Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Before the Crater: The 48th Pennsylvania at Petersburg: (Part 4): The Death of Lieutenant C.C. Pollock

Curtis Clay Pollock, [standing, left] was just nineteen years old when he enlisted as a corporal in Company G, 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers, in the late summer of 1861. But for the young man, who put his life on hold that year to serve the nation, this would already be his second enlistment. In April 1861, Pollock was one of the first to volunteer his services to the Union, leaving Pottsville as a member of the Washington Artillerists and marching into the nation's capital on the night of April 17 as a "First Defender." With the 48th, Pollock advanced rapidly through the ranks and ultimately became a first lieutenant.

Throughout his time in uniform, Pollock wrote frequently to his parents in Pottsville, asking for newspapers, edible treats, and even money every now and then, while at the same time commenting upon the weather conditions, asking about loved ones at home, narrating the regiment's movements, and describing the best he could the regiment's battles. His final letter was written on June 12, 1864, from "Near Coal Harbor about 10 miles from Richmond."

Five days after penning this, his last letter home, Pollock, who always led from the front, fell seriously wounded during the attacks on Petersburg. Carried from the field and taken to Washington, Pollock died on June 27, 1864. His family had his remains transported back home to Pottsville, where they were laid to rest in the Charles Baber Cemetery.

William and Emily Pollock, Curtis's parents, received no more letters from their son. But in mid-July one did arrive from 1st Lieutenant Thomas Bohannan; another reached the family in early August penned by Sergeant Henry Krebs. Both were good friends of Curtis, and their letters described the death of the Pollock's brave son.

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Near City Point
July 6, 1864

Mr. Pollock
This morning I turned over your sons valise to the Agt of the Sanitary Committee. He promised me he would deliver it to the Express Office at Washington, D.C. It is in safe hands and I hope you will receive it in good order. I would have forwarded it before the present time but the difficulty was that there has not been any Express Office established here as yet.
I was very much surprised in hearing of Lieuts death. The morning he arrived at City Point from the battle field he sent the ambulance driver to inform me of his accident. My quarters are ½ mile from City Point. I went immediately to see my particular friend as I must say he was a favorite young man in the Regt and a brave soldier.
On my arrival at City Point the Ambulance Corps was preparing to have him carried on board the boat to be sent to Washington. I took him by the hand and asked him if his wound was dangerous. He seemed to think not and appeared to be very much pleased that his wound was not more serious. As soon as he was placed in a bunk on board the steam boat, I sat down and spoke to him a few minutes. He then requested me to get him his valise but at that time I was not able to get the valise as I had placed all the baggage belonging to officers of the Regt on board a barge at the White House to be sent around to City Point by water. The barge had not arrived at the time.
I bid the poor fellow good bye but not thinking at the time nor him either that it was our last fairwell with each other. I hope he has gone to a happy home. I must come to a close by sending my kindest regards.
Yours Respectfully
Thomas Bohannan
1st Lt.
48 Penn v vol

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W. Petersburg, Virginia
August 1, 1864

