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. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The 48th/150th: The "Long, Long Tramp" To Knoxville

(In the Fall and Winter of 1863, Major General Ambrose Burnside achieved much success dealing with Confederate general James Longstreet in the oft-overlooked East Tennessee/Knoxville Campaign, successfully out-marching, out-maneuvering, and out-fighting this much revered Confederate commander. As part of the 9th Army Corps, the 48th Pennsylvania was involved in much of this campaign; a campaign that certainly does not rank among the more famous ones of the war, but an important one nonetheless. Over the next few weeks, I will be documenting the experiences of the regiment during this East Tennessee Campaign, beginning with their long, 221-mile, two-week march from Lexington to Knoxville).
Click on this link to view a map of the 48th's journey from Lexington to Knoxville:

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After saying farewell to their friends in Lexington, Kentucky, the soldiers of the 48th departed on train for Nicholasville, then on foot “along a very dusty turnpike” to within three miles of Camp Nelson—Burnside’s supply base for the campaign. The soldiers set up camp and the next day—September 11, 1863—a thorough regimental inspection was made, of the men’s weapons, accoutrements, and clothing. There, the regiment reattached itself to its larger command: the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, of the 9th Corps, which consisted of the 48th PA, 2nd MD, 6th NH, 21st MA, and 11th NH (though this regiments was only temporarily attached to the brigade; it would remained with it for only six days). Because he was the senior colonel, Joshua Sigfried of the 48th took command of the brigade.

Sigfried’s orders were to get his men across the Cumberland Gap and to Knoxville, at the heart of East Tennessee. Ambrose Burnside had himself arrived triumphantly in the city nine days earlier—on September 2—with a mixed force, mainly of the 23rd Corps. But now his 9th Corps soldiers were needed and Sigfried considered his best route and manner of march. As Oliver Bosbyshell explained, “Having a march of over two hundred miles. . .he determined to avail himself of the early morning, and later afternoon hours, affording ample time for rest during the heated portion of the day. Orders were promulgated requiring a steady tramp for three-quarters of an hour, and then a halt of fifteen minutes, with three hours’ rest during the middle of the day. This systematic march as rigidly adhered to,” said Bosbyshell, “and resulted in a rapid covering of the distance to be accomplished, with a minimum degree of fatigue on the part of the troops.” Apparently, Sigfried was quite “punctilious” in making sure his orders for the march were carried out and any deviation “would result in a sharp reproof.”

September of 1863 witnessed the 48th Pennsylvania covering great distances in their march from Kentucky to Knoxville, Tennessee. A day-by-day account of their journey follows, with some descriptions of the march and their experiences along the way as told by Captain Bosbyshell:

Saturday, September 12: The march begins and the regiment tramped ten miles through a “terrific rain storm” before arriving at Camp Dick Robinson “in a thoroughly drenched condition.” Despite the rain, the Schuylkill County soldiers enjoyed the “grand scenery along the Kentucky River—hilly, rocky and romantic.”
Camp Dick Robinson, KY

Sunday, September 13: With the rain by now over and the skies cleared, the 48th set off on the march, passing through the small town of Lancaster—“a pretty village, the good folks of which were going to service, summoned by the merry ringing of the church bells.” After their mid-day rest, the men continued on their way, ultimately reaching Dick’s River; that day, the regiment marched 17.5 miles.
20th-Century Aerial View of Lancaster, KY

Monday, September 14: Departing Dick’s River, the regiment marched through Crab Orchard, “which at the time presented a rather dismal, mean appearance.” Near there, the regiment settled into camp “under the wide spreading branches of a fine old woods, the delights of which were enjoyed all day on. . .”

Tuesday, September 15: The weather was cool and invigorated as the soldiers enjoyed a day off from the march.

Wednesday, September 16: The long journey to Knoxville was renewed and the command covered eleven miles, arriving near Mount Vernon after marching along roads described as “exceedingly rough, filled with stone and rocks, and very hilly.”
Modern-Day Aerial View of Mount Vernon, KY

