Tag Archives: winfield scott hancock

Local Notables: Civil War Generals of PHL

It’s been kind of slow over here in Domer/in/DC-land, at least in regards to history-related things. In non-history related things, I’ve learned what the turbo in my car’s engine is, that is, how it’s not good when it leaks oil …

But despite that, I was able to make it to a local historical society’s Monthly Meeting of History Things. This month’s topic was on local Civil War Generals. There are several dozen Civil War Generals buried in a single cemetery outside of Philadelphia, Laurel Hill Cemetery, and there are probably a dozen buried elsewhere in the area. This particular talk covered four specific generals, but there are many, many more to research.

From the event description:

During the Civil War, Philadelphia raised over 50 infantry and cavalry regiments, and its manufacturers made uniforms, weapons and warships for the war effort. The city also hosted the two largest military hospitals in the country to care for the sick and wounded. And Philadelphia sent at least twelve generals off to fight for the Union (and one who chose to fight for the Confederacy!) The most famous of these generals, George Gordon Meade, was given command of the Army of the Potomac on Sunday, June 28, 1863, and three days later led his army to victory in the largest, and most decisive, battle of the war – Gettysburg. Fellow Philadelphia generals Winfield Scott Hancock and John Gibbon turned back Pickett’s Charge during that battle. The other Philadelphia generals served with varying degrees of success. 

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Books!: Hancock the Superb

Without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite historical figures is General Winfield Scott Hancock, commander of the 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Why? I’m not sure. It probably has something to do with his confidence and stunning competence. His dashing good looks are only a bonus.


A Sunday afternoon well spent.

In fact, long ago he edged out Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain because he (Hancock) doesn’t seem to have this weird, idealistic, Victorian misogyny. It was either by the end of high school or the end of freshman year of college where I knew Hancock was my guy. During my freshman year of college, I took a brave stab at being an engineering major, but it turns out I was incredibly not good at physics, calculus, chemistry, programming, and engineering. To comfort myself, I spent a lot of time on the 10th floor of the Hesburgh Library, reading through the Civil War section (which should have told me immediately that engineering was not my calling…) and my favorite find of this time was Hancock the Superb.

Just about every time I went back to campus, I would visit the book – up to the 10th floor, around to the right, third shelf up from the bottom on the 4th stack back. It would usually be a drive-by: I would locate the book, take it out, pet it a couple of times, and put it back.

Anyway, I came across this book in my local public library and decided to read it again to see if all the nostalgia was warranted. Verdict: It was.

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Gods and Generals

… or four and a half hours of my life I won’t get back.

The impetus for watching this film was actually inspired by St. Patrick’s Day. There’s a scene during the Battle of Fredericksburg where the Irish Brigade of fame, led by Gen. Thomas Meagher, attacks Marye’s Heights and meet the 24th Georgia Volunteer Infantry, or Georgia’s Irish Brigade. In the film, the Georgians are shocked and appalled both that their fellow Irishmen are fighting for the Union and that they are actively shooting their fellow Irishmen. When the Federals retreat, the Georgians send up a cry to honor their dead and retreating brethren. What a way to celebrate a day most everyone else takes as an excuse to drink excessively. The Irish love their misery, I guess, and my father, being 3rd generation Irish, made sure us kids knew the ways of his people.

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Southern Irish: Fighting against a tyrannical government, which only makes sense from the States Rights Cause perspective. Because the British had been ruling Ireland for centuries, was extremely discriminatory against them, and had just allowed millions to die during the Great Famine, a tragedy which the Crown could have prevented.

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Northern Irish: fighting against slavery and for a unified state, as generally the Irish were the lowest of the second-class citizenry in the UK, hardly better off than slaves. Also for the Union, and very American ideals that what status you’re born at doesn’t mean you’ll die there, that you can bootstrap yourself up the societal chain.

I’m one of those people who can’t just cherrypick a clip of a film. I have to watch the whole thing. And I did. I did not actively take notes, so what follows will be general impressions of this rewatch. Also, please note that I saw the movie when it came out in 2003, and this might be the first time I’ve seen it since. On principle, I generally don’t watch it. (The soundtrack, on the other hand, is amazing.)

And so without further ado, Gods and Generals:

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