Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hancock the Harassed

Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock’s fighting Second Corps performed well during the 1864 Overland Campaign, adding luster to his already well-established reputation as “Hancock the Superb.” However, the intensity of the fighting, particularly in The Wilderness and at Spotsylvania, took a toll on his troops. The Twelfth New Jersey Infantry, tired and hungry after weeks of campaigning, let their feelings known in this incident related by Capt. George A. Bowen in his diary:

“On the 15th of June, 1864, after crossing to the South side of the James River, we were halted for the night. Did not move till near noon. We were waiting to have Ration issued to us as were entirely out. We finally marched without them. Marching South. While marching along a road, Gen. Hancock commanding Corps, passed us. As soon as the boys saw him they commenced to call at him, ‘Hard Tack, Pork, Coffee, Beef’ and kept it up as long as he was in sight. He enquired what Regt. it was. Ordered us to remain where [we] were till the rest of the troops had passed. Then we were deployed as skirmishers, advanced into the woods; we skirmished all the afternoon behind the rest of the Corps. Not an enemy within miles of us. This was done for punishment for halloing at him.”

Clearly, the general was less than pleased with the Jerseymen, and had his revenge. Hancock the Harassed!

Source: Bowen, George A., “The Diary of Captain George A. Bowen 12th Regiment New Jersey Volunteers,” The Valley Forge Journal (1985): 3.

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