(In the Fall and Winter of 1863, Major General Ambrose Burnside achieved much success dealing with Confederate general James Longstreet in the oft-overlooked East Tennessee/Knoxville Campaign, successfully out-marching, out-maneuvering, and out-fighting this much revered Confederate commander. As part of the 9th Army Corps, the 48th Pennsylvania was involved in much of this campaign; a campaign that certainly does not rank among the more famous ones of the war, but an important one nonetheless. Over the next few weeks, I will be documenting the experiences of the regiment during this East Tennessee Campaign, beginning with their long, 221-mile, two-week march from Lexington to Knoxville).
Click on this link to view a map of the 48th's journey from Lexington to Knoxville:
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After saying farewell to their friends in Lexington, Kentucky, the soldiers of the 48th departed on train for Nicholasville, then on foot “along a very dusty turnpike” to within three miles of Camp Nelson—Burnside’s supply base for the campaign. The soldiers set up camp and the next day—September 11, 1863—a thorough regimental inspection was made, of the men’s weapons, accoutrements, and clothing. There, the regiment reattached itself to its larger command: the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, of the 9th Corps, which consisted of the 48th PA, 2nd MD, 6th NH, 21st MA, and 11th NH (though this regiments was only temporarily attached to the brigade; it would remained with it for only six days). Because he was the senior colonel, Joshua Sigfried of the 48th took command of the brigade.
Sigfried’s orders were to get his men across the Cumberland Gap and to Knoxville, at the heart of East Tennessee. Ambrose Burnside had himself arrived triumphantly in the city nine days earlier—on September 2—with a mixed force, mainly of the 23rd Corps. But now his 9th Corps soldiers were needed and Sigfried considered his best route and manner of march. As Oliver Bosbyshell explained, “Having a march of over two hundred miles. . .he determined to avail himself of the early morning, and later afternoon hours, affording ample time for rest during the heated portion of the day. Orders were promulgated requiring a steady tramp for three-quarters of an hour, and then a halt of fifteen minutes, with three hours’ rest during the middle of the day. This systematic march as rigidly adhered to,” said Bosbyshell, “and resulted in a rapid covering of the distance to be accomplished, with a minimum degree of fatigue on the part of the troops.” Apparently, Sigfried was quite “punctilious” in making sure his orders for the march were carried out and any deviation “would result in a sharp reproof.”
September of 1863 witnessed the 48th Pennsylvania covering great distances in their march from Kentucky to Knoxville, Tennessee. A day-by-day account of their journey follows, with some descriptions of the march and their experiences along the way as told by Captain Bosbyshell:
Saturday, September 12: The march begins and the regiment tramped ten miles through a “terrific rain storm” before arriving at Camp Dick Robinson “in a thoroughly drenched condition.” Despite the rain, the Schuylkill County soldiers enjoyed the “grand scenery along the Kentucky River—hilly, rocky and romantic.”
|Camp Dick Robinson, KY|
Sunday, September 13: With the rain by now over and the skies cleared, the 48th set off on the march, passing through the small town of Lancaster—“a pretty village, the good folks of which were going to service, summoned by the merry ringing of the church bells.” After their mid-day rest, the men continued on their way, ultimately reaching Dick’s River; that day, the regiment marched 17.5 miles.
|20th-Century Aerial View of Lancaster, KY|
Monday, September 14: Departing Dick’s River, the regiment marched through Crab Orchard, “which at the time presented a rather dismal, mean appearance.” Near there, the regiment settled into camp “under the wide spreading branches of a fine old woods, the delights of which were enjoyed all day on. . .”
Tuesday, September 15: The weather was cool and invigorated as the soldiers enjoyed a day off from the march.
Wednesday, September 16: The long journey to Knoxville was renewed and the command covered eleven miles, arriving near Mount Vernon after marching along roads described as “exceedingly rough, filled with stone and rocks, and very hilly.”
|Modern-Day Aerial View of Mount Vernon, KY|
Thursday, September 17: On the one-year anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the men of the 48th broke camp at 6:00 a.m. and marched through Mount Vernon. What thoughts about Antietam and their friends and comrades they lost there, we cannot know, but Captain Bosbyshell recorded that the men were struck by the way the residents here extruded coal from the ground. “It was curious to the men from the anthracite coal regions of Pennsylvania,” said the Pottsville native, “to see the people here so easily supplying themselves with coal from the veins cropping out on the surface beside the road. They simply shoveled black dirt into wagons.” The march that day was a rough one. “The way was up hill and down dale constantly. In many places the road being extremely rough and difficult of passage, especially for the [wagon] teams.” At noon, and having already crossed over some high mountains, the regiment rested at Big Rockcastle River. While resting there, several hundred Confederate prisoners—captured by Burnside’s men at Cumberland Gap—marched past “on their way to Yankee land.” They were, said Bosbyshell, “a dirty, greasy looking set of fellows.” At 3:00 p.m., the march resumed. Crossing Wild Cat Mountain, the regiment went into bivouac near Little Rockcastle River at 5:30. The sixteen mile trek that day—up and down—over rough roads had made the men weary.
|Rockcastle River [www.smallcreekfishing.com]|
Friday, September 18: A shorter journey was in store this day. After breaking camp at 6:30 a.m., the regiment marched but eight miles before reaching a place named Pittman’s, just three miles from London.
Saturday, September 19: Broke camp early and marched nine miles before the welcome noon-halt arrived; another three miles were covered that afternoon before the regiment was ordered into camp. A welcome visitor arrived soon afterward—Major Fell—a U.S. Army paymaster and “the boys’ pocketbooks were thoroughly reinforced.”
