Sunday, May 4, 2008

The 48th Pennsylvania at The Wilderness & Spotsylvania: Part 3: Letters Home. . .

The following are letters written by members of the 48th Pennsylvania following the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. . .

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(1). William G. Auman, of Company G, wrote this letter to Pottsville's Miners' Journal on May 15, while still in the trenches near Spotsylvania:

This is the tenth day of the fighting, and from present appearances it will last for some days yet. The 48th has been under fire for seven days, and were severely engaged twice. At the Battle of the Wilderness, we were engaged and lost three killed and twelve wounded. On the 12th, we had a hard fight on the ground we now occupy. Our regiment was in the thickest of the fight and lost heavily. Lieut. Henry Jackson was killed beside me. He was struck in the neck by a rifle ball. I helped to carry him out. He died while we were carrying him to the hospital. When he was struck he fell against me. I asked him where he was hit; he whispered, “I don’t know,” and then his head fell to one side, and I saw that he was dying. He never spoke again. The loss in the regiment was one hundred and thirty-seven killed, wounded, and missing.
We drove the enemy a mile, when we met the 13th Georgia Regiment. We completely annihilated that regiment, taking many prisoners and killing and wounding nearly all the rest. We then charged on the rebel works, but not being supported by the regiment on our right, and being exposed to a terrible cross fire from the lines of rifle pits and a battery, and were compelled to retire to the left into a wood. Here the left of the regiment was run close to the enemy’s earthworks, and a number of our men were shot. We fell back, formed line, and took position on the same ground we were on before we charged. Here we put up breastworks and have been fighting ever since. While I am writing, the bullets are whistling over my head, but as long as we do not expose ourselves, we are quite safe.”

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(2). Lieutenant Curtis Clay Pollock, Company G, wrote this letter to his mother Emily in Pottsville on May 16, 1864:

In the Rifle Pits near
Spottsylvania CH
May 16th 1864

My Dear Ma

We have just been told that a mail would leave today, and though I have written but yesterday I will write you a few lines to day for fear that the letter should not reach you. Lt. Jackson was killed on the 12th he was lieing quite near me when he was shot and was hit in the neck just above the collar bone he did not live more than 15 minutes after being hit. I had him carried out immediately and he was afterwards buried by Wm. Atkinson who took all his things. We are lieing here holding our position. I would like to know what Grant is going to do. It has been raining for the last five days and the roads are in a very bad condition. perhaps that has something to do with our being here so quietly. On the 12th the 2nd Corps captured 8000 prisoners and 40 pieces of Artillery and 39 stands of Colors. They surprised the Rebels before they were awake and walked right over them. I saw Capt. Mintzer from Pottstown on Saturday he came around to see me but had no news. Everything that is going on is kept very quiet. We have heard the rumor of the capture of Richmond but do not know whether to believe it. We have also heard of Shermans success in Georgia. We have been lieing in the same position for the last five days although the positions of some of the other troops have been changed. I will write you every opportunity.
With much love I remain
Your affect Son

Co. G lost 2 killed and 9 wounded in the fight of the 12 and on the 6th we had 2 wounded, and on the 11th one was wounded by a chance shot. Capt. B[osbyshell] is with Col Sigfried in the Negro Brigade. Col. is commanding the Brigade and Capt. is Asst. Adjt. Gen. Wm. Williams was the other man killed. None of the men you know are hurt. John Hodgson is all right and I do not know of any in the Regt. being hurt that you know. Dick Jones was grazed with a ball but not of much account. He has gone to Washington. We are very strongly entrenched here and so are the Rebs. and when a break is made some one will have to suffer. Our rations have been rather short to day on account of the roads. The wagons not being able to get up.
I believe there is nothing more to tell you
Your affec Son
There were 136 killed and 1 wounded in the Regt. since fight began.

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(3). In response to her son's letter, Emily Pollock wrote the following:

May 21 1864

My Dear Son,

We were very much pleased yesterday to receive a letter from you giving an account of your later movements and losses. We all regretted to hear Jackson’s death but are very thankful that you sustained no injury. After every battle always try and let us know who are killed and wounded. It is a great satisfaction to the friends here. Capt. B[osbyshell] always did it, and Mrs. Hutten came up to us and wanted to know if we had heard particulars from you. I am sorry you have lost Capt B and if I was him I would not fancy being in the Negro Brigade. I expect you will have some severe fighting yet—but somewhere there is an over-ruling Providence who can protect you as well on the Battlefield as at home. Trust in Him always and may you be ever enabled to do your duty as a soldiers and a Christian. Do not be rash, however. I trust you may never fall into their hands a prisoner. It seems to me, the vengeance of Heaven will surely overtake and fall heavily upon those wretched for their treatment of our poor prisoners. No savages could be more brutal than they have been, for what can be worse than a slow death by starvation.

I remain your Affec Mother


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(4). Colonel Henry Pleasants, commanding the 48th Pennsylvania, wrote this letter to the Miners' Journal on May 15, 1864:

“. . . .In the Battle of the Wilderness the regiment was hotly engaged on the 6th, and skirmished in the front on the 7th. On the 6th, 350 men, including nearly all the veterans, skirmished all day on the right, and the rest of the regiment moved with the main portion of the 9th Corps, and were hotly engaged in the center. The rebel army having fallen back, the 9th Corps was moved to Chancellorsville on the 8th. The 48th was not again engaged until the 12th, when our division advanced toward Spotsylvania on the evening of the 11th, but the battle was not begun until the morning of the 12th. We fought all day, and our regiment having caught three Georgia regiments in a little hollow, with rising ground behind them, which prevented them from retreating, completely annihilated them. We took over two hundred prisoners. One squad of them, which I sent to the rear under Lieut. Owen, amounted to forty-eight. Afterwards all the troops of the division were ordered to charge, and the 48th advanced in excellent style through an open, marshy ground under heavy fire, but the troops on both flanks giving way, the regiment was moved by the left flank into a ravine in the woods and shielded from the destructive fire of the enemy. Our loss has been heavy, but the 48th has behaved well, and in the action of the 12th, owing to our position on the brow of the hill, five reels were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner for every man lost by us. Since the 12th, a few men have been wounded by sharpshooters and we still remain on the front line. We have to mourn the loss of many brave men, and one of the best and bravest of officers is Lieutenant Henry Jackson.”

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