Winfield Scott Hancock

Winfield Scott Hancock was a commanding general for the Union side at the Battle at Gettysburg. After General John Reynolds was killed early in the fighting on Gettysburg Day 1, General George Meade sent Hancock ahead to assume command of all Union forces.

Hancock was not the most senior officer at hand, yet Meade had more confidence in him than any other general. General Oliver O. Howard was the senior officer and he and Hancock argued briefly but Hancock assumed command and began organizing troops on Cemetery Hill just south of town.

General Hancock formed the Union lines as they arrived on the Gettysburg battlefield into the famous fishhook that acted as the primary defense over the 3-day battle.

Winfield Scott HancockWhen General Meade arrived on the battlefield at midnight, he asked Winfield Hancock about the position of the Union army and whether they should stand and fight the next day. Winfield Hancock assured George Meade that they did in fact hold the high ground, and were in an advantageous position in comparison to the Confederates.

On the second day at the Battle of Gettysburg, Hancock commanded II Corps on Cemetery Hill. As Confederate General James Longstreet launched attacks on the Union left and threatened to overrun their defenses, Hancock dispatched the 1st division under General John C. Caldwell to help reinforce at the Wheatfield.

As the Union forces repelled the Confederate attack on the left, General Hancock masterfully shifted troops to repel on the Union center as well. At one point, he was forced to sacrifice the 1st Minnesota in charging a position until reinforcements could arrive. The Minnesota regiment was greatly outnumbered and suffered close to 90% casualties but the Union lines held.

On Gettysburg day 3, Winfield Hancock commanded the position on Cemetery Ridge at the Union center. Forces under his leadership repelled the ill-fated Picketts Charge of over 12,000 Confederates. General Lewis A. Armistead, his good friend from before the war commanded a brigade under General George Pickett and he mas mortally wounded dying two days after the end of the Battle at Gettysburg.

General Hancock was also seriously wounded when a bullet struck the pommel of his saddle forcing bits of wood and a nail into his thigh. He pulled out the nail himself and was heard to say, “They must be hard up for ammunition when they throw shot such as that”. He refused to be removed form the field until the engagement was decided.

Winfield Scott Hancock was considered by many to have made the most impact by a general at the Battle of Gettysburg. His courage in the face of fire and leadership played a huge role in the success of the Union victory at Gettysburg.

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