Thursday, September 17: On the one-year anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, the men of the 48th broke camp at 6:00 a.m. and marched through Mount Vernon. What thoughts about Antietam and their friends and comrades they lost there, we cannot know, but Captain Bosbyshell recorded that the men were struck by the way the residents here extruded coal from the ground. “It was curious to the men from the anthracite coal regions of Pennsylvania,” said the Pottsville native, “to see the people here so easily supplying themselves with coal from the veins cropping out on the surface beside the road. They simply shoveled black dirt into wagons.” The march that day was a rough one. “The way was up hill and down dale constantly. In many places the road being extremely rough and difficult of passage, especially for the [wagon] teams.” At noon, and having already crossed over some high mountains, the regiment rested at Big Rockcastle River. While resting there, several hundred Confederate prisoners—captured by Burnside’s men at Cumberland Gap—marched past “on their way to Yankee land.” They were, said Bosbyshell, “a dirty, greasy looking set of fellows.” At 3:00 p.m., the march resumed. Crossing Wild Cat Mountain, the regiment went into bivouac near Little Rockcastle River at 5:30. The sixteen mile trek that day—up and down—over rough roads had made the men weary.
Rockcastle River []

Friday, September 18: A shorter journey was in store this day. After breaking camp at 6:30 a.m., the regiment marched but eight miles before reaching a place named Pittman’s, just three miles from London.

Saturday, September 19: Broke camp early and marched nine miles before the welcome noon-halt arrived; another three miles were covered that afternoon before the regiment was ordered into camp. A welcome visitor arrived soon afterward—Major Fell—a U.S. Army paymaster and “the boys’ pocketbooks were thoroughly reinforced.”

Sunday, September 20: The weather was “cool and damp, with a dense fog covering field and road” when the regiment broke camp at 6:30 a.m. By 9:00, the fog had lifted and the sun appeared. The regimental halted at 1:00 p.m. within a mile of Barboursville. When the march resumed, the soldiers of the 48th passed through “this small country village of scattering houses, some stores and a couple of taverns” before going into bivouac on the banks of the Cumberland River. In all, the regiment covered 15.5 miles that day. It was on this day also when Colonel Sigfried resumed command of the 48th, since Brigadier General Simon Griffin arrived back with the command to take charge of the brigade. Griffin had assumed brigade command in May 1863, taking the place of General James Nagle who had resigned.
Colonel Simon Griffin, 6th NH

Monday, September 21: The regiment resumed the march at 7:00 a.m. and covered some thirteen miles before settling into camp near Cumberland Ford, where the soldiers “were comfortably quartered in an extensive apple orchard. . . .amid the most attractive scenery, indeed as the march followed all day the windings of the river, the charms of the richest autumnal effect impressed the entire command.”  “The march so far,” summarized Bosbyshell, “was enjoyed by all—no complaint reached any ears, straggling was unheard of and no sickness in the command—all seemed hearty and well, not in the least broken down, but fresh and active.” That’s what he said, at least.
Cumberland River []

Tuesday, September 22: In a very heavy fog, the regiment left camp at 7:00 a.m. and crossed the three Log Mountains. The road they used was “decidedly rough, stony and generally troublesome.” The regiment halted at noon at Yellow Creek, but they were off again several hours later, marching “over dusty roads and exposed to a hot sun.” At 3:30 p.m., the regiment crossed the Cumberland Gap; they were now in Tennessee. An hour later, the command halted and the regiment went into camp at the foot of the mountain—on the Tennessee side—having covered fourteen “tedious” miles that day.
Soldiers Crossing the Cumberland Gap into Tennessee

Wednesday, September 23: The march continued and all day—excepting the three hour break—the men continued toward Knoxville. At 4:30, after covering thirteen more miles, they reached the edge of Tazewell, a town that “impressed all favorably, although a large part of it had been destroyed by fire—the blackened ruins showing its extent.”
Old Jail, Tazewell, TN, built in 1819 []

Thursday, September 24: Departed Tazewell at 7:00 and, after a march of eight miles, arrived at the Clinch River. There, the bridge had been destroyed and so the men were forced to wade across. After a sometimes “treacherous” crossing, the regiment went into bivouac in order to give the men an opportunity to wash their clothes. “Tents were pitched beside the road facing the river. The opposite bank, where the command came from, presented high rocky cliffs, jagged and torn, extremely picturesque.”

