Saturday, December 28, 2013

The 48th/150th: "Christmas Has Passed, And A Very Dull One It Was For Me:" Lt. Pollock's Letter Home

One-hundred-and-fifty years ago this past Thursday--on December 26, 1863--and from the 48th's winter quarters near Blaine's Crossroads, Tennessee, Lieutenant Curtis Pollock, at that time commanding Company G, penned the following letter to his mother in Pottsville. The weather was cold, raw, and snowy as the veteran soldiers of the regiment endured yet another winter in uniform, and observed yet another Christmas hundreds of miles away from their families and from their homes. They knew that their original terms of enlistment were to due to expire the following year--in either September or October 1864. With the end of the war still nowhere in sight, however, and fearing the loss of so many of seasoned, veteran troops--like the men of the 48th--the government began to offer incentives to those who re-enlisted for another three years. As Pollock writes here, the topic of re-enlistment was the "all absorbing topic" that winter in Tennessee. When he wrote this letter on December 26, it is apparent that the reaction of the men to the idea of re-enlisting was lukewarm, at best. As it eventually turned out, however, in early January 1864--and as will be covered in a future post--more than 3/4 (75%) of the soldiers of the 48th did choose to reenlist.
Lt. Curtis Clay Pollock, Company G.
Sadly, Christmas 1863 would be his last Christmas on earth; he died six months later, in late June 1864, as a result of wounds received at Petersburg.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Camp near Blane’s Cross Roads Tenn.

Dec. 26, 1863

Dear Ma

     I am kept very busy at present making out Muster Rolls and a great many other papers that a Company Commander has to bother himself with.  Christmas has passed, and a very dull one it was for me. The day before Christmas we were out and made a reconissance but the Rebs. had just left.  I have never felt so tired as I did that night when we got back to camp.  There has been a great deal of talk of the 9th Corps leaving Tennessee, since Burnside has left us, but now that has given way to the all absorbing topic, “reinlistment.” They are trying to get our Regt. to reinlist, but with the exception of a few of the Companies they do not succede very well.  There are only two men in G. who are willing to reinlist.  I heard this evening that there were one hundred and sixty four in the whole Regt.  The Government offers all those who reinlist thirty days furlough and the bounty.  If three fourths of the Regt. enlist they will allow them to go home in a body, and those who refuse are to be put in other Regt’s and companies to do duty until their term of service expires.  I have no idea what we will do here now.  The Rebels have evidently left this immediate vicinity but whether we are to follow them up or remain here I do not know.  As soon as I get through all the writing I have now on hand I will copy my diary and send it to you.  It has been raining nearly all day and as we have nothing but the shelter tents to do everything in, I have not gotten through much work.  I received my valise as a Christmas present and it is the only one I have rec’d. It has been all this time on the way from Camp Nelson here.  I picked up a young contraband the other day. He run away from the Rebs. when they evacuated before Knoxville.  He says his “Massa” is a private and had him with him to carry his knapsack and other drudgery.  He calls himself “Dick.” He tells some wonderful stories about what the Rebs do, but I think he has a rather strong imagination.

I am quite anxious to get that letter that came to Pottsville for me for I imagine there is a photograph in it.  Did you ever get any of those pictures of Reilly and myself.  I should very much like to have one.  I suppose by this time Mary has arrived again at home and I need not ask if she has enjoyed herself.  How is Marge and Charley getting along.  I heard something about a young man being seen with a young lady and after that she could not be found.  How is it?

                           With much love to all I remain

                                           Your affec Son


Santa Claus Handing Out Gifts To Union Troops, by Thomas Nast and Published in Harper's Weekly on January 3, 1863. This was one of Nast's very first depictions of Santa Claus and still today, 150 years later, Nast's renderings/depiction of his imagined Santa Claus remains as the most widely recognized.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The 48th/150th: "The Condition Of The Men Was Deplorable In The Extreme:" The 48th's "Valley Forge" Winter. . .

150 years ago, as the campaign against Longstreet's men drew to a close, the ragged, footsore and cold veteran soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania endured what was a miserable winter encamped in the mountains of East Tennessee. Snow fell heavily that winter, with ice covering the ground, and temperatures seldom rising above freezing. The men had spent the winter of '61-'62 encamped along the sandy shores of Hatteras, North Carolina; the next winter--that of '62-'63--found them recovering from the shock of Fredericksburg at their camps near Falmouth, but it was this winter encampment, that of '63-'64, that the soldiers would never forget and one they would refer to as their own Valley Forge.

Edwin Forbes sketch of a Civil War Soldier in Winter Camp. . .
(Library of Congress)

Many years after the war, Sergeant William Wells of Company F left a vivid account of what the soldiers experienced that frigid winter of '63-'64 and how they did their best simply to stay warm and get something to eat:

William Wells, Company F, 48th PA
During the encampment of the 48th at Blaine's Crossroads, in East Tennessee, from December 7th, 1863, to January 13th, 1864, the condition of the men was deplorable in the extreme. Probably no troops of the Union Army, during the entire war--prisoners of war excepted--suffered so much from lack of supplies as did those of the Burnside forces during that dreary winter in that barren, mountainous region. The cause of this in no way reflected upon the War Department nor any of its officers, the conditions surrounding the situation being alone responsible. Being over two hundred miles from the base of supplies at Hickman Bridge, Kentucky, it was utterly impossible for the Commissary and Quartermaster's Departments to procure anything like adequate supplies of food or clothing for the Army of East Tennessee, as almost the entire distance lay over a succession of mountain, steep, high and rocky, as the Wild Cats, the Cumberland, the Clinch, and intervening ranges, besides rivers and mountain streams. The roads during the summer were bad enough, but almost impassable for teams in winter. To add to the difficulty, forage for the miles, from start to finish--except a few days' supply at the start--was unobtainable, both armies having devastated the country for many miles, so that the finish they scarcely had strength enough to move their loaded wagons. At places on the Clinch mountains the descent was so steep that they only way to get the wagons down was by use of ropes coiled about the trees.  Besides this method of obtaining supplies, the otherwise useless teams were sometimes sent out into the surrounding country on foraging expeditions, under strong guard, returning to camp, perhaps empty, or with a small supply of corn-on-the-cob so ancient that, to reduce the corn to an edible condition, the boys were kept busy. At any time, day or night, an old coffee mill or other improvised grinder might be heard grinding away. Two ears of corn, or eight ounces of flour, generally constituted a day's rations. Occasionally when a drove of cattle, sleek and fat at the start, but fatless on their arrival in camp, made their appearance, they were soon slaughtered and we had a little fresh meat. A little hard tack and "salt horse" now and then, varied the diet, and sometimes the memory of yesterday's meal must suffice. Most of the men at the close of this arduous campaign, in that wintry camp, the cold north wind sweeping around them, were tentless, blanketless, many without overcoats, and but few had any change of underclothing.

