Friday, September 19, 2014

The 48th/150th: Peebles's Farm: 9/30/1864

150 years ago. . .
The Battle of Peebles Farm: 9/30/1864
. . .and after helping to secure the capture of Weldon Railroad in mid-August 1864, the war-weary, dirt-covered soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania settled in once more to the monotonous but still deadly life in the trenches at Petersburg. A relative calm and quiet descended over the lines over the course of the next six weeks, but, as regimental historian Oliver Bosbyshell was quick to point out, although matters "remained quiet. . .so far as any movements of magnitude were concerned," "The never ceasing crack of the rifles of the men in the rifle pits, and occasional shower of mortar shells, with a flurry of shot and shell now and then, served to remind all hands that the war was [still] going on, dangerously near, and ready for death and destruction upon the slightest provocation." And if they needed a further reminder that the war was, indeed, still going on, it came 150 years ago on September 30, 1864.

Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant sought to strike both ends of Robert E. Lee's ever-lengthening and ever-thinning lines around Petersburg. While Benjamin Butler would strike the far Confederate right, just south of Richmond, Gouveneur Warren would lead his Fifth Corps against the opposite end of Lee's line, south of Petersburg. It was hoped that Lee would weaken his right in response to Butler's threat and that Warren would be able to exploit this and sever more Confederate supply lines that ran into Petersburg from the south.
Supported by a division of cavalry as well as General John Parke's Ninth Corps, Warren began his movement on Friday, September 30, leading his men along the Poplar Springs road toward Peebles's Farm. Lee had done exactly what Grant had hoped: he weakened his right by sending troops from A.P. Hill's corps to the north. A division of the Fifth Corps attacked Hill's thinned lines and routed them from a fortification known as Fort Archer. Because of this, however, Lee halted those men that had ordered away and sent them back to confront the threat on his right. In the meantime, Warren halted his own advance as soldiers from Parke's Ninth Corps shuffled further to the south and east, looking to effect a connection with Warren's left flank.
The Attack of 5th Corps Troops at Peebles Farm
(from Frank Leslie's Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War)
The 48th Pennsylvania, commanded still by Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants, that mastermind of the Petersburg Mine, took up position in the rear of the Ninth Corps, in reserve, in a clearing near the Pegram House. As the fighting unfolded to their front, one must wonder what the veteran soldiers of the 48th were thinking, for, as it turned out, it was on that same date, back in 1861, that many of the companies were officially organized and mustered into service. Three years earlier, exactly, so many of these veteran troops had become soldiers, taking that oath to serve for "three years or the course of the war," whichever came first. For those men who did not re-enlist earlier in 1864, they would soon--very soon--be heading home. For those who did reenlist, the predominant thought must have been, why they had chosen to do so.
Suddenly, chaos. . .and a mob of retreating men! In front, Confederate General Harry Heth had orchestrated a counterattack that slammed head-on into the advanced units of the Ninth Corps. The units out in front line broke in disorder, the men fleeing as fast as they could to the rear. . .and directly through the ranks of the 48th. According to Bosbyshell, Colonel Pleasants "was greatly enraged at these fleeing soldiers as they dashed blindly to the rear, pushing and shoving their way between the ranks of the Forty-Eighth, and with drawn sword slashed to the right and left amongst them with the strength of an athlete, staying the flight effectually anywhere near his sweeping sabre." Bosbyshell joked about all the sore heads and bruised ribs that surely resulted among these fleeing Union soldiers, but as these men fled to the rear, the 48th formed quickly into line of battle and advanced toward the oncoming gray-and-butternut tide. A thick secondary growth of trees and bushes, along with a swamp, however, disrupted their formation. The regiment's line broke in