Friday, September 25: Broke camp at 6:00 a.m., and two-and-a-half hours later, the regiment began the climb up and over Clinch Mountain. “The road up the mountain, whilst quite steep in places, was found good,” but the view from the top was even better. “From the summit a superb view breaks upon the sight,” remembered Bosbyshell. “‘Tis said four States can be seen: Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. A vast extent of country spreads before the vision.” Though a beautiful view from top, the tramp down the mountain was fraught with peril. “The descent was most difficult. . . .The troops could manage fairly well, but the brigade wagons. . .had a rough passage. With the aid of long ropes, the men prevented these wagons from slipping over the banks and falling down the yawning precipices. The task was finally accomplished, with the loss of one wheel and an iron bolt.” At noon, a halt was called at the foot of the mountain. At 2:00 p.m., the march resumed and the men reached the Holston River, which they waded before setting up camp on the southern banks of the river. Crossing two rivers and a mountain, the regiment covered fifteen miles this day.
View From The Summit of Clinch Mountain []

Saturday, September 26: Stretching their legs, the soldiers of the 48th set out at 7:00 a.m., passed through Bean’s Station and then through Morristown—“a shabby-looking little village.”  It was there that General Griffin received a dispatch from Burnside: make your way directly to Knoxville! Griffin led the brigade to Panther Springs where the noon halt was made; at 2:00 p.m., it was once again on the move, arrived that night at Mossy Creek, having covered eighteen miles that day, “which, considering the heat and the never ending clouds of dust, was a fair day’s work.”

Sunday, September 27: Broke camp at 6:00 a.m.; rested at Beaver Creek then resumed the march to Strawberry Plains, where, again, the regiment had to cross the winding Holston River. There was a bridge here; however, its plank walkway was wide enough to accommodate one person at a time. Those on horseback, as well as the wagons, had to cross the river at a ford some three miles further downriver. Having crossed the river, the regiment found a camping ground at McMillan’s Farm, which amply stocked with straw. “So the Sabbath’s march ended, and sinking into piles of straw, beneath the brilliant rays of the moon, the command forgot in sleep its long, long tramp from Lexington.” They bedded down only thirteen miles from Knoxville.
1886 Birds' Eye View of Knoxville, TN

Monday, September 28: At 6:00 a.m., the regiment resumed its march. “Over a very dusty road, the last day of the great march over the mountains from Lexington to Knoxville had arrived.” At 3:00 p.m. the 48th at last arrived. The regiment went into camp “on the top of a small hill to the left of the road” and, reflected Bosbyshell, “Thus ended the 221 miles’ march, a march remarkable for its extent and the entire freedom from fatigue by the men of the command. The regularity of the tramp, with its times for rest nicely adjusted, undoubtedly contributed to so satisfactory a result, and is in every way creditable to General Sigfried’s sagacity and good sense.”

Tuesday, September 29: This day was a day of well-deserved rest; all day the men remained quietly in camp. They were visited there by Generals Ambrose Burnside and John Parke, “who rode through the company streets during the afternoon to see how the boys looked after the long tramp.” The 48th greeted their beloved Burnside with cheers, “long and loud.”
Major General Ambrose Burnside

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The 48th/150th: Bidding Farewell to Lexington

After a six-month-long stint as provost guards in Lexington, the 48th Pennsylvania, on September 8, 1863, received orders to leave Kentucky and rejoin the Ninth Corps, which was then on its way to East Tennessee. Just a week before, Major General Ambrose Burnside triumphantly entered Knoxville to a hero’s ovation, the first step in what would prove a very successful campaign in East Tennessee.
Harpers Weekly depiction of Burnside entering Knoxville. . .

The soldiers of the 48th expressed much regret at having to leave Lexington; they had grown fond of the city and many of the Schuylkill County boys had fallen in love with the young ladies of Lexington, who were the subject of many of their letters home. But orders were orders, and on the morning of September 10, the regiment left Lexington, their spot as provost guards having been taken by the 7th Rhode Island Infantry. “Leaving the quarters so long occupied,” wrote Oliver Bosbyshell, the regiment marched down Limestone Street Main Street and from there to the Kentucky Central Railroad. Hundreds of people turned out to bid farewell to the 48th and, said Bosbyshell, “the departure was leaving home.”

A letter that appeared in the Miners’ Journal described the scene:

The soldiers of the 48th  “were greeted, while passing through the city, with the waving of handkerchiefs, numerous shaking of hands, bidding of ‘good-byes,’ and in many instances, by the shedding of tears. Several times the band struck up with ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me,’ at which many of the boys would assume a melancholy look, and some would apply the handkerchief to their eyes, which bespoke that truth was issuing from the horns with telling effect. When the column reached the Court House the Colonel proposed ‘three cheers for the good people of Lexington’ which was given with a hearty good will, and three more were as cheerfully given some distance further down the street. Upon reaching the depot they were met by a large number of citizens who had congregated there to take a final leave of ‘soldiers who are gentleman in all they do and say.’ After waiting nearly an hour, the train as pronounced in readiness, the regiment got aboard, and the trains started. As they were moving away, the boys off with their caps and cheered vociferously until they were out of sight, thus bidding adieu to attachments that will not be forgotten as long as life last.”

