Previous Battle Account Page Battle of Tazewell Index Page 16th OVI Home Page Next Battle Account Page
Battle of Tazewell, Tennessee
August 6, 1862
As Described by Pvt. John F. McClelland, Company B
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 a brief account of the Battle of Tazewell as told by Pvt. John F. McClelland, a member of Company B, 16th OVI (the company that suffered most in the battle) in a letter to his wife, just two days after the battle. It is transcribed exactly as written by McClelland:

Camp Virginia Cumberland Gap Ten

Aug 8 62

Dear wife I take this oppertunity to inform you that I am well at present and am happy to say it. our Brig has just returned from another Foraging Expedition. we started on Saturday last and marched in the direction of Taswell. this place lies Eastward from here on the Knoxville Road is 13 Miles distant is the County Ceat of Claiborne Co and is in Tenn. we arrived at Taswell about 5 oclock P.M. and Col. de Courcy took his headquarters in Town with a very respectable Family by the Name of ____________ [leaves blank]. they are good union people. but as nothing occured worthy of note except a little picket firing I will come down to yesterday where the principal object of my story lies. in order to be well understood, I will state that the 16th was Stationed along the Road at intervals and not more than Two Companies in a place. they wer beyond Taswell, and over extended along the road for some ways while the Main Boddy was this side of Tazewell, leaving the 16th entirley unsupported. I should of said above that the 16th was on Picket guard. Company B and Tanneyhills Company wer at the Advance Post. they had been there but a short time when all of a sudden they heard a cracking in the Bushes and before they had time to Ralley received a terrible volley of Bulletts which sent many of that small band to their final home. before they had hardly realised the condission they wer in. they soon discovered however that they wer surrounded on all sides by at least Ten times their numbers. they saw at once that escape was impossible, all though several did all most miracuasly the particulars of which I will give you by and by. they fought desperatley but were soon overpowerd, by overwhelming numbers and wer obliged to Surender which they very reluctantly did all though a good many of them had already boldly Surenderd up their lives in their fruitless attempts to cut their way thrugh their unwavering colum. Capt Edgar was one of the first that fell. Sargent Tipton fell by his side. I regret to say that a great many of them fell to rise no more. as for my self I came off all write. Paul Wilder got off a very curious way. he broke thrugh their lines. was obliged to take a roundabout way to get to our camp. on his way through the woods he heard the sound of Horses Hoofs. he stopped behind a grove of [????]. A Rebel Col rode up. when he got got near enough, Paul steped out, presented the mussel of his gun and said whitch do you prefer Surender or have a bullet through your head. he soon decided upon the former and he took him gloriously into Camp. I will here state that there are at present about Thirty missing from our Company but some more may yet come in, and Twenty-Seven from Tannahills. Capt Tannahill is wounded in the left arm. I will give you further particulars soon. No more this time from your Aff Husband, John McCleland. answer soon. My love to all and a kiss [to?] the little ones. I will mention a few of the missing, which is hard for me to do. among the number are Samuel Miller & Thomas [Miller], [Newt] Gosage [Gorsuch], Thos. Linn, Henry Livingston [Levingston], Jr., and Cyrus Martyn. it is to be hoped that they are not killed but taken prisoner of war we do not know, but it is quite likely that some of them may yet return. The rebbles were repulsed by heavy loss. our batties played on them most charmingly. I lost my pocketbook in the fuss. my hors was nearly run to death. wright soon and let me know how you and the children are getting along.

your affectionate husband John McCleland

Previous Battle Account Page Battle of Tazewell Index Page 16th OVI Home Page Next Battle Account Page