Armistead & Hancock: Two Friends

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Armistead and Hancock: Behind the Gettysburg Legend of Two Friends at the Turning Point of the Civil War

by Tom McMillan

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.

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