Battle of Gettysburg
Hancock at Cemetery HillEast Cemetery Hill, Gettysburg
As the Union troops climbed Cemetery Hill, they encountered the determined Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock. At midday, Gen. Meade was nine miles (14 km) south of Gettysburg in Taneytown, Maryland, when he heard that Reynolds had been killed. He immediately dispatched Hancock, commander of the II Corps and his most trusted subordinate, to the scene with orders to take command of the field and to determine whether Gettysburg was an appropriate place for a major battle. (Meade's original plan had been to man a defensive line on Pipe Creek, a few miles south in Maryland. But the serious battle underway was making that a difficult option.)
When Hancock arrived on Cemetery Hill, he met with Howard and they had a brief disagreement about Meade's command order. As the senior officer, Howard yielded only grudgingly to Hancock's direction. Although Hancock arrived after 4:00 p.m. and commanded no units on the field that day, he took control of the Union troops arriving on the hill and directed them to defensive positions with his "imperious and defiant" (and profane) persona. As to the choice of Gettysburg as the battlefield, Hancock told Howard "I think this the strongest position by nature upon which to fight a battle that I ever saw." When Howard agreed, Hancock concluded the discussion: "Very well, sir, I select this as the battle-field." Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac, inspected the ground and concurred with Hancock.