The following letters were written by the regimental chaplain, E. B. Raffensberger. In them he writes about the 14th Ohio's forced march from Camp Dick Robinson to Camp Wild Cat, and the resulting action seen there. It was the first taste of battle seen by the three years' regiment and as such made quite an impression on many of its members. The letters were printed in the Toledo Daily Herald & Times and the Daily Toledo Blade.
Toledo Daily Herald & Times, Saturday, October 26, 1861 (page 3).
Mt. Vernon, Ky., Oct. 20th, '61.
This has been a strange, eventful Sabbath. Our regiment has made a Sabbath day's journey, not towards "Jerusalem"' but towards "Wild Cat." Yesterday morning we left Camp Dick Robinson, and reached to "Crab Orchard," a distance of 18 miles. Our boys felt quite used up, but this morning news came that firing commenced at Wild Cat about sunrise, and messengers were sent for help, as Zollicoffer with 8,000 men was surrounding Garrard, with only two or three thousand. We started in fine spirits--the boys saying they would walk their feet off to see a fight. We intended to camp out four miles north of Mt. Vernon, but Col. Steedman concluded to tarry about two hours, and then start and march all night. Wild Cat Camp is about ten miles distant--the regiment will reach it by morning.
This morning I went in advance and did all I could to fill up mud holes with fence rails so that our boys would not have to go ankle deep in the mud. While engaged in filling a tremendous hole, with the aid of several boys whose help I had requested, a secessionist came up and swore ' at me for pulling sown his fence. I ordered him to shut up and not say another word on that subject. I am sorry that I did not arrest him and hold on to him until the regiment came up. I was armed with a loaded revolver.
This is strange work for the Sabbath, but I feel that I am doing perfectly right--it is God's cause. I feel ashamed of Kentucky--she is not doing her duty. The mountaineers are all right, but the "blue grass people" are shaky. We shall now be cut off from communication, I fear, with home and you must not be surprised if you seldom hear from us. We are in a strange country. The mountains are much like those of Vermont. The scenery is grand, and the way becomes more rugged at every step. We shall have a night march of thrilling interest. We have Barnett's (Cleveland) Artillery, 6 pieces, 150 men, and as many horses connected with our regiment. They are pleased with us and we with them and the mountaineers with both. Those latter, line the road and cheer us on. We tell them they ought to be at Wild Cat. They say that 400 out of 700 voters are there!
Send you letters to Mount Vernon, Rock Castle County, until further notice.
E. B. RAFFENSPERGER.
Dr. Irplin's Office, Monday Morning,
Last night our regiment made a forced march for Camp Wild Cat, and passed this point about 9 o'clock. Before leaving, Colonel STEEDMAN gave all who desired the privilege of remaining, but only one or two from each company tarried at the encampment of yesterday afternoon (Bemis Forks Church) some five miles north from Mount Vernon. I tarried at Dr. Irplin's over night and expect to follow the boys this morning, and shall drop this letter in the post office at Mount Vernon. The news last night was that the enemy is in large force, three miles on the other side of Camp Wild Cat--but cannot approach on account of obstructions which Garrard has placed in the road. The enemy were engaged yesterday in clearing it away, and perhaps they will get through this morning, and will be met by our regiment and other recruits. The procession of our regiment followed by a battery of 6 guns, was several miles long. It was 2 o'clock this morning before the last wagon passed. I never saw a body of men in better spirits than our men. --The sick have nearly all recovered and all feel strong enough tonight. It is said that 12 guns are to be sent forward, each throwing ball weighing 13 lbs.
E. B. R.
A note from Rev. Mr. R. to one of the Cincinnati papers says, that when the 14th reached Wildcat, they found the Indiana boys at it doing terrible execution. BARNETTS' battery was quickly got in position and blazed away louder than any, which was kept up for a short time--when it lulled away, and the wounded began to come in. After a little a re-engagement, which lasted more than an hour, more terrific than the first, was had. --He spent the P. M. in the Hospital where Drs. DANIELS, SLOAT and SCHENCK, were busy dressing the wounds of the gallant fellows who went down in the engagement. No details are given save that the rebel loss was fearfully great.
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From the Daily Toledo Blade, Saturday, October 26, 1861 (page 2).
THE WAR IN KENTUCKY.
We are permitted to copy the following extracts of a letter from Rev. E. B. RAFFENSPERGER, Chaplain of the 14th Ohio Regiment, to his family in this city. It furnishes the latest information received from Camp Wild Cat, including the evacuation of the rebel and the retreat of ZOLLICOFFER:
CAMP WILD CAT, Oct. 22, 1861.
