© Alice J. Gayley, all rights reservedThis regiment was recruited by order of Governor Curtin, in response to President Lincoln's call for one hundred thousand men, to serve for three years, or during the war, issued in July, 1861. Colonel James Nagle, of Pottsville, Schuylkill county, to whom the order was issued, determined to raise a regiment composed exclusively of Schuylkill county men, and immediately associated with him Joseph A. Gilmour, James Wren, Henry Pleasants, Joseph H. Hoskings, Daniel Nagle, Daniel B. Kaufman, John R. Porter, H A. A. M. Filbert, William Winlack and Philip Nagle, in the work of recruiting. Companies B,, D, G and H, were recruited in Pottsville, company A, in Port Clinton and Tamaqua, company E, in Silver Creek and New Philadelphia, company F, in Minersville, company I, in Middleport and Schuylkill Valley, and company K, in Cressona and Schuylkill Haven.
A number of the men had served through the three months' campaign, in the Sixth, Fourteenth, Sixteenth, Twenty-fifth, and other Pennsylvania organizations, those serving in the Twenty-fifth being the first to reach Washington. The majority of the men, however, had their first military experience in the Forty-eighth. Recruiting was commenced about the middle of August, and the place of rendezvous was Camp Curtin. The following field and staff officers were commissioned:On the 20th of September two stands of colors were presented to the regiment by Governor Curtin, one on behalf of the State, the other the gift of John T. Werner, Esq., a patriotic citizen of Pottsville, who desired it to be considered a county flag. Upon the blue field of this latter flag were inscribed the words,
- James Nagle, Colonel
- David A. Smith, Lieutenant Colonel
- Joshua K. Sigfried, Major
- John D. Bertolette, Adjutanta sentiment faithfully exemplified in the history of the regiment. The men were clothed and furnished with camp equipage immediately upon being mustered into the service, and on the 22d were armed with the Harper's Ferry muskets. The various companies of the regiment were drilled in light infantry tactics by their respective officers, and twice during its stay at Camp Curtin it was subjected to regimental drill."In the cause of the Union we know no such word as fail"
On the 24th, it moved via the Northern Central Railroad, for Washington City; but while on the way orders were received to proceed direct to Fortress Monroe. Reaching Baltimore on the 25th, it embarked on the steamer Georgia, and landed at Fortress Monroe op the morning of the 26th. Here regular military discipline began, which consisted of squad, company, and regimental drill. A school for officers was also established.
The regiment remained at this point until the 11th of November, when it sailed on the steamer S. R. Spaulding for Hatteras Island, North Carolina. Arriving on the 12th it encamped at Fort Clarke. Comfortable wooden barracks were erected about five miles from the inlet, which were occupied by the regiment, with the exception of company B, which remained to garrison Fort Clarke. While stationed here it was thoroughly drilled, under the direction of Brigadier General Thomas Williams, to whose command it was attached. It was an established rule, during its entire term of service, when ever in camp for any length of time, to have a school for instruction of officers. The strict military training received at Hatteras was never lost. Sheltered from the winds by a wood, the regiment was better quartered than ever after, and while here constructed a large lunette fort, under the supervision of Captain Pleasants. Upon the resignation of Lieutenant Colonel Smith, on the 30th, Major Sigfried was commissioned to fill the vacancy, and Captain Daniel Nagle was commissioned Major.
Upon the accession of General M'Clellan to chief command, numerous expeditions were sent out to make a lodgment at different points upon the southern coast. General Burnside was intrusted with the command of one to possess and occupy the coast of North Carolina, of which the Forty-eighth formed part. Escaping the dangers of shipwreck from the tempestuous weather encountered at Cape Hatteras, a signal victory was won in the capture of Roanoke Island. Dr. Minis, Surgeon of the Forty-eighth, who had been detailed to accompany the force which made the capture, died from over exertion in attendance upon the wounded. His loss was deeply felt.
General Burnside having occupied Hatteras and Roanoke Islands, and placed the forts in proper condition for defence, turned his attention to the occupation of Newbern, on the main land. Six companies of the Forty-eighth,, B, C, D, H and I, formed part of the command detailed for this purpose, and embarked on the steamer George Peabody on the morning of the 12th of March, 1862. Captain Winlack, of company E, was left in command of the companies remaining at Hatteras, in the absence of Major Nagle.
After some difficulty in passing what is known as the Swash, the forces landed on the banks of the Neuse River, four miles above Slocum's Creek. The rattle of musketry and booming of cannon were distinctly heard as the battalion landed. It was immediately detailed to escort, and, for lack of sufficient transportation, to carry the ammunition. Forty thousand rounds were transported by a single wagon, under guard of company B, and forty thousand more were carried upon the backs of the remaining five companies distance of over seven miles of muddy road. Although not participating in the engagement at Newbern, the services it rendered in bringing up the ammunition in good time, were so important that General Burnside directed " Newbern" to be inscribed upon its banner.