Mr. Pollock—
Dear Sir:
Lieut. Bohannan having a press of business he has requested me to answer for him your letter asking for information concerning Curtis’ valise and other effects. Enclosed you will find the address (obtained from the Agent of the Sanitary Commission at City Point) to which the valise was sent, which I trust will enable you to get it, if it has not yet reached you.
Serg’t Jones, (now Lieut) of Company “G” thinks that his pistol must be in the valise.
Serg’t Aumen (now Lieut) Company “G” was near Curtis when he was wounded and assisted him from the field. He states that he was quite cheerful and in good spirits, though he suffered considerable pain. One of the his first expressions was “Wasn’t that a splendid charge ?”
After he had walked some distance he said he felt faint and sank to the ground ere Lieut. A. could catch him. He soon revived and walked assisted by Lieut. A. to the Field Hospital.
A few hours after he was taken in an ambulance to City Point. Lieut. Bohannan met him on the road. He spoke cheerfully and requested him to send his baggage home. He seemed to think his wound was slight, and that he was very fortunate in escaping so well, without the loss of a limb as there were many around him. Two hours ride brought him to City Point, where there was boat in readiness to receive the wounded and as soon as she was loaded she started for Washington.
The baggage of our Corps was sent by water from White House and only arrived the day he left or it could have been sent with him. There is an overcoat with the Company baggage which was just discovered a day or two since. Lieut. Bohannan will see Major Bosbyshell about it, and if it is Curtis’ will send it by express.
The writer of this will see Lieut. Aumen and see if he has any additional particulars, he will, no doubt, be pleased to give them.
All the members of the Company and of the Regiment unite in the highest praise of his bravery and courage in battle as well as his example as a friend and companion. His death and the of Lieut. Jackson has cause a deep feeling of gloom and sadness to pervade Company “G” which will not easily be dispelled. They will live long in the memories of those who knew them to love and respect them.
Trusting that the condolence of a friend and former member of Company “G” is not here out of place, I beg to subscribe myself.
Very Respectively Yours,

Harry Krebs

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Before The Crater: The 48th Pennsylvania at Petersburg: Part 3: Casualties

The past several posts have focused on the actions of the 48th Pennsylvania at the Battle(s) of Petersburg, fought in mid-June 1864. These actions have long been neglected, or overlooked, with the lionshare of attention on the Petersburg Campaign centering on the Battle of the Crater and even the April 2, 1865 assault, which led to the collapse of the Confederate line.

But the fighting that took place from June 15-18, 1864, as the armies arrived at Petersburg and settled into position was no less important. As mentioned several times in the previous two posts, the 48th Pennsylvania was heavily engaged in these actions, particularly on June 17, and suffered a high number of losses. Indeed, during the action on June 17-18, the 48th lost twenty men killed or mortally wounded, forty-one wounded, and four captured/missing.

Their names follow.

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48th Pennsylvania Casualties at the Battle of Petersburg
[All casualties lost on June 17, 1864, unless otherwise stated]

Killed/Mortally Wounded (20)

John Cochrane (Co. A)
[Mortally Wounded]

Francis M. Stidham (Co. A) [June 18]
[Mortally Wounded; Died 7/10/1864]
Gilbert Graham (Co. C) [June 18]
[Mortally Wounded; Died 4/1/1865]
William Reysons (Co. E)
[Mortally Wounded; Died 6/24/1864]
James Regan (Co. E)
[Mortally Wounded; Died 6/30/1864]
James Mercer (Co. E)
[Mortally Wounded; Died 5/21/1865]
John Major (Co. E)
Horace Straub (Co. F)
Isaac Lewis (Co. F)
Simon Devlin (Co. F) [June 18]

1st Lieutenant Curtis C. Pollock (Co. G)
[Mortally Wounded; Died 6/27/1864]
Howard Jones (Co. G)
[Mortally Wounded; Died 7/13/1864]
George W. Morey (Co. H)
Jefferson W. Beyerle (Co. H)
James Mulholland (Co. H)
Anthony Gallagher (Co. H)
Thomas Davis (Co. H) [June 18]

1st Lieutenant Joseph Edwards (Co. I)
[Mortally Wounded; Died 7/2/1864]
Nathan Rich (Co. K)
Arthur Gray (Co. K) [June 18]

Elias Britton (Co. A)
John Holman (Co. A)
John McLean [or McLain] (Co. A)
William Huckey (Co. A)
John H. Shaeffer (Co. A)
Joel Lins (Co. A)
Henry Schreyer (Co. A) [June 18]
James W. Sterner (Co. A) [June 18]
William Dreibelbeis (Co. A) [June 18]
Joseph Dreibelbeis (Co. A) [June 18]
Sergeant Robert Campbell (Co. B)
Corporal James Rider (Co. B)
Sergeant Henry Weiser (Co. C)

