Friday, January 3, 2014

The 48th/150th: Reenlistment

            By the turn of the New Year, 1864, the veteran soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry had witnessed more than their fair share of hardship, misery, and bloodshed. Over the past two-and-a-half years, the men had campaigned, fought, and bled in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and Tennessee, traversing thousands of miles and burying their friends in five different states. Of the 1,010 men who marched off to war with the 48th in the late summer/early fall of 1861, fewer than four hundred remained; the others had been discharged, either because of sickness or wounds, succumbed to disease, or fallen on the field of battle at such places as 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Campbell’s Station, and Knoxville.
            The turn of the New Year, 1864, found the veteran soldiers of the 48th PA in their winter camps near Blaine’s Cross Roads in Eastern Tennessee, a winter encampment the soldiers likened to Valley Forge. It was cold, it was snowy, and the soldiers suffered from a poor diet with provisions being scant. Another Christmas had come and gone and the men longed for their families and loved ones, hundreds of miles away in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
            When these soldiers enlisted in the late summer of 1861, their term of service was for “three years or the course of the war,” whichever came first. For those who took the Oath in 1861, this enlistment was due to expire in either late September or early October, 1864. The men longed for home and they had witnessed more than two years of terrible hardship and horrific bloodshed. . .but the task was yet unfinished; the rebellion had yet to be crushed and the nation had yet to be reunited.
            The primary topic of conversation among the men during that winter of ’63-’64 in East Tennessee was whether they would sign up for another three-year of service; whether they would re-enlist. The government realized so many of its veteran troops were scheduled to go home in 1864, so they offered a number of incentives if the men reenlisted to serve another three-year term: a $300 bounty, a 30-day furlough, and the honorary title of “Veteran.” Plus, with unit pride being so important to the men, if three-quarters of the regiment re-enlisted, they would be able to maintain their regimental designation; if not, those who did sign up to serve another three years would be distributed to other regiments in the field.
            For some of the soldiers of the 48th, these incentives were not enough. There were other things more important—like their homes and families—and they had already put in enough service, they felt. But, for whatever their reasons or the motivations, on January 1, 1864, 316 soldiers—well more than 75%--of the 48th Pennsylvania decided to re-enlist; to serve until the end, to see the war through to its end.  They were the second regiment in the entire 9th Corps to do so—the 21st Massachusetts beat them to the punch and were the first to reenlist. For the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania boys, this meant a 30-day furlough. The Bay Staters left first, leaving East Tennessee on January 7. Those who re-upped in the 48th Pennsylvania would have to wait another week—they were scheduled to march away from East Tennessee (for good, as it turned out) on January 13, heading first back to Kentucky and from there, by rail to Pittsburg, Harrisburg, before finally arriving back home in Pottsville for their well-deserved and much-needed 30-day furlough.
Among those who elected to serve another three-year term of service were. . . .
Samuel Beddall, Company E

Elias Britton, Company A

Daniel Donne, Company G

Lewis Eveland, Company A

Joseph Hoskings, Company F

James May, Company E

Henry H. Price, Company A

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