Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The 48th/150th: Thirty Days' Veteran Furlough: Part Two: From Lexington to Harrisburg

150 years ago, during the final week of January and into the first week of February, the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania--at least those who had re-enlisted for another three-year term of service--were finally on their way home, looking forward to a thirty-day furlough. And as the regiment headed east on various trains from Kentucky, through Ohio, and into Pennsylvania, the city of Pottsville was eagerly anticipating its arrival, determined to give the "boys" a great reception home.

After spending a few days catching up with their old Lexington friends, the soldiers of the 48th boarded train cars of the Kentucky Central Railroad and, at 12:00 noon on January 25, 1864, steamed toward Covington, where it arrived twelve hours later.

Sadly and tragically, during the trip Private Patrick M. Brown of Company F, was killed during an accident on the rails near Paris, Kentucky. Oliver Bosbyshell stated that he "was knocked off the top of one of the care, thrown under the train and killed," but Joseph Gould remembered it differently. The trains had stopped at Paris for the engine to take on water. Brown was attempting to cross the track by crawling under the cars when the train once more started. Regardless of how it happened, the 38-year-old private and native of Ireland who had survived the fall campaign in East Tennessee, died as a result. As Bosbyshell recalled years later: "This cast quite a gloom over the otherwise enjoyable journey."

Soldiers Cross A Pontoon Bridge Connecting Covington, KY, with Cincinnati, OH

The regiment spend nearly a week in Covington but on Sunday, January 31, the regiment crossed the river into Cincinnati and, at 6:30 p.m., in the midst of a heavy rain and, after having just been paid, they boarded yet another train "and the start for home began in earnest." The next stop was Columbus, Ohio, where they changed cars. That night, the regiment reached Pittsburgh. Even though the regiment did not arrive until 10:00 p.m., a committee of well-meaning and patriotic citizens were there to greet them and to escort the regiment to the Volunteer Refreshment Saloon where they were treated to a "fine supper." "That made us feel good," said Gould, "and we tendered thanks to the good people of Pittsburg for the manner in which they evidenced their appreciation of our services."

The Pennsylvania capital was at least reached at 5:00 p.m. on February 2 and the next morning, the regiment would be heading back home. . . .

A Train Arrives at the Harrisburg, PA, Train Station

As the soldiers of the 48th hopped from train to train and endured the bumpy journey back home--looking forward to thirty days spent with their families and old friends--the people of Pottsville were getting ready to welcome them. As explained in the Miners' Journal:

"When the 48th arrives home it will experience a hearty reception. The regiment enjoys the distinguished honor of being the first in the [Ninth] corps to re-enlist as veterans for an additional three years' service. [The 21st Massachusetts was actually the first to do so]. In all cases, when three-fourths of the men re-enlist they will be entitled to a furlough of some thirty days and the regular bounty. 
Colonel Sigfried, Lieutenant-Colonel Pleasants, Dr. Blackwood and the other veteran officers who have passed through all the trying scenes of the siege of Knoxville, and the exhausting toils and dangers of the defense of Holston [River] and the retreat from the river, the action at Campbell's Station, at Greenville and the repulse of Longstreet after he retired in the direction of Virginia, continue with the men, to their great delight. It is to be hoped that this veteran body will speedily be raised up to the standard of a full regiment. It is all important that young recruits should be associated with men who know their duty, and who, in circumstances of danger or want, know how to face danger without fear, and to make the best of difficulties.
The inhabitants of Pottsville recently procured a magnificent and costly flag for the 48th, having a list of the engagements inscribed on it through which the men have passed. In addition to the long lost with which the flag is covered, Gen. Burnside, who is idolized by the regiment, has authorized the addition of the words "East Tennessee," a phrase which covers a wonderful amount of cold, hunger, danger and suffering."

At last, after a long journey, the 48th Pennsylvania arrived back in Pottsville at 3:30 on the afternoon of February 3, 1864. The reception they received will be covered in a future post. . .

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The 48th/150th: Thirty Days' Veteran's Furlough. . .First Stop: Lexington!

150 years ago. . .

The 316 soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania who had decided to re-enlist for another three-year term of service were eagerly looking forward to a visit home. For most of these men, they had not seen their loved ones and their Schuylkill County homes since the late summer of 1861. More than two years had passed since then, and these miners, clerks, laborers, canal workers, and students had seen all the horrors the Civil War had to offer. Too many of their friends and comrades--and in some cases, fathers, sons, and brothers--had already given their lives, and now lay under the sandy soil of North Carolina, or in an unmarked pit near Manassas, Virginia, or near the bloody fields of battle at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Campbell's Station, and Knoxville. The men had tramped and steamed and rode the rails for thousands of miles already, and now those 316 soldiers were looking forward to yet another trip: first by foot, back toward Lexington, Kentucky, then by rail to Harrisburg and back, finally, to Pottsville. Their decision to re-enlist had earned them a thirty-day furlough. . .and, 150 years ago, they were setting off, eager to see their families once more.