Since my last from the office of Dr. Josslin yesterday morning, I have realized something of the horrors of war. We reached this Camp, which is situated in a region much like that in the neighborhood of Johnson, Vt., but in all its primitive wildness. The points secured by our military men are fortified by nature. The rocks are as high as the palisades on the Hudson.
Until Saturday morning Col. GARRARD, (in whose tent I am now writing,) had only 600 men and was menaced by 6,000 secessionists who had vowed "to take him and his little band on Sunday before breakfast, or go to hell." But the Regiments came pouring in. Ours made a forced march and came about 40 miles in 38 hours.--When we reached camp the firing was going on in terrific style. Our heavy guns were wheeled up to the edge of a high precipice overlooking a valley in which the enemy lay. Soon they spoke out, and every discharge was followed by a second--the discharge of the shell.
In a few minutes all ceased. Then the saddest part of our duties commenced. Our wounded were brought in. Dr. DANIELS received the appointment of Brigade Surgeon. He had the assistance of several surgeons and requested me to stay with him. I was able to render some assistance and helped to extract with my own hand a ball nearly one inch long from the side of a poor Kentucky soldier. I have it in my possession. So far as heard from we have charge of 18 wounded, including 3 secessionists, and 3 are dead. We shall probably have about 3 more.--The others are doing well. The secessionists are kindly cared for. We have the sick in a cave.
There are 3 Chaplains here. Yesterday I held religious services in the cave. About 30 were present and all kneeled in prayer and nearly all were in tears. This morning I asked Brother IRVINE, of Ind., to conduct the services and the feeling was the same.
We begin to realize the horrors of war. The killed and wounded all belong to the Indiana eed (?) and Kentucky Cavalry. The brave men of the 14th have had to chance as yet to show themselves. Last night at 12 o'clock we heard firing, and in a few minutes it sounded as if all the artillery in the Unites States were belching forth their thunders, and then the loud cannon chimed in and we had sublimity indeed. The noise of firing can be heard in these mountains for 18 or 20 miles. It was discovered that the attack was nothing but the appearance of 2 men near the fortifications. This was the signal for all to let fly.
Gen. Scheoff, our commander, has just arrived from Washington, was very much displeased at the waste of powder and shot. I had a long talk with him last night. He is a Russian by birth and has been in battles where 6,000 were killed and wounded. He is a Christian, married to an accomplished lady, a daughter of an Episcopal minister. When he spoke to me about his family he shed tears. He is no coward by any means. Yesterday morning he was in the thickest of the fight. The bullets flew like hail and he went to a spot where his horse was exposed and restless and where no one dared to go. He went himself without fear, because, as he said, "I trust in God." A bullet passed between his legs.
Our boys are all in good spirits and doing well.
We hear of Postmasters in this region escaping to the mountains and leaving all behind. One was captured a few days ago and a key was taken from his pocket and an extemporaneous Postoffice established on Wild Cat Mountains.--This region formerly was infested with Wild Cats-hence the name. Yours, &c.
P.S.--I have just been invited to participate in the funeral services of the two Indiana boys who were killed. They will be buried with military honors on the spot where they fought so bravely. Our colonels were unwilling to let us attend to these services, for fear the enemy might shell us, as their camp is only half a mile off; but it is reported that Zollicoffer has retreated and taken with him twenty wagons loaded with wounded. All is still up to this hour (12 m.)
LATER.--I saw a man just now loaded down with blankets, &c., taken from the Secesh camp. They left, he says, early this morning. We shall be compelled to follow them now.
The Cincinnati Gazette of this morning (October 26,) says:
"The 14th, 38th and 16th Ohio, and two Tennessee regiments are now in hot pursuit of the rebels, and it is not improbable that hot and bloody work has been done since these straggling particulars reached US.
The ball has fairly opened on "the dark and bloody ground," and it is very safe to predict that nowhere during the progress of the present war will it be carried on with more fierceness and unflinching bravery upon our side.
By next accounts we expect to hear of Zollicoffer being driven with terrible loss from the soil of Kentucky.
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From the Daily Toledo Blade, Tuesday, October 29, 1861 (page 2).
BATTLE OF WILD CAT.
CAMP WILD CAT, Ky.,
EDITOR BLADE:--A few items in reference to the battle of Wild Cat mountain may be interesting to your readers. There is nothing beautiful in the name of the spot on which our regiment is now encamped, but the term "Wild Cat" is said to be exceedingly appropriate. Until recently, these high knobs and these awful ravines were the undisturbed haunts of all sorts of wild animals. The scenery is all that the most enthusiastic admirer of nature could wish.
