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The following is a letter written by Captain Cushman Cunningham, Company F, to his father, while the 16th Ohio was occupying Cumberland Gap. Some minor corrections to capitalizations have been made in the transcript to make reading easier.
Letter obtained from Internet sales site, advertising original letter for sale.
June 21st, 1862
My Dear Father,
At last! We have gained the
Gibraltar of America, and that too without the loss of blood, not a comrade has fallen, and the way to East Tenn. is open.
On the 7th Inst. we took up our line of march from the
Moss House, which is within two miles of the Ford, our destination being Powell's Valley by the way of Rogers Gap. On the fourth day (the 10th inst.) we arrived at the foot of the mountain, which at that point is thirty five miles from Cumberland Ford, here we found our progress arrested by a heavy blockade of fallen timber, stones etc. which the rebels had placed in the road for the purpose of preventing our approach (our Pickets had been thrown forward the day before, and had taken possession of the crest of the mountain, from which point they were enabled to see the country in Powell's Valley for miles). After giving the men a few hours rest, large details were made, with axes, picks, and spades, and the work of clearing the blockade commenced; and by two o'clock of the next day (the 11th inst.) the passage was cleared, and the 26th
Brigade debouched from the mountain into the valley, and bivouacked for the night in a woodland owned by a Mr. Rogers. We were accompanied by two Batteries of Artillery, the enemy's Pickets were in full view, and succeeded in capturing a veterinary surgeon belonging to the 9th Ohio Battery, who had very foolishly exposed himself. Our Pickets before this had captured 3 horses and had wounded 2 of the rebels, quite seriously.
About one o'clock of the morning of the 12th inst. Genl. Baird's Brigade (the 27th) arrived and on this same day General Morgan received orders from Genl. Buell, to re-cross the mountain and retire his whole force to Williamsburgh. The order was made known to the troops and gave universal dissatisfaction. They had worked hard, crossing the mountain at a point hither to deemed impracticable for trains, been on short allowances of provisions, and then after all their toil, and fatigue, to be compelled to retrace their steps, was rather provoking.
However, orders must be obeyed, and the countermarch commenced. Luckily for the 26th Brigade, it was ordered to bring up the rear, the Artillery worked all night to get up the mountain and we had to wait until every train, wagon, and everything liable to capture had safely crossed. On the morning of the 13th inst, a countryman, and a Union man, brought
the news that Cumberland Gap was being evacuated, which information Colonel de Courcy forwarded with dispatch to General Morgan, at the same time ordering the 26th Brigade and one Battery not to move untill further orders. We waited anxiously for a reply, for I myself, firmly believed that the information we received was correct. Finally the answer came. Col. de Courcy's course was approved of and the whole of the Division ordered up.
We remained at the point waiting for supplies (and for the Brigades of General Carter, and Spears to come up; they had crossed the Mountain at Big Creek Gap, some 15 or 18 miles farther west of Rogers Gap) untill the morning of the 18th inst. We left our camp at 1 ½ o'clock in the morning, and expected to find a strong force of the enemy encamped on a Mr. Thomas' farm, about 9 miles distant. The 26th Brigade leading, and accompanied by the finest Battery in the Division, Capt. Foster's, and the 4 heavy siege guns, rifled 20 & 30 pounders, but we could not make any use of them as the enemy had fled, leaving their camp fires still burning. Advancing a few miles further, we encamped at 9 o'clock, at what, at the time was thought to be our camping place for the night. In a farmers house near by we arrested a
Rebel Lieutenant, who confirmed the news of the evacuation of the Gap. After resting a few hours, the signal to march was again sounded. We advanced rapidly, yet cautiously, and without molestation occupied the works before sunset. The 16th Regt. was the first Regiment on the mountain and inside the fortifications. The flags of the 22nd Ky. and the 42nd Ohio accompanying Foster's Battery came immediately after and fired a salute of 34 guns, proclaiming in thunder tones to the loyal and persecuted people of East Tennessee a speedy prospect of deliverance.
The Rebels left little of value. What could not be carried away was destroyed. The tents were left standing, but were cut to ribbons by their bowie knives. They left 5 guns, 64 pounders, and Howitzers. 2 of them were thrown over the cliff, carriages and all. The carriages of the other guns were cut to pieces. I spent one forenoon in going over the works and they may well be called formidable. The evacuations was without doubt, caused by our flank movement, threatening to cut off their communications and menacing Knoxville.
As to our future movements, I am altogether in the dark. General Morgan is probably waiting for orders from General Buell (one word here in regard to Genl. Morgan he is every inch a soldier and has the confidence of the whole Division, he has a smile and pleasant word for all, but is rather profuse in compliments).
Yesterday I received my package of clothes. I would have preferred light blue pants, but will make those which I received, answer until I can get others.
I wish that you would tell Imgard to make me a pr. of light blue trousers of the finest and best material that he can get (that is the Regulation color now) and have them forwarded by Lieut. Ross, who is in Wayne County, recruiting for the regiment. Also tell Mr. Auman to make me a pair of fine boots, he has my measure. Also tell Lieut. Ross to purchase for me in Cinni. two pair of fine Buff. Buck Gauntlets, Size No. 6. Mr. Clark can send my cap by the same opportunity. A few cans of fruit, tomatoes, apple butter, etc. would be highly relished.
Enclosed I send you a check on Louisville for $250 payable to you, or order, it is cash in Cinn. so you ought not to stand a shave in Wooster. Will you please pay my bill at Imgards which is about $80 lift my note at Plumers & Clarks for $80 and pay Mr. Flattery $70, the amount of cash, which I believe he advanced me. The remainder make use of yourself. (I had almost forgotten to tell you, to pay Foreman, for one year's subscription for the Republican).
I shall write to Mr. Flattery, and Mr. Clark, in a few days.
I lost all of my bed clothes in this last march, and would like to have
Thomas Stibbs send me a pair of his best Blankets (heavy & fine) either white or grey. Lieut. Ross, I presume, will bring any, and everything you may wish to send.
I must close! for the messenger who carries the letters this morning is about ready to leave. Remember me kindly to all enquiring friends. My best love to Mary E. and Theodore. Tell them to write often and not to wait for me to write. Hoping that we will all meet again soon.
P.S. Please acknowledge receipt of check as soon as possible.
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