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. . .

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