In his regimental history, written more than forty years later, Joseph Gould fondly remembered the regiment’s time at Lexington: “The 48th Pennsylvania Regiment has had charge of this post for nearly six months, and the efficient, quiet and orderly manner with which it has been conducted has won praise from all—even rebel sympathizers have admired them, and spoken of them in the highest praise. Many attachments have been formed by them between both young and old of both sexes, which will never be blotted from memory. They parted and were parted with as reluctantly as if they were leaving their homes and kindred—in fact, some were doing so, several having married since their arrival here and others were on the eve of doing so. Many were the parting words, and tears that fell from lips and eyes as the boys lingered at the gates, as if it were almost impossible to go, but ‘duty called and they must obey,’ and bid good-bye to ‘all they held dear.’

But before setting off, an anonymous soldier of the 48th, writing on behalf of the entire regiment, penned this heartfelt letter to the editor of Lexington’s leading newspaper, expressing their thanks for the gracious hospitality of the citizens there during their long stay:

                “Mr. Editor: We cannot leave this place without expressing some of the feeling that is stirred within us as say our ‘farewells,’ and ‘good byes’ to the good people of Lexington.

                “We have been treated most kindly by nearly all; we have become acquainted with many; admitted to the homes and shared the hospitalities of some, and formed friendships that are as warm, and shall last as long as any of life. And while we have been treated kindly by some who have avowed themselves as rebel sympathizers, it is to the strictly loyal men and women that we owe our deepest gratitude. They are to us as brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, and it seems as hard to say the little, sad and mournful ‘good-bye,’ as when we left our own homes. We part from them with regret. Their many deed of kindness, words of cheer, and their many blessings shall be deeply engraven on our hearts, and often, in the busy and crowded future that is before us, we shall love to think of the noble girls who say:

                ‘But your country called you, darling,
                                Angels cheer your way;
                While our nation’s sons are fighting,
                                We can only pray.
                Nobly strike for God and liberty,
                                Let all nations see
                How we love the starry banner,
                                Emblem of the free

                “And the kind and glorious mothers who have treated us as sons, ministered to our wants only dreamed of by mothers, and who have shed the halo of that mysterious and unaccountable influence over every word and deed, that seems as the reflected image of our own fond, dear mothers. And God will surely bless you. Who shall say the right in not with us? Who shall say that the ultimate triumph of this war can be other than the return of peace with the Union of our country unimpaired?

                “The prayers of the mothers and fair daughters of our country, their heroic self-sacrifices and noble words of sympathy, cheer and love infused into the hearts of its brave defenders, rekindling the fires of patriotism with a deeper intensity. We must save our country from the hands of the destroyer.

                “The women of Kentucky send their greetings to the mothers and daughters of Pennsylvania through the affections of their sons and brothers.

                “We say to them to-day ‘Farewell and God Bless you! Kind friends, farewell.”

                “We commend the 7th Rhode Island Regiment to the citizens of Lexington with the hope that they will be treated as well as the 48th was, which we can assure them if they behave themselves as well as the relieved regiment has done. Kentuckians are a fine people and treat everyone very kindly.”



At last pulling away from Lexington and after a relatively short journey, the regiment arrived in Nicholasville where the men detrained and marched several more miles before settling into Camp Parke, very near Camp Nelson, Burnside’s massive supply depot. While there, a thorough inspection of the soldiers’ weapons, clothing, and accoutrements was made to make sure the men were still in fighting trim; there was a new campaign unfolding. The 48th Pennsylvania still belonged to the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Corps, which also consisted of the hard-fighting 2nd Maryland and 6th New Hampshire and 21st Massachusetts, all mainstays of the 9th Corps. In command of the brigade was the senior colonel, Joshua Sigfried of the 48th.
Colonel Joshua K. Sigfried, 48th Pennsylvania

Colonel Sigfried’s task was to get his brigade to Knoxville via Cumberland Gap and join up with Burnside’s gathering forces there. A journey of over two hundred miles thus lay before him and the soldiers of the 48th.

Camp Nelson, Kentucky. . .