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forced back to the works they had captured and upon which heavy masses of men were soon hurled by Lee.
At the same time strong reinforcements came to Hancock's aid, and a desperate struggle began, Lee being determined to retake the lost works. A tremendous weight of men and weapons was hurled upon Hancock, in charge after charge, five times in succession, the combatants fighting all day long, though a heavy rain fell all afternoon. It was midnight before Lee at length sullenly withdrew his men, leaving Hancock in possession of the works for which he had fought so long and well. But the Confederates were not at rest, and by the morning of the 13th an inner line of intrenchments had risen in front of Hancock. Lee's position seemed as strong as before. Yet he had lost very heavily, in killed, wounded and prisoners, on that eventful day.
Hancock took an active part in the succeeding battles, and at the bloody struggle of Cold Harbor his corps
lost three thousand men. His efforts caused his old wound to break out again, but he took part in the siege of Petersburg and, in the following winter, organized a veteran corps at Washington.
As for his character and conduct in the war, we cannot do better than quote McClellan's words of praise:
“He was a man of most chivalrous courage and of superb presence, especially in action; he had a wonderfully quick and correct eye for ground and for handling troops; his judgment was good, and it would be difficult to find a better corps commander.”
When the war ended Hancock was in command of the middle military division. In 1866 he resigned from the volunteer service and was made a majorgeneral in the regular army and transferred to the
department of Missouri, where he conducted expeditions against the Cheyenne and Sioux Indian tribes. He was ordered to the department of the Gulf in 1867, and on taking command there issued an order which attracted much attention and high commendation in the South, it stating that the military force was to be used only in subordination to the civil authority. This in time brought him the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.
He was a prominent candidate in the Democratic convention of 1868 and again in 1876, and in 1880 received the nomination. In the election contest that followed, his popular vote fell only seven thousand below that of Garfield, though in the electoral college be was beaten by fifty-nine votes.
He would probably have been elected but for an unfortunate remark made by him during the campaign, in which he spoke of the tariff as “ a local issue.” This evident lack of familiarity with civil affairs no doubt cost him many votes.
Hancock remained in the army till his death. When General Meade died Hancock succeeded him in command of the division of the Atlantic, dying at Governor's Island, New York harbor, February 9, 1886.
General Hancock throughout was a brave, chivalrous and able soldier, ever loyal to his superiors, and a gentleman at all times and in all places. How able he would have proved as a President was never tested, though a life in the army is not a good school for statesmanship; but as a soldier he won a great and unstained reputation.
GEORGE A. CUSTER, A KNIGHT OF THE
SPUR AND THE SABRE
The war between the States brought many daring cavalry leaders into the field, both North and South. Among those of the Northern army Sheridan stands first, but there were other daring and dashing knights of the spur, Pleasanton, Kilpatrick, Gregg, Merritt, and others. Marked among these for daring courage and striking exploits, and of especial interest from his last desperate and tragic conflict, was the youthful Custer, in his way the beau-ideal of a light dragoon. The story of his career, then, is one of the most interesting of those told of the bold horsemen of the North.
George Armstrong Custer entered the war almost as a boy. He was born at New Rumley, Ohio, December 5, 1839, graduated at West Point in 1861, and was at once assigned to the cavalry service as second lieutenant and sent to Washington, where trained soldiers were then much in request. He reached there in July, reported to General Scott, the commander-in-chief, and was sent by him with despatches to General McDowell, then in command on the Bull Run field. He reached there July 21, just as the battle was about to begin, delivered his despatches, and joined his regiment, the Second Cavalry, with which he saw some service during the fight.
During the autumn he was sent home on sick leave, and in this interval is said to have promised his sister never again to touch intoxicating liquors, a pledge he kept sacredly till death. He was back again in February, 1862, now in the Fifth Cavalry, and when McClellan took command of the army General Kearney selected Custer as his first aide-de-camp, attracted to him, no doubt, by the engaging manner and presence of the handsome young cavalryman.
His first show of fighting spirit was given when the Confederates were evacuating Manassas, when at the head of a detachment of troopers he briskly charged the retreating pickets while crossing a creek and sent them scampering for safety. During the siege of Yorktown General W. F. Smith selected him as assistant engineer on his staff, and as such he planned and built the works nearest the Confederate lines. In the pursuit of the enemy on their retreat from Williamsburg he was in Hancock's corps, reaching the Chickahominy in the advance of the army and being the first officer to wade that stream. He traced and marked the ford and reconnoitred the enemy's position before returning, and on the next day, June 16, at the head of two companies of cavalry and one of infantry, he daringly attacked a large detachment of the “Louisiana Tigers" acting as a picket guard, stampeding them and capturing their colors with his own hand.
This, the first trophy of the kind taken by the army of the Potomac, was a feather in the cap of the young dragoon, and when General McClellan heard of his exploits he at once appointed him an aide on his own staff.
Custer took part in the various battles that followed, those before Richmond and the subsequent ones in Maryland, and in July was promoted first lieutenant. When General Hooker organized the cavalry as a separate corps of the army, 'Custer became an aide to General Pleasanton, division commander, and was prominent in the cavalry fights at Brandy Station and Aldie. In the latter, with Colonels Kilpatrick and Doughty, he led a cavalry charge upon the enemy, displaying such spirit and daring that the act brought him the commission of brigadier-general of volunteers, dating from June 23, 1863.
As such the young soldier was put in command of the Michigan cavalry brigade, at the head of which he was present on the field of Gettysburg and, with Generals Gregg and McIntosh, engaged in a hot fight with Stuart's cavalry division, forcing it back and preventing it from turning the left flank of Meade's army. His gallant conduct here was rewarded with the brevet rank of major in the regular service.
In Lee's retreat from Gettysburg with his broken battalions Custer was hot upon his heels, slashing and sabring at every opportunity with his usual reckless impetuosity, and pressing the rear so closely that he had a horse shot under him and fell himself with an ugly wound. He was not fit for the saddle again until Grant took the lead of the army of the Potomac in 1864, when his brigade was put under Sheridan and took part in the great cavalry raid round the rear of Lee's army, in which General Stuart, Lee's right hand cavalry leader, was killed.
Riding in the advance, Custer led his men to within four miles of Richmond, where he made a spirited dash upon and captured the outer works, taking one hundred prisoners. But the second line was too strong to be taken by cavalry, and having no infantry support he was obliged to withdraw, after a sharp fight with the garrison. There was more fighting before the vicinity of Richmond was left, and Sheridan returned to Grant's army by way of the White House and the Pamunky. In Sheridan's second raid, a month later, the fighting