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. . .

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