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The Howard - Hancock Command Controversy at Gettysburg Day #1: Survery for Research Paper

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by Michael W., Apr 19, 2017.

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Who had final command authority at Gettysburg Day #1: Howard or Hancock?

Poll closed May 10, 2017.
  1. Oliver O. Howard

    7.9%
  2. Winfield S. Hancock

    92.1%
  1. Michael W.

    Michael W. Sergeant

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    Hey folks, I'm doing a survey among the forum members asking your opinion about who had final command authority in the late afternoon hours at Gettysburg on 1 July. This is for a research paper I'm just starting on. To do a brief summary for those who are not familiar with the incident that occurred: On the first day of fighting, after Major-General Reynolds was killed, overall command authority fell to Major-General Oliver O. Howard, commanding the 11th Corps. He would remain in command throughout the day, until the arrival of Major-General Winfield S. Hancock, who arrived on the field somewhere between 4 and 4:30 pm. Hancock had written orders in hand by the commanding general, George Meade, to take command of all forces on the field until the eventual arrival of Major-General Henry Slocum, commanding the 12th Corps.
    The problem with this order was that Howard outranked Hancock, and military protocol was that the highest ranking officer on the field had final authority. Hancock knew this, and foreseeing trouble, said as much to Meade. General Meade was not concerned by this, and gave Hancock his full support. It did become an issue, though only a minor one, but years after the war Hancock and Howard would each argue that they were in overall command from the late afternoon hours until 7 pm, when Slocum finally arrived. This situation created a direct command conflict, military protocol, which was on Howard's side, verses Hancock, who was directly ordered to take command. So what do you think, who was right? I would appreciate if @Eric Wittenberg would weigh in on this one...
     

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  3. Billy Yank

    Billy Yank First Sergeant

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    If Hancock had "written" orders from Meade, there would have been little argument - just a sullen Howard. As I understand things hwvr., Hancock's orders from Meade were verbal.
     
  4. Andy Cardinal

    Andy Cardinal Sergeant

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    I believe Howard understood very well that Meade had placed Hancock in charge. Howard was (to use his own word) mortified and I think did his best after the fact to downplay the truth. "There's no time to argue now, I'll take the left of the road and you take the right," sounds like a guy who knows he's not in command but wants to keep up appearances. Howard was able to rehabilitate his image in part due to the congressional vote of thanks he received and his performance after he was sent west.
     
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  5. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    I tend to agree with @Andy Cardinal. Hancock was clearly in command on the field, personally overseeing the establishment of the defenses as well as personally (and loudly) ordering Wadsworth to Culp's Hill over Doubleday's exceptions (interestingly, Doubleday, Howard, and Hancock were all promoted to major general from the same date). Howard tried to spin it to salve his pride a bit but Hancock was the one giving orders, even to Howard's Eleventh Corps troops.

    Ryan
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2017
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  6. Eric Wittenberg

    Eric Wittenberg 2nd Lieutenant

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    I concur with Ryan and Andy.
     
  7. Michael W.

    Michael W. Sergeant

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    Actually they were both. Hancock did receive a written copy, and offered to pull it out of his pocket to show Howard, who did not care to see it. Those orders made it into the OR.
     
  8. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    IIRC, Hancock specifically asked for written authorization in order to avoid a p*ssing match with Howard over seniority. But I'd have to check to be certain about that point.

    Ryan
     
  9. infomanpa

    infomanpa Sergeant

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    It's interesting that equestrian statues of both Howard and Hancock were erected close to each other on Cemetery Hill facing in 2 different directions. Symbolism?
     
  10. reading48

    reading48 Captain

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    Hancock had the battlefield....Howard had ruffled feathers.
     
  11. kel1985

    kel1985 2nd Lieutenant

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    Howard had seniority, but Hancock had command (per Meade).
     
  12. Michael W.

    Michael W. Sergeant

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    You are correct, they were all promoted on the same date. So those crazy military rules stated that if two officers held the same rank, and if they were promoted on the same date, than the one who was promoted first at their former rank, had seniority. In this case, that would be Howard.
     
  13. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    By 3 weeks.

    Ryan
     
  14. ivanj05

    ivanj05 First Sergeant

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    I might be remembering incorrectly, but didn't Meade have written orders from Halleck allowing him to essentially ignore issues of seniority during the campaign?
     
  15. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Information bearing on the time of their initial encounter:

    E. C. Culp of the 25th Ohio was serving as an aide to Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow on July 1. He departed to find Howard and request artillery support just as Gordon's brigade was nearing Rock Creek. Culp wrote (in the National Tribune, March 19, 1885):

    "I found Gen. Howard on Cemetery Hill; and now, after nearly 22 years, I linger with pride upon that interview, which in two or three minutes taught me what a cool and confident man could do. No hurry, no confusion in his mind. ... While I was receiving instructions from Gen. Howard, Gen. Hancock rode up to the former - the first meeting they had that day. As near as I can remember it was a little after 4 o'clock, and I am confident that I am only a few minutes, if any, out of the way."

    (I figure Gordon reached Rock Creek at about 3:10 p.m. Culp would have had to cover about 11,200 feet to reach Howard, which would take 37 minutes for a horse to walk, 19 minutes to trot, or nearly 12 minutes to gallop. Howard was probably not hard to find; if we say 4 extra minutes, Culp might have been by Howard's side by 3:35. Thus Hancock may have rode up to Howard by 3:40 p.m.)
     
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  16. KansasFreestater

    KansasFreestater 1st Lieutenant

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    Michael W., I'm glad you posed this question and launched the discussion. I learned something today!
     
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  17. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    (From the Meade Papers, Collection 410, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia)
    July 1 1:10 p.m.
    Com. Off. 2nd Corps. The Major General commanding has just been informed that General Reynolds has been killed or badly wd. He directs you turn over your command to Gen. Gibbon, that you proceed to the front & by virtue of this order ... you assume command of the corps there assembled, viz 11th, 1st & 3d at Emmitsburg.
     
  18. Andy Cardinal

    Andy Cardinal Sergeant

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    But Howard had also been a corps commander for a lot longer. Howard promoted to command 11th corps in January or February, Hancock not promoted to command 2nd corps until June.
     
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  19. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

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    Howard took command of the Eleventh Corps in April to replace Franz Sigel who was relieved of command in February, IIRC.

    Ryan
     
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  20. Andy Cardinal

    Andy Cardinal Sergeant

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    I didn't realize it was that late.
     
  21. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave 1st Lieutenant

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    Thats why meade gave hancock written orders. Howard can quit his post as commander as he has been properly relieved.
    There is story that at some point hancock stood in his stirrups, held the paper out and roared "General! I command on this field!" lol!
     

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