1st Lieutenant James K. Helms (Co. D)
Corporal Jonathan Deitrich (Co. D)
Lewis Dietrich (Co. D)
Jacob D. Caspar (Co. D)
Joseph Berlinger [or Buddinger] (Co. D)
Joseph Lindenmuth (Co. D) [June 18]
Thomas Clemens (Co. E)
R.B. Thompson (Co. E)
Murt Brennan (Co. F)
Pat Boran (Co. F)
Corporal Robert Wallace (Co. F)
Edward L. Shissler (Co. F)
Joshua Reed (Co. G)
Lieutenant D.B. Brown (Co. H)
Charles Eberley (Co. H)
Lewis Aurand (Co. H)
Jonathan Dillet (Co. H)
Frank Ringer (Co. I)
William Kramer (Co. I)
Corporal Benjamin Williams (Co. I) [June 18]
Christian Seward (Co. I) [June 18]
Samuel T. DeFrehn (Co. I) [June 18]
Jacob Reichwein (Co. I) [June 18]
Charles R. Koch (Co. I) [June 18]
Sergeant Thomas Irwin (Co. K)
John Gillinger (Co. K)
Oliver W. Schwartz (Co. K)
David Houser (Co. K)

Captured/Missing (4)
Corporal Andrew Wren (Co. B)
[Captured; held in captivity 6/21/64-4/21/65]
Jacob Wigner (Co. B)
[Captured; Died 1/1/1865]
Mike Lavell (Co. G)
William Auchenbach (Co. G)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Before the Crater: The 48th Pennsylvania at Petersburg (Part 2)

Union Troops Attack Confederate Defenses at Petersburg

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From Joseph Gould, The Story of the Forty-Eighth

"On the 16th of June, 1864, the 48th Regiment, after a month’s hard fighting in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, etc., crossed the James River, and about 4 p.m. arrived in front of Petersburg, just in time to see the 7th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment of the 2nd Corps make an unsuccessful assault on the rebel works, in which they lost many men killed, wounded and prisoners, also losing their colors. About two hours later we were thrown forward in front of the same rebel position to, as we believed, assault the same but instead of doing so, we were led past the front of their position down the bed of a creek until we came to the left, and at an angle of, the enemy’s line. About this time it became dark, and we were in an old line of the enemy’s works captured , a few days previously, by Butler’s colored troops.

"Although we could not now see the rebel position, we all knew that we were very near them. In fact too near for comfort, so, at about ten o’clock—and it was as dark as pitch—Col. Pleasants ordered Company G and Company B, of which last company Andrew Wren was a sergeant, to cross the creek to the enemy’s to reconnoiter; and, when within about fifty yards of their line, they received a volley which spoke volumes to us. They were ordered to fall back, but before doing so Sergeant Wren, who was on the extreme left of Company B’s line, got to within a few feet of the enemy’s works, and, seeing men pass along behind and on top of them, he so reported to his captain (Ulysses Bast), who sent the same information to Col. Pleasants, there being some doubts by all as to whether these men were friends or foes. Wren was ordered forward to find out; and, in company with Jacob Wigner, also of Company B, went to these works, and, leaning over, was just about to ask whose troops these were, when a big Johnnie grabbed the Sergeant by the collar of his blouse, unceremoniously, and, calling him a Yankees ----------, made him a prisoner, at the same time also gobbling up Wigner. Wren was at once taken to the center of the rebel regiment, where their colonel plied him with questions as to what troops he belonged to, whose corps, etc.

"This was the beginning to Comrade Wren of a period of ten months as prisoner of war, the most of the time being spent at Andersonville, Ga; his comrade being a younger man and a new recruit, not being so well inured to hardship, soon succumbed and died there. The scenes witnessed by Comrade Wren during these ten months in prison cannot be described; and if they could, the people of to-day would not believe them. The wonder now is that a comrade is still alive who went through these privations, and there is not much doubt but our comrade is very much alive, as the moulders in the upper foundry of the Philadelphia & Reading shops, of Pottsville, can testify, and he is numbered as one of the honored survivors of the 48th Regiment.

