Rare Coin Silver Ewer Presented To Major General Winfield Scott Hancock
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Extremely Rare Coin Silver Ewer Presented to Major General Winfield Scott Hancock

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Extremely Rare Coin Silver Ewer Presented to Major General Winfield Scott Hancock – This extremely rare, beautiful coin silver ewer was presented by the citizens of Hancock’s birthplace, Norristown, Pennsylvania, to the general, on July 4, 1864. The ewer’s maker’s mark or impression, appears on the underside of the body of the ewer, indicating it was made by Bailey and Company of Philadelphia, an antebellum and Civil War era silversmith company. The ewer itself is a masterpiece of silver work, with raised, fine decorative details; on the front section of the ewer, directly beneath the pouring spout is a beautifully engraved inscription, beneath a Union Army 2nd Corps badge: “To Major General Winfield Scott Hancock from the Citizens of his Birthplace, Norristown, Montgomery Co., Pa. / July 4, 1864.” Winfield Scott Hancock was considered to be one of the finest field commanders in the Union Army during the Civil War; Hancock was seriously wounded during Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, on July 3, 1863. This ewer is truly one of the finest artifacts that we have handled – it has nearly incomparable aesthetic and historical import and appeal. The ewer measures approximately 15” in height.

 

Winfield Scott Hancock

Major General Winfield Scott Hancock

Civil War

Union

DATE OF BIRTH – DEATH

February 14, 1824 – February 9, 1886

“General Hancock is one of the handsomest men in the United States Army,” wrote Regis de Trobiand in July 1864. “He is tall in stature, robust in figure, with movements of easy dignity … In action … dignity gives way to activity; his features become animated, his voice loud, his eyes are on fire, his blood kindles, and his bearing is that of a man carried away by passion – the character of his bravery” (Tucker 246-247).  Winfield Scott Hancock impressed his superiors and his soldiers alike.  After the Battle of Williamsburg, General George B. McClellan wrote to his wife, “Hancock was superb today.”  “Superb” stuck with him throughout the war. However, like many other great Civil War leaders, the public’s high regard disintegrated after the war. Today he is highly esteemed again, with memorials such as the renaming of the courthouse square in his old home town, “General Winfield Scott Hancock Square.”

Hancock graduated from West Point in 1844, 18th in a class of 25. He served in the Mexican War and was honored for his bravery at the battle of Churubusco. When the war began he was serving at Los Angeles, struggling to keep Union ammunition from Southern sympathizers. He was assigned to be General Robert Anderson’s quartermaster in Kentucky. Thankfully for the Union, Gen. McClellan recognized Hancock’s potential and made him a Brigadier General in William “Baldy” Smith’s Division.

On May 5, 1862, Hancock took the initiative in the Battle of Williamsburg and occupied two abandoned redoubts. Despite an overall Union loss, Hancock’s reputation skyrocketed because of this battle. During the September 17, 1862 Battle of Antietam, Hancock was ordered to command mortally wounded Gen. Israel Richardson’s division at the sunken Road. In November he was promoted to Major General.

At Chancellorsville, May 1-3, 1863; Hancock’s division was the last on the field, holding on long enough for the Federals to withdraw. General Darius Couch, commander of the Union Second Corps, had been extremely disgusted with the performance of Gen. “Fighting Joe” Hooker. Couch left the corps and Hancock became its new commander.  By the July 1-3, 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, George Gordon Meade was the new commanding general. After learning that the armies were engaged at Gettysburg and Gen. John Reynolds was killed, Meade sent Hancock to command the 1st, 3rd and 11th corps and decide if this was a good battle position. On July 2nd Hancock helped fix Gen. Daniel Sickle’s blunder at the Peach Orchard, he also sent the 1st Minnesota to halt Gen. A.P. Hill’s corps at Cemetery Ridge. On the 3rd, his men helped beat back “Pickett’s Charge” Hancock was seriously wounded in the thigh during the battle, and General Gouverneur Warren took command of the Second Corps. Hancock spent months in excruciating pain while several doctors attempted to remove the minié ball. A Joint Resolution of Congress was passed on January 28, 1864 thanking Generals Meade, Hooker and Howard for their roles at Gettysburg. Hancock’s name was absent.