On the 11th of April it was attached to the First Brigade1 of General Jesse L. Reno's Division. The four companies which had remained at Hatteras rejoined the regiment at Newbern on the 23d of May, when it was supplied withthe English Enfield rifle in place of the Harper's Ferry musket. On the 2d of July it was, with the division, ordered to report at Hampton Roads;. but upon its arrival at Hatteras the order was countermanded, and it' was directed to return to Newbern, where it remained until the 6th, when, in pursuance of orders, it again embarked, and arrived off Fortress Monroe on the 8th. A change was here made in the organization of the brigade, whereby the Sixth New Hampshire was added to it, and the Ninth New Jersey, and the One Hundred and Third New York, were transferred to other commands. Captain Kaufman, of company A, was ordered on duty as Major, on the 28th, by General Burnside, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the resignation of Major Nagle.
The evacuation of the Peninsula now became necessary to save the army of General Pope, which was being embarrassed by the rapid movements of Stonewall Jackson, and General Halleck ordered the withdrawal of M'Clellan's forces. Leaving Newport News on the 2d of August, the regiment arrived at Aquia Creek on the 4th, and immediately moved by rail to Fredericksburg. The timely arrival of Burnside, with the Ninth Corps, which had just been organized, doubtless did much to save the left of Pope's army from being turned, and entirely separated from its base of supplies. On the 12th, the Forty-eighth left Fredericksburg, moving up the north bank of the Rappahannock, and joined the army of General Pope on the 14th at Culpepper. It proceeded to Cedar Mountain on the 16th, where the regimental band, which had been attached to it since its organization, was mustered out.
The brigade moved from Cedar Mountain via Stevensburg, Kelly's Ford, White Sulphur Springs, Warrenton and Manassas Junctions, to Bull Run, where it did its really first fighting on the 29th. It reached the field at-one P.M., the action having already begun, and was ordered to attack the rebels in a thick wood near the extreme right of the army. At three it formed in line of-battle, with the Second Maryland on the right, the Sixth New Hampshire on the left, and the Forty-eighth in rear of the latter, and moved across a cleared field towards the dense wood occupied by the enemy. The wood was skirted by a fence, which had scarcely been passed, when his infantry opened with a brisk fire upon the advancing column. The Forty-eighth marched with the steadiness of regulars, and when the battalions in front, obliquing to right and left, permitted it to advance and occupy the intervening space, it promptly opened with telling effect, and with fixed bayonets advanced a quarter of a mile, driving him from two ditches, from one of which, an old railroad cut, a brigade had previously failed to dislodge him. Receiving a volley of musketry from the rear, and supposing that some of the Union troops were firing by mistake,Colonel Sigfried ordered it back to the nearest ditch. The fire on the Sixth New Hampshire, and Forty-eighth Pennsylvania, from front, left, and rear was most terrific. The colors were raised and spread out to the view of the supposed friends, but hotter and more deadly grew the fire. At last rebel regiments made their appearance, and when discovered were greeted with a volley from the left companies of the Forty-eighth, but their strong force, and raking cross fire compelled it to retire in rear of the Excelsior Brigade, and the forces of General Kearny, which quickly advanced to the fight. The regiment lost seven killed, sixty-one wounded, ten prisoners, and seventy-four missing, an aggregate of one hundred and fifty-two. The troops engaged were part of Jackson's Corps.2
Reno's Division was also engaged in the action of Saturday, the 30th, the brigade being posted in support of batteries and often moved during the day. Toward evening it was ordered into a dense wood, where it relieved the Second Brigade, which had lost heavily. But darkness put an end to the strife before shots were exchanged with the foe. The division retired from the field between nine and ten o'clock at night, and on the following day held an advanced position in front of Centreville.
It was now the intention of General Lee to force his army between our position at Centreville and the fortifications around Washington. Reno's command was moved to prevent him from accomplishing his purpose, and a sharp engagement ensued at Chantilly. The Forty-eighth formed the right of the brigade, which occupied the right of the entire line. It was exposed to a heavy fire during the engagement, but escaped with a loss of twoslightly wounded. The contest ended amidst rain and darkness-a victory tothe Union arms, inasmuch as the enemy's plans were entirely frustrated.
Thwarted in his purpose to destroy the army of Pope and capture the National Capital, the enemy crossed the Potomac at three different points, near Point of Rocks, invaded Maryland, and threatened Pennsylvania. Remaining on the battle-field until three A. M. of the 2d, the division moved through Fairfax toAlexandria, where it arrived at six P. M., nearly exhausted by excessive marching aid fatigue.
Starting immediately upon the Maryland campaign, it marchedrapidly through Washington, Leesboro, Brookville, Haymarket, Kemptown and Frederick City, and reached Middletown on the 13th. On the following day the Forty-eighth occupied the right of the First Brigade on that part of South Mountain known as Fox's Pass. It was posted in the rear of a rail fence,where it did good execution, exhausting its full supply of ammunition, andstrewing the ground in its front with rebel slain. Its loss was eleven wounded and one missing.