For shelter, two heavy logs, placed slightly apart, gave support for fence rails, which, inclining forward, served as a support for a thick covering of pine boughs, of which the woods gave a plentiful supply. Underneath this shelter additional pine boughs served for a bedding. To keep warm at night, heavy logs were laid in front of the shelter to form the fire-bed, which was kept burning by one comrade while the others slept. Thus the time passed, while the camp and picket guard "kept up their dreary rounds." To-day it seems like a dream, yet what a stern reality!

The lack of proper clothing, for want of a change, was a source of much annoyance to the men; but there was no remedy, as soap in that camp was almost an unknown commodity. Many tried, covered only with a thin blouse, to wash their shirt in the mountain streams, using clay as a substitute for soap, but with poor results. As "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," they succeeded but poorly in living up to the adage.

Their feet were in but little better condition than their bodies and stomachs, for many a foot was but poorly clad, some wrapped in rags. Raw beef-hides, when obtainable, cut into moccasin form and tied with strips of the same, or string, covered many a foot to keep it from the biting cold or frozen ground. Yet but few complained, complaint being useless, no betterment in sight. Never did men bear greater hardships in camp life than did the troops in East Tennessee in the winter of 1863-1864. Hungry, half-clad, shelterless and footsore, they bore all uncomplainingly for the land they loved so well and the flag they followed."  
Harper's Weekly

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The 48th/150th: Chasing Longstreet in East Tennessee & Settling Into Winter Camps

Having been defeated at Fort Sanders, Knoxville, on November 29, 1863, and having it confirmed that Bragg had been routed at Chattanooga, Confederate General James Longstreet decided against returning to the shattered ranks of the Army of Tennessee in Georgia. With hundreds of dead and wounded men laying between his own lines and Fort Sanders, Longstreet initially considered continuing with his semi-siege of Burnside's men in Knoxville. But when he learned that a large column--some 20,000 men strong and under the command of William T. Sherman--had been sent north by Grant from Chattanooga to Burnside's relief, Longstreet wisely chose to head northeast, slipping away from Knoxville and to the mountains of East Tennessee. When the Union troops discovered that Longtreet's men had "pulled up stakes and departed," a reconnaissance was ordered and at 9:00 a.m. on the morning of December 5, the soldiers of the 48th departed their trenches around Knoxville and set out, seeking to determine just exactly where Longstreet had gone. Covering several miles, the men "gathered up" about 50 Confederate prisoners, "found in squads of two or three on the roads traversed," explained Captain Bosbyshell.

Confederate Soldiers in Retreat

After this rather short reconnaissance mission, the 48th returned to Knoxville but--two days later--were once again ordered back out, to keep an eye on Longstreet's men, still maintaining an irritating, if not threatening position northeast of the city. On the cold December 7, the regiment covered twelve miles before going into camp along the side of the road. Another six or seven miles was covered the following day--December 8--before the Schuylkill County men arrived at Blaine's Crossroads. Next day, twelve more miles--with the regiment encamping for the night of December 9-10 near Rutledge--"a small village of wooden houses, save the Court House, which was a large brick building of fine appearance. The town had been completely stripped of provisions," said Bosbyshell, "butter, eggs and chickens were not to be had--the rebels having cleared the place out just twenty-four hours previously." For nearly a week, the men remained in their campsites near Rutledge. They were once more on the move on December 15 when reports arrived that Longstreet was heading back for Knoxville. "Camp was abandoned and line of battle formed, awaiting an expected attack from the enemy," but the reports were ill-founded and no attack ever came. After waiting in line of battle all day, the 48th fell back, went into bivouac and, next day, continued a retrograde movement back toward Knoxville. Yet again, on December 16, and again expecting an attack, the soldiers of the Second Division, 9th Corps, formed up in line of battle, ready to contend with any force Longstreet might throw at them. But again. . .no attack came. More of the same followed on December 17, but the temperatures began to plummet, "making it uncomfortable without tents," said Bosbyshell--with just a little understatement. On December 18, the soldiers of the 21st Massachusetts were sent forward to shoo-away some Confederate cavalry that had appeared to the front of the 9th Corps men and this, it was noted, would be last the 48th saw of any Confederate troops in East Tennessee.

