Previous Battle Account Page Battle of Tazewell Index Page 16th OVI Home Page Next Battle Account Page
Battle of Tazewell, Tennessee
August 6, 1862
As Described by Pvt. Frank H. Mason, Company A, 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Web Author's Notes:
The 16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, as part of Col. John F. DeCourcey's 26th Brigade, marched south from their stronghold at Cumberland Gap toward the small town of Tazewell, Tennessee, on August 2, 1862. The purpose of their expedition was to find and acquire forage and supplies for the Federal garrison holding Cumberland Gap. During several days of foraging and extended trips further south of Tazewell, some periodic skirmishes with Rebel cavalry were encountered but the troops were successful in filling their wagons with much needed food and hay for their animals. Col. DeCourcey knew a large Confederate force was camped south of the Clinch River, not too distant from Tazewell, however, did not anticipate any major engagement would take place. On the Wednesday morning of August 6, however, DeCourcey would be confronted by a vastly superior Rebel force.

There exists a number of detailed accounts of the Battle of Tazewell. As with all such events, the accounts differ, somewhat, and certain facts told by each are inconsistent. However, by reading each account one can eventually gain a rather clear picture of the actions and movements that occurred that warm summer day, 15 miles south of Cumberland Gap.

The following is a description of the Battle of Tazewell written and compiled by a member of the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Pvt. Frank H. Mason, in his post-war work The Forty-Second Ohio Infantry: A History of the Organization and Services of That Regiment in the War of the Rebellion, published by Cobb, Andrews & Co., 1876:

Early in the morning Col. Pardee and his five Companies were relieved by Company "B" of the Sixteenth Ohio and one Company of the Fourteenth Kentucky. The men thus relieved retired and joined the remainder of the Brigade with the wagons at Tazewell. The two companies on picket duty stacked their arms and began to regale themselves with berries which grew in great quantities in the woods. While thus engaged, Company "B" of the Sixteenth was surrounded by a regiment of the enemy advancing under the cover of the fog, attacked, and Capt. Edgar, its commanding officer, killed. His men made a gallant effort to rally and recover their muskets, and, partly succeeded, but most of the Company was killed, wounded, or captured. The survivors...abandoned the ridge and retreated across the valley to the main body near the village. Stephenson moved up his advance brigade and occupied this position from which the Federal pickets had been driven.

A broad, open valley now lay between the hostile forces. It was evident to Col. DeCourcy that he was confronted by a vastly superior force, and it became an object with him to make the utmost display of his strength, and thereby keep the Confederates in check until his long train of wagons, now laden with forage, could be got well in motion towards Cumberland Gap.

About nine o'clock in the morning the fog lifted, and a regiment of the enemy was seen to come out of the woods on the hill where the pickets of the Sixteenth had been captured, and advance down into the valley towards the town. At the foot of this slope and at right angles with the advance of the regiment was a lane following the general course of the brook in the valley. At the point where this lane debouched into the main road, one of the guns of Foster's Battery had been posted the night before, and had not retired when the infantry pickets had retreated in the morning. The gun and its horses were concealed from the view of the advancing regiment by a fringe of bushes which skirted the lane. Sergeant Hackett, in command of the piece, double-shotted it with canister and trained it so as to rake the lane. On came the Confederates down the slope in line of battle, with colors flying, and, without breaking their line, attempted to cross the lane. At that moment, when the narrow passage was filled with men, Hackett's masked gun blazed out of the bushes, sweeping the lane with a hail of canister. How many were killed and wounded is not precisely known, but the slaughter, as related by members of the Rebel regiment, was enormous. The whole force was thrown into disorder, and, under cover of the momentary panic, the gallant Sergeant limbered up his gun and, with his horses at a gallop, made good his escape to the main body. This daring little exploit had been watched with anxious interest by DeCourcy and his command from the hills above the town, and Sergeant Hacked and his squad received on their return the congratulations due to their success, and a warning not to take such a risk again.

The enemy now appeared in still increasing force on the farther hill, and it became a matter of doubt whether he could be held in check until night. Col. DeCourcy had learned from scouts and prisoners that the force opposed to this little brigade was a full division of four brigades, and numbering in all not less than seventeen thousand men. The disparity was so great that in the face of such odds he dared not retreat by daylight. Repeating Col. Pardee's tactics of the day before, he spread out his Brigade in single rank, counter-marching companies over exposed points to give the appearance of an army corps taking position for battle. Gen. Stephenson watched the scene through his glass from his position a mile away, held his division in readiness to meet an attack, and so threw his opportunity away. As darkness settled down over the hills, DeCourcy wheeled his regiments into the road behind the town, and, marching rapidly, reached Cumberland Gap at three o'clock in the morning, without the loss of a wagon or a man except Capt. Edgar and those of his Company who were killed, wounded or captured through being surprised while on picket duty. Every wagon was brought back loaded, and a large quantity of supplies was thereby added to the stores of the garrison. The management of the expedition had been so competent and successful, and reflected such credit upon the officers and men engaged, that it was made the subject of a congratulatory order by Gen. Morgan.

Previous Battle Account Page Battle of Tazewell Index Page 16th OVI Home Page Next Battle Account Page