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Letter (#11) from 1st Lt. Manuel B. DeSilva, Co. E, 16th OVI
Camp Cumberland, Kentucky - February 25, 1862
to the Holmes County Farmer newspaper at Millersburg, Ohio
Published March 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 Cumberland, near Cumberland Ford (now Pineville), Kentucky, where Gen. George W. Morgan was massing his troops in preparation for a late spring assault on nearby Cumberland Gap. The Gap was held by Confederates and considered a critical stronghold by both sides throughout the Civil War.

In this letter, DeSilva describes the regiment's journey from their Camp Duncan, near Somerset, Kentucky, through the hills of eastern Kentucky to the town of London. He continues with a description of their continued march to Camp Cumberland, near Cumberland Ford, Kentucky, and of the heavy rain and resulting stranding of the entire regiment when rising waters surrounded them for a time.

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 Capt. Taneyhill's Company.

CAMP CUMBERLAND, KY., Feb. 25, 1862.

DEAR FARMER:--Early on the morning of the 31st of January we broke camp near Somerset and started for London. This day's march was over hills and through ravines; it was a good imitation of Napoleon's feat when crossing the Alps. Some times we appeared to be going down into the very bowels of the earth. We saw many large Springs on the way which formed considerable streams, flowed a few hundred yards and then disappeared in some hole in the ground; which is the last can be seen of them. A phenomenon so singular gave rise to numerous suggestions. Some thought it was a conspiracy to drown the Chinese; others concluded that the water was sent down to wet the axle of the earth and thus usage the heat resulting from friction during these stirring times. Whether either of these theories will correctly account for a great stream of water rising out of one hole in the ground and disappearing in another, I leave the reader hereof to judge. With this phase of the water question we were highly pleased; but we were presented with another less singular and decidedly less gratifying. When we had finished a hard day's march a heavy and steady rain set in, and to cap the climax of our misery our wagons failed to reach us, so we had to lay around loose, some in the woods, some under rails and some on the top of rails - but few having the pleasure of a dream that night. The wish for morning and the baggage wagons was unanimous. Daylight at last appeared, the rain still kept coming; but our wagons did not arrive til 12 o'clock. We marched about a mile, crossed Buck river and camped on its banks to rest, eat and dry ourselves. On Sunday morning we started again. After marching some thirteen miles over a good ridge road commenced to descend between two mountains, and after going down a short distance we made a sudden curve which brought to our view one of the most fantastical sceneries of nature's handiwork I ever witnessed. We were surrounded, not by the enemy, but by rocks of all sizes and shapes. On our right stupendous rocks with gaping caves at their base reared their heads heavenward. On our left was a deep ravine which was strewn in a most wild and inconceivable manner with rocks of all shapes and dimensions, looking as if some gigantic monster had been playing at tenpins and left things in general confusion. One of the most singular freaks was a huge pyramid, or pillar, standing erect, isolated from its fellows and capped with a great coffin-shaped rock and forming a monument, which, were it near any of our Eastern cities, would attract the attention of the world. Across the ravine is a massive wall of rock, less abrupt, but none the less beautiful, with it creeping vines and its prattling streams falling over the rugged peaks to glisten in the sun, and then steal away among the evergreen foliage as though, like a fair maid, half ashamed of its rustic beauty. Slowly we passed through the ravine, all enchanted with its singular beauties, when we were informed that we had arrived at Sublimety, a summer resort on Rockcastle river. For want of sufficient ground whereon to pitch our tents we were compelled to take possession of the hotel, which was but partly occupied. We were delayed here by a rise in the river and the passage of Capt. Whetstone's battery. On Tuesday we crossed, and after carrying our luggage up a hilly road, so steep and ruff that six mules were required to haul an empty wagon to the top, we reloaded and encamped for the night. The next day we started for London and reached that place on the evening of the 6th. Again, our wagons being in the rear, we were compelled to take the ground for lodging apartments. The night was clear but very cold. Our wagons came up about ten o'clock the next day, and we pitched our tents and remained until the 16th. Our march was then renewed for this place, on Cumberland river, five miles from the ford and about sixteen from Cumberland Gap. We expect a fight at the Gap, that is provided the rebels don't evacuate. Since our encampment here we have had a few more water. In fact rained every other day up to Saturday when it commenced pouring; all the windows of heaven appeared to open to their utmost extent; the waters rolled down the hills in numberless rivulets, paying no respect to rank; it passed through our tents with savage impetuosity, stoutly disputing with us the possession of the premises. Still on it came each particular drop apparently contending with its fellow as to which should lend most to the wild and impetuous stream. At 6 P.M. fears were entertained of being surrounded by the rising river, the water reached our lower tents and a grand bustle commenced, which continued till morning. In the mean time we retreated to higher ground. When morning dawned we were surrounded on all sides. Over the ground where pigs had delighted to root and lambs gamboled in their innocence passed a mighty river; the dry rails of long rows of fencing had waked up like the dry bones of the valley, taken to themselves new life and disappeared during the somber hours of the night, when naught but evil spirits and hobgoblins walk the earth - those rails we regarded with such fond and tender emotion because of the joy their kindred had added to our campfires. Oh, doleful morning, when all our visions of stolen firewood had found a watery grave; when household goods were afloat, and when barns and houses raised from their solid foundations, bid their recent inhabitants an affectionate farewell and moved off upon the pathless waters. Some of our boys thought they would have a good time boating in an old dug out, so off they started to navigate our newly made river. They had not gone far 'til the vessel upset. After swimming to shore they concluded to try again. The middle of the river was reached and again the machine upset. Two of the boys swam to shore; but Joe Beegle thought he couldn't, and therefore he made for a tree, climbed to the limbs and like a treefrog set in riverabus, up treeum, no comeatabus, until about four o'clock. That night the flood passed away, and -- but hold! who is that! Hip, hip, hurra! Yankee-dooble-dandy! It's the paymaster, sure. There is joy in our household.

Good Day,

M. B. DeS.

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