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Iron Brigade Medal

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CODE: USM-09

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The Iron Brigade The Iron Brigade was an infantry unit serving in the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. Although it fought entirely in the Eastern Theater, it was composed of regiments from Western states. Noted for its strong discipline, its unique uniform appearance, and its tenacious fighting ability, the Iron Brigade suffered the highest percentage of casualties of any brigade in the war. The Iron Brigade initially consisted of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiments, the 19th Indiana, Battery B of the 4th U.S. Light Artillery, and was later joined by the 24th Michigan. This composition of men from three Western states led it to be sometimes referred to as the Iron Brigade of the West. They were known throughout the war as the Black Hats because of the black 1858 model Hardee hats issued to Army regulars, rather than the blue kepis worn in most other units. The Iron Brigade initially consisted of the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiments, the 19th Indiana, Battery B of the 4th U.S. Light Artillery, and was later joined by the 24th Michigan. This composition of men from three Western states led it to be sometimes referred to as the Iron Brigade of the West. They were known throughout the war as the Black Hats because of the black 1858 model Hardee hats issued to Army regulars, rather than the blue kepis worn in most other units. The Black Hats earned their famous Iron Brigade nickname while under the command of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon. The designation "Iron Brigade" is said to have originated during the brigade's action at Turners Gap, during the Battle of South Mountain in 1862. Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, commanding I Corps, approached Army of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, seeking orders. As the Western men advanced up the National Road, forcing the Confederate line all the way back to the gap, McClellan asked, "What troops are those fighting in the Pike?" Hooker replied, "[Brigadier] General Gibbon's brigade of Western men." McClellan stated, "They must be made of iron." Hooker said that the brigade had performed even more superbly at Second Bull Run; to this, McClellan said that the brigade consisted of the "best troops in the world". Hooker supposedly was elated and rode off without his orders. There are a few stories related to the origin, but the men immediately adopted the name, which was quickly used in print after South Mountain. Additionally, the Iron Brigade took great pride in its designation, "1st Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps", under which it played a prominent role in the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1, 1863. The Iron Brigade Association was active from the 1880s up to the early 1900s, but fell silent between 1903 through the 1920, with the last know reunion taking place in Kansas City in 1916. The last known survivor of the Iron Brigade was William Riley who served with the Company I, 6th WI. He passed on March 23, 1939 at the age of 98; the last of 7,259 who served in the Brigade. It is unlikely the medal recreated here was issued during the war, and in all probability came into being as a national reunion remembrance. However, on State financed Iron Brigade monuments erected after the war, any mention of Battery B, 4th U.S. Light Artillery was omitted. In its place the States used, in the center, the USV designation of the United States Volunteers. Regardless, the Arlington National Cemetery grave markers of General Gibbon and Major James Stewart, who commanded Battery B, which were paid for and erected by the Veterans of the Iron Brigade, and the grave marker for Colonel Edward Stuyvesant Bragg, Commanding, 6th Wisconsin Vols, in Rienzi Cemetery, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, each gives a clear indication of the high regard in which the Infantrymen of the Iron Brigade held Battery B, 4th U.S. Light Artillery. Therefore, this reproduction pays homage to their memory as well. The use of a red ribbon is indicative of the Iron Brigade's service in the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 1st Corps, Army of the Potomac. Reproduction measures 3½” (95mm) overall and the cross itself is appx. 1½” (40mm).