By the time Hancock rejoined the Second Corps in March, Ulysses S. Grant was the commander of all Union forces. Under Grant the Union’s style of fighting had changed significantly. Even though the Federals lost the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5-7, 1864 they did not retreat. Hancock’s Second Corps attacked A.P. Hill’s corps at the Plank Road, driving the Confederates back in confusion. Gen. James Longstreet’s arrival prevented the Confederate right flank from collapsing.

At Spotsylvania Courthouse, Hancock’s men successfully attacked the “Mule Shoe Salient” on May 12, 1864 and captured approximately 2800 prisoners. Hancock’s men also took part in the infamous June 3rd attacks at Cold Harbor, in which thousands of men were lost in minutes. By June 10th, his Gettysburg wound had left him immobilized. A tremendous opportunity was lost at Petersburg, July 15-18, 1864. On June 15th, General “Baldy” Smith’s forces defeated a small Confederate force three miles east of the primary defensive line. Had Hancock taken command as the ranking officer, and ordered another charge, Union forces might have prevailed.

On July 27th, Hancock’s Second Corps coordinated with Philip Sheridan’s cavalry, crossing north of the James River at Deep Bottom in an attempt to sever the railroad lines linking Lee and Jubal Early (in the Shenandoah Valley). He fell short of his goal, breaking only the outer Confederate lines. There was a second fight at Deep Bottom; however, due to the heat and the high number of new recruits, the battle was lost. This loss was followed by a humiliating defeat at Reams Station, August 24, 1864. Hancock’s adjutant recalled that “the agony of that day never passed away from the proud soldier” (Jordan 163).  At Burgess Mill, October 27-28, 1864, the Second Corps performed well, but gained and then lost the Boydton Plank Road. This was Hancock’s last battle. He went on to head the Department of West Virginia until war’s end, and also organized the 1st Veterans Corp.

After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Hancock received criticism for his role in the execution of Mary Surratt, one of the conspirators. He did not want Surratt to be executed. He also received criticism while commander of the Fifth Military District during Reconstruction. He had issued “General Orders No. 40”, declaring that a state of peace existed in the district so he would not interfere with civil authorities. This also meant that no soldiers would appear at polling places.

When Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated as the 18th president, Hancock was sent to the Department of Dakota. When George Meade died in November 1872, Hancock became the new Commander of the Division of the Atlantic, a position he held for the rest of his life. In 1880, Hancock was the Democratic presidential candidate. He was defeated by James A. Garfield.  On February 9th 1886, Winfield Hancock died due to complications from diabetes. He was laid to rest at Norristown, PA.

Winfield Scott Hancock

            BIRTH 14 Feb 1824 Montgomeryville, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA

            DEATH 9 Feb 1886 Governors Island, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA

            BURIAL Montgomery Cemetery West Norristown , Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, USA