"About daylight on the 17th, the 48th and the 36th Massachusetts crossed a swamp in single file, in perfect silence, the line formed and joined to that of the second brigade, and, by a quick movement, carried the works in front. It was a complete surprise; the enemy was driven in confusion, four pieces of artillery and six hundred prisoners were captured.

"In the charge on the rebel line on the morning of the 17th of June, 1864, the 48th Regiment captured the whole line in their front, and had more prisoners to take care of than there were men in the regiment, besides having captured the colors of the 44th Tennessee Rebel Regiment, and the 7th New York captured from them the day before. Our victory was very complete. Just after daylight another advance was made, and we captured two brass field pieces, with the gunners belonging to them, and sent them to the rear. These guns belonged to Pegram’s Battery, and the remaining four guns and the men belonging to them were buried at the crater on the 30th of July following, the entire battery being thus destroyed by the 48th."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Before the Crater: The 48th Pennsylvania at Petersburg: June 1864 (Part 1)

While the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry is, of course, best known in Civil War history as "that regiment of coal miners" which successfully tunneled under the Confederate lines at Petersburg, even before this remarkable feat, the 48th was heavily engaged in attacks against those same lines a week before they began digging; indeed, the regiment suffered some of its highest casualties of the war during these assaults, and the valor of two of its members would be recognized with Medals of Honor. Regimental historian Oliver Bosbyshell would even declare that the attack on June 17 "was probably, in all its results, the most brilliant engagement for the Forty-eighth of any in which it participated."

Since the time is right--it being mid-June, of course--I thought I would spend a few days (weeks) focusing on these largely overlooked, but deadly actions.

To do so, and as I have done before when examining other campaigns, I am going to let the soldiers of the 48th speak for themselves, posting their letters, diary entries, reports, etc, all commenting upon or describing their role at the Battle of Petersburg, in mid-June 1864.

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Union Soldiers Assault Confederate Lines Surrounding Petersburg

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The Attacks on Petersburg
June 16-17, 1864
From Oliver C. Bosbyshell, The 48th In The War

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"The Forty-eighth crossed the pontoon bridge over the James River bright and early on the morning of the sixteenth, and directed its march straight for Petersburg. The advanced words on the City Point road, captured a day or two before by Butler's command, were passed about noon, grimly marked by the dead bodies of negro troops, who had fallen in the assault upon them. These were the first dead colored troops the boys of the Forty-eighth had seen and their stiff forms eloquently answered the query as to whether the colored troops would fight or not.

"The enemy's works at Petersburg were reached by the regiment about 5 o'clock p.m., in time to witness the assault of Barlow's Division of the Second Corps. This charge was also participated in by the Second Brigade of the Second Division of the Ninth Corps, who were temporarily attached to Barlow's Division by order of General Potter, that officer having been directed to send a brigade to support Barlow's attack.

"This charge was unsuccessful, the rebels maintaining their position, obliged Barlow to fall back, which he did, with the loss of some prisoners.

"The Forty-eighth were lying in a strip of woods, trying to secure some rest after the hard march from the James River, but this was not to be. The assault having proved unsuccessful, orders came to the Forty-eighth to advance. Line of battle was formed under the frowning ramparts of a small fort, bristling with artillery, directly in the regiment's front. Twilight was rapidly closing in on the scene and all felt that an assault on the rebel works meant serious business for the Forty-eighth, but all were steeled to the task. The advance began; some fifty yards beyond the woods were covered, when the line veered to the right, and filed into a gully through which ran a small creek. The movement continued to the right, following the winding of the creek, and leaving the enemy toward the left, until an abandoned part of the enemy's original line of works was reached. By this time it became too dark to distinguish objected at any distance.

