Friday, October 25, 2013

The 48th/150th: A Brief Respite in Knoxville. . .Then Off To Bull's Gap

Harpers' Weekly. . .Various Views of Knoxville in the Civil War 

After a long and exhausting 221-mile, two-and-a-half week march from Lexington to Knoxville, the weary and lean soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania took a much-needed and well-deserved break. For several days—rainy and cold days—they lounged about their camps just to the north of the city. Some took advantage of the lull in campaigning to see the sites in Knoxville. “The still days in camp,” related Captain Bosbyshell, “we utilized in visiting points of interest in and around the town.” The city was built on a series of hills, on the north side of the Holston River, and, said Bosbyshell, “The houses crown the summits of the hills and run down the sides of the same. This formation renders many of the streets hilly. There were a number of fine looking streets—wide, straight and neatly built up. Some handsome residences adorned the town, and the whole place indicated plenty and prosperity.” “We found everything up to our taste,” said Joseph Gould.

Bosbyshell and the soldiers of the 48th were equally struck by the scenic beauty surrounding Knoxville. “The country about Knoxville is very beautiful, and situated, as most of the houses are, on high ground, the views obtained by the dwellers thereof are satisfactory to a degree. The Holston River winds around its southern side, and the scenery up and down this stream is particularly beautiful and engaging. South of the river a broad expanse of excellently wooded country spreads out for miles—broken here and there by cultivated farms of the most productive kind.”

1865 View of Knoxville

The hills described here by Bosbyshell would be of great value to Captain Orlando Poe, Burnside’s chief engineer who, in the days ahead, would transform Knoxville into a fortress, establishing a line of defenses around the city, to cover approaches from the west, north, and east. Burnside had arrived in Knoxville to a hero’s welcome in early September and reported the liberation of the city and of East Tennessee. The administration in Washington, though grateful for Burnside’s good news, were, at the moment, more concerned about Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland about 110 miles further south, in northern Georgia. After his defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20), there were many in Washington who wanted Burnside to move south to help Rosecrans’s beleaguered force, now nearly surrounded and trapped at Chattanooga. But this would not be easy for Burnside: to transport his command—still thoroughly winded from their long march to East Tennessee—across ground still filled with various, small Confederate commands and with many of the rail bridges between Knoxville and Chattanooga destroyed by Simon Buckner’s Confederates when they abandoned East Tennessee a month earlier. Burnside did start moving his command south, with a sizeable force arriving at Loudoun on the Tennessee River. By this point, however, both Rosecrans and the War Department decided that Burnside would not be needed at Chattanooga—there were plenty of reinforcements coming to his aid, from the west, under Grant, and from the east, with the 11th and 12th Corps, which had been detached from the Army of the Potomac.

Burnside’s primary goal thus became establishing a firm control over the east Tennessee countryside. For the 48th, this meant a mission toward Bull’s Gap, some 60-odd miles east of Knoxville. At 9:00 o’clock on the morning of October 4 and with five days’ light rations but with no tents or baggage, the soldiers of the 48th picked up their muskets and headed into the city where they boarded trains. “As the train sped on,” related Bosbyshell, “the most cheering evidences of the loyalty of the men of East Tennessee to the Union cause were apparent. At Strawberry Plains, Mossy Creek, Morristown and other stations, large numbers of the good, loyal men of East Tennessee were congregating, organizing regiments. Many were already armed. It was a motley but earnest crowd—gray-haired, gray-bearded men of sixty jostled striplings of sixteen, all eager to do what they could to uphold the Union cause. The entire trip to Bull’s Gap exhibited the same expressions of loyalty on all sides—a demonstration not excelled north of Mason and Dixon’s line.”
All day on October 4, the 48th were riding the rails and by 10:00 p.m.—thirteen hours after leaving Knoxville—they arrived at Bull’s Gap, stepped off the trains, stretched their legs and went into bivouac. The cold night made them miss their shelter tents, left behind in Knoxville.

East Tennessee. . .

For the next two weeks, the 48th Pennsylvania found itself campaigning in the mountainous regions of East Tennessee. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can't stop there! My relatives came from Bulls Gap. You have to continue on with the story. My 3rd Great Grandfather,James Gulley was killed there in 1865.