Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The 48th/150th: Arriving at Fredericksburg/"Supporting Durell's Battery. . . "

Next Thursday, December 13, 2012, will mark the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. Because of this, my next several posts will document the role played by the 48th Pennsylvania in this memorable and important engagement. First, a look at the days leading up to the battle, as authored by Captain Oliver C. Bosbyshell and recorded in his 1895 regimental history, The 48th in the War:
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On November 19, 1862, the regiment marched through Falmouth and went into camp “back of the Lacy House directly opposite Fredericksburg. . . .Durell’s Battery was posted in front of the regiment with its guns commanding the streets of Fredericksburg. A visit to the bluffs overlooking the town brought it in full view. The inhabitants were busy—apparently numbers were moving—wagons heavily ladened with household goods were visible, and people were seen hurrying here and there with bundles and packages. Rebel cavalry patrolled the streets, and a heavy line of pickets occupied the southern banks of the river. The regiment remained in this camp until the twenty-ninth of November, resuming drills and dress parades. The life was a monotonous one. ‘Supporting Durell’s Battery,’ was the army way of denoting the duty in this camp. At 6 o’clock on the morning of the twenty-ninth, having been relieved by the Fourth Rhode Island, the regiment moved off and rejoined the brigade—encamping in a heavy pine wood, about a mile back of the river. Here comfortable log huts were built by the men, with genuine chimneys in them, and before this spot was vacated by the troops the handsome forests surrounding the camps were leveled to the ground. On the afternoon of December 1, General Nagle resumed brigade drills—much to the disgust of all hands interested. The most noteworthy event of the second of December was the arrival in camp of Isaac Lippman, the best sutler in the corps, with a full supply of ‘cheeses.’”
Wartime image of the Lacy House, Opposite Fredericksburg

Bosbyshell recorded that December 3-4, 1862, “passed without incident;” but on the afternoon of December 5, there was “a most disagreeable storm of snow, hail and rain, robing the earth in a fleecy garment. The weather was bitter cold, and the fire-places in the log huts were piled with fuel. Some of the enterprising spirits of the regiment arose at 1:30 at night to witness an announced total eclipse of the moon. It was found entirely too cold for much extended observation. Nearly all of the regiment picketed the river bank on the sixth. The weather continued cold, the ground was hard frozen, and there was plenty of ice.”
The View of Fredericksburg from the Lacy House; this is what the soldiers of the 48th would have seen of the city from their campsites.

Regimental inspection was held on December 7 but it was “rather a matter of form—only about a hundred men in line—the picket detail not returning early enough to participate. The day was intensely cold and the ground was still covered with Friday’s snow. On the eighth an order was received from Division Headquarters for the men to build log huts, and to make themselves as comfortable as possible. For this purpose no duty was imposed, other than guard duty for two days. Then commenced a slaughter of the woods, and the erection of log huts of a more pretentious kind than then temporary efforts before essayed.

“On the tenth there was a regimental inspection. The pleasant countenance of General Burnside looking on at the regimental dress parade, is a notable event of the day. A meeting of the company commanders took place at Colonel Sigfried’s tent the same evening, for the purpose of preparing for the anticipated movement against the rebel entrenchments at Fredericksburg. The part expected of the regiment was explained, and the company commanders directed to keep their own counsel.”

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