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16th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Where was the regiment from
March 21 to 23, 1862

On Friday, March 21, the regiment, camped at Cumberland Ford, Kentucky, (the town of Pineville, today) set out on their second scouting mission, south, to Cumberland Gap. The Union force was of brigade strength, consisting of the 16th Ohio, three other regiments of infantry and an artillery battery. Cpl. Wolbach, Company E, describes the three day mission:

Another expedition was made to the vicinity of the enemy's works on the 21st, returning on the evening of the 23d. This time we left the Kentucky road several miles from the Gap and made a detour around to the Harlem [Harlan] road that approaches the Gap from the east. When within about a mile of the fortifications our advance guard, some Kentucky soldiers, was fired at by the rebel cavalry pickets who instantly fled. Orders were sent back t our regiment for twelve men and a Sergeant. They responded from Co. E, and were sent forward under Lieut. Liggett. Advancing rapidly they came to the infantry pickets' fire, it had been deserted in such haste that they left an overcoat, blanket and a well-filled haversack, which the forlorn hope appropriated, then advanced rapidly to where the road was blockaded by fallen timber, where a halt was ordered and the little detachment concealed themselves. Darkness came and with it a heavy fall of snow that for an hour or more melted as rapidly as it fell. The enemy could be heard a short distance ahead talking loudly and chopping more trees into the road. By and by the relief squad came, pickets were regularly established, and the night wore away. With early dawn our pickets were advanced to an eminence within easy rifle range of the forts and breastworks; a lively skirmish ensued that was tinctured at intervals by a discharge of artillery from the enemy's works.

Wolbach continues, describing the next two days, March 22 and 23:

About 10 A.M. Capt. Whetmore got two of his ten pound parrot guns in position on a point about half a mile to the right of us. Some of his shots were well directed, one passing through the top of a magazine in one of the rebel forts. Skirmishing continued all day with no fatal casualties on our side. That next night we changed position, and the next day retraced our steps leisurely to camp. We had now surely received our baptism of fire. We had heard the zip of the enemy's bullets and knew just how a fellow feels when a shell screams in dangerous proximity over his head.

In his diary, Pvt. Robert Newt Gorsuch, Company B, tells us about the skirmish:

Friday, March 21: Start to Gap in morning. On picket 1/2 mile from Gap. Snowed all night. Had to sleep on ground without tents.

Saturday, March 22: Went out skirmishing. Had two shots at the enemy. Ball whistled close to my head. Just now I am sitting on the hill close to the Gap. The cannons are roaring like the loudest thunder. 12 o'clock. We have dismounted one of the guns. Our skirmish here have killed several of their men. 4 o'clock P.M. The rebel guns are more silent. Our guns still firing late in evening. Start over hollow and encamp. Cannons cease firing. Sleep by big fire in woods without tents. Eat crackers boiled in water and salt.

Sunday, March 23: Out cannons start for camp as we have not men enough to take the place. Enemy fire their cannons at us. Infantry start for camp.

After almost six months of training, marching and camping, this was the regiment's first real taste of battle, somewhat minor as it was, but with enough energy and danger to awaken the soldiers to the reality of battle and the knowledge someone was trying to kill them.

* Gorsuch quote taken from Civil War Diaries and Selected Letters of Pvt. Robert Newton Gorsuch, Company B, recently published in book form by Newt Gorsuch's great grandson, Everett Gorsuch Smith, Jr. The book is available for purchase from various Internet sources.

Period map showing the approximate route of the 16th Ohio on its scouting mission from camp at Cumberland Ford to Cumberland Gap. Based on other maps of the time, it is possible the regiment left the main road, known as The Kentucky Road, marched east along Mill Road then south southeast along the Harlan Road to Cumberland Gap.
image from Library of Congress
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