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.

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