Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gettysburg and Pennsylvania's Boys are in Kentucky!

1863 for the 48th PVI started off as a great change from the prior difficult year.  Having finished duty in North Carolina as well as seeing action in battles at Mananas, Antietam, South Mountain and Fredericksburg, the men of the 48th welcomed the relative calm of provost duty in Lexington, Kentucky.  As is indicated in the written records of Munsell and Bosbyshell, the 48th PVI enjoyed a welcome stay with the kind and appreciative people of Lexington.  I can only imagine how much fun John must have had reuniting with his comrades after a lengthy four months of hospital care while convalescing from his wounds at the Second Battle of Bull Run.  Now, he had time away from the effects of war to spend time socializing and reacquainting himself with friends and family (cousins) in the 48th PVI.

The movement of the 48th PVI to the western regions in February of 1863 preceded a period of both calm and anxiety for the men.  Though no letters from John remain from this period, subsequent letters in 1864 indicate the disdain that the men had with the Confederate invasion of their Pennsylvania homeland.

Pre-war downtown Lexington, Kentucky
July of 1863 found John and men of the 48th preparing themselves for the routine of daily life as provost guards in a loyal city of the union.   The kindness shown by the citizens of the city provided less stress and general happiness amongst the men.  The ability of the men to use some of their pay to buy goods to send home, or to go out and have a drink in a bar provided another level of delight for them.  In early July, John was preparing for a fun filled July 4th, with parades, parties and fireworks to celebrate the birthday of his country.  Unbeknown to him, General Lee was planning an unpleasant surprise for the union and the citizen of Pennsylvania.  That surprise would culminate in the battle of Gettysburg in early July of 1863.  I'm not sure if the men of the 48th PVI would have had knowledge of the events of July 1st - 3rd, 1863, but they would have known about it a few days later.  I can only imagine the anxiety and fear that news of the battle instilled in these men while they guarded a city so far away from home.  

In July of 1864 John recounts his July 4th 1863 celebrations in Lexington, Kentucky.

                                                                                                Camp 8 miles from City Point, Va
                                                                                                July 1st, 1864

My Dear Father,
            I take the present opportunity to write this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  I received your letter yesterday and was very glad to hear from you and to hear that you was all well and I am glad that I am the same when this letter leaves me.  I always forget to tell you that I got them things what you did send with John Weikle, the sausage and butter, but I did get it safe when he came back.  I will also enclose 50 cents in this letter and will send it to you and I want you to buy me some postage stamps and send them to me in your next letter for I am entirely out of them and I want to write to the girls sometimes.  Then I must have some stamps to put on my letters and also if I want to write to my Dear Wife or somebody else’s wife.  I think that is enough for this time of that subject.  I think you are busy at making hay at home till this letter comes to hand.  Well we are laying out here under the bullets and shells every day and night.  But we are still enjoying ourselves well and are hoping that we may soon be with you at home and enjoy ourselves with the and this cruel war be over.  This fourth of July we will celebrate with the roaring of cannon and muskets along the lines of battle.  While we had fine times of it last year, we was eating and drinking as much as we liked and what we would like.  But that is all over and gone.  But this hand (ain’t) over yet today, but it will till this letter comes to your hands.  I wish you wouldn’t forget to see John Kramer about that money what I wrote to you in my other letter and let me know about it.  I have to bring my letter to a close for this time.  This few lines from your son.
                                                                                                John W. Derr
Answer soon and direct to J.W. Derr, Co. D, 48th Regt Pa, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps, Washington, D.C.

Additionally, in John's next letter he references the Gettysburg invasion of 1863.

                                                                                                Camp near Petersburg, Va.           
                                                                                                July 13th, 1864

My Dear Father and Mother,
            I take the present opportunity to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  I received your letter today and I was very glad to hear that you are well all the time and I am happy that I can say the same.  I am also glad to hear that you got my money and I hope you will take good care of it, as you did before.  And if we don’t soon get paid I will be very apt to send for some of it but I hope we will soon get paid off.  We don’t need much money, but I want some once in a while.  I suppose you took good care that you got my pay all in good money for I wouldn’t like to have any bad money for I have to work hard for it.  We hear that the rebels are making a raid into Pennsylvania again but I hope it will be to their sorrow.  I hope they will lose more men then they did last summer at Gettysburg and they didn’t gain much that time by all appearances.  It is for no use to write anything to you about the war for you know more at home then we do out here for we do hear very little but what we see.  But I will let you know that we will have a great explosion here before very long.  We are going to blow up the rebels forts.  They are undermining them now.  They have two or three all ready now and our regiment is working at one and they are near done with it and I hope it will work all right, if they get it going. *
            I have no more to write today so I will bring these few lines to a close for this time with the intention of hearing from you soon again.  So I will remain your affectionate son.
                                                                                                John W. Derr
Answer soon and direct your letter as before.  Give my love to my brothers and sisters and to all inquiring friends.  Tell Josiah Fetterolf if he wouldn’t write a letter to me I would pin his nose up on his forehead.  G.D. the mules they shake too much I can’t write anymore.


Jim D.

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