Soldier's Dream, as it appeared in Harpers' Weekly, on November 7, 1863
No doubt many men of the 48th were thinking about home and family while chasing after Longstreet, hundreds of miles away, in the mountains of East Tennessee

With Longstreet heading back deeper into the mountains, the 48th returned to a location near Blaine's Crossroads and there settled into winter camp. It would be a winter long remembered by the veterans of the regiment--in the cold, in the snow--in a camp many of the men described as their own little Valley Forge.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The 48th/150th: "Holding Out To The Bitter End. . . :" Captain Bosbyshell Reports on the Knoxville Campaign

One-hundred-and-fifty years ago today, Confederate forces under General James Longstreet continued slipping away from Knoxville, heading northeast, toward the mountains. Their campaign against Burnside's forces was over and they had been defeated--soundly.
The East Tennessee or Knoxville Campaign certainly does not rank among the most famous operations of the Civil War but it was an important one and a campaign the soldiers of the 48th were proud to have been a part of. There was much marching, some fighting, and a lot of sleepless nights. In a previous post, I summarized the campaign and the 48th's involvement in it. Today is a letter written by Captain Oliver Bosbyshell, commanding Company G, 48th PA, written on December 12, 1863, from Knoxville to the Editors of Pottsville's Miners' Journal. The letter is somewhat lengthy, but it does present a fine summary of what the soldiers of the 48th endured while campaigning under Burnside in East Tennessee:

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Confederate Troops Under Lafayette McLaws Attack Fort Sanders on 11/29/1863

December 12, 1863:
Messrs. Editors: It may not be uninteresting to give you a resume of the doings of this brigade, but more particularly the 48th, during the last month. At the risk of wearying you somewhat, here's at it. Let me preface my jottings down of last month's actions, with a remark or two concerning the activity of the Union forces since their first occupation of East Tennessee. This brigade left Camp Nelson on the 12th of September, 1863, and since then to the present time, just three months, has marched 364 miles and traveled by railroad 128 miles, making 492 miles in all, besides having engaged in three fights and as many skirmishes, and being besieged twenty days. Whoever declares that the campaign in East Tennessee campaign has been an inactive one, deserves to be conscripted into a negro regiment and fed on quarter rations for the period of three years.

On the 14th of November orders to break camp reached us at our beautiful camping ground near Lenoir. On the 15th we were at Loudon skirmishing with the rebels all day--this brigade being the last to leave, and in part protecting the rear of the Army of the Ohio in its retreat toward Knoxville. Upon being relieved the brigade was pushed forward to the front (stopping long enough at Lenoir to be fresh rationed) to take up a position on the Kingston Road, which leads into the Knoxville Road near Campbell's Station, and upon which there was every reason to believe the enemy would come in on to cut off our retreat towards Knoxville. It was daylight when the brigade reached the spot designated. Col. Sigfried, to whom the task of preventing the enemy's approach in this direction had been assigned, had scarcely thrown forward his cavalry skirmishers half a miles when they became engaged with the rebel skirmishers. It became evident that much depended upon our holding this position, General Burnside's orders being to hold it at all hazards, until reinforced, and well was it held, although the brigade was severely pressed on all sides. The fighting at the junction of the roads was sharp and savage. Receiving orders to fall back we did so in good style. Thus opened the battle of Campbell's Station. It was an all day's fight, commencing early on the 16th, and darkness put an end to it. The fight after the affair in the woods at the junctions of the roads became one of the grandest sights in military display. The battlefield was clear from woods or obstructions of any kind, so that the participants could view the movements of each other without difficulty. We could plainly discern the enemy's movements, and then all our own were visible also. It was a grand military drill, and beat all the evolutions of a battalion day one could imagine. Some say General Burnside is incapable of handling a large body of troops. An eye-witness of his skillful maneuvering on the battlefield at Campbell's Station will say differently. It is the opinion of those that ought to know that there have been few is any battles fought during this war in which so many evolutions had to be performed, and in which troops had been so skillfully handled. Your correspondent does not pretend to set up his own opinion, but he made good use of his eyes, and certainly never beheld a grander picture, or never noticed how beautifully every movement coincided with a counter-movement of the enemy. Maj. Gilmour arrived from the east in time to participate in this engagement, and commanded the 48th during it. The regiment behaved well and lost one killed (Sergeant Joseph Reed, Company H), one wounded and a prisoner (Private Isaac Arndt, Company I), and one missing (Private George Livingston, Company A). After dark the retreat was continued to Knoxville, where we arrived early on the morning of the 17th.

Knoxville Gen. Burnside determined to hold, so the pick and the shovel were put into requisition, and digging and shoveling became as regular a habit as drawing one's breath. Finally we succeeded in becoming strongly entrenched--impregnable as was afterwards proven.

One of the severe duties to be performed was picketing. Scarcely a day passed but some of our men were killed or wounded on the picket line, and indeed so close did the rebel pickets get that it was unsafe for a head to appear above our line of entrenchments, as was demonstrated by the killing and wounded of several of this brigade. On the night of the 23rd of November the picket line in front of this brigade was driven in by a strong column of the enemy. Col. Sigfried determined to reestablish his line, so he selected for that purpose the 48th Pennsylvania Regiment, and the 21st Massachusetts Regiment. At daylight on the morning of the 24th these two regiments made a most gallant charge (the 48th being managed by Maj. Gilmour, who managed the affair most handsomely), driving the rebels back in great confusion, killing and wounding a number, and capturing some prisoners. Our line was reestablished. The 48th behaved most nobly. Its conduct not only on this occasion, but many others, deservedly stamps it as a veteran organization. Be it understood that the 21st did well also, but I speak particularly of the 48th, because the people reading this feel more interest in it. On one other occasion our pickets were driven in, but the line was reestablished by the Second Brigade. The picket line of this brigade at the end of the siege remained in the same place it held at the opening of the siege. It would render my letter of any almost interminable length were I to describe the many scenes and incidents attending the siege of Knoxville. Never were troops called upon to endure greater hardships, or placed in more perilous situations, and not once did they shrink from doing their duty.

Of the assault on Fort Sanders you have already better accounts than I can give. It clearly demonstrated to Longstreet that our works were going to be defended and that our position was impregnable. The anxiety attending the siege was keenly visible on all countenances, but one could plainly discern the determination of holding out to the bitter end. This feeling all possessed; not a man in the trenches but said we could hold our position. Longstreet held out as long as he safely could, but deeming it politic to escape the snare being laid for him, pulled up stakes and left on the evening of the 5th inst. About nine o'clock the same morning Col. Sigfried took his brigade out to gather up whatever stragglers could be found in the neighborhood. The 48th did the skirmishing and brought in a number of prisoners. By four in the afternoon we returned to Knoxville, having scoured quite a considerable part of the country. Monday last we started after the rebels and reached this point  on Wednesday, where we are at present resting from the severe trials of the last month.

