Review: Those Damned Black Hats! The Iron Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign

Those Damned Black Hats! The Iron Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign
by Lance Herdegen

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Savas Beatie (October 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932714480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932714487

The Iron Brigade was one of the premier combat units of the Army of the Potomac.  Comprised of western regiments their distinctive headgear made them stand out in any formation.  Headgear is not a combat record but the Iron Brigade compiled a very distinguished one in a very short time.  They bore the proud designation of First Brigade, First Division, and First Corps, a heavy responsibility that they never shirked.

I expected a history of the brigade and the book provides a good one.  There is enough history to allow us to understand how the brigade received its’ name and designation.

I expected a history of the fighting on July 1, 1863 and the book provides an excellent account of that day.   There are sufficient tactical details to make an understandable account without being bogged down and losing sight of the overall battle.  The author is able to focus us on the Iron Brigade without losing sight of the bigger battle, keeping us in both the sharp tactical fighting details and making clear the general course of the battle.

I expected a history of the regiments that made up the brigade to the end of the war.  The book provides a clear account of the different paths each of the regiments took after Gettysburg.  These three-year regiments had to reenlist in 1864 to maintain their regimental designation.  We have an excellent account of what happens first to the Iron Brigade after the devastation of Gettysburg and after I Corps is disbanded.  This gives the reader a look into the problems associated with maintaining regiments over time.  This is the saddest part of the book and we understand the heartache of these men when associations built in battle were broken.

I expected a post war history too.  Again, the book does not disappoint providing an excellent look at the associations formed and the histories written after the war.  A secondary story is how a Western Brigade fared in an Eastern Army.  We have very little about the politics of Union veteran associations and this is a valuable contribution.

What I did not expect was the author’s ability to make Gettysburg a personal experience!  The fighting is a combination of the standard “Company F fired a volley” and the words of the men firing that volley.  I have never read a Gettysburg book that rendered the battle in such personal detail.  This was almost talking to these men and hearing them describe what they did.

This is an excellent book, full of historical details and personal experiences.  The author has done an excellent job in pulling this all together in a very readable and enjoyable book.  Bradley M. Gottfried’s excellent maps both complement and support the text.  This is another excellent Civil War book from Savas Beatie and is entitled to full membership in that exclusive club.

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3 responses to “Review: Those Damned Black Hats! The Iron Brigade in the Gettysburg Campaign”

  1. Robert Moore Avatar

    Not exactly on the topic of the book, but the book review made me think of something related to the Iron Brigade. Has everyone else noticed the cool Iron Brigade stuff for sell at the Antietam Visitor Center? Considering some exchanges in the blogosphere about what sells (typically Confederate) and what does not (typically Union), I wonder how the sales are going on the Union-related stuff. I’m sure the Irish Brigade stuff up there sells just because it is Irish, but the Iron Brigade is a little different.

    Don’t mean to take away anything from the review of the book, just a passing thought.

  2. Ted Savas Avatar

    Thanks for the reviews. We deeply appreciate the coverage of our titles.

    Best Regards,

    Theodore P. Savas
    Savas Beatie LLC
    989 Governor Drive, Suite 102
    El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
    916.941.6896 (Voice)
    916-941.6895 (Fax)

    Join us online for some publishing blogspeak at and

  3. Dave Wege Avatar
    Dave Wege

    I will be seeing Lance at the Milwaukee Civil War Roundtable on Sep. 10. Can’t wait, as I fully agree with the assessment of Lance’s latest work on the Black Hats. Not only does he bring those men of iron to life, he also provides little nuggets of their experience that my students enjoy. They help create the “aha experience” that means the lightbulb just came on for another (possible) future ACW scholar.

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