Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 48th/150th: "It was not long before the work of carnage began:" Captain Bosbyshell Describes The Battle

Captain Oliver C. Bosbyshell (seated), with Lts. Pollock and H.C. Jackson, Co. G
Saturday, December 13, was an exceedingly pleasant day, so far as the weather was concerned—warm and balmy—but anything but a pleasant one to the torn, shattered and maimed soldiers, who passed through the fiery ordeal of the that day! The streets of the town were very muddy. Of course the command was aroused early, and all could guess the momentous events to come, by the unusual activity among the staff offices, who could be seen galloping here and there, conveying orders. The Forty-eighth was soon formed, and marching still further to the left, halted in line below the railroad. Whilst waiting at this point, General Thomas Francis Meagher rode by. Who can forget his magnificent appearance! Dressed in a faultlessly fitting suit of dark green cloth, black shoulder knots, in the center of which were embroidered silver stars, and his yellow silk sash crossed over his breast, denoting a general field officer of the day—superbly mounted on a deep bay horse, he made up a picture of unusual grace and majesty. One can well understand how, later in the day, his Irish brigade fought with the tenacity of tigers, inspired by the magnificent presence of its intrepid leader.
It was not long before the work of carnage began—opened by battery after battery sending terrible missiles hurtling through the air, until the vast amphitheatre reverberated with the sound of three hundred rebel cannon and as many Union guns. Above the din the sharp rattle of musketry soon arose, adding to the terrible work of death.
The regiment moved to the back of the town toward Marye’s Heights, and for a time remained stretched out in a street running perpendicular to the river. Whilst lying the grape, canister and shells of the enemy wounded several men in the ranks. Captain Gilmour of H, Sgt. Nies, of G, and others were slightly wounded, one man of Company A was killed. At this point the novel experience of seeing a ball or shell coming from the rebel artillery was vouchsafed. The ball could be distinctly seen in the air, and the ground immediately on the left of the regiment was frequently struck; the shots would roll over and over, in the most awkward manner.
General Nagle and staff were standing under cover of a brick stable, not far from the right of the Forty-eighth. A solid shot struck the building penetrating both walls—coming out just above the heads of the General and staff—throwing the brick bats amongst them, and covering the party with dust and dirt. It was a narrow call, but little time was permitted to ponder over it—the order to advance being given. This was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The Forty-eighth marched by the flank toward the right a short distance until some obstruction had been passed when the command, ‘Left face, double quick time,’ came, and running over the clear space down into a hollow, and up a slight rise in the ground, the regiment became hotly engaged with the enemy. This movement was made under a terrible storm of deadly missiles. The command was in full view of the rebels and within easy range. As one of the regiment puts it in his diary, “the advance to the front over a clean ground with death staring us in the face as grim as ever any troops met it.” . . .
The regiment remained on the front line until 7 o’clock in the evening—expending sixty rounds of ammunition per man, to great purpose—for the batteries immediately in its front were at times completely silenced by the marksmanship of the men. Lt. Col. Pleasants passed along the line, directing that the ten best marksman of each company should elevate the sights of their pieces and pick off the men manning the guns. The effect of this action was soon made apparent by the decreasing fire of the artillery.
The regiment was relieved by the Twelfth Rhode Island, Colonel Brown. . . .The command passed off the hill by the left flank, and retired under cover of deep railroad cut—returning to the same street and occupying the same places utilized the night before. Fresh ammunition was distributed and the men literally worn out soon fell asleep despite the angry tempest of lead still raining in the front. The loss was sixty killed, wounded and missing.  

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