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The letter's author describes a scouting mission the 16th Ohio made from their camp about 15 miles north, at Cumberland Ford, Kentucky, to within a short distance of Confederate held Cumberland Gap.
From the 16th Regiment.
CAMP AT CUMBERLAND FORD,
Dear Mother: -- I am in receipt of your kind letter, and was very happy to hear from you. I am in excellent health at present. On the evening of the 20th we received orders to draw four days rations and prepare to march, and on the morning of the 21st the whole brigade started towards Cumberland Gap. When we arrived within about two miles of the enemy's camp we were ordered to hault. Here General Carter sent a dispatch to Col. DeCoursey to send forward, with all haste, 12 of Capt. Taneyhill's men, and wished them to be volunteers and "good shots." The Captain asked the company who would volunteer, and every man jumped to his feet. He then took the first twelve, with Orderly Dill as their commander, and away they started on double quick time. They were detailed to drive in the enemy's pickets, which they did in a very short time. They did not get to shoot at any of them, for the pickets were too fleet-footed for our boys. Orderly Dill captured one overcoat, three blankets, and a haversack full of provisions, which the pickets had left in their hasty flight. Our men haulted in sight of the Gap and remained there until evening, when Capt. Degar's company were sent out as pickets, and our men returned. Our regiment was then drawn up in divisions on the top of a high knob. About this time it commenced to snow very hard. We built fires, rolled ourselves up in our blankets, and layed down to rest. I could not sleep, for I was too cold. We arose in the morning about day-break. About a hundred of the 16th regiment went up within about six hundred yards of the enemy's breastwork's and commenced to skirmish with them. The enemy soon opened their batteries upon our men, but to no effect. In the meantime Capt. Whitmore's 9th Ohio Battery had taken another route, and soon opened upon the enemy. He shelled them out of some of their entrenchments, and dismounted one cannon and disabled another. He claims to have killed a large number of the rebels. It snowed all day. In the evening our skirmishers were drawn in, and we were marched around to where Capt. Whitmore's battery was stationed. Before leaving, however, we built a lot of large fires. After two hours hard marching we came to where the rest of the brigade was stationed. Here we received orders to build our fires and make ourselves as comfortable as possible, an order which we were not slow to obey. We all soon were lying around our fires, and I sound asleep. When I awoke in the morning, I learned that our battery had left for our Camp at this place, and that we were soon to follow. This made me, as well as all the rest, feel disappointed, for we had all thought that we were to renew the attack in the morning. But when we remembered that it was Sunday, and found that our General - neither wished to break the Sabbath nor expose his men to the inclemancy of the weather, we came to the conclusion that it was but right for us to return. The 16th Ohio Volunteers and the 9th Ohio Battery are all that were engaged on our side. We had not one man killed or wounded; two or three, however, had balls shot through their cloaks. The enemy are better fortified at the Gap that we had supposed. The have two 64-pounder cannon, four 24-pounders, four twelve pounders, and some 6-pounders. We can never take the Gap with this Brigade without more cannon. I went there with seventy-three rounds of cartridges, and returned with fifty, so that I had not as heavy a load coming back as going.
Give my love to father and Ella. Write soon, to
Your affectionate son,
WILLIAM B. TANEYHILL.
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