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Battle of Tazewell, Tennessee
August 6, 1862
As Described by Lieutenant George W. Stein, Company C
Web Author's Notes:

The 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, as part of Col. John F. DeCourcey's 26th Brigade, marched south from their stronghold at Cumberland Gap toward the small town of Tazewell, Tennessee, on August 2, 1862. The purpose of their expedition was to find and acquire forage and supplies for the Federal garrison holding Cumberland Gap. During several days of foraging and extended trips further south of Tazewell, some periodic skirmishes with Rebel cavalry were encountered but the troops were successful in filling their wagons with much needed food and hay for their animals. Col. DeCourcey knew a large Confederate force was camped south of the Clinch River, not too distant from Tazewell, however, did not anticipate any major engagement would take place. On the Wednesday morning of August 6, however, DeCourcey would be confronted by a vastly superior Rebel force.

There exists a number of detailed accounts of the Battle of Tazewell. As with all such events, the accounts differ, somewhat, and certain facts told by each are inconsistent. However, by reading each account one can eventually gain a rather clear picture of the actions and movements that occurred that warm summer day, 15 miles south of Cumberland Gap.

The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Lt. George W. Stein, Company C, 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, part of DeCourcey's brigade at Tazewell, giving an account of the Battle of Tazewell. The full letter was published in the Wooster Republican newspaper, August 21, 1862.

... On Wednesday, the 16th relieved the 14th. - The regiment was very weak, only numbering some 400, and divided into eight companies, seven were on top of the hill and two pieces of artillery. At 10 o'clock A.M., we heard some musketry. Colonel sent me out to see what was going on, found out that one gun was in danger and two companies likely to be surrounded. I reported to the Colonel, met him half ways, ordered up the 14th Ky., to support the 16th. A brisk fire had already commenced on both sides. The guns came down the hill all safe which greatly encouraged our men. - Co. C and G protected the guns as they came down the hill and actually dispersed one regiment, and checked another. Sergeant Major Smith went to call in Capt. Tannyhill's and Capt. Edgar's companies which held the advance post and whilst retiring both companies were surrounded. Here the most desperate engagement took place. They actually fought hand to hand. Company C and G ably commanded by the gallant Major Kershner, were finally compelled to retire, their ammunition being expended and the men perfectly exhausted. Capts. Mills, Monroe, Harn and Vandorn held the right while the other two companies retired. The 14th now came to our relief and held the ground as long as they could, and then both regiments were ordered to rally on the reserve, back of the town on a high hill. There, such a confusion I never saw in all my life, but luckily we had six guns in a position back of town which protected and in fact saved both of these regiments from being annihilated. The two rebel regiments advanced, coming down the hill, on the double quick, while they still had at the least calculation 4 regiments in reserve. The moment we brought up our reserve, the re[?] sight of the them made them fall back, and then our guns kept up a continued fire. They placed two guns and opened fire with a 12-pounder rifle gun and one 6-pounder. Fired a few shot with very good range but our was too much for them. Captains Edgar and Tannyhill's companies stood the whole brunt in the affair. Every man had to look out for himself and some escaped yet. We held our position behind town until dark and having expended most our our ammunition, out of provisions, no forage and ____ before ____determined to return to the Gap, we retreated in good order and marched into camp early the next morning........Lieuts. De Silva, Corn and Vorhes actually broke through the enemy's lines and rejoined their commands before we got finally into camp. A Corporal and a private out of Edgar's Co. captured a Lieut. Col. (named Gordon) belonging to the 11th Tenn. Regt., disarmed him, and brought him on the hill beyond the town. The gentleman confessed himself that it was the coolest thing he ever heard of. We lost all our knapsacks, overcoats, blanket and haversacks with two day's rations, and some of the men actually were so fatigued that they buried their rifles and afterwards caught up with the Reg. Those that were taken prisoner done the same trick, to some extent. Major Kershner had his horse shot from under him, lost his sword and saddle. Capt. Mills lost coat and sword. Friend Boone, the 16th fought like tigers, but the great misfortune was, the companies were entirely too much scattered, but they held there [sic] ground nobly, actually refusing to come away when ordered until their ammunition was exhausted. The 14th Ky. had several wounded and lost all their knapsacks. We got all the forage this side of Clinch river, confiscated some good horses, mules, &c. and got licked the thunder for it. I got a blooded mare worth $ 1000, at least the owner said he refused that at one time. ...

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