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Letter (#2) from Surgeon Basil Brashear, Field & Staff, 16th OVI
Camp Cumberland Ford, Kentucky - March 19, 1862
to the Tuscarawas Advocate newspaper at New Philadelphia, Ohio
Published April 4, 1862
Web Author's Notes:
The following is a transcription of a letter written by 16th OVI surgeon Basil Brashear and sent to the Tuscarawas Advocate, an Ohio newspaper. The transcription was kindly provided by website contributor John M. Pierson. Spelling and grammatical corrections were not made.

In this letter Dr. Brashear describes a conversation with a wounded Confederate Lieutenant; describes land conditions between Somerset and London, Kentucky; brief mention of march to Cumberland Ford.

16th Ohio surgeon Basil Brashear later become Medical Director of the entire 1st Army.

Letter from B. B. Brashear.

Cumberland Ford, Ky.,
March 19, 1862.

Editor Advocate: While at Somerset and after the battle of Mill Springs, or Fishing Creek, or Webb's Cross Roads or Logan's Cross Roads, I visited the secesh wounded. Among them was an educated and intelligent lieutenant who belonged to the 16th Mississippi -- Mississippi Tigers they called themselves -- from whom I learned something of the disappointments, the expectations, and the hopes, of the rebels. He bitterly denounced their General, Gen. B. Crittenden -- called him a craven and a drunkard. He said they confidently believed that their government would very soon be recognized by both England and France. I said to him, suppose you are conquered at Bowling Green as you have been here, what will you then do? he answered: That would prolong the conflict between us. We will contest every inch of ground between this and the Rio Grande. The Tigers fought desperately and well, and together with the 16th Alabama or Bull Pups as they styled themselves, were repulsed at the point of the bayonet by the Minnesota, Indiana, and the Ohio 9th (German regiment.) These Tigers, and Bull Pups went through London last Fall on their way to Wildcat, with their trowsers and sleeves rolled up, blustering and bragging and boasting of their prowess and of the heroism of the chivalry, telling the people in their chaste vernacular, We done bound for Cincinnati now?

The country between Somerset and London being broken, rough, hilly, in part mountainous, it is but thinly settled. The soil is thin and poor. There are thousands of acres of unimproved land in this portion of Kentucky. Here and there at long intervals a log cabin presents itself surrounded by a small cleared patch which yields its indifferent crops for the sustenance of a stoical rustic and his timid spouse and astonished progeny. Only a few of the houses, and these being mostly new, have glass windows. We passed a few school houses on the way. They are such structures as were built for school houses in Ohio, from thirty to forty years ago. In them, windows are made by cutting out a log on one or two sides according to the amount of light deemed requisite, and closing the openings thus made with greased paper. The chimneys are made very wide, equal to one third or a half of one side of the house, thus being capable of receiving very long wood. They reminded me of Judge William Johnston, and that school house on Yellow Creek, where it took four boys to carry wood to keep the fire up, and six boys to carry water to keep the house from burning down. In this country, the children have to go long ways to school, and the people long ways to church -- for churches are as sparse as school houses, and long ways to the post-office. Between Somerset and London, by the direct road, a distance of forty miles, there is no post-office except for a short time in the summer at Sublimity Spring, which is half way between the two county seats. As to markets, the people have none that I know of, such as are within the reach of even the most unfortunately located farmer in Ohio.

Our troops have made some defensive works at London. They were commenced last Fall by our forces that pursued Zollicoffer. They are still incomplete, and their completion may never be demanded. After leaving London we passed over some very excellent land both cultivated and uncultivated, on our way to this Ford. There are also some good houses. They all have their chimneys outside at one end. If the house is large, you will observe two large masses of brick or stone marring the external symmetry of an otherwise passable dwelling.

The interior effect of this peculiarity is not noticeable, except that there are no closets, or cupboards, or wardrobes such as we obtain in putting up the chimney on the inside according to our custom in Ohio. The settlements along this route are old.

The first settlers came mostly from Powell's valley in Virginia, near Cumberland Gap. I talked with one old gentleman who is by times secesh, and by times union, owing to the propinquity of Secesh or Union soldiers to the confines of his ancient domain, who has been living for sixty years on his present farm in the valley of Striking Creek. He has an orchard of apple trees that look as if they had not been trimmed for thirty years. His house and out-buildings are about ready to topple over. It is doubtful whether the buildings or their venerable owner will the soonest fall. It is a noticeable fact in all this part of the proud State of Kentucky, that when a brick, or a board, or a post falls out its place, it is never put back. Leaving London, we came upon the footprints of the rebels. They seemed to have encamped upon every favorable location from there to the Gap. We soon learned to distinguish the loyal from the rebel farms by a very easy sign. The former were completely stripped of fence rails along the road side. Often we noticed that the houses too were mutilated. But on the other hand, a rebel's fences and buildings were left intact. But this letter is getting long. Particulars of our visit to Cumberland Gap must be reserved for a subsequent communication.


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