The Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run inspired 37-year old Wisconsin flour mill owner Henry Young to fight for the Union cause. On August 30, 1861, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant and mustered into the 7th Wisconsin Infantry, one of five regiments that would gain recognition as part of the famed Iron Brigade.
Dear Delia: The Civil War Letters of Captain Henry F. Young, Seventh Wisconsin Infantry, is a collection of 155 letters home from Young to his wife, Delia, and his father-in-law Jared. Spanning from his first days of drill at Camp Randall in Madison, Wis., until late 1864, when he received his military discharge, Young’s candid and comprehensive letters detail nearly every aspect of the military experience of the common soldier. More so, the letters offer a vivid portrait of the personal experience of one of the most storied and battle-tested brigades of the Civil War.
The Iron Brigade was one of the first to take the field at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, and Young wrote in a letter dated July 11 that a lack of support compromised them. “But when we met them on the 2d and 3d diden’t we give them hell,” he continued. “Well we did. Our men were perfectly wild with enthusiasm.”
The men of the Iron Brigade formed strong bonds and in October 1864, Young described his “lonesome” feelings when one of the brigade’s sister regiments, the 19th Indiana, was consolidated with another regiment and separated from the brigade. “I seen officers and men of the gallant Old 19th shed tears this morning in parting with us, and I have seen those same men stand firm and swing their hats and cheer when charging on the enemy amidst a perfect storm of bullets.”
A thorough biographic introduction and meticulously researched annotations provide invaluable information and context that further allow for the book’s usefulness as a reference material. Dear Delia is an essential read for anyone interested in the common soldier experience, and certainly for anybody hoping to further their study of the Iron Brigade.