Origin of the Name “Iron Brigade”
General McClellan told General John B. Callis of Lancaster, Wis., at the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia, when his grand reception was given there, what he knew of the origin of the cognomen “Iron Brigade”.
Said he: “During the battle of South Mountain my headquarters were where I could see every move of the troops taking the gorge on the Pike (National Pike). With my glass I saw the men fighting against great odds, when General Hooker came in great haste for some orders. I asked him what troops were those fighting on the Pike?
His answer was: “General Gibbon’s Brigade of Western men. ‘I said, “They must be made of iron.”
He replied: “By the Eternal they are iron. If you had seen them at Second Bull-Run as I did, you would know them to be iron.”
I replied: “Why General Hooker, they fight equal to the best troops in the world.”
This remark so elated Hooker that he mounted his horse and dashed away without orders. After the battle, I saw Hooker at the Mountain House near where the Brigade fought.
He sang out: “Now general, what do you think of the Iron Brigade?”
Ever since that time I gave them the cognomen of Iron Brigade.”
From the 1900 program of the Iron Brigade Association Reunion in Chicago