Portrait of Winfield Scott Hancock

Besides being a highly successful Union commander during the American Civil War, Winfield Scott Hancock was the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate in 1880. [Wikimedia Commons]

Winfield Scott Hancock - Facts

February 14, 1824 - February 9, 1886

Key facts about General Winfield Scott Hancock, one of the more successful Union commanders during the American Civil War who was also was the Democratic Party's candidate for U. S. President in 1880.

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Full Name:

  • Winfield Scott Hancock

Birth Date:

  • February 14, 1824

Birth Location:

  • Montgomery Square, Pennsylvania

Parents:

  • Franklin and Elizabeth (Hoxworth) Hancock

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1840)

Occupation:

  • Military officer

Career Summary:

  • Major General (USVA)
  • Major General (USA)

Spouse:

  • Almira (“Allie”) Russell (1850)

Nickname(s):

  • Superb

Place of Death:

  • Governors Island, New York

Date of Death:

  • February 9, 1886

Place of Burial:

  • Montgomery Cemetery, West Norton Township, Pennsylvania

Significance:

  • Hancock had an identical twin brother named Hilary Baker Hancock.
  • Hancock’s parents were Benjamin Franklin Hancock and Elizabeth Hoxworth Hancock.
  • Hancock was named after General Winfield Scott.
  • Hancock’s early education was at the Norristown Academy in Norristown, Pennsylvania and in the Norristown public schools.
  • Hancock entered the United States Military Academy in 1840.
  • Hancock graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1844, 18th in his class of 25.
  • After graduating from West Point, Hancock was commissioned as a second lieutenant and stationed in Indian Territory.
  • During the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848), Hancock served in the army led by his namesake, General Winfield Scott.
  • Hancock was wounded in the knee at the Battle of Churubusco on August 20, 1847.
  • Hancock was brevetted to first lieutenant for his gallant and meritorious service during the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848).
  • After the Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848), Hancock remained in the army, serving at Fort Snelling, Minnesota and at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri.
  • While serving in St. Louis, Hancock met Almira (“Allie”) Russell and they married on January 24, 1850.
  • On November 5, 1855, Hancock was promoted to captain and reassigned to Ft. Myers, Florida.
  • In 1856, Hancock was assigned to duty in the United States quartermaster general’s department, for the Western district, in Utah Territory, and accompanied General Harney on his expedition to Kansas, and the regions beyond.
  • In November 1858, Hancock was reassigned to California, where he served until the outbreak of the American Civil War.
  • When the American Civil War began, Hancock was promoted to brigadier general and placed in command of an infantry brigade in the Army of the Potomac on September 23, 1861.
  • Hancock earned his “Superb” nickname in the Peninsula Campaign, in 1862, by leading a critical counterattack in the Battle of Williamsburg. General George B. McClellan telegraphed to Washington that “Hancock was superb today” and the name stuck.
  • Hancock assumed command of a division following the mortal wounding of Maj. Gen. Israel B. Richardson during the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862).
  • Hancock was promoted to major general of volunteers on November 29, 1862.
  • Hancock was wounded in the abdomen after the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11 – 15, 1862) and he was wounded again during the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30 – May 6, 1863).
  • Hancock’s most famous service was as a corps commander at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – July 3, 1863), where he made the command decision to defend Cemetery Ridge, bearing the brunt of Major General George Pickett’s unsuccessful charge on July 3rd.
  • Hancock was seriously wounded in the thigh during the Battle of Gettysburg.
  • On January 28, 1864 , Hancock was voted the Thanks of Congress for his service at Gettysburg.
  • Following the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – July 3, 1863), Hancock continued to serve as a field commander during the Wilderness Campaign (May – June 1864), despite the lingering effects of his wound at Gettysburg.
  • Hancock’s only significant military defeat occurred when his troops were routed at the Second Battle of Ream’s Station (August 24, 1864) during the Siege of Petersburg.
  • Due to lingering effects of his Gettysburg wound, Hancock resigned his field command in November 1864.
  • Continuing to serve in the army, Hancock was promoted to brevet major general in the regular army for his service at Spotsylvania, effective March 13, 1865.
  • After the end of the Civil War, Hancock was assigned to command of the Middle Military Department, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • While commanding the Middle Military Department, Hancock supervised the execution of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination conspirators (July 7, 1865).
  • In 1866, Hancock was promoted to major general and was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to command of the Military Department of the Missouri.
  • In 1867, Hancock was reassigned to New Orleans in charge of the Fifth Military District during Reconstruction.
  • While serving in New Orleans, Hancock issued General Order Number 40, which alarmed blacks and Republicans in the South who feared a return to the antebellum ways of conservative white dominance.
  • Because of Hancock’s popularity among Southern Democrats, he was considered as a presidential candidate in 1868.
  • Hancock’s lenient Reconstruction practices and his rising popularity in the Democratic Party led Republicans in Washington to have him transferred to the Dakota Territory in 1869.
  • In 1872, following the death of General George Meade, Hancock assumed command of the Department of the Atlantic, headquartered at Governors Island, New York.
  • In 1880, the Democratic Party nominated Hancock to run against Republican James A. Garfield in the presidential election. Garfield defeated Hancock by fewer than 10,000 votes, the closest popular vote in presidential electoral history.
  • After his defeat in the presidential election of 1880, Hancock continued to serve as commander of the Atlantic Division until his death in 1886.
  • In 1881, Hancock was elected president of the National Rifle Association.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Winfield Scott Hancock - Facts
  • Coverage February 14, 1824 - February 9, 1886
  • Author
  • Keywords winfield scott hancock
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 28, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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