Friday, May 1, 2015

The 48th/150th: To Alexandria

150 years ago. . .the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania were settling into a new camp, this one at Fort Lyons, near Alexandria, Virginia, the men eagerly looking forward to going home.  
Officers of the 48th Pennsylvania at Alexandria, VA, 1865
(From Left-to-Right: Edward Sykes, Dr. Eugene Smyser, Major Richard M. Jones, Colonel Isaac Brannan, Dr. J.B. Culver, Quartermaster Thomas Bohannon, Chaplain Levi Beckley, Adjutant M. Honsberger, Lewis Howard)
As April turned to May in 1865, the war was all but declared over. Lee had surrendered as had Joe Johnston in North Carolina; Richmond had fallen; Lincoln was dead killed Booth had been captured.  For the 48th Pennsylvania, there would be no more campaigns, no more battles. Their last march had begun on April 21, 1865, and had taken them from Farmville, Virginia, back to Petersburg and from there to City Point. After reaching City Point, the 48th boarded the steamer Starlight and set sail for Alexandria. Throughout the past four years, the regiment had become very well acquainted with traveling via steamer. . .early in the war, steamers had carried the regiment from Baltimore to Fortress Monroe and from there to Hatteras and New Bern, North Carolina, and back again to Fortress Monroe and then up to Newport News. Steamers carried the 48th from Newport News to Baltimore in early 1863 as the regiment began its journey westward to Kentucky.  But it was at City Point on April 27, 1865, that for the final time in the war the regiment would board a steamer. The journey down the James carried the steamer past Fortress Monroe, providing those who were on board and who had been there in 1861--seemingly an eternity ago--one last look at the walls of this familiar fort. Nearly four years earlier the 48th had been stationed there, spending six weeks encamped at Fort Hamilton in the fall of 1861. One wonders what thoughts passed through the minds of those few--very few--veteran soldiers of the 48th now standing aboard the Starlight who had been there at Fortress Monroe all those years ago during those more innocent days in late 1861. Those were brighter days, it must have seemed, when the rookie soldiers of the 48th were learning the rudiments of soldier life, in a camp commanded by that old tough soldier Mansfield who had long since fallen at Antietam. And though they cursed the drilling and practicing and dress parades then, they did have ample time for some rest and recreation, spending much of that time fishing and living large off oysters. As the Starlight sailed past Fortress Monroe late in April 1865, no doubt many of the 48th's veterans thought of those men--friends and comrades--who were there with them four years earlier, but whose remains now lie buried far away, in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, even Georgia. . .
Steamer Starlight
(Courtesy: Florida Photographic Collection, State Library and Archives of Florida [RC04626])
It was a rather short journey from City Point to Alexandria. They arrived there on April 28. Stepping off the Starlight, the soldiers of the 48th stretched their legs and marched a short distance to Fort Lyon, where they once more went into camp.
Diagram of Fort Lyon
(Library of Congress)

Fort Lyon
(Image From Cowan's Auctions)

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