Friday, May 24, 2013

The 48th/150th: “One Long Happy Holiday:” Establishing Camp and Settling In At Lexington. . .

From April through September, 1863, while other men in blue fought and bled near Vicksburg, Mississippi, central Tennessee, and at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the soldiers of the 48th were spared active campaigning and witnessed no major battles or engagements; they were, instead, assigned to provost duty in “so charming a spot” as Lexington, Kentucky.  Those five months, declared regimental historian Oliver Bosbyshell, was “one long, happy holiday.”  

1871 "Bird's Eye View" of Lexington, Kentucky

On April 3, as the regiment settled into a temporary camp on the old fairgrounds, about one mile from downtown Lexington, Colonel Joshua Sigfried of the 48th was named provost marshal for the city and, in a formal ceremony that took the place outside the city courthouse, the 48th Pennsylvania officially assumed provost guard duty. The officers, bragged Bosbyshell, “looked well—boots were nicely blackened, belts, trappings, buttons and brass plates glittered, and white gloves adorned the hands. That first day’s provost guard duty won the hearts of the field, and the boys were ever satisfied to stay in Lexington.” 

On April 4, 1863, the regiment moved into town, taking up quarters in the various vacant buildings in town. The soldiers must have been on their best behavior, for, as Bosbyshell noted, “Praises most lavish were bestowed upon the regiment, and by its good conduct, it soon won its way into the kind hearts of the citizens.” However that might have been, just a few days later—on April 13—orders arrived for the men to get out of town. . .. to move out of town and vacate the buildings where they had taken up quarters. Marching out Limestone street, the 48th established what would become their permanent camp for the next five months—just outside the city.  “The change [in camp] was a good one,” admitted Sergeant Joseph Gould, “as it kept the boys from frequenting the saloons so much, and gave us a good drill ground.”  Gould and the boys of the 48th also very much appreciated the “two pretty milkmaids” who kept their camp supplied with milk. Captain Bosbyshell did not mention these two ladies in his own description of the camp:

          “This ground was enclosed by a high board fence, with an excellent green sward. A large hemp warehouse occupied the center, and made comfortable barracks for the companies—amply spacious for all needs. Two large hospital tents, two Sibleys, and three wall tents, erected on the green lawn, served as quarters for the officers; except those of C, H, and K, who quartered in a building inside the same enclosure. Lieutenant-Colonel Pleasants’ wall tent was erected in the center of the line of tents, but in advance of them—to his right and left respectively the adjutant and major had each a wall tent. On the adjutant’s right was a sibley occupied by F’s officers, and on its right, a hospital tent for Company B and G’s officers. On the major’s left was A’s officers’ sibley, and on its left the hospital tent of the officers of D, E, and I. The surgeon’s and regimental hospital used one of the buildings in the enclosure.”


Having now established their camps outside the city limits, orders went out requiring passes of all those who sought to venture into town and patrols were placed to enforce these orders.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Our Regiment Suffered Very Severely In This Fight:" The 48th Pennsylvania's Casualties at Spotsylvania

The date May 12 was one that surely resonated with the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania, those who survived the war and its tremendous bloodletting, for it was on that date--in 1864--at Spotsylvania, where the regiment suffered some of its highest loss in the entirety of the war. Twenty-six men of the regiment were killed; ninety-nine wounded, and at least eleven missing in action, for a total casualty count of 128, sustained on this date--May 12--149 years ago. Next to Second Bull Run, where the 48th lost 152 men, the Battle of Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864, witnessed the heaviest loss sustained by the regiment in any one day of combat during the war.

Regimental historian Joseph Gould summarized some of the action and speaks of the death of Private Lewis Woods, of Company F:

Our position was on the top of a hill, in front of us was an open field and swamp, through which ran a small creek, and, beyond, another hill, where the rebels had erected a strong line of rifle-pits. On our left was a thick wood extending beyond the swamp to the line of the enemy. As the fog rose, a regiment of rebels was discovered occupying a pit formed by the banks of the creek. The left of the brigade was thrown forward into the woods, cutting off their retreat, except by the open field up the hill in front of our works, which, if attempted, would be certain destruction. A desperate effort was made to drive us out of our position, but it was steadily maintained under a destructive fire of musketry and artillery. During the attempt the regiment captured two hundred prisoners of Gordon’s division. Along in the afternoon the troops made another assault on the rebel line. The regiment charged forward to the swamp, but discovered it was unsupported. It moved then by the left flank into the woods under a galling fire; and, later, reached its former position. . . .
Our regiment suffered very severely in this fight, and the writer paid a visit to the field hospital to look after some friends, and , while there, came across some of his own company, one, named Lewis Woods, a great, big, noble-hearted fellow, from the northern part of the State, who now lay in a cow stable with his brains oozing from a ghastly bullet hole in his head. As I took the gallant fellow’s hand and asked him if he recognized me, his only reply was a smile, and my mind went back to the trip on the steamer from Newport News to Baltimore, when, as he lay asleep on the deck, in a moment of boyish deviltry, I clipped one-half his mustache completely off. What I would have given at that moment if I had never been guilty of this mischievous act! I had heard of people being shot to pieces, but never saw it until at this hospital. Just outside the fence surrounding the house a battery of artillery was stationed, and one of the artillerymen lay there torn from limb to limb, and the sight was a sickening one to those passing by.

