Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The 48th/150th: Bloodletting at 2nd Bull Run: Part 1/4

This week marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of 2nd Bull Run, or 2nd Manassas. Fought August 28-31, 1862, 2nd Bull Run was an incredibly fierce and bloody battle, which resulted in a decisive victory for Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. The four day battle resulted in well over 22,100 casualties, the highest number of casualties of the war up to that point. The battle was also of great military and political significance, but compared to other battles of the Civil War, 2nd Bull Run has been relatively overlooked. In Return to Bull Run, easily the best single volume study of the campaign and battle, author John Hennessy wrote that the battle has been neglected partly because it "has been greatly overshadowed by the event that preceded it--Robert E. Lee's repulse of George McClellan from the gates of Richmond--and that which followed it--the war's bloodiest day along Antietam Creek." (Hennessy, Return to Bull Run, xi).
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It was at 2nd Bull Run where the boys of the 48th Pennsylvania received their "baptism by fire." The regiment was organized the previous year, during the summer of 1861, but they had spent their first year in service on guard and garrison duty at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, and along the North Carolina coast. True, the 48th Pennsylvania had been exposed to enemy fire at the battle of New Bern in March 1862, but they were held in reserve and spent most of the battle literally carrying ammunition to the front. At New Bern, the 48th suffered no casualties. The same certainly could not be said of their actions at 2nd Bull Run. At 2nd Bull Run, the 48th Pennsylvania did well in what was their first major action of the war, but they paid a heavy price. Casualties were high with 42 men being killed or mortally wounded, another 56 wounded, and 57 listed as captured or missing in action. 2nd Bull Run would, indeed, prove to be one of the worst battles the 48th Pennsylvania participated in, with casualties coming close to equalling those sustained during the war's worst month of fighting, May-June 1864, during the so-called Overland Campaign, which included the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, and Cold Harbor.
Today I focus on the role of the 48th Pennsylvania at 2nd Bull Run. I will, of course, post the regimental casualties, but I will also be posting a number of first-hand accounts of the battle written by the soldiers themselves. I will including accounts authored by Joseph Gould, William Wells, Oliver C. Bosbyshell, Henry Pleasants, and James Wren.

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