The Attacks on Petersburg, June 15-17
The 48th PA Fought in the IX Corps, under Burnside

"Companies B and G were detailed to reconnoiter the position of the enemy. This was about ten o'clock at night. Deploying as skirmishers, these companies, with the rest of the regiment supporting, crossed over the little creek and advanced almost up to the enemy's works, who welcomed them with a lively volley of musketry. Under orders the line retired to the position secured in the abandoned works. So determined was Sergeant Wren and a private of B Company to ascertain the exact location of the rebel works that they ran right up against them, and the proverbial hospitality of the South induced the 'Johnnies' to gather them into their ranks, and them the delight of a Southern prison.

"The anxiety of Colonel [Henry] Pleasants for the safety of the colors, during this midnight foray, is well remembered--he cautioned the greatest care to be observed lest some unforeseen accident should occur and they be lost in the dark.

"Very little sleep was permitted the regiment, for at 3 o'clock the next morning (seventeenth) the men were quietly roused by Colonel Pleasants, who passed along the line, informing each company commander of the assault to be made on the enemy's lines. Caps were removed from the pieces, as reliance was to be had on the bayonet alone. He informed the men of the danger before them, and directed that if any felt disinclined to make the assault, they had permission to remain where they were. There is no record or evidence of any kind that a single man of the regiment took advantage of this offer--not one stayed behind! Tin cups and coffee pots were so secured as to make no rattling sound, and directions were passed along in whispered accents. Bayonets were silently fixed, the pieces, by order recapped and the regiment moved quietly out of the old rebel works left in front, with the stealthiness of Indians, over the creek where line of battle was formed, in utter darkness. Moving the right, for about a hundred yards with panther-like tread, a whispered command 'forward!' was given, and the savage rush began. Some firing on the right of the regimental line, resulted in an immediate answer from the enemy, along their entire line, thus marking it vividly by the flashes of their muskets. Directly into this fiery ribbon, belching its leaden hail through the ranks of the charging lines, swept the Forty-eighth, emptying its muskets at the instant the rebels' works were reached.

Sergeant Robert Reid, Company G, Medal of Honor Recipient

"How the heart beat, and the pulse throbbed during that onslaught! If fear or dread marked the supreme moment of the attack, it was banished completely in the glorious rush of the fight! What a harvest of prisoners--they were captured by the score, disarmed and sent to the rear, only to be gathered up by the regiments in reserve and turned in as captives of their own. The Forty-eighth actually secured more prisoners than the regiment had men engaged in the fight. Two flags and two pieces of artillery were likewise part of the regiment's trophies. The colors of the Forty-fourth Tennessee were captured by Sergeant Patrick Monaghan, of Company F, and the colors of the Seventh New York Heavy Artillery were recaptured by Private Robert Reid, of Company G. For this gallant and praiseworthy deed the War Department conferred upon these two soldiers the United States Medal of Honor. The distinction gained by Monaghan and Reid was proudly accorded them by every man in the regiment, as all recognized the achievement as adding additional glory to the command.

"The early dawn disclosed the redan further south--which carried two guns that were making sad havoc, by enfilading the attacking line. This work was on the left and front of the Forty-eighth, about a hundred yards distant. The wild rush and wholesale gathering in of prisoners, and generally good time the regiment was having in what had already been accomplished, disturbed the formation of the command considerably, so Pleasants, seeing the necessity of securing this redan, hastily ordered the boys in line, and with the shout of 'forward!' made a dash for the fort. Like a savage torrent, the impetuosity of which Pleasants tried to stem, the regiment fairly tore over those hundred yards and swept through the fort irresistibly. The enemy ran in great disorder by squads and singly to their left and rear. The men attempted to fire on the fleeing foe, by reversing the guns, but the rebels foiled this 'little game' by having loaded them with sand before leaving. The enemy brought a battery in position and shelled the captured fort, vainly trying to drive the regiment away. The guns were safely hauled to the rear by hand, notwithstanding the heavy fire of shot and shell poured into the captors from the battery referred to.

