July 4, 1863:
The 48th Pennsylvania spent Independence Day 1863 as Provost Guards for the city of Lexington, Kentucky, and their celebration that year was much more successful than in 1862 while encamped along the sandy beaches of North Carolina.
"We celebrated the 4th of July," wrote Gould, "with a very pretty street parade through the city during the day and fireworks at night. Our camp was crowded with the elite of the city, and everybody went away happy."
Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants of the 48th PA, commanding the Lexington Post, sent out orders on July 3, 1863: "At the present time, when the United States is making gigantic exertions to crush out a rebellion which threatens to destroy its nationality, it is especially appropriate that the anniversary of the day when the liberty of its people was achieved, and their rights secured, should be held sacred and suitably celebrated." Continued Pleasants, "It is therefore ordered. . .that in honor of the eighty-seventh anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America (July 4, A.D. 1863) two National salutes of thirty-five guns each, be fired from Fort Clay--one at dawn, and the other at mid-day. It is also ordered that the Forty-eighth Regiment P.V. have a street parade at 7 o'clock a.m., to be ended by a battalion drill."
For Lieutenant Curtis Pollock, the celebration began late on July 3, 1863. Late that night, Pollock and a few others attended a grand ball at the Broadway Hotel "and had a pleasant time." "It was very warm dancing," wrote the young lieutenant, "but I managed to get through with quite a number of dances." The dance ended sometime around 4:00 a.m. on the morning of July 4, but the late hour did not deter Pollock and "a party of Gents" from going downtown, procuring a number of firecrackers, and "started in the 4th of July." After being up all night, Pollock rejoined the regiment in time for the 7:00 a.m. parade. "We started down town about 7 o'clock with about two hundred men and marched all over town and when we got to the Court House Square we went through the Manual of Arms and the firings and did it very well." Finally, at 11:00 a.m. the regiment returned to camp and Pollock took a bath in the warm waters of a nearby creek. He took a nap that afternoon but was up that evening to witness the "quite extensive fire works."
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July 4, 1864:
By the spring of 1864, the 48th Pennsylvania was back in Virginia with the 9th Corps. Throughout May and June of that year, the regiment suffered heavy casualties in some of the war's heaviest fighting: at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and at Petersburg. Hundreds of men killed and wounded during these two months put a serious damper on any celebration as the Fourth of July rolled in. Indeed, neither of regiment's two histories make any mention, whatsoever, of the 48th celebrating Independence Day that year. And Lieutenant Curtis Pollock, who recorded the daily actions of the regiment since his enlistment in August 1861, was now dead, mortally wounded in mid-June at Petersburg. Instead of celebrating the nation's Independence on July 4, 1864, the 48th Pennsylvania occupied its time in tunelling under the Confederate defenses, a project that began some two weeks earlier. One of the men who did the digging, Samuel Beddall of Company E, recorded the following in his diary:
"Monday 4 July: as this day is almost allways most highley celebrated by the Civil & Millitary homes it was passed to day with out anny thing transpiring unusually. it passed off very quiet. talking of home was the most thing"
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July 4, 1865:
There is no mention in any of my sources how the 48th celebrated its final 4th of July in the army. But with the end of the war and the cessation of hostilities, Independence Day 1865 was no doubt much better celebrated within the ranks than it was just one year earlier. With the regiment stationed near Alexandria, Virginia, most of the men probably wished they were back home in Schuylkill County observing the Fourth of July with their families.
Two weeks later, the 48th Pennsylvania was mustered out of service, and the men headed for home.
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Four Fourths in the ranks of the 48th Pennsylvania. . . Some more memorable than others and certainly all, from 1865 forward, observed by the survivors at home with more meaning and importance.