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South Mountain - September 14, 1862

These are summaries of the battles. For first hand news reports, note the dates and check our "From the Front" section for more detail.

Aug. 31st fall back of Centerville and camp. The weather rainy and chilly. Distance 5 miles. Sept. 2nd we march by the way of Falls Church to Upton’s Hill and camp. Distance 10 mile. We had four days’ rest. Sept. 6th we recross the Potomac at Aqueduct bridge, pass through Georgetown and Washington out on the Oakville Pike and camp near Leesboro. Distance 18 miles. Sept. 11th to New Lisbon on National Road leading from Baltimore to Harper’s Ferry. Distance 7 miles. Sept. 12th march to New Market. Nine miles. Sept. 13th march to Monocacy. Seven Miles. Early in the morning of the 14th the whole army advance over the Catoctin Ridge of mountains into the middle Valley,. The First Corps through Frederick city and Middletown to South Mountain, where the enemy was found strongly posted. The Iron Brigade was assigned the task, together with the old Battery B, Fourth U.S., of storming the pass. It was late in the afternoon, near sunset when Gen. Gibbon advanced a regiment on each side of the National Turnpike in line of battle, preceded by strong skirmish line, and followed by the two other regiments, and the old Battery B moving on the road within rang of the enemy’s guns which were firing on the advancing column from the gorges, the Iron Brigade advancing steady, driving the enemy from behind stone walls and up the pass.

Lee crossed the Potomac into Maryland. Accompanying the rest of the army, the brigade took part in pursuit of the enemy , who was found in position on South Mountain, at Turner’s Gap. The National Road passes through the Gap, from Frederick to Hagerstown. Here the rebels were posted on the top of the mountain, on the right and the left, and held the Gap. General Reno proceeded to attack the enemy on the left, and General Hooker to carry the position on the right, while the Iron Brigade was ordered to attack the enemy in the Gap. The crests, on the left and the right, were successfully carried.

The Second Wisconsin was under the command of Colonel Fairchild, the Sixth under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Bragg, and the Seventh under Captain Callis.

Late in the afternoon, the Brigade advanced up the road, the Seventh Wisconsin and the Nineteenth Indiana in the advance, on the right and the left, preceded by two companies of skirmishers, from the Second and the Sixth, under Captain Colwell, of Company B, of the Second, and followed by the Second and Sixth, in double column, and a section of the battery, under Lieutenant Stewart.

The skirmishers were soon engaged, and supported by the Seventh, and the Nineteenth Indiana. The battery moved forward and opened on the rebels, who were in position at the top of the gorge. The brigade advanced, and found the enemy posted in the woods, and behind stone walls, and drove them before them until he was reinforced. In order to protect the right flank, Lieutenant Colonel Bragg entered the woods on the right, and deployed his regiment to the right of the Seventh. The Nineteenth Indiana, supported by the Second, deployed, and swung around parallel to the turnpike, and took the enemy in flank , getting a raking fire upon him, as he lay behind the stone walls. The fight continued until long after dark. With ammunition nearly exhausted, that in the boxes of the fallen being used, the brigade held its ground, and late in the night was relieved, except the Sixth, which occupied the battlefield all night. General Gibbon spoke highly of the action of the officers and men. Captain Colwell, of Company B, Second Wisconsin, in command of the skirmishers, was killed by a musket ball, while bravely leading his men in the thickest of the fight. Here the brigade acquired its designation of the "Iron Brigade of the West."

Military History of Wisconsin, Quinter, 1866

These are summaries of the battles. For first hand news reports, note the dates and check our "From the Front" section for more detail.

The fight continued until nine o’clock the enemy being entirely repulsed. The old Iron Brigade suffered severely , but continued to hold the ground it had so gallantly defended until 12 o’clock when it was relieved by Gen. Gorman’s brigade of Sedgwick’s Division, except the Sixth Wisconsin Regiment. Gen. Bragg remained out on the field all night. Here is where the brigade got its name Iron Brigade by Gen. McClellan. The brigade in this fight lost in killed and wounded three hundred and nine.

A few prisoners were taken by us, and after the fight was over a corporal of one of the regiments, with a guard, was sent to the rear with orders to turn them over at Gen. McClellan's Headquarters.

Finding the house to which he was directed, he entered and wandering through the hall looking for someone to whom to turn over his prisoners, he came to an open door which he entered, and there found an officer seated writing, who turned on the intruder apparently somewhat annoyed at the interruption, and asked: "What do you want?"

At once the corporal recognized Gen. McClellan. "I have some prisoners. General, I am ordered to turn over to you." "Who are you and where do you come from?" The corporal mentioned his regiment, at which McClellan at once exhibited interest, saying "Ah, you belong to Gibbon's Brigade.

You had some heavy fighting up there tonight." "Yes sir, but I think we gave them as good as the sent." "Indeed you did," said McClellan, "you made a splendid fight." the corporal, green as he may have been on some military matters, must have been a youth of some considerable coolness, for with a smile, he said, "Well, General, that's the was we boys calculate to fight under a general like you."

Many officers I know would have treated such an exhibition of familiarity with coldness. McClellan got up out of his chair, took the corporal by the hand and said with feeling, "My man, if I can get that kind of feeling amongst the men of this army, I can whip Lee without any trouble at all,"

The corporal returned to his regiment, proudly told his story and in a few minutes the report was circulated all through the Brigade that McClellan had taken an enlisted man by the hand and complimented him on the way his brigade had behaved in the fight!

By such bearing as this is the confidence of soldiers won.

John Gibbons

Sept. 15th we pursue the enemy closely through Boonsboro and Keedysville to Antietam Creek, where we skirmish some, but with no loss.