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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.