I have given you but the mere skimming--better pens than mine must describe the realities we have passed through. In justice to the noble soldiers of this army it should be done. Braver men never drew the breath of life--they are soldiers, every inch of them.

Captain Oliver C. Bosbsyhell, 48th Pennsylvania

Captain Oliver Christian Bosbyshell
wrote frequently of the 48th's experiences during the Civil War

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The 48th/150th: The East Tennessee Campaign & Fort Sanders: October-November 1863

Overview/Setting The Stage. . . . 
Area of Operations, East Tennessee: 1863 

In early September 1863, Major General Ambrose Burnside conducted a successful campaign in East Tennessee, during which time he secured the important city of Knoxville for the United States. The people of the twenty-two counties of East Tennessee were primarily Unionist in their sympathies and for the first two-and-a-half years of the war had suffered at the hands of Confederates posted in this region—a region Richmond had deemed hostile. Sending soldiers to the relief of these people from East Tennessee had long been on President Lincoln’s mind but it was not until the late summer of 1863 before this finally came to fruition. Burnside was tabbed for this important assignment and after spending much of the summer preparing he, in late August, led his force southward from Kentucky and into the heart of East Tennessee, arriving unopposed in Knoxville on September 3. The people there greeted Burnside and his men as liberators. Burnside proudly reported the occupation of Knoxville to Lincoln and the War Department in Washington, but any elation over his success was overshadowed by a growing concern for General William Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland further to the south.

Harpers Weekly Depicts Burnside's Arrival in Knoxville, 9/3/1863

In mid-September, Rosecrans’s army was defeated by Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee at the Battle of Chickamauga, which proved to be the largest Confederate victory in the war’s Western Theatre. Following his defeat, Rosecrans led his army back to Chattanooga, with Bragg’s forces on his heels. Soon, Bragg settled in for a siege. 

Harper's Weekly Depictions of Union Troops at Chickamauga 

In Washington, word of Rosecrans’s defeat prompted calls for Burnside to march his command south, to the relief of the Army of the Cumberland. With some hesitation, Burnside set out with elements of his 23rd and 9th Army Corps, leaving behind Captain Orlando Poe—his chief engineer—with instructions to turn Knoxville into a fortress.

Captain Orlando Poe Transformed Knoxville Into A Fortress

Burnside made it halfway to Chattanooga when he received word to stop—other Union troops in the form of the 11th & 12th Corps Army of the Potomac and a large, 20,000-man column were also heading to Rosecrans’s relief. Burnside was told to simply stay where he was in East Tennessee, to help protect Rosecrans’s right flank.

By the end of October, the first Union reinforcements arrived at Chattanooga and on October 29 had punched a hole through the Confederate line at the Battle of Wauhatchie, thereby opening a supply line and alleviating the suffering and starving Union soldiers in Chattanooga. Bragg was furious and placed most of the blame for the defeat at Wauhatchie on James Longstreet, who had joined Bragg’s army with two of his divisions from the Army of Northern Virginia. Bragg and Longstreet simply did not get along and, thus, in the aftermath of Wauhatchie, Bragg decided to send Longstreet into East Tennessee to crush Burnside. Many then and now could not help but scratch their heads in wonder as to why Bragg would decide to divide his army in the face of a larger one, and with more and more Union reinforcements heading to Rosecrans’s relief. But for Bragg, sending Longstreet into East Tennessee would, for the moment at least, remove a troublemaking subordinate and, if successful, would also secure control of East Tennessee once more for the Confederacy. Longstreet was told to go north, locate Burnside’s command and crush it, then return to Chattanooga to help Bragg deal with the growing blue-coated force there. It seemed simple enough, but Burnside was not about to let this happen.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet--
Defeated By Burnside in East Tennessee 

Authorities in Washington panicked when they learned that Longstreet’s column was heading north into East Tennessee; even General U.S. Grant advised Burnside to withdraw all the way back to Kentucky if necessary. Burnside, however, sensed an opportunity. He was well-aware of what Bragg and Longstreet were up to and believed he could help the situation in Chattanooga by moving south to initiate contact with Longstreet and then engage in a fighting withdrawal, all the way back to Knoxville, thereby drawing Longstreet’s command further and further away from Bragg and allowing Grant a better chance at victory at Chattanooga. Grant liked the idea and in mid-November 1863, the East Tennessee Campaign commenced.

Major General Ambrose Burnside_
Victor of the East Tennessee Campaign 

In the end, it was a complete success for Burnside and a complete failure for Longstreet, who fell for the ploy and who was unable to trap Burnside in the open. There were engagements at Loudoun, Lenoir’s Station, and at Campbell’s Station but the campaign culminated at the Battle of Fort Sanders, a strongly fortified bastion northwest of the city of Knoxville. There, on November 29, Longstreet launched a frontal assault on the fort. From start to finish, it lasted perhaps half-an-hour and, in the end, Longstreet lost 829 men, while Burnside’s casualties in the fort amounted to five men killed and eight wounded. It was one of the most lopsided battles of the war and for Burnside and his men, an unqualified victory.

The 48th Pennsylvania & The East Tennessee Campaign. . . 

Civil War Knoxville 

The 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, which formed part of the 9th Corps, participated in this long-overlooked but very important campaign in East Tennessee. Previous posts documented the regiment’s long 220-mile trek from central Kentucky to Knoxville and their experiences along the way. The post that follows documents their trials and triumphs from the middle of October to the end of November 1863, including their battles with Longstreet’s forces in Tennessee and at Fort Sanders.