Sergeant William Auman--who would go on to serve under Teddy Roosevelt some thirty-five years later at San Juan Hill--further spoke of the action and discussed the death of Lieutenant Henry Clay Jackson, a one time teacher from St. Clair:

On the 12th, we had a hard fight on the ground we now occupy. Our regiment was in the thickest of the fight and lost heavily. Lieut. Henry Jackson was killed beside me. He was struck in the neck by a rifle ball. I helped to carry him out. He died while we were carrying him to the hospital. When he was struck he fell against me. I asked him where he was hit; he whispered, “I don’t know,” and then his head fell to one side, and I saw that he was dying. He never spoke again. The loss in the regiment was one hundred and thirty-seven killed, wounded, and missing.
We drove the enemy a mile, when we met the 13th Georgia Regiment. We completely annihilated that regiment, taking many prisoners and killing and wounding nearly all the rest. We then charged on the rebel works, but not being supported by the regiment on our right, and being exposed to a terrible cross fire from the lines of rifle pits and a battery, and were compelled to retire to the left into a wood. Here the left of the regiment was run close to the enemy’s earthworks, and a number of our men were shot. We fell back, formed line, and took position on the same ground we were on before we charged. Here we put up breastworks and have been fighting ever since. While I am writing, the bullets are whistling over my head, but as long as we do not expose ourselves, we are quite safe.”

A full listing of the 48th's casualties sustained 149 years ago on that bloody Thursday at Spotsylvania follows:

Killed/Mortally Wounded

Louis M. Robinhold, Company A
Isaac Otto, Company A
John J. Huntzinger, Company A
Charles A. T. St. Clair, Company A
Charles Abel T. St. Clair, Killed in Action
Sgt. William Kissinger, Company B, (Died 5/24)
Cpl. David J. Davis, Company B
Matthew Hume, Company B

Frederick Knittle, Company B
Laurentus C. Moyer, Company B
Daniel Wary, Company B
John Deitz, Company B
Michael Mohan, Company C, (Died 5/20)
Cpl. John Powell, Company F(Died 5/26)
Israel Manning, Company F
John Morrissey, Company F
Lewis Woods, Company F
Richard Williams, Company F
Andrew Wessman, Company F
Lieutenant Henry C. Jackson, Company G
Lt. Henry C. Jackson (standing, right), Killed in Action

James Spencer, Company G, (Died 5/31)
John Armstrong, Company G, (Died 7/1)
William Williams, Company G
Abraham Benscoter, Company H
Joseph Chester, Company H (Died 5/24)
Henry J. Ege, Company I
Henry J. Ege, Killed in Action

John W. Henn, Company K
Company A:

Sgt. Albert C. Huckey, Arm
Cpl. Charles Brandenburg, Knee
Cpl. Jacob Honsberger, Head (slight)
Morgan Leiser, Arm
Benjamin F.C. Dreibelbeis,  Arm (slight)
Charles Hillegas, Back

Company B:
Sgt. Thomas B. Williams, Concussion by Shell
Thomas B. Williams

Gottleib Shauffler, Wrist
David Deitz, Foot
John Brown, Head
Henry Shoppell

Company C:

William Neely, Left Leg
William J. Haines, Side
Murt Brennan
James Coakley

Company D:
 2nd Lieutenant H.E. Stichter, Back (slight)
Henry E. Stichter

Sgt. Henry Rothenberger, Shoulder

Henry E. Rothenberger

Cpl. Edward Lenhart, Arm
James Deitrick, Thigh and Hand (severe)
Botto Otto, Leg, Arm, and Toe
Perry L. Strausser,  Right Hand
George S. Beisel,  Leg
William F. Moyer, Shoulder
John Kohler, Chin
Jonas Miller, Arm
Joseph Zeigler, Shoulder
Patrick Cooligan,  Head (slight)
Andrew Knittle,  Leg
Gustavus H. Miller,  Leg
Henry D. Moyer, Side

Company E:

Sgt. John McElrath, Head
Cpl. William J. Morgan
James McLaughlin, Right Army
George W. Schaeffer
David Williams,  Foot (slightly)
W. Simmons, Arm
G.W. James,  Leg
W.C. James, Arm
James Meighan, Thumb
Robert Penman, Arm
Company F:
Sgt. Richard Hopkins, Hand (slight)
William E. Taylor, Hand
Anthony Carroll, Leg
William S. Wright
James Brennan, Abdomen
Henry Holsey,  Leg
William H. Kohler,  Back
John Eddy, Head
Jno. T. Reese, Arm
John Crawford, Head
A.H. Whitman, Leg

Company G:

Sgt. R.M. Jones, Head (slight)
Cpl. George Farne, Hand

George Farne

Patrick Cunningham
M. Berger, Left Arm
Clay W. Evans, Hand
Patrick Grant, Arm
William Maurer, Shoulder
John Kautter, Hand
Patrick Savage, Arm

