Friday, September 14, 2012
The Iron Brigade of the West is Named
Exactly how the famous name was attached to Gibbon's Brigade remains unclear. Gen. George McClellan said after the Civil War that he was responsible when he said "They must be made of Iron!" while watching the Black Hats fight up the National Road at South Mountain on this very day 150 years ago. A brigade of New York regiments said later that it was the original "Cast-Iron Brigade" for a description given the unit following a hard match of 50 miles in two days. The name was somehow "stolen" by the Wisconsin and Indiana boys, they said. The Western men, however, never believed there was any confusion with the New Yorkers and that it was Little Mac who named them. Capt. Jerome Watrous of the 6th Wisconsin said the name "Iron Brigade" was first publicly attached to Gibbon's Brigade by a correspondent for a Cincinnati newspaper. The "print" was with McClellan watching the Black Hats at South Mountain and probably overheard the description from officers discussing the fighting. "The last terrible battle has reduced this brigade to a mere skeleton there being scarecely enough members to form half a regiment," the reporter wrote in a dispatch printed September 22, 1862, five days after the bloodletting at Antietam. "The 2nd Wisconsin, which but a few weeks since, numbered over nine hundred men, can now muster but fifty-nine. This brigade has done some of the hardest and best fighting in the service. It has been justly termed the Iron Brigade of the West."