Thursday, February 4, 2016

Booknotes: Observing Hancock at Gettysburg

New Arrival:
Observing Hancock at Gettysburg: The General's Leadership Through Eyewitness Accounts by Paul E. Bretzger (McFarland, 2016).

Union general Winfield Scott Hancock earned his "Hancock the Superb" sobriquet very early in the war at the Battle of Williamsburg but he didn't really become a legendary figure until the Battle of Gettysburg, where he figured prominently in all three days of that colossal clash. Bretzger's study posits that "(u)nderstanding Hancock's pivotal actions at Gettysburg is essential to understanding the battle itself. This book covers his life and military career and considers the personal qualities that made him a preeminent figure in the greatest battle of the Civil War". Bretzger begins with a brief account of Hancock's pre-Gettysburg life and military career before launching into his arrival on the battlefield during the chaotic afternoon of July 1, 1863. The author discusses the general's initial disposition of the battered Army of the Potomac, his direction of II Corps on July 2 (the action around the Bliss Farm, the reaction to the collapse of III Corps, and the defenses of Cemetery Ridge and East Cemetery Hill) and his command of the Union center on July 3. As the title indicates, the author's analysis is heavily informed by a wide range of firsthand views of Hancock's personal behavior and generalship.

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