This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

"Our Village Looks Like A Collection of Bee Hives”: The Iron Brigade and Military Encampments During the American Civil War, 1861-1863.




Thomas, Peter Jr

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation



Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Civil War historians regard the Iron Brigade as one of the preeminent fighting units of the American Civil War. The 2nd Wisconsin, 6th Wisconsin, and 7th Wisconsin regiments; the 19th Indiana; and beginning in October 1862, the 24th Michigan, made up this all-western brigade. Known for its fighting reputation, black Hardee hats, and white leggings, the Iron Brigade fought in many of the vital battles that unfolded in the Civil War’s Eastern Theater. Their military accolades are well-documented in Civil War historiography. Despite suffering astonishing casualties at the battles of Gainesville (or Brawner’s Farm), South Mountain, and Gettysburg, the western brigade remained one of the Federal Army’s most reliable units. While an emphasis on the brigade’s role in the war’s outcome is known, however, their lives away from the battlefield have not been studied sufficiently. They offer a fresh perspective of how men endured life as Civil War soldiers. Building on the methods of environmental historians, my research analyzes the encampment experience of a sample of Iron Brigade soldiers to understand how the relationship between encampment and soldier developed over the course of the war. The study of Civil War camps is a vastly understudied topic. This work posits that the role of the camp in a soldier’s life helped men cope with the uncertainties of warfare. Soldiers received little training on how to navigate military encampments, yet this sample of Iron Brigade soldiers demonstrates that in their effort to control and combat the nuisances of camp, an awareness for navigating camps emerges by the summer campaigns of 1862, and winter of 1862-53. Tracking the western brigade from its camps of instruction in 1861 to its winter quarters outside Fredericksburg, Virginia in 1862-63, this research provides a new angle for understanding the agency military encampments played in Civil War soldiers’ military experiences.