W. S. Hancock married in 1850 and the and his wife Almira had two children; neither of which survived him. He was serving in command posts in California when the Civil War broke out in 1861. He was placed in command of an infantry brigade in the Army of the Potomac. He earned the nickname “Hancock the Superb” for his leadership in the Peninsula Campaign in May 1862.
|General Hancock (seated) in the field during the Civil War|
|Your blogger at Bloody Lane in Antietam April 2011|
Hancock’s command excellence tended to place him in the center of battle. At the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862 his division was the main assault force on Marye’s Heights, suffering disastrous casualties in that ill-conceived attack. Hancock himself was shot in the abdomen. Nevertheless Hancock’s leadership and bravery during this battle led to his receiving a corps command. He was wounded yet again at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Winfield Scott Hancock had one of the most distinguished post-war careers of any Civil War commander; serving over several different departments of the Army over the next 15 years. His distinguished war record and impeccable personal integrity made him a popular national figure, which led to his receiving the Democratic Party nomination for President in the election of 1880. He lost to James Garfield, also a Union general in the Civil War. Garfield's presidency was cut short by assassination just 200 days after he was inaugurated.
|Campaign Poster for Hancock's |
1880 presidential run
|Hancock as a chicken in a political |
cartoon during the 1880 campaign
Hancock’s final station was based in Governors Island, NY as head of the Army Department of the Middle Atlantic (East Coast). His last public duty was the oversight of Ulysees Grant's funeral in New York in August 1885. He died in New York in February 1886 of a skin infection at the age of 62. General Grant’s posthumous Memoirs published around the time of Hancock’s own death provide a wonderful memorial to “Hancock the Superb”.
Winfield Scott Hancock is buried in Riverside Cemetery just outside of Norristown PA. It’s an interesting cemetery, located at the end of a residential street in a blue collar neighborhood overlooking the Schuylkill River. Several other signficant figures from the Civil War are buried there as well. Hancock’s mausoleum is right next to the back yards of a group of brick row homes and has been protected from vandalism by a chain link fence. I visited there with two history buff pastor/friends of mine – Bauer Evans and Arie Mangrum.
|Your blogger at Hancock's grave in 2000|