Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The 48th Pennsylvania Day-By-Day: At Camp Hamilton, Fortress Monroe, September 26-November 11, 1861

Sometime around 6:00 a.m. on September 26, 1861, the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry arrived at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, and settled into Camp Hamilton, where they would spend the next six weeks. Most of this time was spent in training and drill. Sergeant Joseph Gould wrote that “strict attention was given to squad, company and regimental drills,” while Corporal Curtis C. Pollock, in a letter written to his mother just days after the regiment’s arrival at Camp Hamilton, said “We have commenced drilling and have about six drills per day.” Continuing, Pollock wrote, "I have just come in from a regimental drill and in about half an hour will have to go out on company drill. We are kept busy pretty much all the time," concluded the young corporal from Pottsville, “and have not much chance to run around.”
Commanding Fortress Monroe during these early days of the Civil War was General John E. Wool. Born in 1784, Wool was a veteran of the War of 1812 as well as the Mexican-American War, and, by the start of the Civil War, was one of the oldest generals in the army. Despite his age, Wool frequently visited the camp of the 48th Pennsylvania, and “his venerable appearance. . .won the respect of the boys.” Meanwhile, General Joseph Mansfield, in command of Camp Hamilton, would too make regular visits to Colonel Nagle and his Schuylkill County volunteers.
Dress parades and grand reviews of the troops stationed near Fortress Monroe soon became quite common. But despite all the training, drilling, and marching, the soldiers of the 48th “enjoyed every minute we spent of this place.” “We were pleasantly situated, having plenty of army rations and luxuries in lavish abundance. Fish, oysters, clams and crabs could be had with little effort, and despite a few rain-storms, accompanied by wind, which blew our tents down, and obliged some of us to sleep in a few inches of water, we were comfortable and happy.” Oliver Bosbyshell remembered that on October 9, the regimental sutler, Isaac Lippman, arrived in camp, while on Sunday, October 13, the first religious service for the regiment was held. “These Sunday services became general, and at least a fourth of the regiment, many times a greater number, attended.” On October 22, after nearly one month in service, the soldiers finally received “the necessary clothing and camp equipage,” and were armed with Harper’s Ferry muskets. “Our first uniforms,” remembered Gould, “were of very ordinary quality, and it took but a few weeks of service to develop the weak spots in their make-up.”
A reminder of the dangers of life in camp and in the field came in late October when a soldier from Colonel Benjamin Christ’s 50th Pennsylvania succumbed to disease. Corporal Pollock recorded the event in a letter dated October 30, 1861: “On Monday afternoon the Captain told us he wanted us all to go to the funeral, we wondered who was to be buried as no one in our camp had died. The Captain marched us down to the fort and we found out that one of Col. Christs men had died on board of one of the vess[els] but they would not let any of his comrades come on shore to bury him so we were called on to do it. there were eight of us shot over his grave the first time for me.”
Around this same time, the volunteers of the 48th learned of the Union disaster at the battle of Ball’s Bluff. “I saw an account of a fight at Balls Bluff,” wrote Pollock, “and think that whoever ordered that movement without furnishing the necessary arrangements to recross the river in case of defeat should be court-martialed or severly dealt with. These fellows make too many mistakes and it will soon be time to put a stop to them.”
On November 10, 1861, after spending the past six weeks at Camp Hamilton, the 48th Pennsylvania received orders assigning the regiment to Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, to relieve the 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. “. . .it cannot be said that a very large degree of enthusiasm was manifested over this assignment,” wrote Bosbyshell. Nevertheless, on November 11, the tents were struck and all equipment packed up and placed aboard the steamer S.R. Spaulding. The regiment bade farewell to Camp Hamilton and marched to the wharf near Fortress Monroe where they boarded the Spaulding. As the sun was setting that evening, the Spaulding set sail for the shores of North Carolina.
Unlike the steamship Georgia, which carried the regiment from Baltimore to Fortress Monroe in late September, the S.R. Spaulding was “a fine ship, only two years old, delightfully fitted out with the best appliances and most comfortable conveniences. Very agreeable was her graceful motion as she steamed out of [Hampton] Roads into the broad bosom of the Atlantic.”
At 8:00 a.m. on the morning of November 12, 1861, the 48th Pennsylvania arrived at Hatteras. . .

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