Arriving in Knoxville in late September after a nineteen-day journey from Kentucky, the weary soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania were given a few days’ rest, which was very much needed and well-earned. The Schuylkill County men ventured into Knoxville and, said regimental historian Joseph Gould, “found everything up to our taste.” On September 29, the men were cheered by Generals Ambrose Burnside and John Parke who visited the men in their camps. But, alas, the regiment’s “breathing spell” came to an end on October 4 when orders arrived for the men to be in readiness to move. A Confederate force was operating northeast of the city and Burnside wanted them gone.

On October 4, the 48th took the rails to Morristown and the next day marched to Lick Creek, where they remained until October 10. Along the way, Captain Oliver Bosbyshell of Company G could not help but be struck by the outpouring of support the regiment encountered as well as the Unionist sympathies: “As the train [from Knoxville] sped on, the most cheering evidences of the loyalty of the men of East Tennessee to the Union cause were apparent. At Strawberry Plains, Mossy Creek, Morristown and other stations, large numbers of the good, loyal men of East Tennessee were congregating, organizing regiments. Many were already armed. It was a motley but earned crowd—gray-haired, gray-bearded men of sixty jostled striplings of sixteen, all eager to do what they could to uphold the Union cause.”

At 9:00 a.m. on the morning of October 10 and preceded by a long column of cavalry and infantry, the regiment set out for Blue Springs where the Confederate force, “estimated from four to ten thousand strong” was found. Under orders from General Robert Potter, the 48th Pennsylvania and 21st Massachusetts regiments advanced into the fight. “As soon as we got near the woods,” said Gould, “a charge was made and we drove the enemy back, killing and wounding quite a number and taking a number of prisoners.” Night fell on the battlefield and the next morning—October 11—it was clear that the Confederates had fled. A pursuit was ordered and the 48th covered some twenty miles. “It was probably the hottest marching day the regiment ever experienced,” said Gould and again, the regiment was impressed by the encouragement of the people. Said Bosbyshell of this march: “Greenville, the old home of President Andrew Johnson, was hurried through—at many of the houses little knots of ladies were gathered, who showed their sympathy with the Union cause, by vigorously waving their handkerchiefs as the troops passed. . . .” On October 12, the pursuit was called off—“We could not catch up to the rebel army,” recounted Gould, smugly, “they ran too fast for us.” Soon, orders arrived to return to Knoxville, and on October 13, the seasoned campaigners of the 48th began to retrace their steps, back toward Greenville and Morristown before taking up the rails once more for Knoxville.

Wayside Marker Describing the Battle of Blue Springs (From 

Returning to Greenville—once home to Andrew Johnson—on October 13, the 48th took up a straw vote for the Governorship of Pennsylvania, and although the vote did not count in the election, it was taken only “to get the sentiment.” And there was no doubt where the sentiment of the soldiers lay. From within the ranks of the 48th, the incumbent governor—Andrew Curtin, “The Soldiers’ Friend”—secured 264 votes; his opponent, the Democratic Party contender George Washington Woodward, received zero votes. “Andrew G. Curtin was a very popular man among the soldiers,” said Gould, the results of the regimental straw vote made this quite obvious. But the results in Pennsylvania were a lot closer. Curtin did triumph, receiving 269,506 votes to Woodward’s 254,171, the margin of victory being 2.9%.

Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin--"The Soldiers' Friend" 

Gould did his best to express the sympathies of Pennsylvania’s soldiers in the field and the meaning of this election, explaining that Curtin had “not only won the personal affection of Pennsylvania soldiers by his practical devotion to their interests, but he was known to be in earnest sympathy with their cause, and even Democratic soldiers, of whom there were many, believed that the issue directly affected their attitude as soldiers and the care of the State for themselves and their families, and their party prejudices largely perished.”

Harper's Weekly Scene Depicting Soldiers Voting 

Understandably, it rankled the men that their votes did not count in the general election; indeed, their votes would not be counted until 1864. Instead, all they could do was plead via letter with their families back home in the Keystone State to cast their support behind the “Soldiers’ Friend.” “[A]round the campfire, the question was discussed by the Pennsylvania soldiers,” said Gould, “and, certainly, three-fourths of them sent home the most urgent appeals to their fathers, brothers and friends to vote to sustain the patriotic philanthropic Governor of the State as a matter of duty in support of the soldiers’ cause. Not only did the soldiers appeal to the members of their immediate families, but to their many personal friends whom they knew at home, and the result was mute, but omnipotent, expression from our soldiers in the field to their relatives and friends at home. .  . .” Their efforts, contended Gould, is what helped Curtin secure reelection. In a letter to the Miners’ Journal dated October 17, 1863, Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Sigfried, commanding the regiment, made known the regimental results and expressed the anger of the regiment that their votes would not count: “The soldier has cast party aside,” said Sigfried. “The only question he asks is, who is our friend and the friend of the cause we are fighting for?” The answer was obvious; it was Curtin. What was more, “The soldier justly believes and contends that if any one is entitled to a vote it is he who is willing to leave family, friends, and all the comforts of home, and if need be, die in sustaining and in carrying out the laws.” It was a shame, said Sigfried; a disgrace. Still, the men were elated when word arrived that Curtin did, in fact, prevail and, as Sigfried stated with perhaps just a little overstatement, the result “has given new life to the soldier and given him more encouragement than any victory that has been achieved since the commencement of this war.”  Bosbyshell echoed Sigfried’s thoughts in his regiment history, written thirty years later. The announcement of Curtin’s reelection, which was made at dress parade on October 17, “was greeted with tumultuous cheers, making the old woods ring. . . the boys had a right to yell.”