"Whilst on the gun platform, endeavoring with others to fire the guns, Private Robert Reid, of Company G, felt uncomfortably near him flying chips, broken by shot and shell, from the planking used to line the inside of the embrasures. Seeking cover, he dropped into the hole used by the rebel gunners for protection, and lo! a dozen of the 'Johnnies,' heretofore unobserved, were snugly stowed herein. They surrendered forthwith. Reid, with Sergeant Daniel Donne, of G, marched these captives to the rear, whilst others of the regiment were hauling off the cannon.

"The Forty-eighth maintained this line, so gallantly and determinedly wrested from the enemy, fortifying and strengthening it by using the outside of the fortification for the new line, reversing the position from the way the rebels planned it. This was probably, in all its results, the most brilliant engagement for the Forty-eighth of any in which it participated. Praise is due every officer, from Colonel Pleasants down, and to every man who was in this grand assault, for the splendid record the work here accomplished has given to the Forty-eighth Regiment. This achievement, with the wonderful Mine, are two brilliant and remarkable pages in the regiment's history, the like of which few other commands can boast."

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gettysburg State of Mind . . .

Gettysburg has been on my mind lately, and there are a few reasons why.

First, I am happy to say that I will be delivering a presentation on the Battle of South Mountain titled "Antietam's Bloody Prelude" as part of this year's Gettysburg Foundation's Sacred Trust Lecture Series. It was both a surprise and an honor to have been invited to participate. While my focus will, of course, be on the September 14, 1862, fight at South Mountain, I will be drawing parallels between Lee's first invasion of Union soil--the Maryland Campaign--with his second, as well as discussing the roles played at South Mountain by some notables of Gettysburg, especially George Meade, Robert Rodes, Alfred Iverson, Richard Garnett, Henry Slocum, and others. I am scheduled for Sunday, July 3, 2011, at 1:30 p.m. Other presenters that anniversary weekend include friend and fellow blogger Harry Smeltzer, who will be speaking on Colonel O'Rorke, Ethan Rafuse, Ed Bearss, Bradley Gottfried, Troy Harman, Allen Guelzo, Adam Goodheart, and many others. For the complete listing of speakers and their topics, click here.

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My attention has also been focused on Gettysburg lately because I was asked to write the Gettysburg title for the History Press' Civil War Sesquicentennial Series. This also came as a surprise. The editor-in-chief of the Series, Douglas Bostick, broached the idea with me several months back; indeed, he asked if I would be interested as soon as we wrapped up the South Mountain book. I thought about it. . . thought about it some more. . .then ultimately decided to do it. Two weeks ago, Doug informed me that the proposal was accepted and now, having just signed and returned the contract, my focus for the next year will be back on the great struggle of July 1863.

I must admit, though, that this is a daunting challenge, and I sometimes feel as though I entered into a vast abyss. As per the contract, I was given just 50,000 words--my South Mountain book exceeded 70,000. To condense so important and so large a battle into so little space will be tough. . .very tough. Still, I could not pass up this opportunity. It was a great thrill and an even greater honor to have been asked, and I am looking forward once again to working with the History Press. They did such great work with my South Mountain book, which, I am happy to say is already in its second printing, the first having sold out within three months.

My deadline for the Gettysburg title is April 1, 2012, which, as my buddy Ted Alexander reminded me, "is tomorrow." Indeed, I will have just ten months to fashion this work. The book will, in no possible way, be an exhaustive study--such a thing, no matter how many words, is possible. Nor will this book be geared toward the buffs and enthusiasts. Instead, I have decided to write a narrative for the general audience and interested public, for those seeking, perhaps for the first time, to gain a concise history of this important campaign and battle. My intention is to draw upon and synthesize all the latest history and write about some of those lesser-known aspects of the battle, as well as some of its lesser-known figures and personalities. Those are the intentions, at least. We will see where the study takes me. . .One final note, my buddy Mannie Gentile will once again be developing the maps; we've already talked about their design, and I must say, they are going to look great.