On the 15th it moved westward over the battle-ground, following up the retreating enemy, and on the 17th participated in the battle of Antietam. Early in the day it was engaged at Burnside's Bridge, over Antietam Creek, and during the balance of the engagement on the bluffs immediately beyond the bridge and around Sharpsburg. The Second Brigade had charged and carried the bridge at one P. M., when the First was thrown forward to the top of the bluff, the Forty-eighth in advance, as skirmishers. The artillery fire concentrated on these troops was terrific, and soon the infantry becamehotly engaged. The ammunition of the Second Brigade being exhausted, the First relieved it, the Forty-eighth occupying the ground held by the Fifty-firstPennsylvania, which, by direction of its brave commander, Colonel Hartranft, remained immediately in rear with fixed bayonets, determined to resist all attempts of the enemy to gain possession of the hill. It was the only supportof the Forty-eighth, and of the brigade, and with a tenacity rarely paralleleddid these two Pennsylvania regiments hold the ground under a withering fireof infantry and artillery until re-inforcements came to their relief. The aggregate loss of the regiment was sixty; eight killed, fifty-one wounded and onemissing. Colonel Nagle received his commission as Brigadier General of Volunteers on the battle-field of Antietam, from the hands of General Cox. Lieutenant Colonel Sigfried was promoted to Colonel, Captain Henry Pleasants,Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain James Wren, Major.
On the 7th of October, the regiment moved to Pleasant Valley, where it remained, enjoying all the comforts of a camp delightfully situated, until the 27th, when it marched down the Potomac, crossed into Virginia at Berlin, and went into camp near Lovettsville.
On the 29th it proceeded via Bloomfield, Upperville, Piedmont, and Orleans, to the Rappahannock River, and crossed on the 9th of November. On the following day the brigade moved east of Amissville, and was deployed as skirmishers, where it was attacked by Stuart's Cavalry, with infantry and artillery, sent from Culpepper to retard M'Clellan's march to that place. On the 19th, the division reached Falmouth, and encamped near the Lacy House.
On the 11th of December, the regiment broke camp preparatory to participating in the assault on Fredericksburg. On the 12th it passed over the pontoon bridge which spanned the Rappahannock immediately under the Lacy House, and bivouacked in the streets on the right of the city. The brigade was formed in line, and moving to the river bank halted for the night. On the following morning it moved to the left, just below the old railroad bridge. Here it remained until midday, when it marched to the support of General Ferrero, who was already engaged. The Forty-eighth was held in reserve until two P.M., when it was ordered forward, and went gallantly into the fight.3 It occupied the summit of a knoll, south of the railroad cut, its right resting near a small frame house, fronting the most precipitous declivity of Marye's Heights. At the suggestion of Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants, ten men were detailed from each company to pick off the rebel artillerymen from the batteries immediately in front, which were sweeping the Union ranks with fearful effect. The result of the disposition was soon evident, and in half an hour the batteries were almost silent. The regiment remained on the hill until the ammunition was exhausted,when it was relieved by the Twelfth Rhode Island.
In a letter dated December 16, 1862, Colonel Sigfried says:"Too much praise cannot be given to all the soldiers for their gallantry during the entire engagement. Their line was steadyand unbroken while advancing under the most murderous shelling of the enemy,and their fire deliberate, well aimed, and effective."On the 11th of February, 1863, the Ninth Corps was detached from the Army of the Potomac, and proceeded to Newport News, where it remained until the 26th of March, when it was ordered west. Embarking on the steamer John A.Warner, the Forty-eighth proceeded to Baltimore, and thence via Harrisburg and Pittsburg to Cincinnati, where it arrived on the morning of the 30th. It was kindly received and entertained at various points on the route, and sumptuously feasted at Cincinnati. Crossing the river to Covington, Kentucky, it proceeded the same day by rail to Lexington, where it was detailed for provost guard duty. While here Major Wren resigned, and Captain Joseph Gilmour was promoted to Major.
On the 10th of September the regiment was ordered to East Tennessee, and proceeded thither under command of Major Gilmour, Colonel Sigfried being in command of the brigade,4 and Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants serving on the staff of Major General Hartsuff, as Provost Marshal of the Twenty-third Army Corps.
The march was made with ease, owing to the well devised plan of Colonel Sigfried, allowing a quarter of an hour for rest in each hour's march, and three full hours in the middle of each day. Proceeding via Nicholasville, Crab Orchard, Cumberland Gap, and Tazewell, it arrived on the 28th at Knoxville. Remaining here until the 4th of October, the brigade moved by rail to Bull's Gap, and on the 5th marched to Lick Creek. On the 10th it proceeded to Blue Springs, Kentucky, and was the first regiment of infantry ordered forward in the battle at that place. The fighting here consisted of a series of skirmishes, and continued during the entire day. On the 11th, the enemy having retreated, he was pursued to De Pew's Hill. Here the pursuit was stayed, and the corps began its return to Knoxville, marching to Morristown, and from thence proceeding by rail and arriving on the 15th.
