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Battle of Tazewell, Tennessee
August 6, 1862
As Described by Capt. Tully C. Bushnell, Company C, 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
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 description of the Battle of Tazewell as told by Capt. Tully C. Bushnell, Company C, 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry and published in the Ashland Times, August 21, 1862:

August 6th, about 11 A.M. heavy firing was heard in the direction of Big Springs, between our pickets and their advance, which continued to become more frequent. It soon became evident a general engagement must occur, or we must retire. The 16th Ohio was posted on a high hill in front of Tazewell about 1 1/2 miles distant and between Tazewell and Big Springs, from which the enemy were advancing. The 14th Ky, which had been ordered forward from the Gap to strengthen us was posted at the foot of the hill on which the 16th Ohio was posted, to be ready to support them in case of emergency. Two 16-pound parrot guns were posted on top of the hill. The 22d Ky, and 42d Ohio regiments, and four guns were posted on a hill back of Tazewell, distant about half a mile from town, and commanding the hill on which the 16th Ohio was posted. This was the situation of our forces when the rebels attacked us. There is no doubt that they were perfectly informed of our strength and position when they made the attack. After half or three quarters of an hour's firing, those of us who were posted in rear of town, discovered the enemy had flanked the right of the 16th Ohio, and were about to surround them. In the meantime we remained idle spectators of their useless efforts to drive them back. They were compelled to disburse and every man take care of himself. The 14th Ky., was now within rifle range, and after firing a volley, were ordered to retire behind our artillery on the hill in rear of town, so as to co-operate with the 42d Ohio and 22d Ky. The enemy seeing the 16th Ohio and 14th Ky. retreating, pursued them with tremendous yells, sure of a complete victory. As soon as our men were out of range of our artillery, we opened up on them with three guns, throwing grape and canister, making terrible havoc in their ranks. They immediately gave up the pursuit and fell back on the hill occupied by the 16th Ohio at the opening of the fight. Our artillery continued to throw shell until dark, to which they replied with two guns until we had dismounted their artillery and killed more than one half of the artillerymen, as we have since learned. At dark by order of Gen. Morgan we retired in good order to the Gap, the enemy being satisfied to allow us quietly to depart...The enemy lost in the three day's skirmishing in killed and wounded, 120 men. We captured the Lieut. Colonel of the 11th Tennessee and one Captain. They captured 52 men of the 16th Ohio, Capt. Tannyhill and the Sergt. Major of the 16th Ohio were wounded; 10 privates of the 16th Ohio were wounded, and Capt. Edgar of Holmes county killed; wounded 7 privates of the 14th Ky., and 2 of the 22d Ky., making a total of wounded on our side 19 men, but one of them mortally. Captain Edgar is the only man killed on our side. We brought off all our horses, wagons and artillery. They captured two day's rations for 800 men, and the knapsacks of the 16th Ohio and 14th Ky., and about 50 guns. Two of the 16th Ohio, a private and corporal after their company dispersed, accidentally came in contact with the Lieut. Colonel and a Captain of the 11th Tenn. The boys soon discovered they were not our officers, cocked their pieces and ordered them to surrender, which they did, at the same time giving up their arms. The boys conducted these officers a distance of half a mile in front of the enemy's lines and within rifle range, the boys contending that the line of battle which they saw was ours. Company C shot this same Lieut. Colonel's horse from under him two days before. We are informed this morning from a reliable source they had six Regiments of infantry engaged Wednesday, besides two Companies of cavalry and two pieces of artillery...The most remarkable occurrence of the day was that they surrounded one of our guns on the hill and just as they were charging up on it, at a distance of fifty yards our gunners gave them a round of canister which mowed down a whole platoon. The company that was supporting the gun gave them a round also who witnessed that the screams of their wounded and dying was awful. Our gunners immediately lumbered up and run their horses fully half a mile past their lines, a constant stream of fire pouring upon them, but strange to say not a man or horse was touched. Foster's Minnesota Battery are as brave and effective set of men as ever manned a battery.

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