From the first battle at Bull Run to the surrender of Lee's army at Appomattox four years later, only one federal infantry brigade experienced the entire Civil War as a cohesive unit. While most units were composed of regiments from different states that were disbanded after three years, the First New Jersey Brigade was the enduring exception.
Despite the group's remarkable coherency, it started as many military units did during the early stages of the war-a disorganized ragtag outfit that was poorly trained and ill-prepared for battle. This quickly changed, however, with the appointment of General Philip Kearny in the fall of 1861. Kearny transformed the troops, making them among the most disciplined and effective commands in the Army of the Potomac. A series of notable victories earned the soldiers an impressive reputation and, with it, thousands of others voluntarily came forward to enlist. Even when they suffered heavy losses, the New Jersey regiments fought exceptionally well and served key roles in dozens of battles, including the Peninsula, Seven Days, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Early's Valley, and the Petersburg Campaigns.
In Kearny's Own, Bradley M. Gottfried weaves together compelling accounts of battles fought with a wealth of letters and diaries to tell the story of this famous brigade from a uniquely personal perspective. The hopes, fears, and sorrows of the men come through vividly as accounts reveal how civilians were physically and emotionally transformed into soldiers. Primary sources also provide insight to what the war meant to the men who fought for the Union.
Fourteen maps illustrate the battles and marches, while detailed appendices include statistical breakdowns of losses and outline the fates of the men whose letters and diaries are used as sources. In this first book published on the subject, Gottfried not only provides a long-overdue history of the First New Jersey Brigade, he offers a human window into the turbulent and trying experiences of war.