The enemy was now threatening the safety of Knoxville from the direction of Chattanooga. Accordingly the Union force moved to Lenoir, a point on the East Tennessee Railroad, near its crossing of the Tennessee River, and established a camp, where it remained undisturbed until the 13th of November, whenthe pickets were attacked and driven in. Burnside now rapidly withdrew, and the Forty-eighth skirmished with the enemy upon the retreat. Upon beingrelieved, it moved, with the brigade, to the front, and took position on theKingston Road, near Campbell's Station. Reaching the ground designated, Colonel Sigfried, temporarily in command of the Second Division, and towhom the task of preventing the enemy's approach in this direction had beenassigned, had scarcely thrown forward his cavalry skirmishers half a mile, when they became engaged. It was a vital point, and was stubbornly held by thebrigade, although severely pressed on all sides. The engagement continuedduring the entire day-beginning early and ending when darkness rendered itno longer possible to distinguish the foe. In this encounter a fine militarypageant was presented. The field was clear for many miles around, and consisted of an undulating surface, interpersed with small knolls, so that theopposing forces could view each other's movements without difficulty. Few battles are fought which involve so many, or such skillful evolutions, as were executed in this. It consisted of a grand series of movements, each commander watchful for an advantage. In every attempt the enemy was baffled,and at night had gained nothing The loss in the Forty-eighth was one killed,one wounded, one prisoner, and one missing. The retreat to Knoxville was resumed after dark, and the command arrived on the morning of the 17th, without material loss. Having arrived in the town, preparations were vigorously made to defend it. The pick and the shovel were now vigorously plied. The brigade occupied the high ground overlooking the railroad depot on the northwestern part of the town, with the Twenty-first Massachusetts on the right,the Second Maryland in the centre, and the Forty-eighth on the left. The most harduous duty was that of picketing. As Longstreet gathered his forces about the town, and regularly invested it, so close did his sharpshooters approach that it became unsafe for a head to appear above the intrenchments.
On the night of the 23d the picket line in front of the brigade was attacked and drivenin by a strong column of the enemy. It was necessary to re-establish it, and the Forty-eighth and the Twenty-first Massachusetts were selected by Colonel Sigfried to execute the task. At day-light on the morning of the 24th they made a gallant charge, the Forty-eighth led by Major Gilmour, and drove the rebels back in confusion, killing and wounding a number, and taking some prisoners. On the 5th of December the siege was raised, and the brigade was sent out to pick up stragglers.
On the 7th the brigade proceeded via Rutledge to Pleasant Valley, where it encamped. Here a large proportion of the men re-enlisted, and received a veteran furlough, to date from January 13th, 1864, and immediately commenced the march for Lexington, Kentucky, where it arrived on the 23d. Proceeding thence by rail it reached Harrisburg on the 2d of February, and on the following day Pottsville, where it was warmly welcomed, receiving upon its arrivala beautiful silk flag, presented by the ladies as a token of their appreciation tion of its valor.
On the 14th of March, with ranks largely recruited, it left Pottsville and proceeded to Camp Curtin, where it received clothing, and on the 18th moved via Philadelphia to Annapolis, the rendezvous for the Ninth Army Corps, and was assigned to its old position in the First Brigade5 of the Second Division.
Here the Enfield muskets were exchanged for new Springfield rifles. On the23d of April, the Ninth Corps moved from Annapolis, and on the 25th passed in review before the President at the capital. On the 29th it encamped at Bristoe Station, the Forty-eighth near the railroad bridge.
The Ninth Corps crossed the Rapidan at Germanna Ford, on the evening of the 5th of May, and participated, on the following day, in the battle of the Wilderness, the Forty-eighth being on the extreme left of the brigade. During the night it was placed on picket, and was extended so as to cover an entire division front. On the 7th it was employed in constructing breastworks, and was exposed to the fire of the enemy's sharpshooters. Withdrawing in the evening it moved eastwardly, and encamped on the following morning on the old battle-field of Chancellorsville. It was continually on the march during the movements which preceded the sanguinary battles at Spottsylvania Court House. Early on the morning of the 12th, the Ninth Corps was moved to the left of Hancock. The Second Division was formed in two lines of attack, the Second Brigade constituting the first, and the First Brigade the second line. The enemy, who had recovered from the surprise and confusion into which he was thrown by the attack of the Second Corps, was met and driven back to his intrenchments. Immediately in front of the regiment was the Seventeenth Vermont, which, after fighting bravely, and having exhausted its ammunition, was relieved by the Forty-eighth. Its position was on the crest of a hill in front of which was an open field and swamp traversed by a creek, and beyond another hill on which were the rebel rifle-pits. On the left was a thick wood extending beyond the swamp to the enemy's line. As the fog rose a party of rebels was discovered occupying the pit formed by the banks of the creek. Colonel John I. Curtin, commanding the brigade, immediately threw forward his left into the wood, and cut off the retreat of the party, except by the open field directly up the hill in front of his works, which would have been certain destruction. A desperate effort was made to drive back our line; but the Forty-eighth steadily maintained its position under a destructive fire of musketry and artillery, and captured two hundred prisoners, mostly Georgia troops belonging to Gordon's Division. In the afternoon another assault was ordered, and the regiment charged forward to the swamp, when, finding itself unsupported, it moved by the flank into the woods, and returned to its former position on the crest of the hill. This movement was made under a galling fire, and was attended with heavy loss. Since crossing the Rapidan on the 5th, the Forty eighth had lost one hundred and eighty-seven killed and wounded; among the former was Lieutenant Henry C. Jackson, of company G, a brave officer who fell at Spottsylvania.