~Colonel Joshua Sigfriend~
Commanded 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Corps in East Tennessee

Having arrived back at their old campsites at Knoxville, the soldiers of the 48th—when not engaged in political discussion—kept themselves busy in camp. Some days passed quietly; others in anticipation. Finally, late on October 22, the regiment received orders: they were to move south to Loudoun. Boarding train cars at 10:00 o’clock that night, the regiment arrived at Loudoun—some thirty miles south—around 1:00 a.m. on the morning of October 23. “The command bivouacked along the railway tracks,” said Bosbyshell, “most of the men and officers occupying the ties for a bed, with the rail for a pillow.” The soldiers were awoken by a downpour of rain a few hours later; and that rain continued to pelt the men for most of that wet, miserable day. It wasn’t until the following afternoon when the regiment at last secured a comfortable camping ground on the north side of the Holston River. There, at Loudoun, the men remained encamped for the next several days while Burnside contemplated his strategy in dealing with Longstreet.

Campaign Map 

On October 27, the 48th received orders to fall back to Lenoir’s Station, where the regiment remained for more than two weeks, awaiting developments and establishing what many thought would be their winter camps. But during this time, Burnside was busy preparing to set a trap for Longstreet. He sent units south to engage Longstreet and lure him toward Knoxville. Longstreet, detached from Bragg’s army, had been hoping to quickly catch Burnside in the open and destroy him, but Burnside was always one step ahead of his foe and executed a successful retreating action, each time bringing new forces to front—to deal with the advance of Longstreet—while also sending other forces along the roads leading north, to Knoxville.

On the morning of November 15, the 48th was sent back to Loudoun, where they saw some action. “During the morning the 23rd Army Corps commenced skirmishing with the rebels,” recounted Gould, “Our brigade. . .soon relieved these new troops, with orders to hold the enemy in check long enough to enable the artillery and wagon-trains time to fall back, on account of the bad conditions of the roads, the result of heavy and continued rains. This being accomplished, we fell back slowly about 4 p.m., and was relieved by the 2nd Brigade of our Division. About 6 p.m. we again reached Lenoir. Then commenced our constant movement towards Knoxville, marching by night and fighting by day, the object being two-fold: to retard the advance of the enemy to Knoxville, and to save our trains and artillery, the roads being so bad that the latter was only saved through the aid of the infantry.”
From Lenoir’s Station, the next stop on the way back to Knoxville was Campbell’s Station—a crucial road intersection that Longstreet hoped to reach before Burnside, but Burnside beat him to the punch, with elements of his 9th Corps arriving there first. 

Battle of Campbell's Station--November 16, 1863 

The weary, cold and wet soldiers of the 48th—having marched since 2:00 a.m. that dreary morning—arrived at Campbell’s Station around 6:00 a.m., when they halted and turned to confront Longstreet’s pursuing columns. “Between 8 and 9 o’clock a.m.,” said Bosbyshell, “matters assumed a serious look—the rebels closed in on both roads, directly at Campbell’s Station, and the fighting became the fiercest at this point.” Longstreet would later dismiss the battle at Campbell’s Station as solely an artillery affair, but Bosbyshell summarized Burnside’s intentions: “It was not Burnside’s wish to engage the enemy at close quarters at this point; he was maneuvering for time, intending to retire to Knoxville where fortifications were being erected. So the battle of Campbell’s Station was a fight to hinder the rebels’ approach and delay it as long as possible.” Gould remembered that the “engagement continued during the entire day, beginning early, and ending only when darkness rendered it impossible to distinguish friend from foe.” Slowly, Burnside’s lines gave way under the weight of superior Confederate numbers, falling back from one position to the next, slowing Longstreet and luring him closer to Knoxville and further away from Bragg at Chattanooga. “The maneuvering was perfect,” summarized Bosbyshell as Longstreet continued to fall for the trap. When darkness descended on the battlefield that night, Burnside once more ordered his men to fall back and, once more, the tired soldiers of the 48th marched through the night. . .arriving worn out and bone tired in the outer defenses of Knoxville early on the morning of November 17.

Defenses of Knoxville--Fort Sanders, top left

Captain Orlando Poe—Burnside’s chief engineer—had been hard at work in establishing an impressive defenses surrounding Knoxville. Even so, when Burnside’s men arrived back at the city and with Longstreet’s men closing in, they, too, picked up the spade and axe to further strengthen the line. “The pick and shovel were used to great advantage,” recounted Gould, “and the city was soon encircled with a strong line of earthworks extending from the Holston River below the city, clean around it to a point on the same river above.” Bosbyshell told a similar story in his work: “Shovels, picks and axes were in demand, and hard work fell upon the men, day and night. Formidable entrenchments were erected running from the Holston River on the southwest side of the town, all around to the same river on the northeast side, with Fort Sanders, an earthwork of strength, occupying the most commanding elevation in the whole line.” Indeed, Knoxville was rendered thoroughly defensible, especially on the Ninth Corps’ front.” For nearly two weeks, the two sides stared at one another, while Longstreet considered his options. By this point, Bragg was pleading with Longstreet to attack at once and then return to Chattanooga, since Grant was marshalling his forces for an all-out assault on Bragg’s now thinned ranks. Longstreet, on the other hand, considered and initially adopted a plan to lay siege to Knoxville and to Burnside’s men, but with so few troops and unable to completely encircle the city and with food and provisions trickling in daily to Union camps from south of the river, it was never a true siege.

Meanwhile, as Longstreet contemplated his move, the soldiers in the ranks thought of their loved ones at home as the Thanksgiving Holiday came and went, recalling past celebrations during happier times. The soldiers of the 48th occupied a position in the earthworks north of the city. The regiment at this time was commanded by Major Joseph Gilmour since Lt. Col. Sigfried has been elevated to temporary command of the First Brigade, Second Division, Ninth Corps. 

