1995 32¢ Winfield Hancock
· Issued for the 130th anniversary of the Civil War
· From the second pane in the Classic Collections Series
· Declared the most popular stamps of 1995 by the USPS
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Set: Civil War 130th Anniversary
Value: 32¢, rate for first-class mail
First Day of Issue: June 29, 1995
First Day City: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Quantity Issued: 15,000,000
Printed by: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Format: Panes of 20 in sheets of 120
Why the stamp was issued: To mark the 130th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.
About the stamp design: The Civil War stamps featured artwork by Mark Hess, who had previously produced the artwork for the Legends of the West sheet. The USPS explained that they liked his painting style because of its “folksy stiffness,” that “emulates people standing uncomfortably in front of daguerreotype cameras.”
The image of Winfield Scott Hancock was based on a painting by Julian Scott depicting the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia in May 1862.
First Day City: The official first day ceremony was held at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, the site of one of the war’s most famous battles. Because they received a large number of requests, the USPS made the stamps available for sale across the country the same day.
Unusual facts about the Civil War stamps: The Civil War sheet was available by mail order in uncut press sheets of six panes. Of these, 20,000 were signed by stamp artist Mark Hess. The USPS also produced a set of postcards featuring the same images as the stamps (US #UX200-19). Imperforate and partially imperforate error panes have also been found.
About the Civil War Stamps: The Civil War stamp sheet featured 16 individuals – eight from the Union and eight from the Confederacy. The four battles in the corners included one victory for each side and two that are considered draws.
This was the second sheet in the Classic Collections Series following the famed Legends of the West sheet. Stamps in this series follow a similar format – 20 stamps, a decorative header, and information about each stamp printed on its back under the gum.
Plans for the Civil War sheet began while the 1994 Legends of the West sheet was still in its planning stage. The USPS believed that the Civil War was a natural addition to the new series and would be informational for the public. Initially the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee rejected the idea, saying they should wait 20 years for the 50th anniversary of the war. But they were eventually swayed and the Civil War stamps were created. A group of historians were tasked with making a list of protentional subjects and Shelby Foote was hired to make the final selections. Foote was an expert in the Civil War, having written a three-volume history of the war and been featured in Ken Burns’ PBS documentary series on the war.
The USPS wanted the Civil War stamps to have more action to them – so only the two presidents were depicted in traditional portraits. The rest of the individuals were placed in the field or amidst an activity. After the Legends of the West mix-up, in which the Bill Pickett stamp mistakenly pictured his brother Ben, the USPS completely revamped their research process. The release of the 20 Civil War stamps marked the most extensive effort in the history of the USPS to review and verify the historical accuracy of stamp subjects. As Hess completed each version of his paintings, they were sent to a panel of experts who commented on the historical accuracy of everything from the weather to belt buckles.
Some of the people and battles featured in the Civil War sheet had appeared on US stamps before. This was also the second time the Civil War was honored – a set of five stamps (US #1178-82) was issued for the centennial in the 1960s. And from 2011-15, the USPS issued a series of stamps for the war’s 150th anniversary (US #4522/4981).
History the stamp represents: Winfield Scott Hancock was born on February 14, 1824, in Montgomeryville, Pennsylvania.
Named after the legendary War of 1812 general, Winfield Scott, Hancock attended the Norristown Academy and public schools before he was nominated to the US Military Academy at West Point. He was an average student, graduating 18th out of 25 and was assigned to the 6th US Infantry.
Initially, Hancock served in Indian Territory, which was uneventful. But when the Mexican-American War broke out, he volunteered to serve at the front. He recruited soldiers in Kentucky before being sent to Puebla, Mexico, where he served under his namesake, General Winfield Scott.
Hancock first saw battle at Contreras and Churubusco. He received a brevet promotion for his bravery in those battles. However, he was wounded at Churubusco and developed a fever that prevented him from participating in the breakthrough to Mexico City, which he always regretted. Hancock remained in Mexico until the signing of the peace treaty in 1848.
In the coming years, Hancock got married and served in Minnesota and Missouri. He was also in Florida for the end of the Third Seminole War. From there he served in Kansas and then California. Still in California at the outbreak of the Civil War, Hancock returned east to help General George McClellan organize and train the Army of the Potomac.
Appointed a brigadier general of volunteers, Hancock served in the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. During that campaign, he led a major counterattack at the Battle of Williamsburg. McClellan later telegraphed to Washington that “Hancock was superb today, which led to his nickname, “Hancock the Superb.” Over the next year, he would serve at Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, suffering wounds at two of those battles.
In May of 1863, Hancock took command of II Corps, which he led for most of the remaining two years of the war. Hancock played a big part in the battle of Gettysburg that July. He was given temporary command of the left wing of the army, organized the defenses at Cemetery Hill, and made the important decision to stand and fight there. On the second day of battle, he was in the center of the Union line at Cemetery Ridge and ordered a daring advance on the Confederates that helped buy time for the Union line to reorganize and survive the day. On July 3, Hancock and his troops took the brunt of Pickett’s Charge and he was seriously wounded. He later received the thanks of Congress for his role in the battle.
After recovering from his wound, Hancock returned to the front lines to participate in the attack on Richmond, Virginia, the following spring, leading II Corps in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.
Following the war, Hancock continued to serve as a major general on the frontier. His military policies in Louisiana and Texas during the Reconstruction won Hancock the support of the Democrats, who nominated him for the presidency in 1880. After losing in a close election to Republican candidate James Garfield, he returned to military life. He died on February 9, 1886, in Governors Island, New York.