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Letter (#10) from 1st Lt. Manuel B. DeSilva, Co. E, 16th OVI
Camp Duncan, Somerset, Kentucky - January 30, 1862
to the Holmes County Farmer newspaper at Millersburg, Ohio
Published February 13, 1862
Web Author's Notes:
This is a letter from 1st Lt. Manuel B. DeSilva of Company E, written to an editor of the Holmes County Farmer newspaper in Millersburg, Ohio. It was written while the regiment was encamped at Camp Duncan, near Somerset, Kentucky, having just missed participating in the Battle of Mill Springs and not yet having been involved in battle.

DeSilva provides detail on the regiment's first march into enemy territory from their camp at Lexington, Kentucky, south to near Somerset, Kentucky over a seven day period. It should be noted that DeSilva states the regiment left Lexington on January 10th (1862), however the days of the week he later specifies do not align with this date. Other research indicates the regiment actually departed Lexington on January 13 which coincides with the known date the regiment arrived at Somerset, Kentucky.

The letter was researched and transcribed by long time website contributor John Pierson, a likely descendant of 16th Ohio soldier Pvt. Enos Pierson, Company C.

newspaper article

From the 16th Regiment.

CAMP DUNCAN, Ky., Jan. 30, '62.

FRIENDS ESTILL:--As I predicted in my last a forward movement was on the tapis, but for want of a supply of provisions we did not start until the 10th inst. On the morning of that day we left the gay city of Lexington with all its pleasures and pleasant associations behind. For the kindness and hospitality of the loyal men, and the kindness and smiles of the fair ladies, Lexington will ever be cherished in the memory of the 16th.

Our first day's march was slow, and pleasant until about 4 o'clock, when it became very windy and cold, and we halted to encamp for the night. To cap the climax of our misery it commenced a violent snowstorm, but it all goes in as the incidents of a soldier's life. On the morning of the next day we started early, passed through the town of Nicholasville, and had got cleverly under way when it commenced to rain, and away we went through mud and rain. Most of the boys came to the conclusion that we were soldiering. That night we encamped near Lancaster. Wednesday morning we started again, and again it rained and continued to rain all day. That night we encamped near the town of Stonford. Thursday morning we again started, and of course it rained, and that, too, all day and night with a fair prospect of it turning into a settled shower, lasting for all time to come. During Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we marched through the finest country I ever beheld; well watered and timbered; each farm house was a palace fit for a king. In fact the country was a paradise. The slaves were well clothed and looked as though they enjoyed life about as well as the rest of mankind. But on Thursday we reached the mountains and encamped that night at the base of a huge range; called the backbone. Where we camped was designated as Hall's Gap. On Friday we rested all day, and that was the only clear day we had during the march. On Saturday we started through torrents of rain, and commenced the ascension of the mountains; passed through the Gap, found that we had left the Pike road and struck the mud road, and a meaner road could not be imagined; but through it we plodded, tired, wet and weary, until we reached the little town of Waynesburgh, where we quartered. The town consists of seventeen houses, all on a good foundation of mud, and each having a splendid water course round it. I counted four window glass in ten houses - the rest had none to count; they would make cool summer houses. But there was nary house for us. We, poor devils, to shelter ourselves from the rain had to take a dilapidated old stable, and it was a perfect mudhole. To pass from one end to the other we had to lay down fence rails. Tired as we were there were few who liked the prospect before them. We had, however, to make the best of it. Some got in the hay ricks, some in the feed troughs, and others laid rails from the troughs to the ground, stuck their feet in the mud and laid at an angle of forty-five degrees, some got in a ice house, others in an old corn crib, and two poor fellows were actually mean enough to run a lot of pigs out of their pen and crawl into their warm straw beds. We in the stable soon discovered that there were other occupants than soldiers in our nests, and they seemed determined to let us know that they were about. The place was alive with fleas of immense dimensions and strength, and there was a continuing skirmish all night. We were all glad to retreat in the morning, but the fleas insinuated themselves into the warm folds of our blankets and we were still fighting them on Sunday morning. We started again and camped four miles from Somerset. We arrived in time to hear the loud toned thunder of our brothers' guns as they peppered Old Zollicoffer's rebel army. We pitched our tents, but expected to march in the night to the battle field. The next morning we learned of defeat and rout of the enemy, with many particulars of the battle, but these you have learned.

Since then we have been working on the roads. Just now the order has come to prepare to march in the morning. Our destination is near the Cumberland Gap; but I suppose we will stop some days at a place called London, forty miles distant from here and fifty-nine miles from the Gap. The Gap is in possession of the rebels and well fortified. We expect to get nearer than four miles to the fight this time. Some, however, think we will never get nearer than four miles to a fight; but you can look for a hard fought battle at that point. I have no idea of it taking place in less than two weeks, because of the roads being so bad that provisions cannot be transported in sufficient quantities to admit of the advance of a large body of troops. This is unfortunate, as it gives the rebels time to reinforce. Yours Truly,

M. B. DeS.

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