Armistead and Hancock: Behind the Gettysburg Legend of Two Friends at the Turning Point of the Civil War
Author Tom McMillan, on his new book, Armistead and Hancock: Behind the Gettysburg Legend of Two Friends at the Turning Point of the Civil War, which reconsiders the long-held belief that Generals Armistead and Hancock had a close friendship that was torn apart in this war that pitted brother against brother.
In a war of brother versus brother, theirs has become the most famous broken friendship: Union general Winfield Scott Hancock and Confederate general Lewis Armistead. Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels (1974) and the movie Gettysburg (1993), based on the novel, presented a close friendship sundered by war, but history reveals something different from the legend that holds up Hancock and Armistead as sentimental symbols of a nation torn apart.
In this deeply researched book, Tom McMillan sets the record straight. Even if their relationship wasn’t as close as the legend has it, Hancock and Armistead knew each other well before the Civil War. Armistead was seven years older, but in a small prewar army where everyone seemed to know everyone else, Hancock and Armistead crossed paths at a fort in Indian Territory before the Mexican War and then served together in California, becoming friends—and they emotionally parted ways when the Civil War broke out. Their lives wouldn’t intersect again until Gettysburg, when they faced each other during Pickett’s Charge. Armistead died of his wounds at Gettysburg on July 5, 1863; Hancock went on to be the Democratic nominee for president in 1880, losing to James Garfield. Part dual biography and part Civil War history, Armistead and Hancock: Behind the Gettysburg Legend clarifies the historic record with new information and fresh perspective, reversing decades of misconceptions about an amazing story of two friends that has defined the Civil War.
[Recorded on January 6, 2022.]
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Tom McMillan, a lifelong student of the Civil War, has served on the board of trustees of Pittsburgh’s Heinz History Center, the board of directors of the Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial, and the marketing committee of the Gettysburg Foundation. His previous books are Flight 93: The Story, The Aftermath and The Legacy of American Courage on 9/11 (2014) and Gettysburg Rebels: Five Native Sons Who Came Home to Fight as Confederate Soldiers (2017), which won the Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award. He recently retired after a forty-three-year career in sports media, including 25 years as vice president of communications for the Pittsburgh Penguins. McMillan has a journalism degree from Point Park University and lives in Pittsburgh.