            GPS Latitude: 40.11951, Longitude: -75.36282

            MEMORIAL ID 4839

         Civil War Union Major General. One of the Union Army’s ablest field commanders, his performance at the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania brought him lasting historical fame and renown. Born with an identical twin brother near present day Montgomeryville, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in 1840 he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York by Congressman Joseph Fornance. He graduated in 18th out of 25 in 1844 in a class that included future Confederate Generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Daniel M. Frost, and future Union Generals Alexander Hays and Alfred Pleasonton. Posted to the 6th United States Infantry, he served on the western frontier until the Mexican War. During that conflict he saw his first combat at the August 1847 Battles of Contreras and Churubusco, where he was wounded. After the September 1847 Battle of Molino Del Rey he became prostrated with sickness, and missed being part of Major General Winfield Scott’s march from Vera Cruz to Mexico City, the campaign that ended the war. In the late 1840s and in the 1850s he served first as a Regimental Adjutant, then as a Quartermaster stationed at various posts in the United States and frontier, including St. Louis, Missouri in 1850, where he met and married Almira Russell. Promoted to Captain, in the late 1850s he was stationed as Quartermaster of the then-small outpost of Los Angeles, California, where he became friends with fellow Army officer and future Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead. When the Civil War began, Armistead and other Southern-born officers resigned and left to join the Confederacy, with Captain Hancock leaving to help raise the growing Union Army. Commissioned Brigadier General, US Volunteers on September 23, 1861, he was assigned to command a brigade in the Army of the Potomac’s II Corps. In the opening stages of the 1862 Peninsular Campaign under Major General George B. McClellan, he led his brigade at the May 5, 1862 Battle of Williamstown, where, despite orders from Corps commander Major General Edwin V. Sumner Sr. to withdraw, he held his ground against an attack by the Confederates, then enacted a counterattack that cleared the area of the rebels. In his dispatches describing the engagement to Washington, DC, General McClellan described General Hancock’s performance as “superb”, which the press then gave him the appellation “Hancock the Superb”. He continued to command his brigade through the June-July 1862 Seven Days Battles and the August 1862 Second Bull Run Campaign. On September 17, 1862 at the Battle of Antietam, Maryland he ascended to command his Division when Major General Israel B. Richardson was mortally wounded in the Army of the Potomac assaults on the “Bloody Lane”. At the December 13, 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg, his three II Corp brigades constituted the second assault on impregnable Confederate positions along Marye’s Heights south of the town, and despite reaching farther than any other Union troops they failed to reach the position and were repulsed with great casualties. In the winter of 1862-1863 he did not participate in the revolt of the high command of the Army of the Potomac against Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, who was eventually replaced by Major General Joseph Hooker. When spring arrived General Hooker enacted a brilliant flank march on the Army of Northern Virginia at Chancellorsville, but subsequently gave up the initiative to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, resulting in the defeat of the Union Army in the battle. General Hancock’s division covered the Army of the Potomac’s retreat over the Rappahannock River, and he was wounded in the withdrawal. II Corps commander Major General Darius N. Couch resigned in disgust after the battle, and General Hancock was elevated to command the Corps. On the opening day of the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, he was sent by new Army of the Potomac commander Major General George G. Meade to take charge of the Union troops after they had been sent in retreat after hard fighting north and west of the town, despite being junior to XI Corps commander Major General Oliver O. Howard (who he allegedly argued with upon arriving on the scene), the senior officer present. General Hancock organized the retreating troops on Cemetery Hill, and was responsible for selecting and posting the strong positions that the Army would subsequently fight on through the rest of the battle. On July 2, the Second Day of the Battle, he directed his Corps defense of Cemetery Ridge from Confederate assaults by troops under Lieutenant General James Longstreet, at one point famously directing the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry to make a suicidal charge into oncoming rebels to buy time for him to plug a critical weak hole in the Union lines. His Corps bore much of the brunt of repulsing Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863, which they did successfully. He was wounded in the saddle and refused to leave the field until the Confederates were in retreat. The battle ended with the rebels defeated, due to a large part in General Hancock’s efforts and leadership, which he was eventually voted the Thanks of Congress for. He convalesced in his hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and would not return to his command until 1864. Hobbled and weakened by his wounds, his performance in the subsequent battles of the 1864 Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia were uneven, as he frequently directed the fighting from an ambulance wagon. At the May 12, 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania, he directed his Corps as it smashed the Confederate “Mule Shoe” salient, although it had to eventually retreat as it success was unsupported. During the August 1864 Battle of Ream’s Station, despite his personal bravery on the field, his men were unable to resist Confederate counterattacks and were defeated. Finally, in November 1864, his health failing, he left field service to command the Veterans Reserve Corps, and later, the Middle Military Department, headquartered at Washington, DC, holding that position through the end of the war. After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and the trial and sentencing of the assassination conspirators, the duty fell to him to carry out their executions, doing so on July 7, 1865. He ended the war was a Brigadier General and Brevet Major General in the Regular Army. Post war he was assigned first to command the Department of Missouri, where he was involved in negotiations with various native American tribes on the western frontier, then the military district over seeing occupation and reconstruction in Texas and Louisiana, then finally the Department of the Dakotas, where he again was involved in peacekeeping and negotiations with Indian tribes. Having been promoted to Major General in the Regular Army in 1866, he became senior Army officer at that rank when General Meade died in November 1872, and succeeded General Meade as commander of the Department of the Atlantic. A lifelong Democrat, he accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States in 1880. Running against fellow Civil War Union Army General James A. Garfield, General Hancock lost the popular vote by a slim margin, but the Electoral College loss was much wider. He finished out his remaining years in active duty, was named the head of a number of veteran organizations such as the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and, as Military Department chief of the area that included New York City, New York, presided over the massive public funeral afforded to President Ulysses S. Grant in 1885. Less than a year later he died due to complications of diabetes at his post on Governor’s Island in New York City Harbor, Today an equestrian statue stands for him on East Cemetery Hill in the Gettysburg National Military Park, and one stands for him on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. In 1995 the United States Post Office issued a commemorative stamp honoring him.

