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Letter (#2) from 2nd. Lt. Silas H. Corn, Company B, 16th OVI
Cumberland Gap, Tennessee - June 24, 1862
to the Holmes County Farmer newspaper at Millersburg, Ohio
Published July 17, 1862
Web Author's Notes:
The following is a transcription of a letter written by then 2nd. Lt. Silas H. Corn, Company B, to the Holmes County Farmer newspaper. The transcription was kindly provided by website contributor John M. Pierson. Spelling and grammatical corrections were not made.

In this letter Lt. Corn describes the events and actions taken to approach and occupy Cumberland Gap. The Confederate forces were under the belief the Union force under Gen. George W. Morgan was much larger than it was. Additionally, brilliant maneuvering caught the occupying Rebels off guard and they decided to abandon the strongly fortified Gap without a battle, leaving it for the taking by the Union. Lt. Corn goes on to describe what they found at the Gap left by the fleeing Rebels.

Lt. Corn indicates he wrote the letter from Cumberland Gap, Kentucky, however, it is likely the regiment was still camped on the Tennessee side as it did not move to the Kentucky side until several days later.

2nd. Lt. Silas H. Corn
2nd. Lt. Silas H. Corn
newspaper article


From the 16th Regiment.
CUMBERLAND GAP, KY., June 24, 1862.

EDITORS OF THE FARMER: -- Long ere this the telegraph has made known to you the events which have been transpiring in this Division within the last two weeks. But thinking that perhaps some of your readers would desire a more detailed account of our movements than is contained in mere telegraphic reports, I will endeavor to supply that want by a communication to your paper.

On Saturday the 7th inst., the Brigades of DeCourcey and Beard started from Cumberland Ford, designing to cross the Cumberland Mountain at what is called Wilson's Gap, a point about 20 miles south-west of this. The artillery preceded us one day, but Gen. Carter's Brigade was detained a few days for want of transportation. After a march of three days we arrived within five miles of the mountains, where there were two companies detailed from each regiment in DeCourcey's Brigade to take possession of the passes over the mountains, through which we intended to pass. The expedition was put under command of Lieut. Col. Pardee of the 42d and Major Keshner of the 16th Ohio. We arrived at the top of the mountain about 10 o'clock at night, and having taken possession of its passes and established our picket posts, we wrapped ourselves in our blankets and tumbled down for a nap. The mountain was unoccupied by rebel troops. The night was beautifully lit up by the moon shining through an unclouded sky. Our success was all that we could have desired, and more than we anticipated; and all that remained for us to do was to quietly await the approach of morning, to see what daylight would reveal. Having awoke quite early in the morning, I walked out to one of our picket posts, which was place down on the mountain commanding the road as it turned its course into the Gap, and was just in time to witness the capture of three horses, and the skedaddle of their rebel riders. They were Secesh Cavalrymen, who had unconsciously approached our pickets; they were haulted by our men, and not displaying a disposition to obey, but immediately dismounting and were making good their escape when they were fired on without further injury to them than the wounding of one of them in the hand, and the loss of their arms and horses. Thinking that we were simply a band of bush-whackers, they again returned about noon of the same day, in force of about thirty-five, dismounted cavalry, armed with double barrel shot guns. They were permitted to approach very close, when they were fired on by our men, wounding several, some of them mortally, they fled without firing a gun, making good their escape through the thick underwood, with which the mountain side was covered, bearing the startling intelligence to their friends in the valley, that East Tennessee had gon to the devil, for the mountain was full of Yankees. After which they paid us due respect by keeping a respectful distance from us. We remained on the mountain about two days and nights, during which time, we had a most magnificent view of Powel's Valley, and could see the rebel cavalry scouting about exhibiting great uneasiness at our presence, and apparently surprised at our sudden ingress into their midst. By this time our forces, having cleared the road of the blockade which obstructed it for some miles, arrived at the top of the mountain, and we all marched into the valley, where we encamped for some time awaiting the arrival of Gen. Speare's Brigade, which had gone via Big Creek Gap to drive the rebels from that point, which he accomplished, they retreated at his approach, leaving some prisoners and property in his hands. In the mean time we received an order from Gen. Buel to return to Kentucky, as the expedition of Gen Mitchell against Chattanooga, which as made in concert with ours, was not successful. Never was an order received with more regret, or executed with greater reluctance. This, however, was countermanded before many of our forces had passed the mountain, and we were soon again all encamped at the foot of the Cumberland, on the Tennessee side, to the great joy of our Union friends in East Tennessee. While remaining here we were subject to many false alarms; occasioned either by the firing of pickets or by false rumors that our baggage trains were cut off by the rebels, etc.; and, indeed, so numerous were these things that to fall in once or twice a day seemed to be a matter of course, and was the occasion of many hard sayings when, the boys found out that they didn't have a fight.

At 1 o'clock on the morning of the 18th we again took up our line of march to attack a body of the enemy who were reported to be fortifying a position within eight miles of our camp. Gen. Carter was ordered to gain their rear, by marching in a round-a-bout way, while the main body advanced by the direct road. We had not proceeded very far when we learned that they had retreated the evening before, and again we were cheated out of what we considered our easy prey. We also received information that Cumberland Gap had been evacuated, and having rested a few hours we again took up our line of march for that place, where we arrived at sundown, having marched about twenty miles that day. The honor of first planting the stars and stripes on the rebel fortifications was reserved for the 16th Ohio. Though wearied with our long march, we marched gladly and proudly up, our banners streaming in the breeze, our music playing with soul stirring energy our national Yankee Doodle. One battery of artillery was placed on the Gap, when we saluted by a present arms and three loud, long and vociferous cheers, which was repeated with an energy which soldiers only can exert after a victory. A salute of twenty-four guns was fired from the battery. This proceeding was repeated by the three remaining brigades at sundown on each successive evening.


It is useless for me to attempt a description of this place, which our commanding General has justly termed the Gibraltar of America. The position which is a very strong one by nature, is rendered triply so by the constant labor of an entire year exerted by troops who were determined, as it seemed, to make it entirely impregnable. The works for infantry alone, would, without doubt, make a continued line of five miles in extent, besides the works for artillery which are also extensive. That they would abandon such a strong hold without a battle even, only further illustrates the general principal of war, that more decisive victories are obtained by stratagetic movements than by actual battle. More decisive, because attended with little loss to the victor, while the demoralization, ruin, and loss consequent to defeat always follows the vanquished. They left a great amount of property which they were very careful to render useless to us. About five hundred tents were left standing ripped into shreds. We have found five pieces of artillery all of large calibre, but of a very inferior quality. A quantity of canister and shell was also destroyed and left on the ground. A large quantity of bacon, lard, and flour was thrown into a cistern in one promiscuous heap. They had also removed a large amount of commissary stores to adjacent villages and country houses which is now falling into our hands.

But the mail is going. Enough for once. More anon.


Lieut. Co. B, 16th Reg't, O.V.U.S.A.

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