Saturday, May 17, 2014

The 48th/150th: Reporting the Bloodshed. . .

"Amid sharp and incessant skirmishing, during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth [of May] the trenches and batteries were strengthened and improved in every way possible," wrote regimental historian Oliver Bosbyshell. "A strong demonstration to feel the enemy was made on the sixteenth, resulting in northing more than the development of a large force on his part. Skirmish firing was incessant, making life at the front most unhappy."

With little activity and while dodging Confederate skirmishers' bullets--and after burying their own dead and succoring their wounded--many of the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania who had survived the storms at the Wilderness and Spotsylvania wrote letters home, reporting the regiment's actions and identifying the casualties. Several of the men wrote to the Miners' Journal of Pottsville, Schuylkill County's leading newspaper.

Among those who wrote to the Journal were Sergeant William Auman of Company G and Colonel Henry Pleasants. Their reports, as reprinted in Joseph Gould's regimental history, follow:

May 15, 1864
Spotsylvania C.H.
To The Editors of the Miners' Journal:
This is the tenth day of the fighting, and from present appearances it will last for some days yet. The 48th has been under fire for seven days, and were severely engaged twice. At the Battle of the Wilderness, we were engaged and lost three killed and twelve wounded. On the 12th, we had a hard fight on the ground we now occupy. Our regiment was in the thickest of the fight and lost heavily. Lieut. Henry Jackson was killed beside me. He was struck in the neck by a musket ball. I helped to carry him out. He died while we were carrying him to the hospital. When he was struck he fell against me. I asked him where he was hit; he whispered, "I don't know," and then his head fell to one side, and I saw that he was dying. He never spoke again. The loss in the regiment in that day's fight was one-hundred-thirty-seven, killed, wounded and missing.
We drove the enemy a mile, when we met the 13th Georgia Regiment. We completely annihilated that regiment, taking many prisoners and killing and wounding nearly all the rest. We then charged on the rebel works, but not being supported by the regiment on our right, and being exposed to a terrible cross-fire from the lines of rifle pits and a battery, we were compelled to retire to the left into a wood. Here the left of the regiment was run close to the enemy's earthworks, and a number of our men were shot. We fell back, formed line, and took position on the same ground we were on before we charged. Here we put up breastworks and have been fighting ever since. While I am writing, the bullets are whistling over my head, but as long as we do not expose ourselves, we are quite safe.
Yours, etc
Wm. Auman
Soldiers' Graves on the Spotsylvania Battlefield
(Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park:
Spottsylvania C.H., May 15th, 1864
Editor Miners' Journal:
Dear Sir: I send you a list of the casualties in the 48th P.V. from the 6th of May to this date. In the Battle of the Wilderness the regiment was hotly engaged on the 6th and skirmished in front on the 7th. On the 6th, 350 men, including nearly all the veterans, skirmished all day on the right, and the rest of the regiment moved with the main portion of the 9th Corps, and were hotly engaged in the centre. The rebel army having fallen back, the 9th Corps was moved to Chancellorsville on the 8th. The 48th was not again engaged until the 12th, when our division advanced toward Spottsylvania on the evening of the 11th, but the battle was not begun until the morning of the 12th. We fought all day, and our regiment having caught three Georgia regiments in a little hollow, with rising ground behind them, which prevented them from retreating, completely annihilated them. We took over two hundred prisoners. One squad of them, which I sent to the rear under Lieut. Bowen, amounted to forty-eight. Afterwards all the troops of the division were ordered to charge, and the 48th advanced in excelled style through an open, marshy ground under heavy fire, but the troops on both flanks giving way, the regiment was moved by the left flank into a ravine in the woods and shielded from the destructive fire of the enemy. Our loss has been heavy, but the 48th has behaved well, and in the action of the 12th, owing to our position on the brow of the hill, five rebels were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners for every man lost by us. Since the 12th, a few men have been wounded by sharpshooters and we still remain on the front line. We have to mourn the loss of many brave men, and one of the best and bravest officers is Lieutenant Henry Jackson.
Yours, etc
Henry Pleasants


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