Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The 48th/150th: Heading West!

After a six weeks' stay at Newport News, Virginia, the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of March 25, 1863, received orders "to pack up and leave at once."  Although they did not yet know it, these veteran soldiers from many a campaign in North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia, were now heading to the war's Western Theater and for the next year, would campaign in Kentucky and Tennessee alongside their 9th Corps comrades and under Burnside.

The Steamer John A. Warner which carried the 48th from Newport News to Baltimore

Not wasting any time, the regiment was fully aboard the steamer John A. Warner by 4:30 p.m. and by 7:00 that evening where anchored off Fortress Monroe. At 3:30 a.m. the following morning--March 26, 1863--the John A. Warner cast loose and was soon steaming up the Chesapeake Bay. Even though the 48th shared the overcrowded steamer with the 6th New Hampshire, Oliver Bosbyshell nevertheless remembered that the "weather was delightful, the bay as smooth as a mill pond and the trip to Baltimore thoroughly enjoyed by all hands." Docking at Baltimore, the 48th disembarked from the John A. Warner on March 27 then marched through Baltimore to the station of the North Central Railroad. For those "First Defenders" within the ranks of the 48th, this march through Baltimore must have been odd, since it was there, two years earlier, where they came under attack from an angry mob of Baltimore residents sympathetic with the Confederacy. What a contrast now, as Bosbyshell (who was among the First Defenders) recalled: "The good people of Baltimore viewed with each other in showering kindness on the men; all sorts of eatables and drinkables were provided by them, and the really demoralized condition of a vast number of the men of the regiment before that city was departed from, is entirely 'too numerous to mention.'"

The journey west thus got off to a great and memorable start, and it only got better in the days ahead. "It was much in the nature of an ovation, as crowds greeted the 'boys' at every station, and a plentiful supply of good things was constantly distributed by friends." The trains carried the regiment from Baltimore and across the Pennsylvania countryside--for most of the soldiers of the 48th, this was their first return to their native state since marching off to war a year-and-a-half earlier. Since they were so very close to home, the temptation "to go home for a few days was so strong," noted regimental historian Joseph Gould, "that some few members of the regiment took French leave when passing Harrisburg, and visited their folks at home." The trains stopped at York, Mifflin, Altoona, and Pittsburgh, where coffee and bread was given to the men. At Pittsburgh, "a fine repast was prepared, and greatly enjoyed--especially," noted Bosbyshell, "in having present many of the Smoky City's fine ladies, who, although the hour was 2 o'clock in the morning, lent the charm of their presence to enliven the 'soldier laddies'' hearts."

1874 Lithograph of Pittsburgh by Otto Krebs

Continuing on through Ohio, the 48th enjoyed yet another fine reception in Cincinnati, where, at the Market House, they enjoyed "a most appetizing feast" and "a breakfast all too delightful to dwell upon." Said Bosbyshell: "The ride through Ohio was made on Sunday, March 29. The enthusiastic crowds of girls, boys, women and men that greeted the regiment at every stop, was an experience so charming to the men who had been so long campaigning in a country hostile to them, that it made the trip satisfactory in the extreme."

Leaving the trains, the soldiers of the 48th continued on their most satisfactory trip now by ferry boat The Queen City:  across the Ohio River and into Kentucky, to Covington. From there, it was back onto train cars, those of the Kentucky Central. . .another ride on the rails at last brought the regiment to their destination point: the city of Lexington, where they arrived at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31.  Upon their arrival, the soldiers received four months' back pay and, as Gould wrote, "the city of Lexington received a coat of red paint, whether it deserved it or not. Some of the members received several days in No. 3 jail, which they fully deserved."

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