150 years ago. . .and after what must have seemed like a blink of an eye, the thirty-day furlough for the veteran soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania came to an end. Officially, their furlough ended on March 4, 1864, but when the regiment assembled next day in Pottsville, they were pleasantly surprised to discover that their furlough had been extended first to March 7, then another week, to March 14. There were, no doubt, many tears shed as the soldiers embraced their wives, their mothers, their children, before heading back to war. For hundreds of these volunteers departing with the 48th, this would be their first term of enlistment. While over 300 veterans of the regiment decided to re-enlist for another three-year term, hundreds more--perhaps those too young to enlist in 1861 or perhaps those who were drawn to serve because of the bounty--would be setting off for the front for the first time. On March 14, 1864, "amidst cheering shouts of friends," the train cars carrying the 48th pulled away from Pottsville and arrived in Harrisburg later that day "with full ranks." For four days, the regiment remained at Camp Curtin in Harrisburg, shaking off the rust and the dust and preparing once more for soldiering. Orders were received to proceed to Annapolis, Maryland, where the 9th Corps was just then rendezvousing. So, on March 18, the regiment bid farewell once more to Harrisburg and headed for Baltimore via Philadelphia.
It did not take long, however, for the regiment to cause trouble. Thanks to reader Vince at www.lancasteratwar.com, I discovered something new about the 48th. Apparently, while passing through the city of Lancaster, the hard-drinking soldiers of the 48th cleaned the town out, as reported in the March 19, 1864, edition of the Lancaster Daily Evening Express:
TROUBLESOME CUSTOMERS: The 48th Regiment, Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, passed through this city yesterday on their way to Philadelphia. A number of drinking houses on their route were visited by some twenty of these troops, and "cleaned out." In this city, Frank's beer saloon, and Mrs. Cox's and Captain Shue's taverns suffered considerably. They carried off whatever took their fancy. What a great contrast between those men and the excellent behavior of the 79th.
The 79th Pennsylvania was, by the way, a Lancaster-based regiment. Regardless, I would like to find out who specifically these twenty "troublesome customers" were. . .