Thursday, July 11, 2013

The 48th/150th: "How We Loved Doing Duty In This City. . ."

During the spring and summer of 1863, the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania were spared from any hard marching, heavy campaigning, and horrific combat; they were, instead, assigned to Lexington, Kentucky, to serve as provost marshals. Thus, while other soldiers in blue were shedding their life's blood under Meade at Gettysburg or Grant at Vicksburg, the seasoned, veteran members of the 48th--their ranks much reduced from heavy battle action the previous year--were instead guarding railroad stations, ordnance depots, jails, and patrolling the streets of Lexington, day and night," said Sergeant Joseph Gould "to preserve order."

Lexington, Kentucky, during the Civil War []

"How we loved to be doing duty in this city," reflected Sergeant Gould more than forty years later, "plenty to eat and to wear, little or nothing to do in the way of duty, amusements of all kinds and everything that could be of service to make a soldier happy." Even the evening dress parades were something the men looked forward to. "Every man had his clothing, arms and accoutrements in first-class shape. Our drills were perfect, and round after round of applause greeted our manual of arms from the crowds of visitors who came to camp to view the evolutions of the troops and listen to the music of our very excellent band. . . ."

Spirits soared and morale reached levels not seen, perhaps, since the regiment first marched off to war in the late summer of 1861. Those spirits only soared higher once news arrived of the twin Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in early July.

The regiment celebrated Independence Day in grand style. Orders actually went out to the men to do so, orders written by Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants, who commanded the post as Lexington.

General Orders No. 7
Lexington, July 3, 1863.

At the present time, when the United States is making gigantic exertions to crush out a rebellion which threatens to destroy its nationality, it is especially appropriate that the anniversary of the day when the liberty of its people was achieved, and their rights secured, should be held sacred and suitably celebrated.

It is therefore ordered, by the Lieutenant-Colonel commanding this post, that in honor of the eighty-seventh anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America, two National Salutes, of thirty-five guns each, be fired from Fort Clay--one at dawn, and the other at mid-day.

It is also ordered that the Forty-eighth Regiment P.V. have a street parade at 7 o'clock a.m., to be ended by a Battalion drill.

By order of
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants

Civil War Soldiers Celebrate Independence Day
That parade, said Gould, was "a very pretty one," and that night fireworks erupted above the city. "Our camp was crowded with the elite of the city, and everybody went away happy."

Lieutenant Curtis Pollock of Company G, left a more detailed account of the Fourth of July celebration:

We started down town about 7 o’clock with about two hundred men and marched all over town and when we got to the Court House Square we went through the Manual of Arms and the fireings and did it very well.  We did not get back to camp until about 11 I took a good wash to cool myself off.  Such warm weather I do not think I ever experienced before, the persperation just rolled off me in small creeks.
I laid down after dinner and slept all afternoon and as we were going to have some quite extensive fire works in the evening I went down town to bring a young lady up.  I did not get up when it first commenced but what I did see was very beautiful.