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In this letter Dr. Brashear describes the 16th Ohio's march to to Lexington, Kentucky. He continues telling about the march on to Somerset and then London, Kentucky, and the conditions and events that transpired on that journey.
16th Ohio surgeon Basil Brashear later become Medical Director of the entire 1st Army.
Letter from Dr. Brashear.
Camp Cumberland Ford, Knox Co. Kentucky,
March 12, 1862.
Editor Advocate: The Sixteenth Ohio came into Kentucky on the 17th of December, and halted at Lexington. We went into camp on the beautiful Trotting Course near the city, where we staid nearly four weeks. We named our camp, Camp Clay. Our sick of whom we had about one hundred, after four days temporary lodgement in the Court House, were quartered in the spacious dormitory of Transylvania University, where they received the kind attentions so characteristic of the true-hearted and loyal people of that so lately threatened city. Lexington was the home of John C. Breckenridge, S. B. Buckner, Humphrey (Falstaff) Marshall, Roger Hanson, and some other noted rebels.
Col. Steedman's 14th Ohio was the first regiment from our noble State to enjoy the hospitalities of that aristocratic and wealthy and ancient city. Lexington is old compared with the cities of Ohio.
She use to wholesale cry goods, groceries, etc., to Louisville, and Cincinnati! If the 14th Ohio was welcome in Lexington, the 16th was more so; because the people now saw that Ohio troops came not neither to engraft any new code, nor to interpolate any strange doctrine, nor to disturb in any manner whatever the municipal regulations of their State -- they saw that they came as citizen-soldiers, their only object, to maintain the supremacy of the constitutional law; their only impulse, patriotism; and as such they bade them WELCOME. Every soldier in the Sixteenth will remember Lexington with an ever pleasing and grateful remembrance.
We appreciate the magnanimity and acknowledge the sympathy of loyal Kentuckians. On the 13th of January, we left Lexington for Somerset, Pulaski County, which place we reached on Sunday the 19th, while the battle at Webb's Cross Roads was in progress.
We had been assigned to the Twelfth Brigade under Gen. Carter, of East Tennessee, and were to aid in a combined movement upon Zollicoffer about the 21st or 22nd. But the daring rebel precipitated an attack upon Gen. Thomas on the 19th, when he hoped to conquer him by cutting off his forces in detail at a time when he thought concentration was not possible.
The result of that day's conflict has been recorded. From Lexington to Hall's Gap, the beginning of the mountainous regions of Kentucky as our route lay, the road is a beautiful smooth, well graded M'Adamized turnpike. At this Gap, we ascend the
Knobs as they are called, where the mud roads begin; and such roads I never before saw. In civil life, they would have been declared impassable and no one would have ventured in travel over them. At Somerset, I had the pleasure to meet A. E. Mathews formerly of New Philadelphia. He is a volunteer in the 31st Ohio, Col. Walker.
He is on
extra duty as artist for that Regiment. I saw some of his sketches. They are all good. His lithograph view of
Boon's Knob where the turnpike crosses the Kentucky river, is very beautiful and true. He has his drawings lithographed in Cincinnati. When I parted with him he was on his way to the lithographer's with his sketch of the battle of Mill Springs, or Webb's Cross Roads.
We left Somerset on the 31st of January for London, the county seat of Laurel County, a distance of forty miles. For some portion of this route, the roads were worse than any we had previously traveled. Half way between Somerset and London is Sublimity Springs, on the right bank of Rockcastle River, nine miles from its junction with the Cumberland. This is an attractive and salubrious summer resort. There is a large and well ordered hotel here, capable of accommodating a hundred and twenty-five guests. It is patronized mostly from Louisville and Lexington.
The scenery of this location is peculiarly grand, picturesque, beautiful, bold. I can not describe it. The place is owned by a rebel and kept by a Union man and his intelligent family who were driven out of London because of their loyalty.
We were detained at Sublimity three days on account of rain and high water. In twenty-five days preceding this date it had rained twenty-one! It was almost impossible for us to move, especially with artillery, and baggage, and subsistence, and ammunition. The road on the other side of the narrow, deep, and swift Rockcastle, is very irregular and steep. I don't know what the grade is, but it appeared to be from fifteen to twenty degrees. At all events, nobody in Ohio would think of driving a loaded wagon up such a steep. Our artillery, the 9th Ohio battery, Capt. Whitmore, formerly of Stark County, near Navarre, was in advance of us. Without the combined aid of his and our men, all who could put their shoulders to the wheels, sixteen mules or as many horses could not draw a gun or a caisson up the miry hill side. The mud was up to the horses' bellies, and the rain falling continuously. In this mud the men stood and worked and lifted and tugged at the ponderous wheels of the artillery wagons, until little by little, they reached the summit. Our own baggage wet and heavy, the men carried upon their backs, while the poor and almost exhausted mules slowly dragged the empty wagons. I never knew the value of the mule until I saw him at work in the army. For the hardest labor to which draught animals can be subjected, while at the same time they are only half fed and driven by men not their owners, mules are far superior to horses. We reached London on the 7th of February, where we rested two days. London is an old town, worn out, dilapidated -- containing one to two hundred inhabitants. It has a new Academy building of modern architecture which is used as a hospital for sick soldiers.
Miss Mary Hazlett, sister of Dr. Hazlett of New Philadelphia, was lately a teacher in this Academy. Some of Zollicoffer's rebel soldiery mutilated the interior of the building when they first occupied London, last October. They also, Vandal like, broke up and threw out some of the chemical and philosophical apparatus which was of the best and costliest quality, belonging to the Academy. Rebel cavalry picketed in the Academy yard.
My next letter will describe our trip to this place, our reconnaissance to Cumberland Gap, yesterday, etc.
B. B. BRASHEAR,
Surgeon, 16th Ohio Reg't.
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