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At Ease: Iron Men - an 1860s Version of Superheroes

"They Must Be Made Of Iron"

The Iron Brigade was originally comprised of the 2nd Wisconsin, 6th Wisconsin, 7th Wisconsin, and 19th Indiana Infantry Regiment; later, the 24th Michigan joined the brigade as reinforcements. With the distinction of being a "western" brigade in the eastern theater and wearing recognizable black Hardee hats, the brigade became legendary in the history of the Army of the Potomac. Organized by General Rufus King and later commanded by others, including General John Gibbon, the brigade historians and memory-makers fondly remembered getting the nickname "Iron Brigade" from General George McClellan. The highly disciplined brigade suffered some of the highest casualties in the war, a testimony to their bravery and unfaltering commitment. We collected some primary sources about the regiments in the Central Virginia battles and don't miss the images of the 7th Wisconsin's battleflag and the story about the flagpole from the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.


Survey Results

We loved reading your answers for the question: "What's your favorite battlefield account or other historical moment for the Iron Brigade?" Second Bull Run/Manassas took first place, followed closely by Gettysburg. Other mentioned accounts included the fight in Turner's Gap where the brigade got its nickname, the Cornfield at Antietam, and Jericho Mills.

One fan included this tribute:

"I think it shows what a difference a military man can make when he instills order, and drill, and military discipline in his men. That is what John Gibbon did. But it was the fighting men at Second Bull Run and especially at Gettysburg where they had to be ordered off the field that shows why they were called the Iron Brigade."

Another included a book recommendation:

The Iron Brigade in Civil War and Memory by Lance J. Herdegen, published by Savas Beatie in 2012. Without a doubt...the best Iron Brigade book available!


A Letter After Fredericksburg

John H. Pardington of the 24th Michigan—a regiment recently joining the Iron Brigade as reinforcements prior to the Battle of Fredericksburg—wrote this brief letter to his wife. The Iron Brigade engaged on the Union's far left flank and supported some of the units threatening Pelham's advance guns. (See Pelham's Corner)


7th Wisconsin Flag

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum preserves this flag and flagstaff from the 7th Wisconsin Regiment in their Civil War battle flags collection, and they have kindly permitted us to share these images in this email. The flag was carried by the regiment from mid-1862 through November 1863. The flagpole was cut from an oak tree at Gettysburg in July 1863 after the original was destroyed by canister fire. The 7th Wisconsin mustered in 1861 and served through 1865, taking part in all major campaigns in the east with the exception of the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. After the Battle of Chancellorsville, Colonel Robinson wrote about the 7th: "I cannot speak in too high praise of the entire command. Officers and enlisted men performed their whole duty....every man was at all times to be found in his place."


From The Wilderness & Spotsylvania

To my wife. Line of Battle, May 11th, 1864 Through God’s blessing I am yet alive, and beside the fearful tax upon my energies, mental and physical, have nothing to complain of and everything to be thankful for. For six long days we have been under the deadly musketry. On the morning of May 5th our brigade lost near eight hundred men; the same night a hundred more; the next morning two hundred more. We marched all night to come here (7th), and next day (8th), we charged the enemy and were repulsed, and the next day (10th), we twice attacked and were driven back, and every moment the balls, shot and shell have whistled around us.... Lt. Colonel Rufus R. Dawes


Central Virginia Battlefields Trust's mission is to preserve, protect, and educate about Civil War hallowed ground at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania.

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