Saturday, October 15, 2011

The 48th/150th: "Pleasant Days at Fort Monroe"

One hundred and fifty years ago, the volunteer soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania--just one month into their service with the United States army--were still getting accustomed to military life but enjoying their stay at Camp Hamilton, near Fortress Monroe, Virginia, nonetheless.

On September 28, 1861, having settled into camp life, Corporal Curtis C. Pollock of Company G recorded the following observations in a letter to his mother in Pottsville:

". . . got up in the morning and saw the sun rise out of the sea. We arrived here about 6:00 o’clock in the morning and saw any quantity of “contrabands” running around and some fishing for crabs others loafing around and looking at us. We waited about a half hour until Col. Nagle reported to Gen. Wool and then got off and were marched about a mile back and inspected the camp. He is a small man not much taller than Uncle Robert or Joseph and not near so stout. I have been appointed corporal. Capt. Nagle appointed some sargents and corporals over me who were never out before and are almost as dum as they can be. We have commenced drilling and have about six drills a day. I have just come in from a regimental drill and in about half an hour will have to go out on a company drill. We are kept busy pretty much all the time and have not much chance to run around."

Oliver Bosbyshell, also of Company G, remembered well these days at Camp Hamilton: "On the third of October, the regiment, having been flooded out the previous night, moved to higher ground, occupying a camp vacated by one of the regiments that had been ordered away. The ninth of October was made memorable by the arrival of Sutler Isaac Lippman, with a great, unwieldy tent, which the boys pitched in indefinite delight, although a heavy storm of wind and rain prevailed. On the eleventh, Shaw made himself famous by shooting in the leg a Massachusetts soldier, who attempted to pass his picket post--thought he was 'secesh.'"

While the war seemed distant to many of the troops at this time, Bosbyshell could not help but notice the preparations underway for an anticipated amphibious campaign further south. "Great interest was felt in the grand expedition fitting out here for the South Atlantic coast. Hampton Roads was crowded with vessels waiting to join the Armada, and a large force of troops was being gathered at this point."

Remembering the days spent at Fortress Monroe some forty years later, regimental historian Joseph Gould wrote: "We enjoyed every minute we spent at 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 to sleep in a few inches of water, we were comfortable and happy." Like Bosbyshell, though, Gould was also impressed with the build-up of forces there. "Along about the 13th of October vessels began to arrive laden with troops destined for Port Royal, South Carolina, until about thirty-thousand were collected at this point, amongst them the 4th Rhode Island, 1st Delaware and 55th Pennsylvania Regiments."

It would not be long until the 48th itself received its 'marching orders.' On October 22, the regiment was at last equipped and armed; their weapons were the Harpers Ferry muskets, with the "buck and ball" cartridge. "Our first uniforms," wrote Gould, "were of very ordinary quality, and it took but a few weeks of service to develop the weak spots in their make-up."

On Sunday, November 10, 1861, the regiment received orders that it would be heading out. . . their destination: Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

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