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Welch describes the Battle of Philippi, Virginia (West Virginia), including the fact his Company was one of three of the 16th Ohio's that did not participate in the battle, having been left at nearby Grafton to guard that city.
The letter was researched and transcribed by long time website contributor John Pierson, a likely descendant of 16th Ohio soldier Pvt. Enos Pierson, Company C.
For the Republican.
CAMP PHILLIPPI, VA., June 10, 1861.
Dear Father: After considerable delay, I again take up my pencil to let you know how we are getting along. We are now in camp in Phillippi, a small town on Valley River, 18 miles South-east from Grafton and about 14 miles North of Cheat Mountains. We did not get here in time to have a hand in the taking of this place — three companies of our regiment being kept back for the purpose of guarding Grafton; however, we did not lose much as the Secessionists did not make even an effort to withstand our forces, but retreated at the firing of the signal gun. There is no doubt of the bravery of the Northern soldiers. Those who witnessed the fight say the boys rushed down the hill side firing their guns, yelling at the top of their voices, driving the poor rebels before them like leaves before the coming storm. Many amusing stories are told of the fight. The enemy retreated southward and are now over forty miles from us. I conversed with an individual a few days ago, who had made his escape from them but a short time before, and he said there were now not more that 1000 of them in camp; that they were greatly dissatisfied.
Two companies had not returned since the taking of this place, and that quite a number were waiting for an opportunity to escape. Since that time, I understand one whole company has deserted, and we have got the Captain of it a prisoner. Had the attack on Phillippi been properly conducted, we could have taken every secessionist prisoner. Quite a number it is reported, were killed, but they were carried away as fast as shot down. But one of the Union men, Col. Kelly, of the Virg. regiment, was wounded, it is thought not mortally, as he is reported to be recovering. Quite an amount of provisions and about 600 stand of arms were captured. Our soldiers have entire possession of the town, and some of them are living in very fine houses. In three or four of the houses the soldiers have pianos, on which they make some rather gay music during their leisure hours. Perhaps you will not object to a short description:
Western Virginia you already know is a rough mountainous country. To me it seems but thinly settled. The soil I should think is good, but it is set up on edged so much that it is very hard to work. But little wheat is raised, corn being the principal product. What corn I have seen does not appear to be any better than it should be. This is quite a good country for grazing — have seen some very good cattle — should think it is a splendid place for sheep. Fruit grows in abundance — climate temperate and healthy — days rather warm, but nights cool. The farmers, or at least what I have seen, appear to be comfortably situated, yet few of them are what we call rich. I have not seen a good barn since I left Ohio — have seen but few horses — have not seen a garden that would compare with those I saw on the Ohio river. What roads I traveled were good. Timber I think is not quite so heavy as in Ohio. This is truly a beautiful country to travel over. To our unpracticed eyes it seems as if nature has almost overdone herself in furnishing such grand and magnificent scenery. Standing upon one of the highest hills, far in the distance may be seen the blue range of mountains, nature's everlasting chain, stretching away to the North and South, while here and there a peak prouder than the rest rears its rugged head above its fellows, piercing up into the blue ether, and as the eye turns from gazing upon these, it rests on the breakers clothed in living green, rolling off in vast sweeps like mighty waves of the sea. Such scenery is well calculated to stir up feelings of reverence and awe in the mind of the beholder. Who could be passive while beholding such mighty works of Him who fashioneth everything even according to his own will. But I must close. Excuse writing with a pencil, it was all I could get to write with. I remain your son,
J. B. WELCH.
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