|A painting of the 24th Michigan at Gettysburg by the renowned artist Don Troiani|
The Iron Brigade
At the battle of Gettysburg, the Union Army of the Potomac was made up of soldiers from the East Coast, except for one brigade of foot soldiers from the West. Known as the “Iron Brigade” for their determination, they comprised the 2nd Wisconsin, 6th Wisconsin, 7th Wisconsin, 19th Indiana, and 24th Michigan. On the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, the Iron Brigade bore the brunt of the Confederate attack. The 26th North Carolina, an excellent unit (commanded by the youngest colonel in Lee’s army, and recently issued with new uniforms) attacked the 24th Michigan. The Carolinians pushed the 24th Michigan back to McPherson’s Woods. There the Michigan men made their stand. The two regiments engaged in a furious firefight, shooting it out at short range.
The 24th Michigan finally brought the equally gallant 26th North Carolina to a standstill. During the night of July 1-2, the Iron Brigade was withdrawn from its old position to rejoin the main Federal army. A newspaper of the time stated: “It was to the Iron Brigade more than any other that the nation owes its salvation at Gettysburg, and we say not more than history will verify, that of all the heroic regiments which fought there, the Twenty-fourth Michigan stands preeminent for its devotion and valor. Against the overwhelming hordes of the enemy, it stood for hours, a wall of granite, which beat back, again and again, the resolute but baffled foe.”