A charge was made on the enemy's works on the 18th, and his first line carried, but owing to the strong position and the heavy abatis, the second wasnot reached. On the same day the regiment buried eighty-one dead rebels inthe swamp where the encounter of the 12th occurred- Crossing the North Anna River on the 24th, under a heavy artillery fire, it was several days engaged in skirmishing, but without serious loss. It reached the Pamunkey on the 28th,and on the following day crossed the Tolopotomy and drove the enemy's skirmishers back upon his main line. On the 31st the regiment sustained a great loss in the death of Major Gilmour, an excellent officer, who was hit by a sharpshooter and died from the effects of the wound. Lieutenants Samuel Laubenstine and William H. Hume, two gallant officers, were also killed in a similar manner.
On the 3d of June was fought the battle of Cold Harbor. The First Brigade attacked the enemy at daylight, and advanced to within one hundred yards of his line of works. It there halted, erected breastworks under a most destructive fire of infantry, and held the position. As it moved to the attack the enemy was in the act of bringing a battery into position. The fire of the brigade was immediately directed upon it, and every horse belonging to it was killed, and its guns rendered useless for the day. The loss of the regiment was seventy five, killed and wounded. Moving to the left on the following day, the regiment was ordered to hold, at all hazards, the road in front, where it crossed a swamp. A breastwork was hastily thrown up and the picket line established. For an hour on the afternoon of the 6th the rebels shelled this position, when a column of infantry emerged from the woods, drove in the pickets and charged full upon the line held by the Forty-eighth. The attack was repulsed without loss to the regiment, the road firmly held and the picket line reestablished on the following morning.
It again resumed the march, crossed the Chickahominy on the morning of the 14th, the James on the evening of the 15th, and on the afternoon of the16th confronted the enemy before Petersburg. The regiment, soon after its arrival, charged under a heavy artillery fire and seized a position in close proximity to his main line of works, which had been unsuccessfully attempted by aportion of the Second Corps during the afternoon.
Before daylight of the 17th the Forty-eighth and the Thirty-sixth Massachusetts, of the First Brigade, crossed a marsh, which was situated just in front, in single file and in perfect silence. The line was formed, and joined to a line composed of part of the Second Brigade, and by a sudden dash carried the rebel works and captured the men behind them. It was a complete surprise. The enemy's line was driven in confusion for half a mile, four pieces of artillery, fifteen hundred stand of arms, and six hundred prisoners were taken. A flag of the Forty-fourth TennesseeRegiment, on which was inscribed " Shiloh" was captured, and the colors of the Seventh New York Heavy Artillery re-captured by Sergeant Patrick 1Ionaghan, of company F, and Private Robert A. Reid, of company G, for which each received medals of honor. The loss was seventy-five killed and wounded.
At daylight the division moved forward and threw up intrenchments, which were vigorously shelled, but no attempt was-made to re-capture them. During the night the rebels withdrew to a position near the suburbs of Petersburg, which became their permanent line of defence until its capture in 1865. On the morning of the 18th an unsuccessful assault was made upon their new lines which resulted, however, in capturing the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, and in extending the Union lines close up to those of the enemy. At one point, made memorable by the Petersburg Mine, the two lines were less than two hundred yards apart.
Opposite the position occupied by the Second Division of the Ninth Corps, the enemy had constructed a strong redoubt a short distance below the crest of Cemetery Hill. To carry this work by direct assault would require a terrible sacrifice of life. As early as the 21st, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, then commanding the Second Brigade, conceived the idea of excavating a mine underneath the fort which so temptingly loomed up in his front, and of opening the enemy's lines by means of an explosion.' On the 24th he stated his plan to General Potter, who, in turn, proposed it to General Burnside. At a subsequent interview with Generals Potter and Burnside, in which Colonel Pleasants fully presented his views, it was decided to attempt the execution of his design, and he was ordered to proceed with the proposed work.
