The 19th Indiana was, together with 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin and 24th Michigan, part of the Iron Brigade, the only Brigade in the Union’s Eastern theatre Army of the Potomac exclusively recruited from the Western States.
Company A was originally from the residents of Delaware County. Other companies came from Madison, Wayne, Randolph, Marion, Elkhart, Johnston, and Owen Counties. They were known as the Union Guards. Company A was organized and mustered at Camp Morton in Indianapolis, Ind. on July 29, 1861. By the time they came to their first major engagement, a precursor to the 2nd Bull Run, at Brawner’s Farm (where, attacked by the Confederate Stonewall Division, they held their ground) in August 1862, they had a year to train and consolidate.
Most of the men in the original Company A were probably farmers: strong, weather-beaten men imbued with a fierce patriotism. They followed that long tradition of the English speaking countries of volunteering in time of need (viz. The Territorial Army or the National Guard). As with most men who fought in the Civil War (Confederates included) they were just ordinary men caught up in extraordinary events. Their reputation was built on their fighting ability.
Within the Iron Brigade, the 19th Indiana’s nickname was the ‘Swamphogs’. General Gibbon, a Regular soldier when he commanded, was a key influence on the Brigade. He introduced regular style uniforms, particularly the long Frock Coat and the tall black Hardee hat. Hated as a strict disciplinarian, he welded, by drill and training, these units into efficient field infantry with much esprit de corps. These “westerners” were largely country or small town frontiers men used to living off the land and being in the open.
The 19th Indiana featured at those (in)famous struggles: South Mountain (where the ‘Iron Brigade’ allegedly earned its nickname), Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. At the latter, the Iron Brigade was the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the First Corps, so came off the Line of March first and fought a magnificent and tenacious delaying action on the first day to enable the rest of the Army to come up and consolidate. “That ain’t no darn Militia, that’s ‘em Black Hats, the Army of the Potomac’s here” was observed by a Confederate (or words to that effect).
After that destructive first day at Gettysburg, the 19th rarely got back to its old self. The Grant campaigns in Virginia in 1864 – the ‘meatgrinder’ effect – took their toll; finally, the Regiment was consolidated with the 20th Indiana Infantry in October 1864.
They were good, dedicated soldiers and took stubborn pride in doing a good job.
But this is only half of the story. For the full regimental history, look here.
And for the Original Volunteer Roster of Co. A, 19th Indiana, from Delaware county in 1861, look here.
With thanks to our brothers-in-arms in the US impression of Co. A. for the link.