May 6, 1864. . .Friday
With the rest of the Ninth Corps, the 48th Pennsylvania crossed the Rapidan River on the morning of May 5, 1864, and marched toward Spotswood Tavern where the regiment went into bivouac. Only a detail of some 200 soldiers of the 48th--under the command of Captain Joseph Hoskings--witnessed any combat that Thursday in the Wilderness when they were detached from the regiment and sent to the army's far right flank, where they skirmished with Confederate troops.
One man--seventeen-year-old Private David Thiel of Company F, was killed.
After burying the remains of Private Thiel, Hoskings's contingent rejoined the 48th at their bivouac site. Heavier action awaited the 48th the following day.
|Alfred Waud Depiction of the Battle of the Wilderness|
In his regimental history, Oliver Bosbyshell recounted that it was "very early" on the morning of Friday, May 6, 1864, when the regiment advanced past the Old Wilderness Tavern and toward Parker's Store. While advancing, the soldiers of the 48th were deployed as skirmishers to cover the flanks of the brigade column as it winded its way to the front. After driving back some gray-and-butternut clad skirmishers, the regiment crossed a stream then fell back into line with the brigade. In line of battle, the 48th Pennsylvania advanced until they came under fire. "[T]he enemy was found," said Bosbyshell, "on the opposite side of an open field, drawn up in considerable force, and supplied with a battery." The two sides exchanged brisk volleys while the Confederate battery dropped shot and shell into the trees. The regiment crept forward to the edge of the woods but there, division commander Robert Potter received orders to pull back, turn left, and form up on the right of General Winfield Hancock's Second Corps, which was engaged near the Plank Road. (See Map Below) It was difficult for the men to make their way through the thick trees and underbrush. "This movement was made through a dense wood, almost impenetrable" explained Bosbyshell, "owing to the tangled underbrush." Finally reaching their newly-assigned position, the regiment once more formed into line on Hancock's right then moved forward to the attack. "[T]he attack was made where it was utterly impossible to see anything from the thickness of the woods. The enemy was posted on the opposite side of a swampy raving behind entrenchments. Sharp firing at very close range ensued, following by a savage charge, which brought the boys into the enemy's rifle pits in some places." Any success, however, was fleeting and soon, the regiment fell back, only to again charge forward. Some more ground was gained but, said Bosbyshell, "the enemy retained possession of their lines."
|(Map by Hal Jespersen, www.posix.com/CW)|
A lively firefight in the dense, thick woods was kept up until nightfall. When the fighting subsided, the 48th was sent forward, once more as a skirmish force, covering the entire division's front.
The 48th Pennsylvania Infantry was more seriously engaged on May 6 at the Wilderness than they were the previous day, and the casualties were heavier. Because of the relentless nature of the fighting that still lay ahead of the regiment, casualty reports from this period are sketchy and sometimes incomplete.
The following, however, were among those of the 48th who fell 150 years ago today, on May 6, 1864. . .
Killed/Mortally Wounded (5):
Private Daniel Brown, Company C
Private Jonathan Kauffman, Company D
Private Lawrence Farrell, Company E (Buried Fredericksburg National Cemetery).
Private Israel Manning, Company F (wounded May 6; died May 8 in Fredericksburg)
Private Benjamin McArdel, Company I
2nd Lieutenant William Clark, Company C, Left Hand (slight)
Sergeant Jonas Geiger, Company C, Leg
Corporal Samuel Clemens, Company E, Hand (slight)
Private John Becker, Company G, Foot
Private Adam Hendley, Company G, Neck (slight)
Private Samuel Fryberger, Company H