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The Iron Brigade: A Military History Hardcover – February 22, 1994

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Editorial Reviews


"Alan T. Nolan's The Iron Brigade is a classic of Civil War literature." Gary W. Gallagher "I am immensely impressed ... This particular Brigade needed a book of its own and now it has one which is definitely first-rate... A fine book..." Bruce Catton "One of the '100 best books ever written on the Civil War.'" Civil War Times Illustrated "Alan Nolan has written a first-rate account of one of the most famous fighting outfits of the Army of the Potomac, the Iron Brigade... Nolan's book is unit history writing at its best, and it adds much to our knowledge of the larger story of the war..." T. Harry Williams " ... Remains one of the best unit histories of the Union Army during the Civil War." Southern Historian "... The Iron Brigade is the title for anyone desiring complete information on this military unit ..." Spring Creek Packet, Chuck Hamsa

About the Author

ALAN T. NOLAN was born in Indiana and is a lawyer in Indianapolis. He is the author of Lee Considered: General Robert E. Lee and Civil War History.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; Indiana Univ Pr ed. edition (February 22, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253341027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253341020
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,345,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Nolan's work encompasses the formation of the Brigade until its literal destruction on the first day at Gettysburg, where it's valiant stand in the face of superior Confederate numbers allowed the Union Army to regroup on Cemetery Hill and eventually defeat Lee's Army of Northern Virginia for the very first time in a major battle.
Their first fight at Brawner's Farm established the westerners with the title of the book, and their action in the Cornfield at Antietam and then again at McPherson's Ridge on July 1st, 1863 firmly planted their place in history as the hardest fighting unit in the Army of the Potomac.
Their Hardee hats distinguished them from most of the other Union soldiers, but the Confederates respected the "black hats" who stood like iron in the face of their foe. An extremely good read, with enough detail to make the reader respect the patriotism, heroism and sacrifices made by all the soldiers involved in America's Civil War. The tremendous casualties taken by this unit are incredible by today's comparisons, where we have national debates on just one casualty being taken by our armed services.
Whle it has less detail on the enlisted personnel than Moe's work on the 1st Minnesota, it still brings you dramatically into the battlefield with some of the most notable heroes of the War Between the States.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Aussie Reader on April 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a excellent account of the Iron Brigade, the "Black Hat Brigade", the only all western brigade in the Eastern army. This Federal unit fought at 2nd Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg and they fought well. This book was a delight to read and is one of my favourite books on the American Civil War. The book is well written and the narrative of the battles is assisted by easy to understand maps. One of the best unit histories to be printed for some time.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Kevin F. Kiley on October 27, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the definitive history of what I consider the best brigade-sized unit in either army during the Civil War. Alan Nolan is THE authority on this famous, hard-hitting outfit and this book is a classic. Interesting, vivid, full of valor, heartbreaking losses, and gallant deeds, it chronicles the Army of the Potomac's sole western unit from its meager beginnings, its first engagement at Brawner's Farm the day before Second Bull Run, where it met and defeated the vaunted Stonewall Brigade in a vicious stand-up fight though outnumbered and still an untried unit of well-trained rookies. through the tough tutelage of veteran artilleryman John Gibbon, its first commander of note, to its moment of truth at Gettysburg, where, suffering almost 70% casualties, it goes into the fire unperturbed and outnumbered, both ruining and capturing opposing Confederate units, coming onto the field behind its tattered regimental flags like a wave of blue doom. I first became interested in the Iron Brigade while reading Bruce Catton's excellent trilogy on the Army of the Potomac. Not until this superb volume, however, did the whole story come out in gripping detail and hard-to-put-down narrative. The author paints a vivid picture of the realities of war, what losses can do to even a veteran, well-trained unit, and the value of personal valor and leadership. This book is highly recommended and should be on the book shelf of every Civil War reenactor, historian, and enthusiast.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Gianos-Steinberg on May 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
Nolan's book about the Iron Brigade is a fantastic account of the brigade's history, covering its intriguing stories off the field as much as on it.
The book is very easy to follow as it begins with the creation of every regiment in the brigade and ends months after Appomattox.
By using primary accounts and concise analysis, Nolan covers the relationships between the ordinary men and their officers, the relationships between the regiments, the relationships between the brigades and divisional/corps commanders all the way up to McClellan/Hooker and more. In addition, the politics in the brigade and the Army of the Potomac as a whole are covered, and all of this without even getting into the combat history of the brigade.
Nolan covers in depth every combat the Iron Brigade was engaged in while it consisted of just Westerners, and the Epilogue in the book deals with the addition of non Western units to the Brigade, the dissolution of some of the regiments and the mustering out of notable officers through discharges, wounds and death.
In Nolan's interpretation, although it keeps its name, the Iron Brigade is no longer THE Iron Brigade after all the casualties at Gettysburg and the addition of Eastern troops to the brigade on July 18, 1863. Thus the combat from Brawner's Farm to Gettysburg is covered in depth concerning the brigade's actions. The book has exceptional maps for the actions of the brigade on the battlefields and casualty counts for every regiment. The chapter dealing with Day 1 of Gettysburg is the book's most poignant and gripping battle account.
The notes in the book are nearly 100 pages and are nearly as interesting as the narrative itself.
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