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Letter (#5) from Sgt. Manuel B. DeSilva, Co. G, 16th OVI (90-day)
Camp Belington, Belington, West Virginia - July 17, 1861
to the Holmes County Farmer newspaper at Millersburg, Ohio
Published July 25, 1861
Web Author's Notes:
This is a letter from Sgt. Manuel B. DeSilva of Company G, written to an editor of the Holmes County Farmer newspaper in Millersburg, Ohio. It was written while the regiment was on duty in western Virginia performing various guard duty and movements to block or try to entrap the Confederate forces in the area.

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 Millersburg Boys.

Laurel Hill, July 17, 1861.

Friend Estill--

When I last wrote you we were waiting anxiously for the rebels to come and partake of a Fourth of July dinner. They said that they would do so on the 3d. We cleaned Uncle Sam's long pots and placed in them a very delicate dish of dumplings, all ready to add the fire when our visitors made their appearance. Company G. was appointed a committee to meet them on the Clarksburg road at a distance of some miles from camp and give them a warm reception, but after a long night's watch, the morn of the 4th broke clear and bright, but no rebels. We returned to camp disappointed. The Fourth was celebrated by an oration by the Lieut. Col. Of the 14th Ohio and numerous side shows. Time passed heavily until Sunday the 6th, at 2 A.M., we received orders to march to Laurel Hill, some thirteen miles distant. You can imagine that an order to beard the lion in his well protected and thorny den shook from our brows the slumbers of the night. We were soon on our way; when the sun in its morning purity sent down its golden rays through the emerald tops of the Laurel ridge it did not find us paying homage to the beauties 'of a mountain morn' but formed in line of battle within a mile of the enemy, and our skirmishers dealing death and damnation to our foes. We all thought that the time had come when we would have to meet Death flying through the air, and I think that I can say in all honesty that no set of men could have gone on a battlefield with more determined bravery than the McNulty Guards. There was no flinching or quaking - every man knew what was expected of him by his country and his friends. Their flashing eyes, compressed lips and steady tread, bore witness to their being READY TO DO IT; but, again we were disappointed. After waiting all day, the skirmishers were withdrawn. We were given our position for the night; we then partook of a light lunch, a smoke by the fireside, and general revelations as to how we felt on what was supposed to be the battlefield, while many were thus engaged, some were disputing about a soft piece of ground, or a soft stone for a pillow, and those who had left their blankets were eloquent in their appeals for a share with a comrade. To cap the climax, one whom we call "Rag Picker" climbed a tree and went to roost. At last we were fixed - some under fence rails, some on top, some in the bushes, some in the road, and as I said before one in a tree. At about midnight we were awoke by the firing of our pickets on a lot of the enemy's cavalry who were cut off from their friends. After that we slept in peace until morning, and then the skirmishing recommenced and continued until Wednesday, then it was prohibited; all this was independent fighting by the boys who would sneak away to get a pop at the rebels. Up to this time we supposed that we had killed upwards of a hundred; we lost three men and had four wounded. On Friday morning we found that the enemy's camp was deserted, and then there was a general rush for their camp. The boys captured all kinds of truck as relics of Laurel Hill. The camp gave evidence of there being at least six thousand of the enemy and was very strongly fortified. If our force of forty-three hundred was in that position we would not have feared fifteen thousand, but they would not fight us there, nor would they come out and fight us on equal terms. The 6th and 9th Indiana and the 14th Ohio took possession of it and raised the Stars and Stripes. At 6 o'clock we started to give them a chase; after marching thirteen miles through a heavy rain and deep mud, we camped until three o'clock and then resumed the chase. It continued to rain and the mud became deeper but still we traveled, and about 4 o'clock we caught them. It was a running fight for two miles and then after they had forded the river they tried to form a line of battle, they fired a few shots which were returned by the 14th Ohio and parts of the 6th and 9th Indiana and a few from all the companies who had run to the front. At intervals the cannon let out their angry howls from both sides, and then the "seceshers" seceded leaving wagon loads of their baggage, after they had run about four miles they left the bulk of their traps, which we have since taken. Saturday night we camped on the battlefield. On Sunday about noon we started on the return trip for Beelington. We marched to St. George and camped again, that is, when I say camp I mean that we slept on the ground or any other place we could get. You can conceive that it was a might poor camp where you had nothing to eat and no tents to sleep in. On Monday at 5 A.M., we started again, and at noon we found ourselves 15 miles further from Beelington than we were in the morning. This was caused by being misled by our guide, but on we trudged feet sore, tired and hungry at last we reached the base of Laurel Hill, and instead of winding round and round by the pike hundreds took a pass which led straight from its base to its peak, but here again we lost our path, still on we went, nothing but fear of being lost in the wilderness, and the coming night gave us strength to climb the alps-like mountain summit. Like the last struggles of a dying man were our quickened steps as we descended torturous road; as twilight merged into darkness of the night we reached our most welcome camp, to find that those we had left behind had procured a generous supper for us. Never as a meal so welcome. A little over three days of force marching, with nothing but two or three hard crackers to eat, is very apt to make a man feel like eating and resting, as we did that night and the next day. But our trials where not over yet. Some of our men had stayed behind, and we began to fear for their safety. Our fears were not unfounded. On Thursday night the news of our comrade Andrew J. Louther, having been shot was received. The sad tidings of his death cast a gloom over the camp. It seems that he had a sore leg, and concluded to stay behind the army, in order to get a chance to ride in the Baggage train (captured) and while waiting he, with others, was detailed as a Guard for the train. On Tuesday morning the 16th inst., the Train left St. George. After going some two miles from the village, the wagon that Louther and Wm. Koch were on was fired on from the woods. A ball struck Louther in the neck, severing the Juglar vein, and glanced and lodged in his breast, killing him instantly. Three balls struck Capt. Jones of the 6th Indiana regiment, but did not kill him. The guards were immediately rallied and the woods scoured for the assassins, but they could not be found. Louther's body was brought to camp, washed and placed in a coffin. On Wednesday the 17th, at 10 o'clock a.m. the whole Battalion formed a procession and paid their last respects to our comrade by burying him with the Honors of War. It was a sad scene. Standing by his grave were hundreds of strong, hardy men, who for the past three months endured the same hardships, and trials; and like him were indulging fond hopes of being with their friends at home; but know not at what moment they, too, may meet the same fate. The family or our comrade have our heart-felt sympathies in their sad bereavement; but let them not forget that he died in his Country's cause, and that his death will be revenged; even while I write a party has started to hunt those whom they suspicion of doing the foul deed.

We are anxiously waiting order to march to Grafton on our return trip and hope to see our friends by the first of August.

M. B. DES.

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