Israel Bush Richardson (1815-1862)
Major General Israel Bush Richardson was born in Fairfax, Vermont on December 26, 1815. He graduated from West Point in the Class of 1841 and served in both the Seminole Indian War in Florida and the Mexican War where he earned two brevets and the nickname "Fighting Dick." In 1855 he gave up his commission as Captain, 3rd United States Infantry, and settled on a farm near Pontiac.
At the outbreak of the Rebellion Richardson recruited and organized the 2nd Michigan Volunteer Infantry, which he became the first Colonel of in May of 1861.
He commanded the 4th Brigade, 1st Division at First Bull Run in May of 1861. His brigade of Tyler's division was involved in limited action at First Bull Run near Blackburn's Ford and in covering the withdrawal.
Richardson was appointed to Brigadier General of Volunteers. He went on to command the 1st Division, 2nd Corp in the Peninsula campaign in July 1862 and saw action at Yorktown, Seven Pines, and the Seven Days. Awarded a second star at the close of that campaign, he took part in the Maryland campaign.
At the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, Major General Israel B. Richardson attacked the enemy center at the Sunken Road. His division joined the fight to aid Major General William H. French's division that was the leading the Union attack on the entrenched Confederates in the Sunken Road. Near 1:00 p.m., Richardson's men were able to gain the high ground near the road's bend and delivered an enfilading fire upon the remaining 300 Confederates forcing them to fall back to new positions. If General McClellan had continued to push the advantage that these brave men had gained, Lee's center would have collapsed and resulted in the ruin his army and perhaps the Confederacy as well. General McClellan elected to end the fight in this section stating, "It would not be prudent" to continue the attack. This marked the end of the second phase of the Battle of Antietam.
Trying to organize the attack that might well have decisively won the battle, he was wounded by a spent shell fragment while supervising his artillery. At first it was not considered a mortal wound, but infection set in and on November 3, 1862 he died while still at the Pry House, McClellan's headquarters.
His men liked him immenselythey called him "Fighting Dick" and bragged that he was the plainest general in the army. He could often be found in camp with a battered old straw hat on his head and hands in his pockets. His uniform coat was discarded half the time, so no insignia of rank was visible. On more than on occasion officers and men of other outfits mistook him for a wagon driver. The slouchiness was strictly confined to camp however, and in the field General Richardson was a first-rate fighter. His men recorded that when they went into battle he would tell them to come on"I won't ask you to go anywhere I won't go myself."