Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I could have hugged the necks of them all

In all of the letters written by members of the Iron Brigade I think none is as poignant as that written by Lt. Frank Haskell to his family the morning of August 29, 1862. The late afternoon of the day before the four regiments of Gibbon's Black Hat Brigade-the Second, Sixth, Seventh Wisconsin and Nineteenth Indiana-had fought in its first battle at a place they called Gainesville, but we know today as Brawner Farm. "None of the officers could look upon our thinned ranks, so full the night before, now so shattered, without tears," Haskell penned. "And the faces of those brave boys, as the morning sun disclosed them, no pen can describe. the men were cheerful, quiet and orderly. The dust and blackness of battle were upon their clothes, and in their hair, and on their skin, but you saw none of these, - you saw only their eyes, and the shadows of the 'light of battle,' and the furrows plowed upon cheeks that were smooth a day before, and now not half filled up. I could not look upon them without tears, and could have hugged the necks of them all." Haskell himself would be shot dead at Cold Harbor in 1864 and his body returned to Wisconsin.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished this chapter last night and found it to be the best written account of the fight at Gainesville I have ever read. I was especially struck by the description of the field hospital in the woods near the Warrenton Pike. I shall make it a point to spend some time at this location upon my next visit to the battlefield and I wonder if perhaps we might be able to have a interpretive wayside located there?