Soldiers Letter Index 16th OVI Home Page
Letter from Lt. George W. Stein, Company C, 16th OVI
August 8, 1862
Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
to The Wooster Republican newspaper
Published August 21, 1862
Web Author's Notes:
The following letter from Lt. George Stein, Company C, was transcribed by contributor John M. Pierson.

Stein sent this letter to a local newspaper back home in Ohio, The Wooster Republican. He describes, in great detail, the Battle of Tazewell, Tennessee, which had occurred two days earlier and in which the 16th Ohio played a major and very exciting role.

Lt. George W. Stein
Lt. George W. Stein

16th Ohio Regiment in Battle!

Full Particulars of the Fight.

Cumberland Gap, August 8th, 1862.

Brother Boone. -- The 26th Brigade left Cumberland Gap on the 2d inst., with orders to proceed to the vicinity of Tazwell on a foraging expedition. We arrived at Tazwell at 3 P.M. The 16th marched beyond the town, drove in the enemy's pickets and occupied their ground during the night. On Sunday morning they were relieved by the 22d Ky. The same day we advanced the 22d some 4 miles further to Big Springs, had a little skirmish with their cavalry, but a few shells soon satisfied them, and they skedaddled. We pillaged all the houses, got possession of a mail, captured a few horses, mules and sheep, and also 10 gall. of the best imported brandy. That same evening we retired, the 22d doing the picket duty. On Monday morning the 42d relieved the 22d, and they also advanced as far as the Springs, supported by the 16th and 2 pieces of artillery. We again drove them back, the 42d holding the ground while the 16th took off more to the right. In the mean time word came that our train was in danger. Ordered up, the 22d and formed a junction in Big Sycamore, and got all the forage, and then retired to Tazwell. In the mean time we heard cannonading at Big Springs, and I was satisfied that they were trying to cut off the 42d. I carried orders to the 16th to bring up the rear as soon as the wagons were loaded, while the Colonel went on slowly to town. I supposed that he would return the same way we had come, but instead of doing so he took the direct road, and I by way of Big Springs. Ascertained that the 42d had retired from their former position We took through woods and fields and finally got in the rear of the 42d. The pickets had twice aimed to fire upon us but finally recognized us. The best joke of all was, we came very near running into the enemy's pickets. During this time the 42d held at least 2 regiments of infantry at bay - all done with one Parrot gun. They would reply occasionally with a 6 pounder, but never done any damage. The 42d retired in the evening and picketed the hill. Another regiment had arrived when I got back to town. All was confusion, thinking the 42d had been cut off. My report stopped all that. On Tuesday morning the 14th Ky. relieved the 42d. We sent all our forage to the Gap that we had collected. The weather was so intensely hot, and the men so exhausted, that we were obliged to rest. During the afternoon the enemy's cavalry made a dash on our right and rear, wounding two men and capturing one (belonging to 22d Ky.) while we killed two of their men and wounded one. Even after that I was afraid of our rear and almost sure of a fight. We had already received orders to retire on Wednesday, and had intended to do so on Wednesday evening in the cool of the day.

On Wednesday the 16th relieved the 14th. The regiment was very weak, only numbering some 400, and divided into eight companies, seven were on top of the hill and two pieces of artillery. At 10 o'clock, A.M., we heard some musketry. Colonel sent me out to see what was going on, found out that one gun was in danger and two companies likely to be surrounded. I reported to the Colonel; met him half ways, ordered up the 14th Ky., sent support the 16th. A brisk fire had already commence on both sides. The guns came down the hill all safe which greatly encouraged our men. Co. C. and G. protected the guns as they came down the hill and actually dispersed one regiment, and checked another. Sergeant Major Smith went to call in Capt. Tannyhill's and Capt. Edgar's companies which held the advance post, and whilst retiring both companies were surrounded. Here the most desperate engagement took place. They actually fought hand to hand. Company C. and G., ably commanded by the gallant Major Kershner, were finally compelled to retire, their ammunition being expended and the men perfectly exhausted. Capts. Mills, Monroe, Harn and Vandorn held the right while the other two companies retired. The 14th now came to our relief and held the ground as long as they could, and then both regiments were ordered to rally on the reserve, back of the town on a high hill. Then, such a confusion I never saw in all my life, but luckily we had six guns in a position back of town by this time which protected and in fact saved both of these regiments from being annihilated. Two rebel regiments advanced, coming down the hill, on the double quick, whole they still had at the least calculation 4 regiments in reserve. The moment we brought up our reserve, the very sight of them made them fall back, and the six guns kept up a continual fire. They planted two guns and fire with a 12 pound gun and a 6 pounder, fired a few shots at us with very good range, but ours was too much for them. Captain Edgar's and Tanneyhill's companies stood the whole brunt of the affair. Every man had to look out for himself and some actually escaped that same day yet. WE held our position behind town until dusk, and having expended most of our ammunition, out of provisions, no forage and also before hand determined to return to the Gap, we retreated in good order and marched into camp early the next morning.

The 16th had one killed (Capt. Edgar) and fifty-two taken prisoners, among them Capt. Tannyhill, Sergeant Major, two men out of Co. C, Robert Mathews and Dan Hough, and the balance out of Edgar's and Tannyhill's Co.s. A flag of truce, was on the ground today, brought away Capt. Edgar's remains, and also received reliable information that but few out of this number are slightly wounded. The wounded in Co. C, Jacob McGeary - slightly, by spent ball on the breast. Sammy Reisinger, two fingers shot off on the left hand. Missing - Hough and Mathews, attached to Tannyhill's Co. at the time. James Hoke, a prisoner. Company C, has the credit of saving our guns. Lieuts. De Silva, Corn and Vores actually broke through the enemy's lines and rejoined their commands before we got into camp. A Corporal and private out of Edgar's Co. captured a Lieut. Col. (named Gorden) belonging to the 11th Tenn. Regt., disarming him, and brought him on the hill behind the town. The gentleman confessed himself that it was the coolest thing he ever heard of. We lost all our knapsacks, overcoats, blankets and haversacks with two day's rations, and some of the men actually were so fatigued that they buried their rifles and afterwards caught up with the Reg. Those that were taken prisoners done the same trick, to some extent. Major Kershner had his horse shot from under him, lost his sword and saddle. Capt. Mills lost coat and sword. Friend Boone, the 16th fought like tigers, but the great misfortune was, the companies were entirely too much scattered, but they held there ground nobly, actually refusing to come away when ordered until their ammunition was exhausted. The rebel force is estimated at 8,000 and their loss is reported 110 killed and wounded. But the great bore on us is, that they got possession of the hill and held it, although the boys claim it was but driving in our pickets. The 14th Ky. had several wounded and lost all their knapsacks. The rebel Gen. Stevens has already sent in a proposition for an exchange of prisoners, which I hope will be accomplished in a few days.

We got all the forage this side of Clinch river, confiscated some good horses, mules, &c. and got licked like thunder for it. I got a blooded mare worth $1,000, at least the owner said he refused that at one time.

Send us more men for the 16th. The enemy has a force of 25,000 between this and Knoxville. We have reliable information that they evacuated Chattanooga and will invade Kentucky, where Morgan made his exit. Boone, this is very complicated, as I got it up in a great hurry and still excited from this little affair.

Your friend and chum,


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