Those Damned Black Hats!: The Iron Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign
Lance J. Herdegen
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
WINNER FOR OPERATIONAL / BATTLE HISTORY, 2008, ARMY HISTORICAL FOUNDATION DISTINGUISHED BOOK AWARD
The Iron Brigade―an all-Western outfit famously branded as The Iron Brigade of the West―served out their enlistments entirely in the Eastern Theater. Hardy men were these soldiers from Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan, who waged war beneath their unique black Hardee Hats on many fields, from Brawner’s Farm during the Second Bull Run Campaign all the way to Appomattox. In between were memorable combats at South Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Mine Run, the Overland Campaign, and the grueling fighting around Petersburg. None of these battles compared with the “four long hours” of July 1, 1863, at Gettysburg, where the Iron Brigade was all but wrecked.
Lance Herdegen’s 'Those Damned Black Hats! The Iron Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign' is the first book-length account of their remarkable experiences in Pennsylvania during that fateful summer of 1863, and winner of The Army Historical Foundation Distinguished Writing Award for Operational / Battle History, 2008. Drawing upon a wealth of sources, including dozens of previously unpublished or unused accounts, Herdegen details for the first time the exploits of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, and 24th Michigan regiments during the entire campaign. On July 1, the Western troops stood line-to-line and often face-to-face with their Confederate adversaries, who later referred to them as “those damned Black Hats.” With the help of other stalwart comrades, the Hoosiers, Badgers, and Wolverines shed copious amounts of blood to save the Army of the Potomac’s defensive position west of town. Their heroics above Willoughby Run, along the Chambersburg Pike, and at the Railroad Cut helped define the opposing lines for the rest of the battle and, perhaps, won the battle that helped preserve the Union.
Herdegen’s account is much more than a battle study. The story of the fighting at the “Bloody Railroad Cut” is well known, but the attack and defense of McPherson’s Ridge, the final stand at Seminary Ridge, the occupation of Culp’s Hill, and the final pursuit of the Confederate Army has never been explored in sufficient depth or with such story-telling ability. Herdegen completes the journey of the Black Hats with an account of the reconciliation at the 50th Anniversary Reunion and the Iron Brigade’s place in Civil War history.
“Where has the firmness of the Iron Brigade at Gettysburg been surpassed in history?” asked Rufus Dawes of the 6th Wisconsin. Indeed, it was a fair question. The brigade marched to Gettysburg with 1,883 men in ranks and by nightfall on July 1, only 671 men were still to be counted. It would fight on to the end of the Civil War, and do so without its all-Western makeup, but never again was it a major force in battle.
Some 150 years after the last member of the Iron Brigade laid down his life for his country, the complete story of what the Black Hats did at Gettysburg and how they remembered it is now available in paperback.
REVIEWS: “. . . brings to life the story of the men who sacrificed so much. . . . Herdegen is able to weave all of the letters and personal accounts into a seamless story that is hard to put down. . . . a great tribute to the men who served in one of the most famous units in the Civil War.” Collected Miscellany, 1/2009
About the Author: Award-winning journalist Lance J. Herdegen is the former director of the Institute of Civil War Studies at Carroll University. He previously worked as a reporter and editor for the United Press International (UPI) news service covering national politics and civil rights. He presently is an historical consultant for the Civil War Museum of the Upper Middle West.
ever written alone and many hands stir the kettle. The following are the kind my grandfather who worked the deep pineys as a boy lumberjack in the early 1900s would praise as good folks “to ride the river with.” In no special order, and to others I might have overlooked, I offer thanks to: Si Felton, Tom Finley, Steve Victor, Kent Gramm, Sharon Vipond, Alan Nolan, Steve Acker, Scott D. Hann, Kim J. Heltemes, Lance Myers, Brian Hogan, Alan Gaff, Sharon Murphy, John Wedeward, William Washburn,
memoir entitled “Adventures of an Iron Brigade Man,” which appeared between August 14 and December 18, 1902, in the National Tribune, a weekly newspaper aimed squarely at veterans that was published in Washington. He also began working on a history of the battle, published in 1911 as Gettysburg: The Pivotal Battle of the Civil War. The book was generally praised, although one ex-Confederate claimed it was prejudicial against General Lee.1 Beecham believed the Confederates could have won the
carrying it across the street to the wounded in the courthouse. “It was a sight to behold,” Neff remembered. “Women were carrying sheets, pillows, quilts, bandages and everything else which would make a soldier comfortable, while men staggered under crates and baskets full of eatables.” He returned to the courthouse to gather his things before joining wounded men instructed to move to an army hospital on the outskirts of town. Neff found the hospital a dreadful place and there was nothing there
The three regiments numbered almost 3, 000 men. On April 1, 1865, General Phil Sheridan and elements of the Fifth Corps overran the enemy at Five Forks, Virginia. The attack severed the Army of Northern Virginia’s last supply line, and signaled loudly the beginning of the end of the Richmond-Petersburg siege. General Grant ordered an all-out offensive, and the Confederate lines began to crumble. The Southern army pulled out and moved inland heading west, destination unknown. The old veterans of
a cot and sometimes two or three…. But our victory has been the greatest of the war and all are happy.” Lieutenant Frank Haskell Adjutant, 6Th Wisconsin Infantry Frank Haskell was promoted to brigade adjutant by John Gibbon and went with Gibbon as an aide. His description of Pickett’s Charge and Gettysburg became a classic when it was published long after his death at Cold Harbor in 1864 while colonel of the 36th Wisconsin. The colonel was recuperating at the home of Reverend Charles