~Major Joseph Gilmour~
Commander, 48th PA, in East Tennessee 

Nearby the 48th stood Fort Sanders, an impressive earthen fortification named for the lamented Colonel William Sanders, who had been mortally wounded west of the city on November 18 and who passed away the following morning. Fort Sanders was, at once, the strongest and most vulnerable point in the Union defenses at Knoxville; its walls rose nearly 18 feet in height and the recent rains and ice had made them nearly impossible to climb; the fort was surrounded by a ditch, and to the front, trees had been felled and telegraph wire strung between the stumps. But it was also a salient jutting out like the proverbial sore thumb and because of this, Longstreet decided the attack would be made there. Lafayette McLaws tried to dissuade Longstreet from attacking once rumors began circulating through Confederate camps that Bragg had been defeated at Chattanooga, but “Old Pete” Longstreet would not be deterred: the attack would continue.

Post-Battle Image of Fort Sanders 

Early on the morning of November 29, the ground west of Knoxville trembled as Confederate gunner E.P. Alexander unloosed a steady barrage of artillery toward Fort Sanders. After this twenty minute cannonade, McLaws’s infantry attacked. . . .and they would soon be bloodily repulsed. The attack on Fort Sanders lasted less than half-an-hour; during this time, Longstreet’s columns were butchered and barely a dent was made on the strong Union lines.

Kurz & Allison Depiction of the Attack on Fort Sanders 

Although not stationed in Fort Sanders, the 48th Pennsylvania was subjected to the exploding shot and shell of Alexander’s artillery and they did witness the slaughter that ensued. As Bosbyshell remembered, “Before daylight, he [Longstreet] hurled a column of sixteen regiments deep against Fort Sanders, with lamentable results to the attacking party. [Captain Poe and the engineers] had taken the precaution to clear away the forest in the front of the fort, leaving the stumps sticking well up. Stretching from stump to stump, [they] crossed and recrossed telegraph wire. When this column of regimental front, and sixteen regiments deep, moving to the attack in the darkness before dawn, came upon the entangled mass of wire, the troops were thrown into inextricable confusion, their organizations helplessly broken, and the whole command no better than an unorganized mob. So impetuous, however, was the mad rush for the fort, that the flags of the 13th and 17th Mississippi and the 16th Georgia were actually planted on the corner thereof—but only for a moment, as the Union troops captured them. [Lieutenant Samuel] Benjamin [a 9th Corps artillery commander] was coolly lighting shells, with shortened fuses, and tossing them with his hands over the parapet into the ditch surrounding the earthwork—causing death and confusion to the crowded mass of disorganized troops. . . . .The strife did not last long, and the enemy fled dismayed. An armistice, lasting from daylight until 7 p.m. marked this Sunday. Four stands of rebel colors were captured, 300 rebel dead laid around Fort Sanders, as many more were wounded, and the same number made prisoners. The corner of Fort Sanders, and the ditch before it, was filled with dead and dying men—the sight was horrible.”

MOLLUS Sketch, "The Attack on Knoxville" 

Joseph Gould, in his regimental history, was equally descriptive of this doomed Confederate attack: “Just before daybreak on Sunday, the 29th of November, the rebels made a fierce charge upon this work. . . .When they reached the wires. . .they were tripped up and fell over one another in the dim light of daybreak, the lines became terribly broken up and in confusion. Some adventurous spirits reached the ramparts, only to be bayonetted by the troops. Others rolled headlong into the ditch. The line to right and left of Sanders enfiladed them. . . .The enemy pressed up; they cut away the abates; they filled the ditch, and a few made their way to the top of the parapet. There a terrible hand-to-hand contest ensued; clubbed muskets, bayonets, sabers, even spades and axes were employed in the dreadful work, and not a score of the brave storming party escaped. . . .The engagement was altogether in favor of the Union side, and was soon terminated. The field in front of the fort was thickly strewn with the misguided men in gray, and a great many were made prisoners.”

The Attack on Fort Sanders, from Harper's Weekly 

Indeed, it was an engagement “altogether in favor of the Union.” Inside Fort Sanders, Burnside lost just five men killed and eight wounded (although additional casualties were sustained by regiments outside the fort, including several members of the 48th). Longstreet’s casualties, on the other hand, equaled 829, in one of the most lopsided battles of the war. After the attack and as his men were retreating, Longstreet discovered that the rumors were, indeed, true. . .Bragg had been soundly defeated and routed from Chattanooga at the hands of U.S. Grant. It was a gloomy, dismal day for Confederate fortunes. Afterwards, Longstreet considered his next move. He decided against returning to Bragg’s defeated army in Georgia and simply stayed where he was, outside of Knoxville and facing the formidable Union works to his front. But when he learned that Union General William T. Sherman had been sent north from Grant’s army to “rescue” Burnside’s men “trapped” in Knoxville, Longstreet wisely decided to side-step Knoxville and he moved his ragged gray-and-butternut column to the northeast when they would spend a miserably cold and snowy winter in the mountains of East Tennessee.

The soldiers of the 48th were very proud of their involvement in the successful campaign for East Tennessee. They kept a steady watch on Longstreet’s men to their front, but on December 4, Captain Joseph Hoskings, commanding Company F and in charge of the picket line, noticed that the Confederates had “disappeared” and the nineteen-day siege of Knoxville was over. The following day—December 5— a proud Ambrose Burnside dictated General Field Orders No. 34 to the men of his command: “The Commanding General congratulates the troops on the raising of the siege. With unsurpassed fortitude and patient watchfulness they have sustained the wearing duties of the defense, and, with unyielding courage, they have repulsed the most desperate assaults. [The men of this command have] nobly guarded the loyal region it redeemed from its oppressors, and has rendered the heroic defense of Knoxville memorable in the annals of the war.”