"It was commenced," says Colonel Pleasants in his official report, "at twelve M., the 25th of June, 1864, without tools, lumber, or any of the materials requisite for such a work.6 The mining picks were made out of those used by our pioneers; plank I obtained, at first by tearing down a rebel bridge and afterwards by sending to a, saw-mill five or six miles distant, and the material excavated was carried out in hand-barrows, constructed of cracker boxes. The work progressed rapidly until the 2d of July, when it reached extremely wet ground. The timbers gave way, and the roof and the floor of the mine nearly met. I retimbered it and started again. From this point I had to excavate a stratum of marl, the consistency of which was like putty, and which caused our progress to be necessarily slow. To avoid this, I started an inclined plane, and in about one hundred feet rose thirteen and one-half feet, perpendicular. On the17th of July the main gallery was completed, being five hundred and ten andeight-tenths feet in length. The enemy having obtained information of the mine, and 'having commenced searching for it, I was ordered to stop operations, which were, however, re-commenced on the 18th of July, by starting the left lateral gallery.
At six P. M., July 18th, I commenced the right lateral gallery, but, as the enemy could be plainly heard working over us in the fort, I caused this gallery to be excavated a little beyond and in rear of their works, and gave it a curved line of direction. The left lateral gallery, being thirty-seven feet long, was stopped at midnight, July 22; the right lateral gallery, being thirty-eight feet long, was stopped at six P. M., July 23. The mine could have been charged and exploded at this time, but I employed the men from that time in draining, timbering, and placing the magazines in position."
The mine was ventilated at first by having the fresh air go in along themain gallery as far as it was excavated, and return, charged with all the gasesliberated from the ground and generated in the mine, in a square tube made of boards, and whose area was sixty inches. This tube led to a perpendicularshaft (twenty-two feet high) out of which the vitiated air escaped.7
At the bottom of this shaft was placed a grating, on which a fire was continually keptburning, which, by heating the air, rarefied it, and increased its current. Afterwards I caused the fresh air to be led, in the above mentioned tube, to the end of the work, and the vitiated air to return by the gallery, and out at the shaft,placing a partition to prevent its exit by the entrance of the mine. The latterplan was the better, because the gases had to travel a less distance in the mine before they left it than before. The mine was excavated by the enlisted men of the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Regiment. As the excavation progressed the number required to carry out the earth increased, until, at last, it took nearly every enlisted man in the regiment, which consisted of nearly four hundred effective men. The whole amount of material excavated was eighteen thousand (18,000) cubic feet. The great difficulty to surmount was to obtain the exact distance from the entrance of the mine to the enemy's works, and the course of these works. This was accomplished by making five separate triangulations with a the odolite and taking their mean. The triangulations were made in our most advanced line of works, and within one hundred and thirty three yards of the enemy's line of sharp-shooters.
"Having received the order to charge our mine on the 27th of July, I commenced putting in the powder at four P. M., and finished at ten P. M. The charge consisted of three hundred and twenty kegs of powder, each containing about twenty-five pounds, [four tons.] It was placed in eight magazines, connected together by wooden tubes half filled with powder. These tubes met from the lateral galleries at the inner end of the main gallery, and from this point I placed three lines of fuses for a distance of ninety-eight feet. Not having fuses as long as require&two pieces had to be spliced together to make the requisite length of each of the lines. The tamping was begun at ten P. M., July27th, and completed at six P. M., July 28th; thirty-four feet of main gallery was tamped, and ten feet of the entrance of each of the lateral galleries, but the space between the magazines was left clear of tamping. I received orders from corps headquarters, on the 29th of July, to fire the mine at half past three A.M., July 30th. I lighted the fuse at a quarter past three A.MII., and having waited until a quarter past four without any explosion having taken place, an officer and a sergeant (Lieutenant Jacob Douty, company K, and Sergeant Henry Rees, company F) of the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania Regiment, volunteered to go in and examine into the cause of the delay. It was found that the fire had stopped where the fuses were spliced. They were re-lighted, and at sixteen minutes of five A. M., the powder exploded.
"The size of the crater formed by the explosion was at least two hundred(200) feet long, fifty (50) feet wide, and twenty-five (25) feet deep. I stood on top of our breastworks and witnessed the effect of the explosion on the enemy. It so completely paralyzed him, that the breadth of the breach, instead of being only two hundred feet, was practically four or five hundred yards. The rebels in the forts, both on the right and left of the explosion ran away, and for over an hour, as well as I could judge, not a shot was fired by their artillery. There was no fire from infantry from the front for at least half an hour; none from the left for twenty minutes, and but few shots from the right. "
The mine was a complete success, and its effects exceeded the expectation of its designer. The regiment did not participate in the battle which followed, but was peculiarly interested in its success, and although not ordered in was constantly under fire, a number of the officers and men being in the thickest of the fight. General Meade promptly acknowledged the services of the regiment in the following order:After the unfortunate termination of the assault there was quiet again, interrupted only by constant picket firing. On the 2d of August the regiment, under command of Major Bosbyshell, was temporarily assigned to the Second Brigade of the Second Division, Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants. It participated, on the 30th of September, in the battle at Poplar Spring Church. At the opening of the engagement it was held in reserve. In the progress of the fight the line of the brigade was broken, which came near resulting in its capture entire. By skillful manoeuvring the regiment preserved its organization, although its lines were thrice broken by frightened troops pouring through them. Its loss was two killed, seven wounded and forty-four taken prisoners. Early on the27th of October a movement was made to the left, which resulted in some fighting, but the brigade, which occupied the right of the column, was not heavily engaged. On the following day the troops were withdrawn, closely followed by the enemy, the Forty-eighth covering the retreat and continually skirmishing.
