Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The 48th PA/150th: Raising the Regiment

Record Banner of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry

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This month marks the 150th Anniversary of the recruitment of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, and to help commemorate this, I will be devoting the next several weeks worth of posts to the origins of the regiment as well as its recruitment from the anthracite-laden coal fields and lush agricultural countryside of Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.

In late July 1861, with the three-months' terms of service of the war's first volunteers about to expire and with no end to the Southern rebellion in sight, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 300,000 men to serve for "three years or the course of the war," whichever should come first. Governor Andrew Curtin of Pennsylvania immediately went to work, seeking to fill the quota established for his state. On August 14, he commissioned Colonel James Nagle, of Pottsville, to raise a regiment. Nagle was an experienced officer, whom Curtin could rely upon to raise and then lead a regiment of three-year men. In 1840, and at just eighteen years of age, Nagle organized the Washington Artillerists, a company of militiamen he would lead in Mexico, when it was mustered into Federal service as Company B, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers. Nagle, who served a term as sheriff of Schuylkill County, had just recently been mustered out of service as colonel of the Sixth Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month organization that served under General Robert Patterson in the lower Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from April-July 1861. Receiving his authorization to raise a regiment of three-year volunteer soldiers, Nagle determined to raise it almost entirely from his own Schuylkill County.

James Nagle raised the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry in the late summer of 1861

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To assist in his efforts, Nagle recruited the services of several friends and associates who proceeded to set up enlistment offices throughout the county. Nagle was well aware of the military capabilities of these men, they for the most part having served either under him in the 6th PA, or in other three-month organizations. Daniel B. Kauffman raised what would become Company A in and around the towns of Port Clinton and Tamaqua. James Wren, Joseph Gilmour, Henry Pleasants, and two of James Nagle's brothers--Daniel and Philip--set up recruiting stations in Pottsville, the county seat, drawing men from there and nearby St. Clair. Most of the men in Wren's company had served with the Washington Artillerists during the war's first three months and were among the very first Northern volunteer soldiers to reach Washington, D.C. following the outbreak of hostilities. William Winlack found volunteers from the coal fields surrounding Port Carbon, New Philadelphia, and Silver Creek, while Joseph Hoskings raised his company from Minersville and its surrounding areas. John R. Porter sought out recruits from Middleport and Schuylkill Valley, while Henry A.M. Filbert, a native of neighboring Berks County, drew his volunteers from Schuylkill Haven and Cressona in southern Schuylkill County.

An 1850 Map of Schuylkill County; the 48th Pennsylvania was raised almost entirely from Schuylkill County during the months of August-September 1861

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Oliver Bosbyshell, who served with the Washington Artillerists and who was mustered into what would soon become Company G, 48th Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1861, remembered the enlistment process. "As rapidly as men were secured the were forwarded to Camp Curtin, in Harrisburg, where the regiment rendezvoused. The medical examinations having been successfully passed, the recruits were equipped and assigned to their respective companies. Drills were instituted by the squad and company, and twice during its stay at Camp Curtin regimental drills were had. For the majority this was their first taste of military duty; however, there were many who had served in the Three Months' Service, in the Sixth, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, Twenty-Fifth, and other organizations. A number of those who first entered Washington City, and who are now known as the "First Defenders," re-entered the service in the Forty-Eighth Regiment, nearly all attaining the rank of commissioned officers."

Within just two months, 1,010 men volunteered to serve in what became the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.

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In the weeks ahead--as we continue to commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War--I will be posting biographical information on each of the above-mentioned men who recruited companies for the 48th, as well as the original field and staff officers. I will also be describing further their enlistment into Federal service and their first few weeks in uniform. Full rosters of each of the companies, with descriptions of each soldier, will also be provided.

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