Famed general Winfield Scott & daughters at Hanover Junction?

A photographic team visited Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania, in November 1863 to take photographs of the dignitaries waiting there for the westbound train to Gettysburg. Hanover Junction, located in southern York County less than 20 miles from the Maryland line, was the intersection of the Hanover Branch Railroad (east-west) and the Northern Central Railway (north-south).

On November 18, hundreds of passengers passed through this interchange while headed for Gettysburg to attend the dedication of the National Cemetery, where most of the Union dead from the Battle of Gettysburg had been re-interred earlier in the fall. Brady’s photographic team was at Hanover Junction to record the arrival of President Lincoln’s special train which was steaming north from Baltimore. Other trainloads of dignitaries, including politicians and generals, arrived before (and in the case of the train of Governor Andrew Curtin of Pennsylvania, well after) Lincoln’s arrival.

Some accounts suggest that Lincoln himself appears in one of the half-dozen or so known photos of the people. Misidentified for years in the Library of Congress as showing Hanover Junction, Virginia, the pictures were correctly identified in the 1950s by York County researcher Russell Bowman. The identity of the original photographer is uncertain; the earliest sales of these photographs are credited to Matthew Brady’s studio, soon to be followed by Anthony’s of New York. Gettysburg photography expert William Frassanito has suggested Hanover photographer Peter Weaver as a possibility.

The particular photo above is believed by some Civil War buffs to show the aging Mexican War hero and former General-in-chief Winfield Scott and his four daughters on the eastern porch of the Hanover Junction depot (the side facing the Northern Central tracks). Here are some blow-ups of that image.

Winfield and Maria Scott had seven children. Only their four daughters lived to adulthood; their sons died. After their mother also died, Scott’s daughters (Virginia, Cornelia, Adeline Camilla, and Marcella) either solo or in groups frequently accompanied the old general on public visits, including several trips to West Point. However, there is little documentation that the group was at Gettysburg (or Hanover Junction) for  the ceremonies. In fact, Scott had sent a letter to Gettysburg attorney David Wills expressing his regret; a snippet from that letter was read during the ceremonies.

By the autumn of 1863, Scott was well into retirement, although he still at times advised President Lincoln. Scott’s “Anaconda Plan” to blockade Southern ports had borne fruit, despite early skepticism.

Here is a known photograph of Scott taken by Matthew Brady in 1861 for comparison of the facial features with the above photo.

Here’s an engraving of Scott in 1863…

Here are some enlargements of the other people on the porch in the Hanover Junction photo from November 18, 1863. Some believe the man in the checkered suit (his head is shown here at the bottom left) is John Nicolay, an aide to President Lincoln.

Here is a known photo of Nicolay for comparison…

Another shot of Nicolay, shown here with Lincoln and John Hay.

Some more of the men gathered on the porch…

The gentleman in the tall hat second from the right may be a Union general, although the shoulder board is hard to clearly define in the photo.

Generals known to have been on the platform during Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address included Major Generals Robert C. Schenck (in charge of the Middle Department based in Baltimore), Julius Stahel (the cavalry commander of the Department of the Susquehanna and a former officer in the Army of the Potomac in the early days of the Gettysburg Campaign),  Abner Doubleday (who fought at Gettysburg in the First Corps), Darius N. Couch (commander of the Department of the Susquehanna based in Harrisburg), John Gibbon (a division commander at Gettysburg who later was part of the Little Bighorn Campaign against Sitting Bull’s Indian forces), and Provost Marshal General James B. Fry. However, this man does not appear to be any of them, with Couch perhaps having the closest resemblance to the mystery officer in the above Brady photo.

I am still looking for some confirmation that Winfield Scott and his quartet of daughters indeed visited Gettysburg, which would be the final piece of evidence that the elderly dignitary with the long cane is indeed the corpulent general, who is known to have required a cane to get around by the middle of the Civil War.

What do you think?

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8 Responses to Famed general Winfield Scott & daughters at Hanover Junction?

  1. Terrence Downs says:

    I wrestled with this ensemble of persons on the east porch of Hanover Junction during the investigation process (in 1998-99) to determine what period was appropriate for the restoration of the structure, for it had gone through 4 or 5 periods of appearance in its lifetime. Obviously, President Lincoln’s passing thru this region was undoubtedly the one chosen to arrive at today’s living presentation there. This photo also was also gave light to the installation of train platforms at the site – as they were not considered until the collection of photos were reviewed. I was quite perplexed to the grouping on the steps waiting, and speculated with the time afforded me in research who these individuals were. Thanks Scott for this story and insight into these esteemed people that visited this quiet junction.

  2. Jeff Clinton says:

    I was thinking if John Nicolay was present who might also be there with Mr. Nicolay. There is a photo of William O. Stoddard, a favorite from Lincoln’s staff. The man to “Nicolay’s” left well could be that man. I note the photo has a distortion that lends narrowness to the images. Just a guess but Stoddard it could be after reading this page. http://www.mrlincolnswhitehouse.org/inside.asp?ID=67&subjectID=2
    Interesting at least.
    Jeff Clinton

  3. Jeff Clinton says:

    Additionally: Maybe the trio also includes John Hay. Yet another page with photo that seems is a look-alike. http://www.mrlincolnandfriends.org/inside.asp?pageID=94

  4. Jeff Clinton says:

    I believe the general in the photo may be Thomas Welsh. He was from Columbia PA. The beard helps to narrow some, but the two assists help even more. The right un-booted leg is behind the left. Welsh was wounded in his right leg in the Mexican War. His leg was not amputated. Just a guess based on clues.

    • Scott Mingus says:

      Jeff, Brig. gen. Thomas Welsh was dead at the time the photo was taken. He became ill while serving in the Vicksburg Campaign in July 1863 and died on his way home while in Cincinnati on August 14. The photo supposedly was taken in November 1863, months after Welsh’s demise.

  5. Jeff Clinton says:

    The photo initially was not identified correctly in terms of place. It was said to be a different Hanover Junction. If the place was identified incorrectly maybe time also was part of the error. The time error could be re-directing us to look away from what should (not) be there instead of what the picture tells us is there. We may never know the truth of this photograph but the story could be about personal relationships and duty obscured by a filing or transcription error. It could be of an earlier time. It could be of a relationship of generals to their families, to fellow officers, to their president and to their country.
    “If” and “could” are the suggestions and doubts magicians use in their re-directing to make the amazing impossible, possible. The single factor of time or wrongly recorded time for a photo could make the story less of a mystery than it is, and more about a problem of documenting history.
    I have always enjoyed that man in the checkered suit. He is outstanding! Now who would wear such an attention-drawing outfit, maybe to get the attention of the ladies present? He brings a smile every time.
    Mysteries are fun. Intriguing. Thank you Scott.

  6. Jeff Clinton says:

    After studying further which generals were on the platform with Lincoln when he spoke. I investigated one who may be the “general” in the photo. John Gibbon sustained wounds and was recuperating at the time and present at the speech. There is a photo of him bearded. I am digging for what the wound was. Just maybe… hmmh. Prove it in a court room, I don’t know? I feel Lincoln’s staff and maybe Simon Cameron might be in one of the pictures also. There is another very speckled photo where (upon zooming) the funny suited guy shows in the shadowed background and Lincoln appears to be on a chair in the corner. He was ill. The train is pointed toward home too. Maybe this is a return trip captured? Hey just guessing really. Just going by the eyeball. A semi-true story maybe?

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