"[T]here was great rejoicing amongst the veterans," said Oliver Bosbyshell when the orders arrived to head back home.  Their journey back to Schuylkill County began at 9:00 a.m. on January 13, 1864, when the soldiers "started on the long march back over the mountains to Lexington." Along the way, the regiment paused briefly at the headquarters of Brigadier General Robert Potter, their divisional commander, and were "greatly gratified at the speech" Potter made. With a spring in their step that had been missing for quite some time, the men covered 17 miles that day. Another 18 miles were covered the following day--January 14--with the soldiers arriving within a few miles of Cumberland Gap. Up and over the mountain they continued on January 15. On this date, the regiment was turned over to Major Joseph Gilmour while Colonel Joshua Sigfried, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Pleasants, and Captain Oliver Bosbyshell rode on ahead, toward Lexington, with the intention of securing much needed supplies to be ready for when the regiment arrived. Bosbyshell, for example, made it all the way to Cincinnati where he was able to secure 160 new uniform coats to replace some of more tattered ones among the command.

Wartime Image of the Cumberland Gap
[From the collections of the Kentucky Historical Society]

Finally, on Saturday, January 23, the men arrived in Lexington, the city that had hosted them so kindly and so generously the year before when the 48th was detailed there as provost marshals. "The return to the 'old stamping ground' was like a homecoming, and very happy and enjoyable were the two days spent in renewing the friendships engendered by five months' provost duty." Joseph Gould recorded that when the regiment entered town, "the entire population turned out to meet us, as, with fife and drum, we marched out to our old camp-ground, where, before dismissing the regiment, Colonel Sigfried stated that he was going to place no restrictions on the men, trusting that every man would guard, as sacred, the good name we bore in Lexington. All he asked," concluded Gould, "was that enough men would remain in camp to guard the arms and regimental property."

The soldiers caught up with some old Kentucky friends and acquaintances and remained there until January 25, preparing for the next leg of their journey home. "That the people [of Lexington] enjoyed our coming goes without saying, as every evidence was given us of their delight, and that we were glad to be there was made manifest by the manner in which we enjoyed ourselves, especially as the 'freedom of the town' was extended to us," wrote regimental historian Gould.

Meanwhile, hundreds of miles away in Pottsville, the people rejoiced at the news that their husbands, sons, and brothers in the 48th PA were heading home. . .if only for 30 days. An elaborate ceremony was being prepared to welcome the boys back home.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The 48th/150th: Reenlistment

            By the turn of the New Year, 1864, the veteran soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry had witnessed more than their fair share of hardship, misery, and bloodshed. Over the past two-and-a-half years, the men had campaigned, fought, and bled in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and Tennessee, traversing thousands of miles and burying their friends in five different states. Of the 1,010 men who marched off to war with the 48th in the late summer/early fall of 1861, fewer than four hundred remained; the others had been discharged, either because of sickness or wounds, succumbed to disease, or fallen on the field of battle at such places as 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Campbell’s Station, and Knoxville.
            The turn of the New Year, 1864, found the veteran soldiers of the 48th PA in their winter camps near Blaine’s Cross Roads in Eastern Tennessee, a winter encampment the soldiers likened to Valley Forge. It was cold, it was snowy, and the soldiers suffered from a poor diet with provisions being scant. Another Christmas had come and gone and the men longed for their families and loved ones, hundreds of miles away in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania.
            When these soldiers enlisted in the late summer of 1861, their term of service was for “three years or the course of the war,” whichever came first. For those who took the Oath in 1861, this enlistment was due to expire in either late September or early October, 1864. The men longed for home and they had witnessed more than two years of terrible hardship and horrific bloodshed. . .but the task was yet unfinished; the rebellion had yet to be crushed and the nation had yet to be reunited.
            The primary topic of conversation among the men during that winter of ’63-’64 in East Tennessee was whether they would sign up for another three-year of service; whether they would re-enlist. The government realized so many of its veteran troops were scheduled to go home in 1864, so they offered a number of incentives if the men reenlisted to serve another three-year term: a $300 bounty, a 30-day furlough, and the honorary title of “Veteran.” Plus, with unit pride being so important to the men, if three-quarters of the regiment re-enlisted, they would be able to maintain their regimental designation; if not, those who did sign up to serve another three years would be distributed to other regiments in the field.
            For some of the soldiers of the 48th, these incentives were not enough. There were other things more important—like their homes and families—and they had already put in enough service, they felt. But, for whatever their reasons or the motivations, on January 1, 1864, 316 soldiers—well more than 75%--of the 48th Pennsylvania decided to re-enlist; to serve until the end, to see the war through to its end.  They were the second regiment in the entire 9th Corps to do so—the 21st Massachusetts beat them to the punch and were the first to reenlist. For the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania boys, this meant a 30-day furlough. The Bay Staters left first, leaving East Tennessee on January 7. Those who re-upped in the 48th Pennsylvania would have to wait another week—they were scheduled to march away from East Tennessee (for good, as it turned out) on January 13, heading first back to Kentucky and from there, by rail to Pittsburg, Harrisburg, before finally arriving back home in Pottsville for their well-deserved and much-needed 30-day furlough.
Among those who elected to serve another three-year term of service were. . . .
Samuel Beddall, Company E

Elias Britton, Company A

Daniel Donne, Company G

Lewis Eveland, Company A

Joseph Hoskings, Company F

James May, Company E

Henry H. Price, Company A