I Corps' Muddy March
When the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia Invaded Maryland in June 1863, the Army of the Potomac headed north in pursuit. On Monday, June 29, a "rainy, miserable day," the 15,000 men, 2,900 horses and mules and 475 wagons of Gen. John F. Reynolds' I Corps, leading the Union advance, marched through Lewistown en route to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The day's march of eighteen miles began west of Fredrick and ended at Emmitsburg. This was the halfway point.
When the armies clashed on July 1, the troops that marched by here were the first ones engaged. The famous Iron Brigade (19th Indiana and 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin) was decimated on the ridges west of Gettysburg but kept the Confederates at bay. When Reynolds was killed about 10:30 that morning, Gen. Abner Doubleday took command.
On July 7, after the battle, the army's I, VI, and XI Corps marched by here, headed south. The I and VI Corps then turned westward and crossed Catoctin Mountain into the Middletown Valley at Hamburg Pass. The XI Corps continued down the Emmitsburg Road to Frederick.
(Sidebar) The Iron Brigade
In autumn 1861, the U.S. Army incorporated the 2nd, 6th, and 7th Wisconsin and the 19th Indiana Infantry Regiments into a brigade (adding the 24th Michigan a year later). Gen. Joseph Hooker referred to it as his "iron brigade" after heavy losses at the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862, and the name stuck. The distinctively black-hatted unit deployed early at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, to stop the Confederate advance. The cost was ghastly (several regiments suffered between 65 and 80 percent casualties), effectively destroying the brigade.