Sunday, September 20: The weather was “cool and damp, with a dense fog covering field and road” when the regiment broke camp at 6:30 a.m. By 9:00, the fog had lifted and the sun appeared. The regimental halted at 1:00 p.m. within a mile of Barboursville. When the march resumed, the soldiers of the 48th passed through “this small country village of scattering houses, some stores and a couple of taverns” before going into bivouac on the banks of the Cumberland River. In all, the regiment covered 15.5 miles that day. It was on this day also when Colonel Sigfried resumed command of the 48th, since Brigadier General Simon Griffin arrived back with the command to take charge of the brigade. Griffin had assumed brigade command in May 1863, taking the place of General James Nagle who had resigned.
|Colonel Simon Griffin, 6th NH|
Monday, September 21: The regiment resumed the march at 7:00 a.m. and covered some thirteen miles before settling into camp near Cumberland Ford, where the soldiers “were comfortably quartered in an extensive apple orchard. . . .amid the most attractive scenery, indeed as the march followed all day the windings of the river, the charms of the richest autumnal effect impressed the entire command.” “The march so far,” summarized Bosbyshell, “was enjoyed by all—no complaint reached any ears, straggling was unheard of and no sickness in the command—all seemed hearty and well, not in the least broken down, but fresh and active.” That’s what he said, at least.
|Cumberland River [www.fw.ky.gov]|
Tuesday, September 22: In a very heavy fog, the regiment left camp at 7:00 a.m. and crossed the three Log Mountains. The road they used was “decidedly rough, stony and generally troublesome.” The regiment halted at noon at Yellow Creek, but they were off again several hours later, marching “over dusty roads and exposed to a hot sun.” At 3:30 p.m., the regiment crossed the Cumberland Gap; they were now in Tennessee. An hour later, the command halted and the regiment went into camp at the foot of the mountain—on the Tennessee side—having covered fourteen “tedious” miles that day.
|Soldiers Crossing the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee|
Wednesday, September 23: The march continued and all day—excepting the three hour break—the men continued toward Knoxville. At 4:30, after covering thirteen more miles, they reached the edge of Tazewell, a town that “impressed all favorably, although a large part of it had been destroyed by fire—the blackened ruins showing its extent.”
|Old Jail, Tazewell, TN, built in 1819 [Wikipedia.org]|
Thursday, September 24: Departed Tazewell at 7:00 and, after a march of eight miles, arrived at the Clinch River. There, the bridge had been destroyed and so the men were forced to wade across. After a sometimes “treacherous” crossing, the regiment went into bivouac in order to give the men an opportunity to wash their clothes. “Tents were pitched beside the road facing the river. The opposite bank, where the command came from, presented high rocky cliffs, jagged and torn, extremely picturesque.”
Friday, September 25: Broke camp at 6:00 a.m., and two-and-a-half hours later, the regiment began the climb up and over Clinch Mountain. “The road up the mountain, whilst quite steep in places, was found good,” but the view from the top was even better. “From the summit a superb view breaks upon the sight,” remembered Bosbyshell. “‘Tis said four States can be seen: Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. A vast extent of country spreads before the vision.” Though a beautiful view from top, the tramp down the mountain was fraught with peril. “The descent was most difficult. . . .The troops could manage fairly well, but the brigade wagons. . .had a rough passage. With the aid of long ropes, the men prevented these wagons from slipping over the banks and falling down the yawning precipices. The task was finally accomplished, with the loss of one wheel and an iron bolt.” At noon, a halt was called at the foot of the mountain. At 2:00 p.m., the march resumed and the men reached the Holston River, which they waded before setting up camp on the southern banks of the river. Crossing two rivers and a mountain, the regiment covered fifteen miles this day.
|View From The Summit of Clinch Mountain [www.city-data.com]|
Saturday, September 26: Stretching their legs, the soldiers of the 48th set out at 7:00 a.m., passed through Bean’s Station and then through Morristown—“a shabby-looking little village.” It was there that General Griffin received a dispatch from Burnside: make your way directly to Knoxville! Griffin led the brigade to Panther Springs where the noon halt was made; at 2:00 p.m., it was once again on the move, arrived that night at Mossy Creek, having covered eighteen miles that day, “which, considering the heat and the never ending clouds of dust, was a fair day’s work.”
Sunday, September 27: Broke camp at 6:00 a.m.; rested at Beaver Creek then resumed the march to Strawberry Plains, where, again, the regiment had to cross the winding Holston River. There was a bridge here; however, its plank walkway was wide enough to accommodate one person at a time. Those on horseback, as well as the wagons, had to cross the river at a ford some three miles further downriver. Having crossed the river, the regiment found a camping ground at McMillan’s Farm, which amply stocked with straw. “So the Sabbath’s march ended, and sinking into piles of straw, beneath the brilliant rays of the moon, the command forgot in sleep its long, long tramp from Lexington.” They bedded down only thirteen miles from Knoxville.
|1886 Birds' Eye View of Knoxville, TN|
Monday, September 28: At 6:00 a.m., the regiment resumed its march. “Over a very dusty road, the last day of the great march over the mountains from Lexington to Knoxville had arrived.” At 3:00 p.m. the 48th at last arrived. The regiment went into camp “on the top of a small hill to the left of the road” and, reflected Bosbyshell, “Thus ended the 221 miles’ march, a march remarkable for its extent and the entire freedom from fatigue by the men of the command. The regularity of the tramp, with its times for rest nicely adjusted, undoubtedly contributed to so satisfactory a result, and is in every way creditable to General Sigfried’s sagacity and good sense.”
Tuesday, September 29: This day was a day of well-deserved rest; all day the men remained quietly in camp. They were visited there by Generals Ambrose Burnside and John Parke, “who rode through the company streets during the afternoon to see how the boys looked after the long tramp.” The 48th greeted their beloved Burnside with cheers, “long and loud.”
|Major General Ambrose Burnside|