Today in 1865 the four main conspirators of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln were executed (John Wilkes Booth was already killed by Boston Corbett). The execution was supervised by General Winfield Scott Hancock (more about him later this week). The famous photographer Alexander Gardner and his assistant Timothy O’Sullivan took a series of ten photographs using a large format camera using collodion glass-plate negatives.

On July 6, 1865 the convicted assassins of President Abraham Lincoln, Payne, David Herold, George Atzerodt and Mary Surratt, languish in their cells at the Washington Arsenal in Washington, DC. They have been sentenced to die, but they do not know when. At midday their uncertainty is dispelled as they are informed that the next day will be their last. The news is headlined in afternoon newspapers. Anna Suratt, the daughter of Mary Suratt, rushes to the White House to once again plead for her mother’s life. Once again she is rebuffed.

The following day, at 1:15, the four prisoners walk from their cells to the specially-built gallows in the Arsenal’s courtyard. The day is hot. From a cloudless sky the blistering sun mercilessly pushes the temperature to over 100 degrees. The condemned pass the four open graves and coffins that await their bodies. The wind tosses Lewis Payne’s hat across the yard. A spectator retrieves it but Payne signals he has no need of a hat anymore.

Most in the crowd including General Winfield Scott Hancock, the officer in charge of the executions, are confident that a reprieve from President Johnson will spare Mary Surratt. The hangman even leaves Mary’s noose incomplete so confident is he that it will not be used. Finally General Hancock reads the warrant and it is time. Still there is no reprieve for Mary Surratt. Soldiers tie the prisoners’ hands, bind their feet, and fit a white cloth hood over their heads. Hesitating, the soldier assigned to Mary Surratt asks “Her too?” General Hancock orders the soldier to proceed. The prisoners stand at the edge of the platform. At almost 2 PM, General Hancock claps his hands three times prompting the soldiers below to knock away the supporting timbers. The hinged leading edge of the platform falls, dropping the prisoners to oblivion.

The Gettysburg connection is, of course, Lewis Powell, aka Paine, Payne, one of the conspirators who was wounded and captured at Gettysburg. So, here goes:

Tomorrow, July 7th is the 152 anniversary of the execution of the Lincoln conspirators, including the first woman, Mary Surratt. When the order to drop the scaffolding by Maj. General Winfield Scott Hancock clapping his hands, two vertical posts supporting the hinged scaffold were knocked away by two soldiers, allowing the conspirators to drop.