Although the men rejoiced, there was still some mourning for those of the regiment who had fallen either killed or wounded. In all, from November 15 to December 5, the 48th lost 5 men killed or mortally wounded, an additional 7 men wounded, and 6 captured or missing. The casualties of the 48th during the East Tennessee Campaign and as reported  by Major Gilmour on December 6, 1863, are as follows:

Killed/Mortally Wounded:
-Sergeant Joseph Reed, Company H: mortally wounded at Cambell’s Station, 11/16/1863; died the same day
-Corporal John Sponslor, Company H: mortally wounded at Knoxville, 11/29/1863; died the same day
-Private Jonas Haldeman, Company I: killed at Knoxville, 11/29/1863; died the same day
-Private Joseph Weise, Company H: mortally wounded at Knoxville, 11/24/1863; died 11/28/1863
-Private Charles Weaver, Company I: mortally wounded at Knoxville, 12/3/1863; died 12/5/1863

-1st Lieutenant Jacob Douty, Company K: wounded at Knoxville, 11/24/1863
-2nd Lieutenant Henry Clay Jackson, Company G: wounded at Knoxville, 11/29/1863
-Private Martin Tobin, Company C: severely wounded at Knoxville, 11/24/1863
-Private J.F. Wildermuth, Company H: wounded at Knoxville, 11/22/1863
-Private James Heiser, Company I: wounded at Knoxville, 11/29/1863
-Private John Murphy, Company K: wounded at Knoxville, 11/23/1863
-Private Austin Farrow, Company F: wounded at Knoxville, 11/28/1863

Captured/Missing In Action:
-Private George Livingston, Company A: Missing in Action at Campbell’s Station, 11/16/1863
-Private Daniel Root, Company B: Missing in Action at Knoxville, 11/29/1963
-Private Robert McElrath, Company C: Missing in Action at Knoxville, 11/24/1863
-Private James Brennan, Company E: Missing in Action at Knoxville, 11/29/1863
-Private Issac Arndt, Company I: Wounded Severely and Left Behind on the Field of Campbell’s Station, 11/16/1863
-Private J.K. Sherman, Company K: Missing in Action at Knoxville, 11/29/1863

Friday, October 25, 2013

The 48th/150th: A Brief Respite in Knoxville. . .Then Off To Bull's Gap

Harpers' Weekly. . .Various Views of Knoxville in the Civil War 

After a long and exhausting 221-mile, two-and-a-half week march from Lexington to Knoxville, the weary and lean soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania took a much-needed and well-deserved break. For several days—rainy and cold days—they lounged about their camps just to the north of the city. Some took advantage of the lull in campaigning to see the sites in Knoxville. “The still days in camp,” related Captain Bosbyshell, “we utilized in visiting points of interest in and around the town.” The city was built on a series of hills, on the north side of the Holston River, and, said Bosbyshell, “The houses crown the summits of the hills and run down the sides of the same. This formation renders many of the streets hilly. There were a number of fine looking streets—wide, straight and neatly built up. Some handsome residences adorned the town, and the whole place indicated plenty and prosperity.” “We found everything up to our taste,” said Joseph Gould.

Bosbyshell and the soldiers of the 48th were equally struck by the scenic beauty surrounding Knoxville. “The country about Knoxville is very beautiful, and situated, as most of the houses are, on high ground, the views obtained by the dwellers thereof are satisfactory to a degree. The Holston River winds around its southern side, and the scenery up and down this stream is particularly beautiful and engaging. South of the river a broad expanse of excellently wooded country spreads out for miles—broken here and there by cultivated farms of the most productive kind.”

1865 View of Knoxville

The hills described here by Bosbyshell would be of great value to Captain Orlando Poe, Burnside’s chief engineer who, in the days ahead, would transform Knoxville into a fortress, establishing a line of defenses around the city, to cover approaches from the west, north, and east. Burnside had arrived in Knoxville to a hero’s welcome in early September and reported the liberation of the city and of East Tennessee. The administration in Washington, though grateful for Burnside’s good news, were, at the moment, more concerned about Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland about 110 miles further south, in northern Georgia. After his defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19-20), there were many in Washington who wanted Burnside to move south to help Rosecrans’s beleaguered force, now nearly surrounded and trapped at Chattanooga. But this would not be easy for Burnside: to transport his command—still thoroughly winded from their long march to East Tennessee—across ground still filled with various, small Confederate commands and with many of the rail bridges between Knoxville and Chattanooga destroyed by Simon Buckner’s Confederates when they abandoned East Tennessee a month earlier. Burnside did start moving his command south, with a sizeable force arriving at Loudoun on the Tennessee River. By this point, however, both Rosecrans and the War Department decided that Burnside would not be needed at Chattanooga—there were plenty of reinforcements coming to his aid, from the west, under Grant, and from the east, with the 11th and 12th Corps, which had been detached from the Army of the Potomac.

Burnside’s primary goal thus became establishing a firm control over the east Tennessee countryside. For the 48th, this meant a mission toward Bull’s Gap, some 60-odd miles east of Knoxville. At 9:00 o’clock on the morning of October 4 and with five days’ light rations but with no tents or baggage, the soldiers of the 48th picked up their muskets and headed into the city where they boarded trains. “As the train sped on,” related Bosbyshell, “the most cheering evidences of the loyalty of the men of East Tennessee to the Union cause were apparent. At Strawberry Plains, Mossy Creek, Morristown and other stations, large numbers of the good, loyal men of East Tennessee were congregating, organizing regiments. Many were already armed. It was a motley but earnest crowd—gray-haired, gray-bearded men of sixty jostled striplings of sixteen, all eager to do what they could to uphold the Union cause. The entire trip to Bull’s Gap exhibited the same expressions of loyalty on all sides—a demonstration not excelled north of Mason and Dixon’s line.”
All day on October 4, the 48th were riding the rails and by 10:00 p.m.—thirteen hours after leaving Knoxville—they arrived at Bull’s Gap, stepped off the trains, stretched their legs and went into bivouac. The cold night made them miss their shelter tents, left behind in Knoxville.

East Tennessee. . .

For the next two weeks, the 48th Pennsylvania found itself campaigning in the mountainous regions of East Tennessee.