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The Iron Brigade: A Military History Hardcover – February 22, 1994
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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. In the notes are extended discussions on casualty %s (the Iron Brigade as a whole suffered the most battle casualties by % than any Federal brigade during the war, the 2nd Wisconsin suffered the most by % of any regiment, the 24th Michigan suffered 80% casualties on July 1 etc.) and Nolan's explanation in how he dealt with discrepancies in battle records and accounts. In the epilogue's notes, Nolan offers up post-war details of the officers in the 5 regiments.
One of the best parts of the book is how Nolan really takes issue with Glenn Turner's book on Gettysburg due to its pro-Confederate slant. Turner claims the Iron Brigade was "swept off" the field and calls Old Man Burns, the old citizen who came onto the field and fought with the Iron Brigade, a "cowardly" "bushwhacker" despite fighting in line and being wounded three times during the battle.
This book is perfect for anyone interested in the Civil War or anyone interested in the military history of Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan.