The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


June 27, 2009

In History: A Civil War tale

On April 12, 1861, when the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter, events must have seemed far away to George Washington Marquis.

He was 18 and he lived with his parents and sister in Cambridge City, Ind., where George helped his father to farm. However, when the call came out for Union Army volunteers, George must have been one of the first to volunteer.

On July 29, he enlisted in a unit being formed by Col. Sol Meredith, a Wayne County stock breeder for whom George had worked at one time.

The Wayne County boys who enlisted on that day called themselves the Richmond City Grays. They became Company B of the 19th Indiana Infantry.

George Marquis was surrounded by history. The 19th Indiana would become part of the Iron Brigade, one of the most legendary Civil War units. His old boss Sol Meredith would rise to the rank of Brigadier General and lead his troops into battle at Gettysburg.

In the summer of 1861, however, the 19th Indiana was just a group of raw recruits who needed to learn. Under the command of Gen. John Gibbon, a tough West Point graduate, who expected the same performance from his volunteers that he got from regular Army men, the 19th Indiana acquired the skills they would need.

Gen. Gibbon also decided to give his brigade a distinctive look, so he ordered large black felt hats with black feathers for them. The Black Hat Brigade became famous — and cursed by the enemy.

The Iron Brigade’s first test was a baptism of fire. In the late afternoon of Aug. 28, while marching to join Gen. Pope’s Army, Gibbon’s divisions came upon Confederate artillery near the Brawner Farmhouse at Grovetown, Va.

When the Union soldiers were fired on, Gibbon at first thought he had come upon stray Confederate horse artillery cavalry and ordered his unit to silence the guns and perhaps shut down one of “Jeb Stuart’s batteries.”

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