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
August 3d, 1864.
General order, No. 32.The Commanding General takes great pleasure in acknowledging the valuable services rendered by Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, Forty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, and the officers and men of his command, in the excavation of the mine which was successfully exploded on the morning of the 30th ultimo, under one of the enemy's batteries in front of the Second Division of the Ninth Army Corps. The skill displayed in the laying out of and construction of the mine reflects great credit upon Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants, the officer in charge, and the willing endurance by the officers and men of the regiment of the extraordinary labor and fatigue involved in the prosecution of the work to completion, are worthy of the highest praise.By command of Major General Meade. S. WILLIAMS, Assistant Adjutant General.
Early in December, in conjunction with the Seventh Rhode Island and two batteries, the Forty-eighth was sent to occupy Fort Sedgwick, commonly known as "Fort Hell." The enemy's works in front were supplied with eight and ten inch mortars, which almost daily shelled the fort, and caused some loss. Colonel Sigfried and Major Bosbyshell were mustered out on the 1st of October, their terms of service having expired. lieutenant Colonel Pleasants was promoted Colonel, Captain George W. Gowen, of company C, Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain Isaac F. Brannen, of company K, Major. On the 19th of December the term of service of Colonel Pleasants expired, and Lieutenant Colonel Gowen succeeded him, Major Brannen being promoted Lieutenant Colonel.
The regiment remained in the fort until the 2d of April, 1865, when it moved to the assault of the rebel Fort Mahone, in which the gallant Colonel Gowen was killed, when it was thrown into some confusion. Lieutenant Colonel Brannen immediately assumed command, ordered his regiment forward, re-assaulted the fort, and carried the works. So impetuous was the attack that it pushed on beyond the fort for some distance, but was ordered back, and used the rear wall for intrenchments, successfully holding it against the enemy's most furious charges. Its loss was ten killed, fifty-six wounded and twenty-four missing. Lieutenant Colonel Brannen was promoted Colonel, Captain Jones, of company G, Lieutenant Colonel, and Quartermaster Jacob Wagner, Major.
On the morning of the 3d the whole line advanced, and occupied Petersburg without opposition. The regiment was detailed to guard the trains to Farmville, where it was relieved to take charge of the prisoners captured by Sheridan, among whom were the rebel Generals Ewell and Fitz Hugh Lee. The captives were marched to Appomattox Court House, when the rebel army having surrendered, it returned to Farmville. Remaining at the front until the surrender of Johnston, it proceeded to Alexandria, where it was mustered outof service on the 17th of July, and arrived at Pottsville on the 20th, where it was enthusiastically received, and its career as a regiment terminated.
1Organization of the First Brigade, Colonel James Nagle, General Reno's Division, Department of North Carolina. Forty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel J. Sigfried; Ninth Regiment New Jersey Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Abram Zabriskie; One Hundred and Third Regiment New York Volunteers, Colonel F. W. Von Egloffstein; Second Regiment Maryland Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel J. Eugene Duryee.2The First Brigade of General Reno's own division, composed of the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania, Sixth New Hampshire and Second Maryland, was conspicuous on this day for the persistence with which it held its ground when assailed, and the gallantry with which it advanced to the attack. -Burnside and the Ninth Army Corps, Woodbury, page 112.3 All these troops," says General Wilcox in his report of the battle,"behaved well and marched under a heavy fire across the broken plain, pressed up to the field at the foot of the enemy's sloping crest, and maintained every inch of their ground with great obstinacy until after night-fall; but the position could not be carried."-Burnside and the Ninth Army Corps, Woodbury, pages 223-4.
4Organization of the First Brigade, Colonel J. K. Sigfried, Second Division, Colonel J. F. Hartranft, Ninth Army Corps, Major General John G. Parke. Forty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major Joseph A Gilmour; Twenty-first Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, Colonel William S. Clark; Second Regiment Maryland Volunteers, Colonel Thomas R Allard.
5Organization of the First Brigade, Colonel Z. R. Bliss, Second Division, Brigadier General Robert B Potter, Ninth Corps, Major General Burnside. Forty-eighth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants; Forty-fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel John I. Curtin; Thirty-sixth Massachusetts Volunteers, Colonel William F. Draper; Fifty-eighth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, Colonel John C. Whiton; Thirtyfifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel John W. Hudson; Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel M. P. Buffum; Seventh Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers, Lieutenant Colonel Percy Daniels.