half; to the right of this heavy undergrowth the men began digging in, quickly establishing entrenchments. On the left, however, the other half of the regiment advanced so close the advancing rebels that they were able to "distinguish their features." Several heavy volleys erupted and Major Bobsyshell, in command of this half of the regiment, ordered his men to fall back. They rejoined their comrades behind their new "well-defined line of works" and held on there. Order was restored and the next day a second Confederate attack was easily repulsed. Union reinforcements would arrive on the scene and by October 2, they would be able to claim Peebles's Farm as a victory. 
The 48th, however, had lost a good number of men--most of them captured. Joseph Gould intimated in his regimental history that the losses could easily have been much higher. "In the progress of the fight the line of the brigade was broken, which resulted very nearly in the capture of the entire regiment. By skillful maneuvering the command preserved its organization, although its lines were thrice broken by frightened troops pouring through them."  
Once things settled down and the ominous calm spread again through the lines, Pleasants compiled a list of the regiment's casualties at Peebles's Farm. It included 4 men killed or mortally wounded, 8 wounded, and a staggering 43 men captured or listed among the missing. For these captured men, the horrors of prison life at Salisbury Prison, North Carolina, awaited them. Tragically, at least 16 of these men died from the effects of prison confinement. . .disease, starvation, despair. . .never making it out, never making it back home.     
The casualties the 48th sustained 150 years on September 30 were as follows:
Killed/Mortally Wounded: (4)
John Darragh: Co. E
David Miller: Co. F (Mortally Wounded; Died in Annapolis 11/16/1864)
James Heiser: Co. I
Joseph Cobus: Co. I (Wounded and Captured; Died of Wounds 10/4/1864)
Wounded: (8)
Sergeant Major Henry C. Honsberger
Sgt. George Bowman: Co. D
William Ball: Co. F
Thomas Garland: Co. F
Patrick Galligan: Co. G
Cpl. Henry Fey: Co. H
Benjamin Williams: Co. I
Henry Goodman: Co. I
Captured/Missing: (43)  
Lewis Sterner: Co. A (Died 4/11/1865 in Tamaqua)
Franklin W. Simons: Co. A
Samuel Shollenberger: Co. A (Died 1/16/1865 in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
John E. Bubeck: Co. B
Gardner Bell: Co. B
Jacob Hammer: Co. B (Died 11/12/1864 in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
Thomas Griffiths: Co. B
William Stevenson: Co. B
Sgt. Samuel Wallace: Co. C
Cpl. Michael Condron: Co. C (Died 11/30/1864 in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
Murt Brennan: Co. C
Charles Dintinger: Co. C (Died 11/1864 in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
William Larkin: Co. C
Sgt. Henry Graeff: Co. D (Died 3/29/1865 in Pottsville)
George H.W. Cooper: Co. D
William H. Williams: Co. D
Daniel Dietrich: Co. D
John Dooley: Co. E
Edward Magginnis: Co. E (Died 11/17/1864 in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
Sgt. Robert Paden: Co. F
William Fulton: Co. F (Died 2/12/1865 in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
Joseph Finley: Co. F (Died 1/22/1865 in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
William Moore: Co. F
Michael Welsh: Co. F (Died in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
William Koehler: Co. F (Died in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
Elijah DeFrehn: Co. F (Died in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
Patrick Grant: Co. G
Nicholas Gross: Co. G (Died in Annapolis, 3/12/1865)
Joshua Reed: Co. G (Died at his home from effects of prison confinement)
Henry Jones: Co. H
Joseph Moore: Co. H
John Halladay: Co. H
Phillip Heffron: Co. H (Died of starvation 11/25/1864 in Salisbury Prison, N.C)
1st Lt. Oliver A.J. Davis: Co. I
Patrick Crowe: Co. I (Died 11/19/1864 in Salisbury Prison, N.C.)
Lucien Monbeck: Co. I
Nathan Neifert: Co. I
Henry A. Neyman: Co. I
William Weiss: Co. I
George H. Gross: Co. K
Thomas Leonard: Co. K
John Patry: Co. K
Thomas Fogarty: Co. K
Cpl. Michael Condron, Co. C
Captured at Peebles Farm; Died in Salisbury Prison
(John D. Hoptak Collection)
1st Lt. Oliver A.J. Davis
Captured at Peebles Farm and Survivor of Salisbury Prison
(John D. Hoptak Collection)

Benjamin Williams, Co. I
Captured a Peebles Farm; Survivor of Salisbury Prison
(John D. Hoptak Collection)

No comments: