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Letter author B. B. Brashear is the 16th OVI surgeon (later to become Medical Director of the entire 1st Army).
Letter author "WILSCOT" is unknown; speculation could be made he was Private William M. Scott, Company G, but no evidence supports this.
Kentucky, March 12, 1862.
Editor Advocate: The Sixteenth Ohio came into Kentucky on the 17th of December, and halted at Lexington. We went into camp on the beautiful Trotting Course near the city, where we staid nearly four weeks. We named our camp, Camp Clay. Our sick of whom we had about one hundred, after four days temporary lodgement in the Court House, were quartered in the spacious dormitory of Transylvania University, where they received the kind attentions so characteristic of the true-hearted and loyal people of that so lately threatened city. Lexington was the home of John C. Breckenridge, S. B. Buckner, Humphrey (Falstaff) Marshall, Roger Hanson, and some other noted rebels.
Col. Steedman's 14th Ohio was the first regiment from our noble State to enjoy the hospitalities of that aristocratic and wealthy and ancient city. Lexington is old compared with the cities of Ohio.
She use to wholesale cry goods, groceries, etc., to Louisville, and Cincinnati! If the 14th Ohio was welcome in Lexington, the 16th was more so; because the people now saw that Ohio troops came not neither to engraft any new code, nor to interpolate any strange doctrine, nor to disturb in any manner whatever the municipal regulations of their State -- they saw that they came as citizen-soldiers, their only object, to maintain the supremacy of the constitutional law; their only impulse, patriotism; and as such they bade them WELCOME. Every soldier in the Sixteenth will remember Lexington with an ever pleasing and grateful remembrance.
We appreciate the magnanimity and acknowledge the sympathy of loyal Kentuckians. On the 13th of January, we left Lexington for Somerset, Pulaski County, which place we reached on Sunday the 19th, while the battle at Webb's Cross Roads was in progress.
We had been assigned to the Twelfth Brigade under Gen. Carter, of East Tennessee, and were to aid in a combined movement upon Zollicoffer about the 21st or 22nd. But the daring rebel precipitated an attack upon Gen. Thomas on the 19th, when he hoped to conquer him by cutting off his forces in detail at a time when he thought concentration was not possible.
The result of that day's conflict has been recorded. From Lexington to Hall's Gap, the beginning of the mountainous regions of Kentucky as our route lay, the road is a beautiful smooth, well graded M'Adamized turnpike. At this Gap, we ascend the "Knobs" as they are called, where the mud roads begin; and such roads I never before saw. In civil life, they would have been declared impassable and no one would have ventured in travel over them. At Somerset, I had the pleasure to meet A. E. Mathews formerly of New Philadelphia. He is a volunteer in the 31st Ohio, Col. Walker.
He is on "extra duty" as artist for that Regiment. I saw some of his sketches. They are all good. His lithograph view of "Boon's Knob" where the turnpike crosses the Kentucky river, is very beautiful and true. He has his drawings lithographed in Cincinnati. When I parted with him he was on his way to the lithographer's with his sketch of the battle of Mill Springs, or Webb's Cross Roads.
We left Somerset on the 31st of January for London, the county seat of Laurel County, a distance of forty miles. For some portion of this route, the roads were worse than any we had previously traveled. Half way between Somerset and London is Sublimity Springs, on the right bank of Rockcastle River, nine miles from its junction with the Cumberland. This is an attractive and salubrious summer resort. There is a large and well ordered hotel here, capable of accommodating a hundred and twenty-five guests. It is patronized mostly from Louisville and Lexington.
The scenery of this location is peculiarly grand, picturesque, beautiful, bold. I can not describe it. The place is owned by a rebel and kept by a Union man and his intelligent family who were driven out of London because of their loyalty.
We were detained at Sublimity three days on account of rain and high water. In twenty-five days preceding this date it had rained twenty-one! It was almost impossible for us to move, especially with artillery, and baggage, and subsistence, and ammunition. The road on the other side of the narrow, deep, and swift Rockcastle, is very irregular and steep. I don't know what the grade is, but it appeared to be from fifteen to twenty degrees. At all events, nobody in Ohio would think of driving a loaded wagon up such a steep. Our artillery, the 9th Ohio battery, Capt. Whitmore, formerly of Stark County, near Navarre, was in advance of us. Without the combined aid of his and our men, all who could put their shoulders to the wheels, sixteen mules or as many horses could not draw a gun or a caisson up the miry hill side. The mud was up to the horses' bellies, and the rain falling continuously. In this mud the men stood and worked and lifted and tugged at the ponderous wheels of the artillery wagons, until little by little, they reached the summit. Our own baggage wet and heavy, the men carried upon their backs, while the poor and almost exhausted mules slowly dragged the empty wagons. I never knew the value of the mule until I saw him at work in the army. For the hardest labor to which draught animals can be subjected, while at the same time they are only half fed and driven by men not their owners, mules are far superior to horses. We reached London on the 7th of February, where we rested two days. London is an old town, worn out, dilapidated -- containing one to two hundred inhabitants. It has a new Academy building of modern architecture which is used as a hospital for sick soldiers.
Miss Mary Hazlett, sister of Dr. Hazlett of New Philadelphia, was lately a teacher in this Academy. Some of Zollicoffer's rebel soldiery mutilated the interior of the building when they first occupied London, last October. They also, Vandal like, broke up and threw out some of the chemical and philosophical apparatus which was of the best and costliest quality, belonging to the Academy. Rebel cavalry picketed in the Academy yard.
My next letter will describe our trip to this place, our reconnaissance to Cumberland Gap, yesterday, etc.
B. B. BRASHEAR,
Surgeon, 16th Ohio Reg't.
Cumberland Ford, Ky.,
March 19, 1862.
Editor Advocate: While at Somerset and after the battle of Mill Springs, or Fishing Creek, or Webb's Cross Roads or Logan's Cross Roads, I visited the secesh wounded. Among them was an educated and intelligent lieutenant who belonged to the 16th Mississippi -- "Mississippi Tigers" they called themselves -- from whom I learned something of the disappointments, the expectations, and the hopes, of the rebels. He bitterly denounced their General, Gen. B. Crittenden -- called him a craven and a drunkard. He said they confidently believed that their government would very soon be recognized by both England and France. I said to him, suppose you are conquered at Bowling Green as you have been here, what will you then do? he answered: "That would prolong the conflict between us. We will contest every inch of ground between this and the Rio Grande." The "Tigers" fought desperately and well, and together with the 16th Alabama or "Bull Pups" as they styled themselves, were repulsed at the point of the bayonet by the Minnesota, Indiana, and the Ohio 9th (German regiment.) These "Tigers," and "Bull Pups" went through London last Fall on their way to Wildcat, with their trowsers and sleeves rolled up, blustering and bragging and boasting of their prowess and of the heroism of the chivalry, telling the people in their chaste vernacular, "We done bound for Cincinnati now?
The country between Somerset and London being broken, rough, hilly, in part mountainous, it is but thinly settled. The soil is thin and poor. There are thousands of acres of unimproved land in this portion of Kentucky. Here and there at long intervals a log cabin presents itself surrounded by a small cleared patch which yields its indifferent crops for the sustenance of a stoical rustic and his timid spouse and astonished progeny. Only a few of the houses, and these being mostly new, have glass windows. We passed a few school houses on the way. They are such structures as were built for school houses in Ohio, from thirty to forty years ago. In the, windows are made by cutting out a log on one or two sides according to the amount of light deemed requisite, and closing the openings thus made with greased paper. The chimneys are made very wide, equal to one third or a half of one side of the house, thus being capable of receiving very long wood. They reminded me of Judge William Johnston, and that school house on Yellow Creek, where it took four boys to carry wood to keep the fire up, and six boys to carry water to keep the house from burning down. In this country, the children have to go long ways to school, and the people long ways to church -- for churches are as sparse as school houses, and long ways to the post-office. Between Somerset and London, by the direct road, a distance of forty miles, there is no post-office except for a short time in the summer at Sublimity Spring, which is half way between the two county seats. As to markets, the people have none that I know of, such as are within the reach of even the most unfortunately located farmer in Ohio.
Our troops have made some defensive works at London. They were commenced last Fall by our forces that pursued Zollicoffer. They are still incomplete, and their completion may never be demanded. After leaving London we passed over some very excellent land both cultivated and uncultivated, on our way to this Ford. There are also some good houses. They all have their chimneys outside at one end. if the house is large, you will observe two large masses of brick or stone marring the external symmetry of an otherwise passable dwelling.
The interior effect of this peculiarity is not noticeable, except that there are no closets, or cupboards, or wardrobes such as we obtain in putting up the chimney on the inside according to our custom in Ohio. The settlements along this route are old.
The first settlers came mostly from Powell's valley in Virginia, near Cumberland Gap. I talked with one old gentleman who is by times secesh, and by times union, owing to the propinquity of Secesh or Union soldiers to the confines of his ancient domain, who has been living for sixty years on his present farm in the valley of Striking Creek. He has an orchard of apple trees that look as if they had not been trimmed for thirty years. His house and out-buildings are about ready to topple over. It is doubtful whether the buildings or their venerable owner will the soonest fall. It is a noticeable fact in all this part of the proud State of Kentucky, that when a brick, or a board, or a post falls out its place, it is never put back. Leaving London, we came upon the footprints of the rebels. They seemed to have encamped upon every favorable location from there to the Gap. We soon learned to distinguish the loyal from the rebel farms by a very easy sign. The former were completely stripped of fence rails along the road side. Often we noticed that the houses too were mutilated. But on the other hand, a rebel's fences and buildings were left intact. But this letter is getting long. Particulars of our visit to Cumberland Gap must be reserved for a subsequent communication.
B. B. BRASHEAR.
Cumberland Gap, Tennessee,
August 15, 1862.
Messrs. Editors: Though not organized in your immediate vicinity, a few lines from the 16th Ohio, may not be uninteresting to your readers. Our organization at Camp Tiffin, our trip through Kentucky, and subsequent occupation of this natural stronghold, they are already familiar with.
Since our arrival here , June 18th, the monotony of camp life has only been broken by work upon the fortifications and an occasional foraging expedition inside the enemy's lines. One of the most important of these trips was entered upon Saturday morning, Aug. 2d, by the 26th Brigade, composed of the 16th and 42d Ohio, and the 22d Kentucky regiments under Acting Brigadier General J. F. DeCourcy, accompanied by six pieces of artillery under command of Lieut. Anderson of the 1st Wisconsin battery, and Lieut. Webster of the siege battery.
At five o'clock Saturday morning the Brigade left camp, having in charge two hundred wagons, and after driving in the rebel pickets, encamped the same evening on the brow of a hill overlooking Tazewell, the county seat of Clairborne county, Tennessee, and fourteen miles from Cumberland Gap. Four of the pieces were planted in front of camp, while the 16th Ohio with two pieces of artillery were stationed as pickets on the ground previously occupied by the rebels for the same purpose. The Brigade remained in camp Sunday, while the quartermasters spent their time confiscating rebel horses about town. On Monday morning the Brigade took up its line of march for Clinch river, seven miles distant, where the rebels were reported encamped, eight thousand strong. There was a slight skirmish near Lycomon, in which one rebel was killed and four or five wounded. Our loss nothing. Seventy wagons escorted by two companies of the 16th loaded within three-fourths of a mile of the river, and returned without accident. The Brigade re-occupied its camp near Tazewell, Monday evening and during Tuesday. The 14th Kentucky, which had been ordered up as a re-enforcement, acted as picket Tuesday and during the night.
Wednesday morning at 7 o'clock the 14th Kentucky was relieved by the 16th Ohio. Companies B and E were stationed one fourth of a mile in advance as outposts, the remainder, save companies C and G, picketed in different directions about the hill and ravines. Half an hour after, scattered firing was heard in the direction of the outposts, and the cannon accompanying them was ordered in. No uneasiness was felt for an hour when a simultaneous attack was made on all the pickets, the outposts being entirely surrounded. The outposts had twice been ordered in but failed to receive the message. They determined not to surrender, but to try to run the gauntlet and escape; but a concealed regiment opening fire on them at ten paces, killing Capt. Edgar of company B, and severely wounding Sergeant Major Beatty Smith, broke their ranks when every man for himself tried to make their own way through the lines, and about half succeeded. The remainder were taken prisoners. The rear pickets had been attacked by four regiments who had taken position during the previous night, guiding their movements by cow bells. The reputation of the 16th Ohio was at stake, and the pickets fought desperately. A part of company D supported a rifled Parrot on the brow of the hill, which poured incessant volleys of grape and canister death into the rebel ranks. Then charges were made to capture the piece by a rebel regiment, and once they were so certain of success that their commander ordered them to seize the gun and run it in the bushes; but they had reckoned without their host. The cannon, double shotted, opened on them at twenty paces, mowing down almost an entire company; and while the gallant little fragment of company D poured a deadly volley into them, Major Kershner ordered the piece to retire, and withdrew the pickets to the rear of the ravine. At this juncture Major K's horse was shot from under him, and during the remainder of the fight he gave his commands on foot. he was the only field officer engaged in the fight, and maneuvered his regiment (the 16th Ohio) admirably. For one hour companies C and G held the whole rebel force in check, when the 14th Kentucky came to their assistance, and together they gradually retired, followed by four regiments of rebel infantry. When our regiments had retired a sufficient distance to be out of danger, our artillery back of Tazewell opened on the rebels, when they gave a fine exhibition of a skedaddle back over the hill. They replied with a twelve pounder, but after having it twice dismounted, drew off.
Major Kershner cannot receive too much credit for the manner in which he conducted the fight, and his success in bringing his men and guns from the field with as little loss. He is a cool, brave man, well versed in tactics, respected and obeyed by his men, and deserving of a higher position in the service.
Dr. Chase, Assistant Surgeon 16th Ohio, was the only medical officer in the fight, and sustained the reputation of his profession, being the last man to leave the field, though the balls created anything but agreeable music about his ears.
General DeCourcy was on the field during the latter part of the action. During the fight, the 42d Ohio guarded the Virginia road, to prevent the enemy from flanking, and the 22d Kentucky supported the four guns back of Tazewell.
Two of the 22d Kentucky were wounded while on picket Tuesday, and succeeded in killing two rebel cavalry, and wounding five or six. Capt. Edgar's body was brought in by a flag of truce Sunday and interred with appropriate honors. Our regiment lost one killed and fifty two wounded and missing. Dr. Brashear has today accompanied a flag of truce to Tazewell, to see two of our wounded, prisoners. The Knoxville Register admits one hundred killed on their side, and we are informed on reliable authority that four hundred will not more than account for their killed and wounded. Corporal Paul Wilder, of company B, captured Lieut. Col. Goodwin, of the 11th Tennessee, and brought him into camp.
Off Mouth Yazoo River, Miss.
January 22, 1863.
Editors Advocate: It is a long time since I last wrote you, since last your readers were worried with a tedious letter from the 16th Ohio, and if my remarks are not sufficiently brief, I will give them a privilege preachers do not -- they may go to sleep.
I suppose all are acquainted with our trip from "Cumberland Gap" to the Ohio River, in quest of something to eat, and know that we took an almost impracticable route through the mountains for the sake of the fine scenery, and pure air, and have heard how we drank green pond water and mud to ascertain their effects upon the human system, how hunger gnawed our vitals, and we gnawed -- well, anything, when we could get it; how John Morgan thought to teach us philosophy by obstructing our path with rocks and trees, any how for his pains we showed him the expansive force of Union powder, and the penetrative effects of northern lead. This they may know, but they cannot imagine how beautiful the Ohio River looked to us, nor how near our native State approximated to Paradise.
We can appreciate the feelings of Moses as he stood upon Pisgah's top and looked over into the promised land, but our joy must have been greater than his for we were permitted to go over.
We went to Portland, Ohio, where we remained three weeks. During this time we were clothed and joined to the army of Western Va., marched to the Kanawha Salt Works, drove the rebels out, retraced our steps to the Ohio River, and embarked for Memphis, Tenn, to take part in the great expedition against Vicksburg.
We found Memphis a miserable secession hole, and often wished for some such man as Butler. he is worth all the pampering Generals we have.
Our expedition being ready, we embarked Dec. 19, and anchored in the Yazoo the 25th. Proceeded up ten miles and landed on the 26th in the rear of Vicksburg. 27th skirmished with them and they killed several of our men. On Sunday the 28th our men formed in line in front of the rebels and after a hard fight through the woods and over bayous, succeeded in driving them behind their earthworks on the hill side. Gen. Morgan's Division did the principal fighting, and sustained the heaviest loss. All that night the men lay on their arms within a few hundred yards of the enemy, while our Surgeons were busy sawing off arms and legs, and binding up wounds till the gray dawn. That was my first sight of blood.
Next morning all were busy getting ready for the afternoon's work, for we were told a charge was to be made; the rebel batteries were to be taken by storm. Morgan's Division, and DeCourcey's Brigade were to do the principal work. Both expostulated, for they knew the task could not be accomplished, and they disliked to see their troops cut to pieces, for no purpose; but they were over ruled, and the charge was made. Gen. Morgan is a true gentleman, a brave man and good General, and has now the entire confidence of his command. he knew where he led, the men would follow, but the opposition was too great. Fallen trees, deep bayous, and ravines, had to be crossed in the charge and all under a galling fire of musketry and artillery, and thus it was for half a mile. The men took the first works, but scores of hidden cannon now belched the grape into their ranks, decimating them at every volley. men of flesh could not hold against the iron hail, and some one had blundered in not bringing up the support. The 16th Ohio stood till every officer who entered the action, save one Captain and two Lieutenants, had fallen, then all fell back outside of musket range. The 16th had lost 250 or 300, the 54th Indiana still heavier, and thus through the Division. The other Divisions lost some men, but not heavily. The killed and wounded in our Division was 504 and the missing as many more. That night again were the Surgeons busy. Sleeves up to the elbows, coats off, arms smeared with blood, sawing, cutting, sewing -- such was the order of the night with them. Busiest of the busy was Dr. Brashear, Surgeon of Morgan's Division, in his supervision of the field and general hospitals for the wounded. Heavy was the task, and well was it performed. He received the undivided commendation of all the surgeon's who co-operated with him. For four days and nights he scarcely rested an hour. Well did he earn his promotion to the rank of "Medical Director 1st Army Corps, Army of the Mississippi." Pardon my digression.
Tuesday the 30th we went out twice with flags of truce to bring our dead, but were fired on. Some of our wounded were living, and still lying on the ground. In the evening an old man, shot in the arm by a shell, got up and ran off the field, the rebels firing on him all the while. He reported others still living, but we could not get to them.
Next day, Wednesday the 31st, our flag of truce was respected, and we were permitted to bring off our dead, and bury them. We brought off 91, they having buried the remainder. The clothing was stripped off a good many. We buried them, and that night withdrew to our boats, and the next day were in the Mississippi again.
In my next I will speak of our capture of Post Arkansas, Ark., and six or eight thousand rebels.
From the 16th Ohio Regiment.
Before Vicksburg, La.,
Feb. 26, 1863.
Editors Advocate: Since our repulse on the Yazoo, in which we were badly beaten, and the little affair at Post Arkansas in which we repaid the rebels with interest, and wiped out a part of the disgrace brought upon us by the desire of a double-star-shoulder strapped gentleman, we have been camped here at Young's Point, La., opposite, and in sight of, the rebel city which is the object of so much interest to both armies. With its fall is broken an other spinal column of the hydra-backed rebellion.
The country here is low, full of bayous, (swamps) which are the producers of frogs, mosquitoes, inconvenience and sickness. The soil is rich, absorbs much water, and consequently soon dries. The weather is very changeable, one day warm and beautiful like spring - next chilly, damp, and gloomy. It rains about one third of the time, and horrible mud is the result. Leaves are putting forth, the green grass is making its appearance, and some of the hardier plants are in bloom; yet there is scarcely a man in the whole army who does not detest the "Sunny South."
Sickness prevails to an alarming extent, and makes sad havoc in our ranks. The Surgeons are blamed, the officers are blamed, the weather is blamed, and the men no doubt are most of all to blame. It is an incontrovertible fact that men in the army have to be watched like children at home, if they would be kept clean. There are exceptions. Typhus fever, and small-pox are in camp.
Dr. Brashear, of your town, fills the responsible position of Medical Director of the 13th Army Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand. His duties are arduous, but he has the reputation of discharging them promptly and faithfully, and is highly esteemed by the Surgeons over whom he has supervision.
In the Cincinnati Commercial, of the 7th inst., in a scathing article upon the inefficiency of the Medial Department of this army, the correspondent has paid Dr. Brashear a deserved compliment, which I quote:
"Among those who deserve well of their country, I must not fail to mention the ever active, ever faithful Dr. Brashear, the former Surgeon of the 16th Ohio, but now Medial Director of Morgan's Army Corps. I have been able to observe this gentleman under all the circumstances which have accompanied this army, and can attest his faithfulness and energy."
I visited "the canal" yesterday, and passed along its whole length. A heavy force is at work, and in a short time it could be finished. It is being made sixty feet wide, and deep enough to float our gunboats. Its length is a mile and a quarter.
We have been very unfortunate lately, losing our ram, "Queen of the West," and our gunboat "Indianola." The former was captured up Red River, from Capt. Ellett. He would have blown her up but for some sick of the crew whom he had not time to remove. Since then a boat supposed to be her was seen below Vicksburg, and it is feared that she may have captured or sunk the "Indianola," which was blockading the mouth of Red River. We have a reconnoitering force out today to ascertain whether or not our fears are groundless.
The 30th and 27th Ohio are here. The latter has part of a company of Germans from Dover. Major Hildt, Sgt. Major Haskins, and a company from your county belong to the former. John Pepper, a typo from New Philadelphia, belongs to the 83d Ohio, which is here.
Millkins Bend, La.,
30 miles above Vicksburg, Mar. 21,
Editors Advocate: We are having beautiful weather, but for comfort a little too warm. Fans are in demand, Peach, plum and cheery trees, and roses have been in bloom sometime. We have a nice camp ground here, and much more healthy than that at Young's Point. the "pay boss" has just been here, and left us a f our months supply of "greenbacks." We have new clothing and good rations, and the men are in fine spirits, ready for another "bout." You civilians have no idea how much braver a man feels when that vacuum in his pocket-book is filled and he knows that if he should be killed the wife and little ones at home could at least have new uniforms and more rations.
After our reverse at Chickasaw Bluffs, and the unnecessary loss of so many officers and men, our troops were very much demoralized, and ready to catch at any pretext for compromise, or a cessation of hostilities. All were gloomy, but copperheads (for we have some in the army) were exultant. They tho't their hour had come, and they worked zealously to discourage the already dispirited men. But we have them marked now, and well will they be remembered. Some pounced upon the Proclamation and showed (?) wherein Abraham lacked sense and judgment (?) others showed the great blunders in the conduct of the war, and how they might have been avoided, etc. This feeling has given way to better; the Proclamation has become a fixed fact; the conduct of the war is less fraught with error, sickness is waning, and copperheads are uneasy.
Most of the copperheads with us claim allegiance to the Democratic party, yet there are some who in name are Republicans. One of the meanest, and most false letters I have seen, was written by Capt. R. W. Liggett of Millersburg of Co. B. 16th Ohio, a man who claims to be a Republican. But politics is no excuse for denouncing the government in this her hour of trial.
The meanest traitors, however, Messrs. Editors, are those at home, to cowardly to come and help to do the fighting they remain at home, watching every opportunity to sow discord among their friends in the army. If they would join the rebels in the ranks we would only consider them enemies in war, but now they are branded as traitors forever. They went into ecstacies over discouraging letters written by our boys after we were repulsed, and had them trumpeted throughout the land. Their joy surely will be short lived.
The water is washing through the cut at Lake Providence, with a velocity that promises soon to make a channel that will pass the largest boats, but I never think the course of the Mississippi will be permanently changed.
We hear heavy firing every day in the direction of Vicksburg, and Hines's Bluffs. The steam dredges have the canal in front of Vicksburg nearly ready for the passage of boats. Com. Farragut is reliably reported as lying below Warrenton, with his fleet, having passed the batteries at Port Hudson. The fall of Vicksburg is considered here as certain, and the day can not be far distant. The men are anxious for the fray. If you will take care of the rebels at home, the boys will take care of those here. The men in the army like the conscription act, and hope it will soon be carried into effect.
Hoping the sentiments of the people at home are still in favor of the Government, and the war for the Union, I sign myself
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