6REPORT OF COMMITTEE.-The committee say that Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants labored under disadvantages in the successful accomplishment of this important work, which would have deterred a man of less energy. It was not merely the evident lack of faith in the success of the enterprise shown by all the officers of high rank, except his division and corps commanders, but that lack of faith was accompanied by an entire failure to furnish the assistance and implements necessary to the success of the undertaking, within a reasonable time. The testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Pleasants shows that he had to dig and mine with only the men of his own regiment; that the dirt had to be carried out in cracker boxes, slung between poles, for lack of wheelbarrows; that he was even refused the use of an instrument at headquarters, wherewith to make the necessary triangulations, but that General Burnside had to send to Washington for an old fashioned the odolite. General Meade and Major Duane, Chief Engineer of the Army of the Potomac, said the thing could not be done; that it was all claptrap and nonsense; that such a length of mine had never been excavated in military operations and could not be. -Report on the Conduct of the War, 1865, Vol. 1, page 1-2-Battle of Petersburg.
7Such was the secrecy with which it was conducted that for a long time the project was unknown, even to those at whose side it was going on. It is true that reports were in circulation of a mine, but nobody could speak certainly of the matter. So much doubt was there, indeed that for a time it was disbelieved that any such undertaking was on foot. One soldier in the breastworks, by whose side a ventilating shaft emerged, told his comrades, in the most surprised manner, that "there was a lot of fellows under him a doing something; he knew there was, for he could hear 'em talk." To guard against indiscretion on the part of the pickets, to prevent any meeting of our soldiers with the rebels, whereat the secret of the mine might be boastingly or imprudently disclosed, our pickets were ordered to fire continually. Hence, the never ending fusilade on the front of the Ninth Corps, so incomprehensible to the other corps, and which was often referred to in newspaper paragraphs.-Patriotism of Schuylkill County,Wallace, page 341.
Source: Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
Organization:Organized at Harrisburg September, 1861.
Moved to Fortress Monroe, Va., September 24-25, and
duty there till November 11, 1861.
Duty at Fort Clarke, Hatteras Inlet, till May, 1862.
Attached to Williams Brigade, Burnside's North Carolina Expedition, to April, 1862.
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Dept. North Carolina, to July, 1862.
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to April, 1863,
and Army of the Ohio to June, 1863.
Unattached, 1st Division, 23rd Army Corps. Army Ohio, to October, 1863.
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps, Army Ohio, to April, 1864,
and Army Potomac to July, 1865.
Service:Companies "A," "B," "C," "D," "H" and "I" at New Berne, N. C., March 14, 1862.
Regiment reunited at New Berne May 23, and duty there till July 6.
Moved to Fortress Monroe July 6-8, thence to Fredericksburg August 2-4.
Joined Pope at Culpeper, Va., August 13. Pope's Campaign in Northern Virginia
August 16-September 2.
Battles of Groveton August 29; Bull Run August 30; Chantilly September 1.
Maryland Campaign September 6-24.
Battles of South Mountain September 14; Antietam September 16-17.
At Pleasant Valley, Md., till October 27.
Movement to Falmouth, Va., October 27-November 17.
Corbin's Cross Roads, near Amissville, November 10.
Battle of Fredericksburg December 12-15.
Burnside's second Campaign January 20-24, 1863.
Duty at Falmouth till February 19.
Moved to Newport News, thence to Covington, Ky., March 26-April 1.
Provost and guard duty at Lexington, Ky., till September 10.
At Knoxville, Tenn., till October 4.
Blue Springs, Tenn., October 10.
Knoxville Campaign November 4-December 23.
Campbell's Station November 16.
Siege of Knoxville November 17-December 5.
Pursuit of Longstreet December 5-29.
Regiment reenlisted at Blain's Cross Roads December 7, and
on Veteran furlough till March, 1864.
Left Pottsville, Pa., March 14.
At Annapolis, Md., till April.
Rapidan Campaign May 4-June 12.
Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7; Spottsylvania May 8-12;
Spottsylvania Court House May 12-21.
Assault on the Salient May 12.
Stannard's Mills May 21. North Anna River May 23-26.
Line of the Pamunkey May 26-28.
Totopotomoy May 28-31.
Cold Harbor June 1-12. Bethesda Church June 1-3.
Before Petersburg June 16-18.
Siege of Petersburg June 16, 1864, to April 2, 1865.
Jerusalem Plank Road June 22-23, 1864.
Mine Explosion, Petersburg, July 30.
Weldon Railroad August 18-21.
Poplar Springs Church September 29-October 2.
Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher's Run, October 27-28.
Assault on and fall of Petersburg April 2, 1865.
Occupation of Petersburg April 3.
March to Farmville April 3-9.
Moved to Petersburg and City Point April 20-24,
thence to Alexandria April 26-28.
Grand Review May 23.
Duty at Washington and Alexandria till July.
Mustered out July 17, 1865.
Losses:Regiment lost during service
11 Officers and 145 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and
3 Officers and 142 Enlisted men by disease.
Source: Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of he Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources.Des Moines, Iowa: The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908
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