Friday, May 10, 2013

The 48th/150th: Bidding Farewell to General James Nagle

150 years ago, from his headquarters near Lancaster, Kentucky, forty-one-year-old James Nagle, after wrestling with the thought for some time, reluctantly tendered his resignation from the army and was preparing to bid farewell to the men of his command, and particularly those of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, the regiment he had raised in the summer of 1861 from his native Schuylkill County. Since the beginning of 1863, if not earlier, Nagle had been in poor health, suffering from the onset of heart disease, a condition that would ultimately cause his death just three years later, at the young age of forty-four. He sought treatment and the advice of his doctors; the diagnosis was angina pectoris, and his doctors advised he resign. He finally did so, in early May, 1863.

Brigadier General James Nagle

His resignation was accepted, but not without the regret from his superiors.  On May 9, Samuel Sturgis, commander of the Second Divison, 9th Corps, forwarded Nagle's resignation, but took the time to write the following back to the suffering Nagle: Dear General: I cannot better express the pain it gave me to forward your resignation, than by giving you a copy of my endorsement upon it, viz.: 'Respectfully forwarded and approved. But I must express my deep regret at the necessity for this forwarding it. By his intelligence, energy, zeal and courage, and quiet, unassuming deportment, withal, Gen. Nagle has endeared himself to this command, and will carry with him the love and respect, not only of those gallant troops he had led so often to victory, but of all who have the good fortune to know him."

His resignation accepted and approved, Nagle said goodbye to his men on May 20 and issued his farewell address:

Head Quarters
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th A.C.
Lancaster, Ky May 20th 1863

To the Officers and Soldiers of this Command,
                As I am about taking my leave from you, I deem it my duty to say a few parting words. It is with deep regret that I am obliged to take this step, particularly after having gone through so many fatigues, hardships and dangers on the field of Battle with you, and after having received a reward for my humble service by promotion to my late position.
                It was with great reluctance that I tendered my resignation, but disease with no hope of recovery compelled me to yield, and now as I can not be with you in person, rest assured that my heart will ever be with you.
                Our associations have been too pleasant to be soon forgotten. The proudest part of my life has been spent while in Command of this Brigade, and you respectful demeanor, and gallant conduct on the numerous fields of Battle will never fade from my memory.
                I trust that this Rebellion will soon be crushed, and that our glorious old Standard will once more float proudly over our whole Country.
                I am sorry that I am unable to take you all by the hand, and I hope as many as can will call upon me at my Quarters before I leave.
                To the members of my Staff I desire to express my high appreciation for the manner in which they have conducted the several Departments, and for the able assistance they have rendered me in the field.
                In bidding you all farewell I hope I may be pardoned for bidding an especial farewell to my old Command and more immediate associates, the tried Veterans of the 48th Penna. Vols.
                I consign you to the care of that able and gallant Officer, Col. Simon G. Griffin 6th N.H. Vols.

                May God bless you, and grant your continued services.

                                                                                                                                James Nagle

With that, Nagle boarded a traincar and was soon heading back home to his family in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Yet no sooner had he arrived than Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia in his second invasion of Union soil, this time making it deep into Nagle's home state of Pennsylvania. Heralding the call once more, Nagle, despite his poor health, set about raising yet another regiment of volunteers--the 39th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia--which he would lead to the front. Arriving in Harrisburg during the latter stages of the Gettysburg Campaign, Nagle was assigned brigade command by General Darius Couch, who headed the Department of the Susquehanna.

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