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Winfield Scott Hancock


Strong 1885 signature of “Hancock the Superb”

Winfield Scott Hancock, 1824–1886.  Major General, United States Army; 1880 Democratic presidential nominee.  Signature, Winfield S. Hancock, on a small slip of paper.

Hancock has signed this brown ink signature at the request of a collector who mounted it in an album.  The 1¼” x 3” piece is tipped to an album page.  Hancock’s name is written on the album page beneath the signature in pencil, and an ink note farther down on the page shows that the collector received the signature July 12, 1885.

Hancock has been described as a fashion plate general in dress and a demon in battle.  A veteran of the Mexican War, Hancock distinguished himself in the Peninsular Campaign, where he led a critical counterattack in the Battle of Williamsburg.  Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan informed Washington that Hancock “was superb today,” and the nickname “Hancock the Superb” was born. 

But Hancock became a hero of the Civil War primarily for his service at Gettysburg, where his initial decision not to withdraw the left wing of the Union forces in the face of the Confederate advance on July 1, 1863, drew the lines for what became the best known battle of the war.  Positioned in the center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge on July 2, Hancock sent his 1st Division to reinforce Union forces in the bloody Wheatfield on the left.  He also rushed units to critical spots as Confederate Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill attacked the Union center.  He essentially sacrificed the 1st Minnesota regiment, which suffered 87% casualties, by ordering it to attack an immensely larger Confederate brigade in order to buy precious time to organize the Union defensive line and ultimately save the day for the Union army.  On July 3, Hancock’s troops bore the brunt of Confederate Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s charge against the Union center after a two-hour cannon barrage in which Hancock prominently encouraged his troops from horseback.  Hancock deflected a warning that he should not risk his life by saying that there were “times when a corps commander’s life does not count.”  He was indeed wounded—an injury that affected him the rest of his life—when a bullet pierced his right thigh, but he refused to leave the battlefield until the fight was over.  The Union had repulsed Confederate Gen. Robert E. Leeʼs incursion into the North and stopped his effort to turn back toward Washington, D.C.

This signature is in fine condition.  Glue spots from where it is tipped to the album page show through only slightly, although the glue shows in places around the edge of the paper that Hancock has signed.  The background album page could be matted out if the signature were framed.  This signature would be nice framed with a photograph of Hancock.




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