Company H:
William Huber, Arm
Benjamin Koller, Arm (slight)
John Klineginna, Eye
Daniel Ohmacht, Arm (slight)

Daniel Ohnmacht

Albert Davis, Thigh
John Stevenson,  Groin
Michael Melarkee, Right Shoulder
Daniel Cooke, Foot
John Cruikshank, Hand
Michael O’Brien
Charles Focht

John Olewine, Hand
Joseph Edwards, Finger
Thomas Palmer, Leg

Company I:

Sgt. Luke Swain, Concussion of Shell, Arms, Legs
Sgt. Jacob Ongstadt, Head (slight)
Cpl. D. Klase, Thigh
Cpl. Wesley Knittle,  Hip
Charles Lindenmuth, Face

Charles Lindenmuth

Francis Boner, Leg
Charles Washington Horn,Both Legs and Hand
M. Dooley, Both Legs
W. Tyson, Concussion, Head
Charles DeLong, Hip

Company K:

Cpl. George Weaver, Breast
David R. Dress
Elias Fenstermaker, Finger
Thomas Fogarty, Finger
Henry Schulze, Body
Franklin Ely, Foot
Simon Hoffman, Foot
Andrew Webber,  Breast

Missing in Action
George Seibert, Company C
Edward Ebert, Company D
John D. Weikel, Company D
William Gottschall, Company E
George Kramer, Company F
Harrison Bright, Company H, Deserted, Returned 6/6/64
Michael Scott, Company H
Lewis Aurand, Company H, Deserted, Returned 6/6/64
James Wentzell, Company H
W.B. Beyerle, Company I
W.B. Shearer, Company I

Friday, May 10, 2013

The 48th/150th: Bidding Farewell to General James Nagle

150 years ago, from his headquarters near Lancaster, Kentucky, forty-one-year-old James Nagle, after wrestling with the thought for some time, reluctantly tendered his resignation from the army and was preparing to bid farewell to the men of his command, and particularly those of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, the regiment he had raised in the summer of 1861 from his native Schuylkill County. Since the beginning of 1863, if not earlier, Nagle had been in poor health, suffering from the onset of heart disease, a condition that would ultimately cause his death just three years later, at the young age of forty-four. He sought treatment and the advice of his doctors; the diagnosis was angina pectoris, and his doctors advised he resign. He finally did so, in early May, 1863.

Brigadier General James Nagle

His resignation was accepted, but not without the regret from his superiors.  On May 9, Samuel Sturgis, commander of the Second Divison, 9th Corps, forwarded Nagle's resignation, but took the time to write the following back to the suffering Nagle: Dear General: I cannot better express the pain it gave me to forward your resignation, than by giving you a copy of my endorsement upon it, viz.: 'Respectfully forwarded and approved. But I must express my deep regret at the necessity for this forwarding it. By his intelligence, energy, zeal and courage, and quiet, unassuming deportment, withal, Gen. Nagle has endeared himself to this command, and will carry with him the love and respect, not only of those gallant troops he had led so often to victory, but of all who have the good fortune to know him."

His resignation accepted and approved, Nagle said goodbye to his men on May 20 and issued his farewell address:

Head Quarters
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th A.C.
Lancaster, Ky May 20th 1863

To the Officers and Soldiers of this Command,
                As I am about taking my leave from you, I deem it my duty to say a few parting words. It is with deep regret that I am obliged to take this step, particularly after having gone through so many fatigues, hardships and dangers on the field of Battle with you, and after having received a reward for my humble service by promotion to my late position.
                It was with great reluctance that I tendered my resignation, but disease with no hope of recovery compelled me to yield, and now as I can not be with you in person, rest assured that my heart will ever be with you.
                Our associations have been too pleasant to be soon forgotten. The proudest part of my life has been spent while in Command of this Brigade, and you respectful demeanor, and gallant conduct on the numerous fields of Battle will never fade from my memory.
                I trust that this Rebellion will soon be crushed, and that our glorious old Standard will once more float proudly over our whole Country.
                I am sorry that I am unable to take you all by the hand, and I hope as many as can will call upon me at my Quarters before I leave.
                To the members of my Staff I desire to express my high appreciation for the manner in which they have conducted the several Departments, and for the able assistance they have rendered me in the field.
                In bidding you all farewell I hope I may be pardoned for bidding an especial farewell to my old Command and more immediate associates, the tried Veterans of the 48th Penna. Vols.
                I consign you to the care of that able and gallant Officer, Col. Simon G. Griffin 6th N.H. Vols.

                May God bless you, and grant your continued services.

                                                                                                                                James Nagle

With that, Nagle boarded a traincar and was soon heading back home to his family in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Yet no sooner had he arrived than Robert E. Lee led his Army of Northern Virginia in his second invasion of Union soil, this time making it deep into Nagle's home state of Pennsylvania. Heralding the call once more, Nagle, despite his poor health, set about raising yet another regiment of volunteers--the 39th Pennsylvania Emergency Militia--which he would lead to the front. Arriving in Harrisburg during the latter stages of the Gettysburg Campaign, Nagle was assigned brigade command by General Darius Couch, who headed the Department of the Susquehanna.