The battle of Gettysburg engendered several controversies. Three of the better known ones were those between Generals Longstreet and Early, between General Sickles and General Meade and his partisans, and between Generals Hancock and Hunt. None of these spats were to the credit of the participants and are significant principally because they prompted the preparation of accounts of portions of the battle that might not have been written otherwise.
Two lesser controversies relate to the subject of this monograph. One involved Generals Howard and Hancock. The battle of Gettysburg was a high point in the life of each, and each man was jealous of his reputation and did not wish to see it diminished. Howard wrote Samuel P. Bates in 1875 that he had taken "especial pride in Gettysburg, and man therefore perhaps unduly sensitive at adverse criticism." 1
The controversy began with the mischievous action of Congress. That august body, in gratitude for the victory of the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, passed a resolution on 28 January 1864 thanking three officers by name for their contributions to the victory. The first was General Hooker for shielding Washington and Baltimore from the "meditated blow" of General Lee; the second and third were Generals Meade and Howard for the victory at Gettysburg. Had the solons confined their expressions to Hooker and Meade, there would have been no hard feelings, but it was foolish and invidious of them to single out Howard from his peers for this honor. 2
The resolution prompted criticism that surfaced in a letter to the editor written by "TRUTH" on 20 February 1864 in the Army and Navy Journal. "TRUTH" gave an account of the battle and asked why Howard had been singled out for thanks over Hancock. "One Who Knows" replied on 19 March with an account extolling Howard's activities and saying that Hancock did not assume command when he arrived on the field. "TRUTH" could not let this pass and replied that Hancock had taken command and that many people had seen him do so. 3
The central issue then became whether Howard or Hancock commanded on the field after Hancock's arrival. That Hancock was in command could not be disputed since General Meade had so ordered. The question was whether Hancock exercised this command over Howard and which officer should be credited for the rallying of Union forces on Cemetery Hill.
The two principals exchanged views on the matter. On 25 February Howard wrote to Hancock regarding an article in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin that spoke favorably of Hancock and critically of him. Howard said that he hoped that the article did not express Hancock's views, and he wrote in a complimentary way of Hancock's services on 1 July. He went on to say that he had had no prior knowledge of the resolution by Congress and did not know even then who was behind it.