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Letter of Robert W. Muse, Captain, Company A, 16th OVI
To Zanesville Daily Courier
March 14, 1862
Web Author's Notes:
The following is a letter written by Captain Robert W. Muse, Company A, 16th O.V.I., to the Zanesville (Ohio) Daily Courier while Muse was encamped at Cumberland Ford, Kentucky where the regiment was being staged for an assault on Cumberland Gap. The newspaper published the letter on March 21, 1862.
Capt. Robert W. P. Muse (post war)
image courtesy of Betsy Sternau
Letter of Robert Muse

Cumberland Ford,
Harlan Co. Ky. March 14.

Friend Bateman. - Dear Sir: - This is perhaps the wildest country you ever saw. We have nothing to look upon but high mountains and occasionally rocks as large as our square of Zanesville, set up edge wise by some monstrous convulsion of nature, to break the monotony of the mountain scenery. Here and there, in some secluded spot, on the banks of the creek or river, we come across a log hut, inhabited by a race of people they call mountaineers - who, to say the least, are as far behind the times as one generation. Their principal article of trade is corn pone, made up and baked without salt or shortning, and much the shape of a negro's heel. They look upon us as a kind of superior beings, and lavish their praises upon the Ohio-Onions as they term us. Such a thing as a good mechanic is unknown in the country, and an occasional copy of old Dilworth's speller, is their latest news in print.

Well, they are worth going to see, and as I cannot do them full justice in one letter, I invite the missionary public to this nook of creation for an open field for their benign labors.

Cumberland Gap, about 12 miles distant, is now the centre of attraction. I have had a fair and open day-light peer at this Rebel strong-hold and can say that nature has done its share of the work to make it the mountain stronghold of this continent. On the morning of the 11th, the Ohio 16th, headed by Col. Carter, (for observation) paid it a visit. We went within one mile of the den, and took a good look at the traitors as they swarmed around their entrenchments and earthworks. I cannot describe the mountain pass and fortification with a pen, but am preparing a map or drawing of it, which I will send to Bro. Shyrock, when completed. We could see plainly five fortifications and thirteen cannon. Those further up the Gap we could not see. Gen. Carter went within musket range of the strong-hold, and is convinced that we can take it. That is enough. You may expect soon to hear of the attempt, at least.

Their forces under Gen. Raines and Churchwell are reported at from 5,000 to 8,000 men. We have about half of that number, and I have all confidence we will succeed when our artillery comes up. Their principal fortifications are more than 1,000 feet above Yellow Creek, which runs at the foot of the mountain slopes. You can judge they are nearer heaven now than rebels should be.

Their cavalry came out to flank us and cut off our little force, but a few shots scattered them in all directions.

We have been very successful so far with out picket and scouting parties. We have killed some 30, taken nearly 100 prisoners, and that without the loss of a single man.

Hundreds of refugees from East Tennessee have come into our lines for protection - They swear they will have revenge as soon as we get them safe at home - and I should but be surprised if there is wholesale butchery all over East Tennessee as soon as these refugees reach home.

My boys are well and in a good state of discipline. Do not be surprised if you next hear from out little Brigade from Knoxville.

Truly yours as ever.

R. W. P. MUSE.

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