Disappointment at Hanover
The monument to the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry at the Loop on the Gettysburg National Military Park.
The men of the 32nd Massachusetts Infantry had been on the road for more than two weeks by the end of June, 1863. They had steadily tramped northward in alternating period of persistent downpours and intense sunshine. Men had dropped from the ranks suffering from heat exhaustion, sunstroke, badly blistered feet, and fatigue. Many hoped they would get some much needed rest and refreshment once they crossed the Mason-Dixon Line into south-central Pennsylvania.
Such would not be the case, however…
The regimental historian, Col. Francis J. Parker, later wrote, “Early on the afternoon of July ist, 1863, after a march of about ten miles, the 32d reached Hanover, Pennsylvania, and as we filed into a cleared level piece of grass-land, we congratulated ourselves upon the prospect of a long rest and a refreshing sleep after the tedious marches and broken slumbers of the previous sixteen days. The men went cheerily to work preparing food, the great difficulty being lack of fuel, for we were in a friendly country, and the usual destruction of fences and trees was forbidden. But we were soon to find ourselves disappointed in our expectations; for, at 8 o’clock, orders came to move, and the men discontentedly packed their knapsacks, giving up all idea of rest so much needed and desired.”
Another major disappointment came to the boys of the old 32nd as they headed away from York County…
“As we marched toward Gettysburg, we heard in advance the sound of cheering, and soon word came down the line that General McClellan was again in command of the army. As the news passed along, regiment after regiment sent up cheers, and the soldiers moved with quickened step and joyful hearts. Where this report originated we never knew, yet many went into the battle the next day thinking they were under the command of the general, who, above all others, had won the love and confidence of the Army of the Potomac.”
“Little Mac” was not back, much to Parker’s chagrin. However timid and indecisive McClellan was in battle, his men adored him, and the succession of failed leaders of the Army of the Potomac since his dismissal had made his star shine brighter in their collective memories.
Behind them as the Bay Staters entered Adams County was the disappointment of a rest not gained at Hanover.
Ahead lay the horrors of the Wheatfield.