Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The 48th/150th: Bloodletting at 2nd Bull Run: Part 3/4

Captain Henry Pleasants, Company C
Describes the Battle of 2nd Bull Run

Henry Pleasants, who would garner much fame as the mastermind of the Petersburg Mine in June-July 1864, wrote the following account of the 48th's actions at 2nd Bull Run for the Miners' Journal, Pottsville's leading newspaper.
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Camp Near Alexandria {VA}
September 4, 1862
After leaving the left of Pope’s army, before the Rapidan, which position our Division (Reno’s) occupied, we marched to Kelly’s ford, across the Rappahannock. From this point we went to Rappahannock Station, thence along the northern side of the river to Sulphur Springs; thence to Warrenton and on to Warrenton Junction, where we rested for three-quarters of a day. From here we marched to Manassas Junction, and on to near Centreville, where we turned to the left and moved towards the Gap which leads to the Shenandoah Valley. This was on Friday morning. The action had already begun. We reached the battle-field at 1 P.M., and at 3 our Brigade, commanded by Colonel {James} Nagle, was ordered to attack the rebels in a thick woods. The 6th New Hampshire Regiment formed on the left, the 2nd Maryland on the right and the 48th Pennsylvania fifty paces in their rear. Hardly had the column entered the woods when the action began—brisk, fiery and bloody. Our regiment was marching on with the steadiness of regulars, when the battalions in front obliquing to the left and right, permitted us to advance quickly and occupy the intervening space, promptly opening a destructive fire on the rebels. We advanced firing for about a quarter of a mile, when Lieut. Col. {Joshua} Sigfried halted the regiment, and, after causing them to cease firing, ordered them to advance with the bayonet, which was done in gallant style—driving the enemy out of two ditches (one of them an old railroad cut,) and going on beyond them. We had, however, not gone far before we received a volley of musketry from behind. Thinking that we were fired on by some of our own troops, the regiment was ordered back to the nearest ditch, and our fire to the front resumed. From this time the fire poured on our and the New Hampshire regiment, was most terrific—from the front, left, and rear. The more our colors were raised and spread out to the view of our supposed friends behind, the hotter and bloodier were their discharges. At last the rebel regiments made their appearance on our rear, when Colonel Sigfried gave the order to retreat by the rightflank. The men stood this terrible fire without flinching, obeying the orders of their officers, and firing to the front where the enemy was supposed only to be. The regiments of the brigade were promptly reformed after leaving the woods, and soon after were relieved by the 2nd Brigade. The next day, Saturday, we were present at the battle, supporting batteries, and being continuously under artillery fire from 3 to 9 P.M. Our division was the last to leave the battlefield, which it did about ten o’clock that night. Next day, although without hardly any sleep, rest or food, we were drawn up in line of battle until night-time. On Monday, about 1 P.M., our division again marched from Centreville to Fairfax, protecting the train. When about three or four miles from where we started we met the rebels, in force, posted in the woods and corn-fields, and after fighting til dark, and being reinforced by General {Phil} Kearney, we gained a complete victory, driving them for nearly a mile. Our regiment was under heavy fire nearly the whole time, but supporting other troops in front, we could not return it. The loss of Saturday and Monday was very light, but that of Friday was terrible. The forest was converted into a slaughter-house. Some companies of the 6th New Hampshire were nearly exterminated. Some of ours lost about one-half their men. The regiment lost 152 men. The brigade, out of about 2,000, lost over 500.
{Henry Pleasants}

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