Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 20 April l827,John Gibbon (see Plate F3) was graduated from the US Military Academy in 1847. He saw service in Mexico and in the Seminole War, and as an artillery instructor at West Point, writing a standard book on the subject thereafter. On the
When John Gibbon, a professional artilleryman, first earned command of an infantry brigade, contemporaries predicted that the unit would not be drilled in evolutions of the line, known only by infantry officers. Gibbon, however, bought and memorized a manual and astonished his peers with his well-drilled brigade. His command would become famous as the "Iron Brigade" of mid-Western troops, known by their Hardee hats - one of Gibbon's innovations to improve morale. At about the time of Gettysburg, the staff officer Frank Haskell described him as "compactly made, neither spare nor corpulent, with ruddy complexion, chestnut brown hair, with a clean-shaved face, except his moustache, which is decidedly reddish in color, medium-sized, well-shaped head, sharp, moderately-jutting brow, deep blue, calm eyes, sharp, slightly aquiline nose, compressed mouth, full jaws and chin, with an air of calm firmness in his manner. He always looks well dressed."
When this portrait was taken he was clearly in the early stages of growing what became a full beard.
• • v -he ( ivil War he found himself - like - :r~irv. tht-r • .fficers - in a difficult position; he . - rr.uch < »f his vouth in North Carolina, where - uarents. who owned slaves, still lived, and 1 - it- was from Baltimore, Maryland.
While he was serving at Camp Floyd, Utah, dun: _ : e uncertain period between Lincoln's election and the Confederate firing on Fort Sumter. < 'ne evening the post band struck up Dixy, the Southern song, shortly after the band leader received a whispered message from Gibbon'< small daughter. Some officers present at the incident wrote a letter to the Secretary of War claiming to uncover a pro-Southern plot and naming Gibbon as a Southern sympathizer. On learning this Gibbon wrote a heated letter to the Adjutant General denying these charges; he demanded a court-martial, which was convened on 5 Julv. After a one-day session Gibbon was cleared of charges. As a firm believer in the oath he had sworn to defend his country's Constitution and obey the officers of her army, rather than following the political agenda of any particular state, Gibbon was firmly in the Union camp.
He was named chief of artillery of Irvin McDowell's division until appointed a brigadier-general of volunteers on 2 May 1862.1 le was given command of the only brigade of troops from Western states, a hard-lighting unit that won the nickname of the "Iron Brigade". There he was described by one of his officers as "bland and genial," while another said he was "a plain, common man, [who] will listen to the complaint of a private as soon as he will to a colonel." Gibbon relied on incentives rather than punishment to maintain discipline. To improve morale he adopted the US Army's chess uniform, with added gaiters, for his brigade's field dress. On the other hand, no commander can ever be universally admired: one of his Wisconsin soldiers called him "a manufactured aristocrat, who owes all his importance to the circumstances that created him," adding that he was "arbitrary, severe and exacting... distant, formal and reserved."
In November 1862, Gibbon was given command of the 2nd Division, I Corps. Badly wounded at Fredericksburg (13 December 1862), he returned to duty after three months' recuperation. He was then placed in command of the 2nd Division of II Corps. In this appointment he was wounded once more at Gettysburg (1-3 July 1863).
After recovering again, Gibbon was given command of draft depots in Cleveland and Philadelphia. With the start of the 1864 campaign he
Winfield Scott Hancock, known because of an early dispatch from the front as "Hancock the Superb", ran for president after the war and only narrowly lost. Badly wounded in action several times, he was one of the army's most admired generals. His pre-war friendship with Lewis Armistead, their sad parting when the latter left to serve the Confederacy, and Armistead's death with Hancock's name on his lips after leading his men against Hancock's in "Pickett's Charge" on the third day of Gettysburg, have stood ever since as a poignant example of the misery of old comrades divided by civil war.
returned to the Army of the Potomac, fighting with distinction at the head of his old division. He was promoted major-general ranking from 7 June 1864. In January 1865 he was given command of XXIV Corps in the Army of the James. He was one of the commissioners named to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox.
After the war Gibbon was named colonel on the regular army roster in command of the 36th US Infantry, transferring to the 7th US Infantry in 1869. He was involved in the 1876 campaign against the Sioux, followed by the Nez Perces campaign. He was named a brigadier-general in the regular army on 10 July 1885, and retired in 1891. Serving as commander in chief of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion, a veteran officers' organization, he died in Baltimore on 6 February 1896.
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