Monday, February 25, 2008

Soldiers of the 48th: Captain Thomas P. Williams, Company B

It has been quite some time since I last posted a PROFILE piece on a 48th PA solider, so today I thought I'd take a quick look at Captain Thomas P. Williams. . .
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I picked up this CDV image of Captain Williams about six or seven years ago and was struck immediately by just how young this officer was. . .
Thomas Williams entered the Civil War as a private and by war's end, had advanced all the way to the rank of captain. He enlisted first in the early spring of 1861 in the Minersville Artillerists, a hastily patched together unit that served for three months as part of the 5th Pennsylvania Infantry. Seeing little action, Williams enlisted again in the summer of 1861 as the 8th Corporal in Company B, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The regimental muster rolls had him standing at just 5'4" in height, with a light complexion, grey eyes, and dark hair. By occupation, Williams was a coal miner from the town of Ashland and was, at the time of his enlistment, 20 years of age.
Williams was one of those rare soldiers who served throughout the entire war and escaped unscathed, surviving the bloodletting at 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. He must have impressed his superiors with his combat prowess and leadership qualities, for he was promoted first to sergeant, then lieutenant, and then to captain. As a miner, Williams no doubt participated in the tunelling of the Petersburg Mine. . .
Williams's Civil War experience illustrates the increasing importance of merit in the promotion of officers as the war continued to drag on. . .When the regiment was first organized, the commissioned officers were, on average, older than the rank and file. Indeed, while the average age of the soldier in the regiment in 1861 was 24.5 years, the officers' average age was nearly 30. And, by and large, the majority of the regiment's initial commissioned officers were community and business leaders with little, if any, of them employed before the outset of hostilities as unskilled laborers. It is interesting that Williams, a young, 20-year-old coal miner from Ashland advanced as he did all the way through the ranks.
Williams posed for this image sometime early in 1865. Even though his face shows the strain of life in the army, still, one cannot help but notice his youthfulness. His trousers are entirely too long and it looks as if he is swimming in that frock. But to Williams, his captain's uniform, embellished with a watch chain and a 9th Corps badge near his left lapel, must have seemed like a far cry from the clothes he wore prior to the war. . .while mining for coal in Ashland.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You most definately have a northern slant as you should for obvious reaons being from PA. Despite that I do enjoy your profiles of lesser known (or unknown) participants in our nation's civil war. Thank you for your efforts and posts. I find them very interesting indeed.

Barry Hill
Lakeland, Florida,
descendant of four members of Co H, 21st Georgia Infantry, CSA