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hanna, formed to resist the threatening invasion of Pennsylvania.
By the retirement of General Couch the command of the corps devolved without question upon Hancock. It was with a stern joy at the fulfilment of his righteous ambition, with a glad confidence in his own powers, yet not the less with an earnest sense of the responsibility thus devolved upon him, that Hancock first drew his sword at the head of that body of troops which, in losing fifteen thousand men in battle, had never lost a color or a gun; whose fair fame, he was well resolved, should never suffer wrong at his hands. As when, at Antietam, he was promoted to the charge of a division, he was instantly recognized as one of the most distinguished officers of that grade, so upon his accession to the Second Corps the whole army instantly recognized his full and absolute competency for the position. We shall see in how few days thereafter he was to be called upon to exercise a much larger authority in one of the greatest crises of the war.
GETTYSBURG.—THE FIRST DAY.
Hancock's appointment to the command of the Second Corps came on the eve of great events. Although Hooker, with marvelous optimism, persisted in regarding Chancellorsville as virtually a victory for the Union arms, he was aware that the army, the Administration, and the country at large held a widely different opinion, and that something must be done, and done at once, if he were to rehabilitate himself in public confidence. But while he was searching the positions above and below Fredericksburg to find some opening, Lee determined to take an initiative which should cause the Union forces to loose their hold upon the Rappahannock, and should for a time transfer the contest to Northern soil. Many considerations urged him to this policy, the same which he had adopted after foiling McClellan's advance upon Richmond. Among these were the relief to be afforded to his own people from the terrible strain of a Union army constantly menacing Richmond; the discouragement which would be produced throughout the North by repeating the invasion of 1862; the prestige to be given the Confederate arms abroad; the supposed demoralization of the Potomac army by the defeats at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville; the further depletion of that army by the approaching expiry of the nine months' and the two years' (New York) enlistments; the opportunity of feeding his men for a while from the fertile fields of Maryland and Pennsylvania, together with some fair chances of at least considerable initial success, to be effected by his fast-marching, indefatigable infantry.
It does not fall within the scope of this narrative to describe the manoeuvres by which the Confederate chieftain, between the 3d and the 15th of June, contrived so to place his army that Hooker was compelled to abandon the line of the Rappahannock and fall back to cover Washington. It was on the 15th that the Second Corps, under its new commander, left the camps near Falmouth which it had occupied with one brief intermission since the November preceding, and took the route for Acquia Creek, covering the rear of the army. On this and on the succeeding day the intense heat and the thick dust made the march most oppressive and exhausting to troops so long in camp. It was under such conditions that Hancock's remarkable power of holding his men together told to the greatest effect. With our Northern soldiers nothing was of more importance to their efficiency than steadiness upon the road. The Confederates, indeed, seemed to combine the instincts which made great freedom on the march, even to the point of wholesale straggling, compatible with tenacity in fight; but of the Union army it may truly be said that troops which were allowed to dawdle and dribble on the road were preparing themselves to be beaten in fight. The movement that had been entered upon was to prove at times one of severe trial, often to the limit of human endurance; but all that could be done by good judgment, firm temper, and a staff always out on the road, was done to spare the troops as much as possible, while bringing them into camp in good order at night. On the 21st the corps moved to Thoroughfare Gap, passing directly over the great historical battlefield of Bull Run. On the 25th the corps moved from Thoroughfare Gap to the Potomac, re-enforced by a body of troops which was destined to take a conspicuous part in all the future labors and dangers of the Second Corps, from the approaching struggle on the slopes of Gettysburg to the final triumph of Appomattox. This was the brigade commanded by Hancock's classmate, General Alexander Hays, consisting of the Thirty-ninth, One Hundred and Eleventh, One Hundred and Twenty-fifth, and One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New York.*
* The corps had, during the month then passing, been reduced by the expiry of the term of enlistment of a two years' regiment, the Thirty-fourth, from the same State.
Just as our troops were leaving Thoroughfare Gap an incident occurred which was importantly to affect the personnel of the corps. General Joshua T. Owen having been placed in arrest by General Gibbon, Brigadier-General Alexander S. Webb, who had just received his volunteer appointment, after long and honorable artillery and staff service, reached the headquarters, seeking an assignment to duty at the front, and Hancock, knowing the man, seized the opportunity to place him at the head of the "Philadelphia Brigade," thus left without a commander. On the 26th the corps crossed Edwards' Ferry, near the scene of the unhappy battle of Ball's Bluff, in which several regiments of the Second Division had participated in October of 1861. On the 28th the corps reached Monocacy Junction, near Frederick City. Here the Army of the Potomac received the important intelligence that General Hooker had been relieved in the command by General George G. Meade, then at the head of the Fifth Corps. General Hooker, after protesting against the fatuous occupation of Harper's Ferry by a large force under French, in pursuance of the policy which had brought such disaster in September, 1862, had tendered his resignation. In justice it should be said, not only that Hooker was right in demanding the evacuation of Harper's Ferry, but that, from the moment Lee's invasion of Maryland was known, he had displayed at all points the