THE MEN STOOD LIKE IRON by Lance J. Herdegen

THE MEN STOOD LIKE IRON

How the Iron Brigade Won Its Name
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A history of four regiments of young, independent, feisty frontiersmen from Wisconsin and Indiana, who became a proud force fighting bravely and unwaveringly in bloody Civil War battles, and winning immortal fame as the Iron Brigade. Herdegen (director, Institute for Civil War Studies/Carroll College; In the Bloody Railroad Cut at Gettysburg, not reviewed) takes us into the ranks of these volunteers who signed up to defend the Union in the days after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. Drawing on the men's letters, diaries, and published memoirs, Herdegen follows them from their early days together through four bloody years of war. General John Gibbon, a West Point graduate, imposed a hard, exhausting training program on the recruits, earning the men's hatred. Their resentment, though, would later turn to respect as he led them through a succession of terrible battles. The men's poignant letters home to loved ones are especially fascinating, offering vivid descriptions of camp life and battle, relating such experiences as foraging in Virginia among hostile civilians and being cheered by Union sympathizers in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The men express profound loyalty for some commanders and hatred for other, inept officers. They speak repeatedly of the nature of duty, patriotism, and brotherly love, and their words are made more moving by the realization that these soldiers were, as they wrote, struggling to face the likelihood of death without breaking down. They were cited at Second Bull Run for holding a strategic position ``like iron'' while suffering heavy casualties; they were cited for bravery at South Mountain, Antietam, and Gettysburg. Proportionally, the Iron Brigade suffered more battlefield deaths than any other Union force. (For more on Civil War soldiers, see James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades, p. 42.) A colorful and skillful record of the lives of the men in the ranks of a famous brigade, who served and saved the Union at great sacrifice in a dark time. (12 b&w photos, 5 maps, table, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-253-33221-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997