Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The 48th/150th: "The Eleventh of December. . .was an eventful day."

Captain Oliver Bosbyshell describes the regiment's activities, 150 years ago this very day, December 11, 1862:

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The Bombardment of Fredericksburg, 12/11/1862

           The eleventh of December, 1862, was an eventful day. The men of the regiment were aroused at 4 a.m. by order of the Colonel. Blankets, with shelter tents enclosed, were rolled to be carried across the shoulder as a sash. Three days’ rations were placed in haversacks and knapsacks, and all unnecessary baggage was left in camp, in charge of the sick. The regiment started at 8 o’clock, with the brigade, to participate in the assault on Fredericksburg. The artillery stationed on the many eminences overlooking the town, opened early and kept up an almost incessant cannonade all day long. The Forty-eighth was drawn up in line of battle on the summit of a hill, about a half-mile east of the Lacy House—in the neighborhood of the Phillip’s House—awaiting the completion of the pontoon bridge. The laying of this bridge was a very difficult task—the rebel infantry stationed along the edge of the south bank of the river, kept up a rattling fire upon the sappers and miners engaged therein. The latter gallantly returned the fire, and continued with their work. Some thus engaged were killed, and quite a number wounded. Then the rebel sharpshooters, with which the houses along the river abounded, turned their attention to our cannoneers, who were making it uncomfortable for the rebel infantry along the river bank.

            As the artillerymen began to fall, Burnside ordered the town shelled. The batteries responded with a will, roar succeeded roar in rapid succession, pouring into the doomed town a terrible shower of deadly missiles. The cannonading at this time was terrific, rendered a thousand-fold more deafening by the reverberations arising from the peculiar formation of the country. The deep bluffs overhanging the river giving back a hollow sound, like the rolling and crashing of thunder!

            Noon came. The regiment still lay idly in line. The pontoon had not yet been laid. At 3 p.m. it was the writer’s good fortune to accompany Lieutenant-Colonel Pleasants nearer the town, where opportunity was afforded for a better look at the condition of things. Adjutant McGinness kindly loaned his horse. Pausing in our route, at General Sumner’s headquarters, there was spread below the once beautiful town of Fredericksburg, now in flames, and from all appearances doomed to soon become a mass of ruins. Whilst gazing on the destruction, Colonel Frick and Major Anthony, of the 129th Pennsylvania, came up, and proposed going to the river’s edge, which was lined with Union batteries, in order to obtain a still better view. Down we galloped, and very soon we became interested spectators of a most glorious scene. We were directly over the spot where, all day long, the sappers and miners had been endeavoring to build a pontoon bridge. This was almost immediately beneath the bluff on which the Lacy House stood. The engineers were supported by the 7th Michigan Regiment, and just as we reached the scene, a part of this gallant regiment took two of the pontoon boats, and paddling them across the river, drove the rebels from the banks an sent them running through the town. This was done in the face of their sharpshooters. The Michigan boys were a determined set of men and not to be dismayed. Soon the entire regiment got across, using the boats for that purpose, and although the rebels rallied and far outnumbered them, the 7th stood to their work, beating the foe back in grand style. The artillery came to their aid and poured into the town a destructive fire of grape and canister. This was enough, and when we rode away from the river the brave Michigan men held the town. Having both banks of the river the bridges were completed speedily.

Whilst on this inspecting tour with Lieutenant-Colonel Pleasants, the regiment had received orders to return to camp, which it did. As preparations were under way to occupy the old quarters for the night, orders to ‘fall in’ were given. Back again it marched, expecting to cross the river. Another halt, and another order to return, took the regiment to the old camp, where it remained for the night, with orders to be ready to move in thirty minutes after notice. A sufficient number of troops had been sent across the river to hold the town during the night.

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