Winfield Scott Hancock

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The Union Army of the Potomac seemed to be plagued with a string of inept generals--but farther down the chain of command, some highly capable men rose through the ranks. And no one was more capable than Winfield Scott Hancock. A veteran of the Mexican War, Hancock proved himself in battle and eventually won command of a corps.


Hancock looked back over the neat lines, the steady marching, officers on horseback riding beside the lines of fresh troops, men who now felt like soldiers. He pulled his horse out of the line, sat alongside the moving men, thought, Let them see me, let them feel the pride. He sat tall in his saddle, gave them each a look, and the men responded with waves and some cheering. The company commanders, young captains and smooth-faced lieutenants, saluted him crisply as they rode by, made a show of tightening the lines of their small commands. Hancock thought, These men will not run. It's in their eyes, their step. General "Baldy" Smith had come through the camps throughout the winter, had given the customary speech, the rousing call to the flag, the great honor in duty, and the men were always enthusiastic, always responded....Hancock stood at the front, always listened with respect, and watched his men, knew that this was not what made them soldiers, that if the fight were not in them already, no great speech about loving the flag would change that.

©1996 Jeff Shaara

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