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Letter (#9) from 1st Lt. Manuel B. DeSilva, Co. E, 16th OVI
Camp Clay, Lexington, Kentucky - January 8, 1862
to the Holmes County Farmer newspaper at Millersburg, Ohio
Published January 23, 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 Clay, Lexington, Kentucky.

DeSilva describes the regiment's departure from Camp Dennison, travelling through Cincinnati, Ohio, Covington, Kentucky and on to Camp Clay in Lexington, Kentucky. He also describes Camp Clay and several events that occurred while there.

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.

January 8th, 1862.

FRIENDS ESTILL:--Twenty two days have passed since I last wrote you; during that time we have passed from the peaceful state of Ohio to divided and unhappy Kentucky. On the morning of the 17th ultimo, we left Camp Dennison, passed through Cincinnati, and arrived at Covington about 12 o'clock. At 1 o'clock the Regiment was invited to partake of a dinner prepared for us by the citizens of Covington. This was the first of the many acts of kindness we have received at the hands of the generous and loyal hearted Kentuckians. At 4 o'clock, P.M. we were again on the rail, and off we started for the home of Harry of the West, the noble CLAY. We arrived here at 8 o'clock A.M., laid in the cars till morning; then marched through the city to what is known as the Lexington Trotting Track, and encamped in the centre of the circle. Our Camp is bounded on the North west by the Lexington Fair grounds, on which is encamped a Kentucky Regiment, the only Regiment at this point, except the 16th. On our south is the far-famed estate of Henry Clay, known by the name of Ashland. It now affords a shelter for Henry Clay's degenerate and traitorous son, James B. Clay; who is now under bonds to appear at Louisville, to answer a charge of treason against the government his father loved so much and worked so hard to maintain. I will give you a more detailed account of him and his associations in my next.

We are becoming somewhat acquainted with Lexington, its people and its institutions. It was settled about the year 1789, and named after the battle of Lexington. It is located in the heart of the most beautiful and wealthy part of the State. Its inhabitants number eighty thousand, of which three thousand are negroes connected with that peculiar institution we read so much about. The population comprises the masculine and feminine gender with a heavy admixture of the wench - a gender peculiarly applicable to these parts. The wenches are of all shapes, sizes and colors. Their style ranges from the great, fat, greasy turban headed cook to the trim waiting maid whose gaudy and rich attire would put to shame that of half the ladies of your goodly town of Millersburg. To see them strut the streets you would think them a fresh importation of royalty instead of slaves, over whom so many crocodile tears are shed. Last week being a week of freedom to the negroes was the time to see them in their element. From Christmas to New year is, in fact, the negroe's carnival; a week of visiting, spreeing and general jollification. On Christmas night I witnessed a negro performance, at the house of a friend, which if performed to nature would make a fortune for Barnum, Artemus Ward or Jonathan Q. Smith. Their queer antics and wild melodies must be seen and heard to be appreciated. After playing for us they started off to amuse the neighbors. All they expect in return for their performances is a little refreshments.

We had quite an exciting time in camp on last Monday evening and Tuesday morning. On Monday a squad from our regiment arrested a noted secessionist, who had been buying mules for the Confederate army. He was placed under a guard at the Broadway House. It was rumored that a rescue would be attempted. The Colonel took one company to the city and brought the prisoner out to camp and then ordered the regiment to be ready for action at a moment's warning. Everything was quiet until about half past three o'clock, when the Colonel orders us to turn out as quickly and quietly as possible. I am proud to say that our company was the first out by great odds, and that Capt. Spangler's was the second. After everything was made ready, three companies took charge of the prisoner and marched him about a mile below the Depot. The other companies were posted so as to admirably guard all approaches to the prisoner, or to the Depot. Everything was arranged for giving a warm reception to any who might interfere with us; but no demonstration was made. The prisoner was shipped to Gen. Buell, at Louisville. Just as day dawned we returned to camp. The whole transaction was accomplished so quietly and quickly that the Kentucky regiment, encamped so close to us, did not know of our absence from camp 'til after our return. The quietness and alacrity of our men on this occasion is worthy of all commendation, and I hope they will ever demean themselves as well in the hour of danger.

Christmas was a beautiful day, and it passed off pleasantly, but the boys thought it rather hard to be shut up in camp all day. The few who got out made good use of the time, and enjoyed themselves hugely.

On New Years we were treated to a lunch of Turkeys, Ducks, Cold Ham, Corn Cakes, Sweet Cakes, etc., by the good people of the surrounding country.

Our regulars performed a most wonderful feat a few days ago. One company was ordered out accompanied by two Captains and several Lieutenants. The whole camp was in excitement. It was rumored that three thousand rebels were marching on us, that there were two hundred thousand more who were not marching. The company returned, every man looking a hero, as, he had a right to, for, they had captured a prisoner in the shape of a boy just 18 years old. It is reported he had been carrying letters from General Breckinridge to his friends here.

We have been having a grand Killkenny cat fight about the date of the officers' commissions. The first issue made us the seventh company, with the letter G.; but some of the Wooster folks were dissatisfied with this; so they made complaint and sent their commissions back. In a few days a new set arrived, setting the Wooster gentlemen back about 40 days; setting one of them back two companies in seniority. This advanced us two companies making us the 5th company, with the letter E. You would have laughed to see them rave and scratch their heads - in fact they got mad. So off goes a Woosterite to Columbus to have things fixed. So the fun still goes on - soreheads are dancing attendance to Governor Dennison, or to Governor Tod, as the case may be. While the Woosterites are in trouble the rest of the officers have a time of their own. The Colonel has a big scare, all to himself. He is afraid some person will serve a writ on him and dispossess him of his 18 year old prisoner. In order to prevent any such disaster he enjoins the most strict watchfulness. In fact the orders are so strict and so well obeyed that not even the sun has dared to peep into our lines for the last four or five days. The (h)elements took advantage of the sun's absence and gave us all kinds of weather. We have had rain, snow, hail, sleet and thunder. With high winds and slippery ground it is difficult to determine your next destination; whether up or down.

We have just received orders to draw forty rounds of cartridges, and to be ready to march. This comes from Gen. Buell, and indicates a forward movement - the Gods be praised and the rebels d--d.

Yours Truly,

M. B. DeS.

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