Say What Saturday: Winfield Scott Hancock quote

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luinrina

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Hancock_23-11-19.jpg

November 7, 1862: Catharinus P. Buckingham, adjutant to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, arrives at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac – with the order that relieves Major General George B. McClellan of command. His replacement: Major General Ambrose Burnside.

This decision caused quite an uproar within the army. The rank and file loved McClellan; he was their man. Veteran regiments threatened to throw down their arms, some actually did. It would not have taken much for mutiny to break out.

The impression I got from early on is that many higher ranked officers – in both armies – were more concerned with their personal agendas instead of the bigger goal of winning the war. Rather than working together toward victory they were squabbling with each other. And in the Army of the Potomac a favorite topic seemed to have been who would be a good commander.

The more surprised and impressed I was when reading up on Winfield Scott Hancock and finding that he kept out of these squabbles. He had every reason for being grateful to McClellan – he owed him his rank and quick promotions after all – but he didn’t argue like so many others when the administration removed McClellan and put Burnside in command. Quite the opposite; as he wrote his wife, “The Army are not satisfied with the change, and consider the treatment of McClellan most ungracious and inopportune. Yet I do not sympathize with the movement going on to resist the order. ‘It is useless,’ I tell the gentlemen around me. ‘We are serving no one man; we are serving our country.’

I find that quote quite poignant, especially considering the point in the Civil War it was written. With the nation hanging in the balance, the work to save it is too important for petty rivalries. The Army of the Potomac was not really able to work together as a unit until Meade; there were always those plotting against the commanding general when the highest priority should have been defeating Lee and the Army of the Northern Virginia. Thankfully, some Union soldiers – like Hancock – kept the big picture in mind so that the “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Sources:
- Hancock The Superb by Glenn Tucker
- Reminiscences of Winfield Scott Hancock by Almira Hancock
- Lincoln's Lieutenants: The High Command of the Army of the Potomac by Stephen W. Sears
 

Cavalier

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Another one of the many reasons he was, in my humble opinion, the best corps commander in either army.

Backbiting, bickering, petty jealousies, and personal agendas seem to be common in the higher ranks all of the armies of the civil war. Maybe it's just a human nature thing. Thankfully some of them seem to have been able to rise above that and realize where their duty lie, (sic?).

Thanks for posting that.

John
 

DBF

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How appropriate that the soldier named after another great and honorable soldier would put country first. In the book “Winfield Scott Hancock - A Soldier’s Life” by David M. Jordan he writes; General Sherman describes him “one of the greatest soldiers in history”, a colonel of a Maine regiment noted that “his presence always inspired the troops with enthusiasm” and Hugh McCulloch, Secretary of the Treasury under President Lincoln said of General Hancock “In uprightness, in a keen sense of honor, in kindness of heart, in generosity, in genuine manliness, he had no superior in the army”.

He was a soldier til the end.
 
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rpkennedy

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Hancock does seem to have stayed above a lot of the politicking in the AotP although he was cognizant of it and knew how it could affect him. He did note to his wife that he would never be considered for army command because of his political leanings.

Ryan
 

Northern Light

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Hancock does seem to have stayed above a lot of the politicking in the AotP although he was cognizant of it and knew how it could affect him. He did note to his wife that he would never be considered for army command because of his political leanings.

Ryan
Perhaps but look who was the commander of the army at Gettysburg. Meade was a Democrat, but he, too, kept his mouth shut and his mind on his duty.
 
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