of men intrusted with the destiny of armies. It was, therefore, to the justness of their military conceptions, and to the skill and care and pains with which their plans were worked out, that their reputation was mainly due, though something must be allowed for personal bearing and influence, something also for fortune. Hancock, on the other hand, though he often conducted expeditions of a corps or of two corps, out from one or the other flank of the Potomac army, always did his work in execution of orders as precise as the situation allowed, never far beyond the reach of messengers from general headquarters, often under the very eye of the commander in chief. In the actions which contributed most largely to his fame he commanded a corps, or a wing of a line of battle, under the immediate authority and direction of a superior officer. It is, therefore, to the love soldiers bear toward a daring and brilliant subordinate, and to the delight the popular mind feels in contemplating the heroic and romantic qualities in war, that Hancock owes the fame which has given him a place in the present series. That—if any one not the commander of a separate army is to be taken for such a purpose— Hancock is entitled to the honor, few will deny. His rightful pre-eminence among all the corps commanders of the Union army in the great war of secession can not be better stated than in the words of General Grant:
"Hancock stands the most conspicuous figure of all the general officers who did not exercise a separate command. He commanded a corps longer than any other one, and his name was never mentioned as having committed in battle a blunder for which he was responsible. He was a man of very conspicuous personal appearance. Tall, well formed, and, at the time of which I now write, young and freshlooking, he presented an appearance which would have attracted the attention of an army as he passed. His genial disposition made him friends, and his personal courage and his presence with his command in the thickest of the fight won for him the confidence of troops serving under him."—Grant's Personal Memoirs, vol. it, page jjp.
BIRTH AND EDUCATION.
Winfield Scott Hancock was one of twin brothers, born February 14, 1824, to Benjamin Franklin and Elizabeth Hancock, then resident in the village known as Montgomery Square, in Montgomery County, Pa. The name of the county is popularly reputed to have been given in honor of the patriot general who fell in the assault on Quebec in 1775. In some notes now lying under my hand, however, General Hancock suggests that the name may have been derived from Montgomeryshire in Wales, many of the early settlers of the Pennsylvania shire having been of Welsh origin, as other wellknown names besides that of Merion testify.
Benjamin Franklin Hancock had been born in Philadelphia in 1800; his father, Richard, an Englishman; his mother, Ann Maria Nash, a Scotch woman. His wife, Elizabeth Hoxworth, a native of Montgomery County, was of English and Welsh ancestry. The name was originally Hawkesworth. Members of that family had served in the French and Indian wars, in the Revolutionary army, and in