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The Original Iron Brigade

Thomas Reed; Farleigh Dickinson University Press

Few units achieved greater fame than the Union brigade composed of all-Western regiments that— under the leadership of John Gibbon and Solomon Meredith— became widely known as the “Iron Brigade.” Yet this wasn’t the only, or even the first, Federal unit to earn the nickname. Months before Gibbon’s command began building its reputation at the Brawner Farm, another unit in the same division, the 14th Regiment New York State Militia, aka the 14th Brooklyn, had already adopted the moniker.

Thomas Reed explores how the regiment came to be formed, the units—mostly from New York—that made up the command, the men who led it (at one point it was in General Walter Phelps’ brigade) and its combat honors. The 14th participated in the unsuccessful assault on the Unfinished Railroad Cut at Second Manassas, and also attacked the heights north of Turner’s Gap at South Mountain. In addition it took part in the fight for the Miller Cornfield at Antietam. The unit suffered terrible losses from which it never really recovered.

Reed succeeds in demonstrating that the original Iron Brigade’s story is well worth telling, as well as long overdue.


Originally published in the February 2012 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.