Thursday, August 29, 2013

Soldiers of the 48th: Bvt. Col. John D. Bertolette

151 Years Ago. . .on August 29, 1862. . .John D. Bertolette, a 1st Lieutenant serving on the staff of Colonel James Nagle, who led a brigade in the 9th Army Corps, fell seriously wounded at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Advancing alongside Nagle on foot, through a thick woodlot and toward Stonewall Jackson's Confederate troops well-positioned in an unfinished railroad embankment, Bertolette watched as the soldiers of the 2nd Maryland, 6th New Hampshire, and 48th Pennsylvania pushed steadily on. Oliver Bosbyshell of Company G described the action:

“Off we moved, over a clear field, to quite a dense wood, out of which we were to drive the rebels. The wood was skirted by a fence, which we had scarcely crossed—in fact, our regiment was just getting over it—when bang! bang! whiz! whiz! and the battle commenced. . . .Our brigade went right in; walked steadily on, driving the rebels quickly before them, but losing men fast. A ditch of embankment, in which the rebels had shielded themselves, and from out of which the brigade which entered the woods before ours failed to drive them, our brigade assailed so fiercely, that it was soon cleared."

After achieving initial success in driving Jackson's men from the embankment, it was not long before the Confederates mounted a crushing flanking assault, firing into the left flank and rear of the brigade, which advanced with no support on either side. Nagle and Bertolette had tied their horses to the fence that skirted the woods, as did all the members of the colonel's staff. . .and all the horses were captured in this smashing flank assault.
Nagle and his staff fled for safety, being called on several times to halt and surrender but they, instead, took their chances and ran the gauntlet. In the melee--in the confusion, in the smoke that lay thick in the woodlot--Bertolette was shot down, a bullet slamming into his thigh. . .

John D. Bertolette was born on June 11, 1839, in Reading, Pennsylvania. He was studying law in Mauch Chunk (modern-day Jim Thorpe) under the tutelage of Attorney Charles Albright when the war broke out. He very quickly volunteered his services and on April 22, 1861, he was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant in the 6th Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month unit commanded by Colonel James Nagle. When the 6th PA's term of service expired in late July, Nagle raised the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-year regiment. Nagle must have been struck by the young, twenty-two-year-old Bertolette, for he would assign him a staff officer's position--that of Assistant Adjutant General. Bertolette continued as a staff officer when Nagle was elevated to brigade command and then to the rank of brigadier general. And even after Nagle tendered his resignation in the Spring of 1863, Bertolette--recovering from his wound at 2nd Bull Run-- remained with the brigade, advancing to the rank of captain, then major, and ultimately to colonel, by brevet. He was mustered out of service in February 1866.

Following the war, Bertolette returned to Mauch Chunk, working as a partner at Albright's firm before establishing his own independent law practice. In 1869, Bertolette married Sarah Jane Loose, but their union proved to be a short one. On April 17, 1881, John Bertolette passed away at the age of forty-one. He was buried at the Lehighton Cemetery, in Carbon County, Pennsylvania.

The Grave of John D. Bertolette

This past May, a flag that once belonged to Bertolette was donated to the Mauch Chunk Museum in Jim Thorpe: read about it here.

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