Dedication June 16, 2007
Joseph Hancock Jr. Memorial Park
Address by Bruce Hancock
It is both an honor and a privilege to be part of your ceremony dedicating this park to Joseph Hancock Jr.
I thank the mayor and town council members for making this possible with a special thanks to Marion Golden and the Hancock Historical Society who have been dedicated to the recognition of the namesake of this town.
Ironically, I drove by Hancock on the way to Virginia about 10 years ago. I had a strange feeling that there might be a connection but dismissed it as wishful thinking. Little did I know that I would be standing here today participating in the dedication of this park to my fourth great grandfather, Joseph Hancock.
At the time of the Declaration of Independence, Joseph Hancock was operating a ferry here known as Hancock’s Ferry. As I understand it, this eventually gave rise to the current name of the town as Hancock.
Apparently running a ferry wasn’t adventuresome enough for Joseph. He became a rebel joining the Continental Army 8th Pennsylvania Regiment as a foot soldier in August of 1776. Perhaps the Declaration of Independence motivated him to join but it was Captain Andrew Mann who recruited him for the purpose of protecting the western frontier from pro British Indian attacks.
However about the time the 8th was assembling in Kittanning Pennsylvania, Washington suffered a humiliating defeat in New York. He was close to loosing an army to rebel with, and ordered the 8th to join him wherever he was at. In January of 1777, Joseph underwent with the 8th Pennsylvania what became the second worst winter march in of the war lasting 6 weeks but eventually finding General Washington, under much improved circumstances, in New Jersey where he had driven the British into winter retreat at Amboy.
Joseph, under the command of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, fought containment skirmishes and small battles during the winter suffering a musket ball wound to the shoulder in March of 1777.
By summer the British lead by General Howe recognized they were out flanked by Washington and decided not to confront the Continental Army where they were. Instead Howe fled by sea to later reposition his troops at the Head of Elk in Maryland.
Meanwhile the Continental Army, shadowing on land Howe’s movement by sea, marched through Philadelphia in front of its citizens and the Continental Congress.
Both armies confronted each other at Brandywine the largest battle of the war. Washington was out maneuvered by the British but in typical fashion made a retreat that again saved the army.
General Washington immediately detached General Wayne with the Pennsylvania Line to attack the British rear guard. The British discovered Wayne’s encampment and attacked at Paoli in an unconventional battle in the middle of the night. It was later called the Paoli Massacre. Most of Wayne’s men survived, including Joseph, to avenge the attack several days later.
Meanwhile the British occupied Philadelphia ultimately in an unsuccessful attempt to shake the American confidence and resolve. Joseph with the rest of the Washington’s troops attacked the British encamped next to Philadelphia in Germantown. This battle was sufficiently well done finally motivating the French to fully engage in the war leading in the end to British surrender.
The winter of 1777 & 78 was spent at Valley Forge. The hardships that winter are legendary.
By early summer Joseph with the 8th Pennsylvania and the 13thVirginia was at last sent to the frontier with headquarters at Fort Pitt. Besides helping build a couple of forts, and disrupting Indian raiding parties, Joseph in the end distinguished himself along with another volunteer by carrying a letter 300 miles to General Sullivan during the 1779 summer campaigns against the Indians. The communiqué was requested by General Washington of Joseph’s commanding officer Colonel Brodhead in an effort to coordinate the Indian campaigns.
Joseph was discharged in 1780 from Fort Pitt and returned to this area. He headed west in 1791 first locating in Maysville Kentucky then moving to Centerville Ohio and finally Hagerstown Indiana.
The dedication of this park to honor Joseph is significant on two counts. First, it recognizes an important segment of the rich history of this town.
Second it honors a man of revolutionary conviction, one of a few thousand, who secured for us this bountiful land and a democratic form of government.
Continental army veterans were treated as bad or worse than our Vet Nam veterans. I would hope, if he were looking down on us today, he would be gratified by the dedication of this park in honor of his service to this country. The fact that he was not forgotten is something for which we all can be proud.
For anyone interested in reading more about the namesake of Hancock, his military history is now available on the web site rebeljoe.com.
Again I thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today.