Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Valor Set in Stone: Monuments to the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg

Although there were several units in the Army of the Potomac that at one time or another were referred to an the “Iron Brigade” the “Iron Brigade of the West” composed of regiments from Wisconsin, Indiana and later Michigan was and is undoubtedly the most famous.  They fought bravely on many a civil war battlefield including Brawner’s Farm (August 28, 1862), South Mountain (September 14, 1862) Antietam (September 17, 1862), Fredericksburg, (December 13, 1862), Chancellorsville (May 1-3, 1863) and Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) amongst others.
According to Fox’s Regimental Losses “In proportion to its numbers this brigade sustained the heaviest loss of any in the war.  At Manassas (Brawner’s Farm), under command of General Gibbon, the first four regiments named (2nd, 6th, 7th Wisconsin & 19th Indiana) lost 148 killed, 626 wounded, and 120 missing; total, 894, out of about 2,000 engaged. At Gettysburg, General Meredith commanding, the five regiments were engaged, losing 162 killed, 724 wounded, and 267 missing; a total of 1,153 casualties, out of 1,883 engaged, or 61 per cent. Most of the missing at Gettysburg were killed or wounded. “
The brigade was organized in September 1861 when the Wisconsin and Indiana units were combined under the command of Brigadier General Rufus King as part of the Major General Irvin McDowell’s I Corp, Army of the Potomac.  In May 1862 King was replaced as commander of the brigade by Brigadier General John Gibbon and in June it was assigned to Major General John Pope’s Army of Virginia.  The troops first saw the elephant at Brawner’s Farm in August 1862  and in less than 3 weeks, after being transferred back to the Army of the Potomac as the 4th Brigade, 1st Division, 1st Corps., were also heavily engaged at South Mountain (in taking Turner’s Gap) and Antietam (along the Hagerstown Pike and in the cornfield). 
In October 1862 the 24th Michigan was added to the depleted ranks of the Iron Brigade and in late November Gibbon was replaced as brigade commander by Brigadier General Solomon Meredith.  The brigade saw limited action at the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville but were heavily engaged at Gettysburg. 
At Gettysburg the Iron Brigade was attached to the I Corps. Army of the Potomac commanded by Major General John F. Reynolds.  The brigade fought on McPherson’s and Seminary Ridge on both sides of the Chambersburg Pike during July 1, 1863 when they came to the support of  Major General John Buford’s dismounted cavalry.
Today there are  five striking  monuments honoring the valor and sacrifice of the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg.  

                                7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Monument, Meredith Ave., Reynolds Woods

                            2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Monument, Meredith Ave., Reynolds Woods

                           24th Michigan Volunteer infantry Monument, Meredith Ave., Reynolds Woods

Four of these monuments, including one to the 19th Indiana which I do not have a photograph of,  are located in Reynolds Woods and along Meredith Avenue south of the Chamberbsburg Pike in an area that is not on the main battlefield auto tour route.  It is worth the detour to get off the beaten path and see them however.   

                                            6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Monument, North Reynolds Ave.

The 5th monument dedicated to the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry is east of Reynolds Avenue and southeast of the railroad cut on the main auto tour route. 

1 comment:

  1. Love the post. The Iron Brigade saved the AOP on the first day, crushing Archer's brigade, taking the RR cut, the valiant stand on Seminary Ridge, and then going to Culp's Hill.