Civil War
9:09 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Iron Brigade & Beyond: Wisconsin in the Civil War - Part 3

If you drive directly west from Milwaukee for about three and a half hours, you'll come to the city of Prairie du Chien, one of Wisconsin's oldest cities. Given its age and history, it's no surprise then that Prairie du Chien has some interesting connections to the American Civil War. This Saturday, the Prairie du Chien Historical Society will open a new permanent exhibit at the Fort Crawford Museum about the Swift U.S. Army General Hospital. It was one of only three hospitals in Wisconsin to care for wounded Civil War soldiers.

Major John Gibbon first commanded the Iron Brigade - and bought the volunteer soldiers their iconic black hats.
Major John Gibbon first commanded the Iron Brigade - and bought the volunteer soldiers their iconic black hats.

We mention this because this opening, replete with hospital history and Civil War-era music, is a perfect example of one of Wisconsin's little known connections to the War Between the States. Of course, there's one Wisconsin connection to the Civil War that needs little introduction - if you know your history. The famous Iron Brigade inspired respect and fear in both their comrades and their enemies alike. Also known as the Black Hat Brigade, they gained a reputation for not only their wardrobe, but also for their courage and tough fighting style during some of the war's biggest battles. And the brigade boasted not one, but three Wisconsin regiments.

As part of our Iron Brigade and Beyond: Wisconsin in the Civil War series, we turn now to independent Civil War historian Thomas Martin Sobottke for a look at this brave brigade.

The Pewaukee writer and teacher is also the author of the book, Across That Dark River: The Civil War Memory, published by Moving Train Books LLC. Lake Effect’s Stephanie Lecci produces our series. We’ll hear another installment later this month.