Our regiment began to feel restless at camp Dick Robinson, and the boys were delighted with the report that Zollicoffer was advancing with an immense force to cut off the brave Col. Garrit, encamped with a regiment of 600 efficient men on these heights (the balance of his men were sick.) It touched our hearts to hear of this little band being surrounded by a force of 10,000. We were order to leave camp Dick Robinson on Saturday morning, Oct. 19th, and in our rear came six pieces of Barnett's artillery, with 120 horses and 150 men. The boys of that regiment were glad to be with us and we were glad to be with them, and the Kentuckians were glad to see us both. It did our souls good to hear the cheers of the people as we passed along. They regarded us as deliverers, and could hardly believe their own eyes when they saw our brave boys. This regiment has won a great name and stands higher in the estimation of Kentuckians than any other. We made a forced march, traveling day and night until Monday morning at 10 o'clock, when we reached the scene of war in the midst of a battle. Our boys had marched 45 miles in 39 hours, but they acted as if they had just started from Toledo. The sick who were not actually confined to the hospital, all suddenly recovered, and all were eager for a fight. In a few moments our brave Colonel was seen, stationing the men along a ridge where an attack was expected every moment. The guns were wheeled up to the edge of the edge of a precipice and soon belched forth their awful thunders, and sent deadly missiles into the valley where the enemy were concealed. They looked for no such demonstration from us; but they had the impudence to send us some ball and chain which whizzed over our heads and lodged in a mountain near us. Their balls were not like ours. When they lodged their work was done; but when ours lodged they just commenced their work of death. A few shells soon silenced them. Then we began to see some of the horrors of war. Our surgeon, Dr. Daniels, received the high honor from General Shoerpff of an appointment as Brigade Surgeon for the present. He was aided by Dr. Sloat and one or two others.
The wounded were soon brought in, and it has been found that 18 of our men from the Kentucky Cavalry, 33d Indiana and Col. Garrit's were wounded and two of the Indiana boys were killed. It is supposed that at least 100 of the rebels were killed and wounded. Our boys saw at least 20 dead upon the field of battle, and it is reported some 50 wagon loads of wounded were taken off in the rapid advance of the enemy towards their homes in Tennessee. The gallant soldiers of the 14th wore long faces after the battle was over. They seemed to think it was hard to make so long and rapid a march and to do no more.
This camp now contains the two Tenn.; Col. Connel's Ohio 17th; Col. Garrit's Ky. regiment and the artillery company, and more are coming; and sad to relate Zollicoffer is going,
The boys are bringing in all sorts of trophies--blankets, swords, old flint muskets, canteens, knapsacks, etc., etc.
By the kindness of Col. Garritt I have been permitted to copy from a memorandum book the following items. The book was found in the camp which was deserted yesterday (Tuesday) morning: "Left Cumberland Ford on the 17th, marched towards Rock Castle, (the river North of Wild Cat mountain.) 18th--marched all day in the rain and camped at night within six miles of the enemy. 19th--advance guard fired on by enemy's scouts--one man killed on each side; our men captured 5 horses, 12 beeves and a lot of commissary stores. A general fight expected on the 20th. 20th--We hear of a blockade in road; have orders to prepare three days rations and leave our wagons and pursue the enemy."
It is said that Zollicoffer swore he would take Garritt "before breakfast last Sabbath or go to hell." You know the result. Our boys are in fine spirits--all doing well, and all eager to pursue the fugitives.
Let all letters for the present be directed to camp Wild Cat, Ky.
From the Daily Toledo Blade, November 2, 1861 (page 2).
CAMP 3 MILES NORTH OF LONDON, KY.
We bade farewell to the splendid mountain scenery of Wild Cat, on Friday noon and made an advance of ten miles on the territory desecrated by the rebels. I have heard and read before of the horrors of war, but never did my eyes behold such sights. We passed the camping ground of Zollicoffer's men and saw the ruin that they made.--They laid waste everything upon which they laid their murderous hands. On one farm, some four miles North of this, our boys counted the heads of 54 oxen that the scoundrels had stolen and killed and left upon the ground, apparently for no other purpose than to do an injury to the poor people of this State.
The land here is poor and it seems to be hard for the farmers to make the two ends meet. Many of them are completely ruined. This part of the country is full of exiles from Barboursville, a place 27 miles distant.
When we reached this place on Friday, Zollicoffer was only 13 miles distant. He is probably 60 miles off now. If he should return with his 6,000 men now and fire on us, he might give us trouble, but this is not likely. He is scared almost out of his wits. He has probably fallen back to the Cumberland Gap. Our boys all want to proceed, and the artillery men ask no better sport than the privilege of "shelling him out of the Gap," and going on to Tenn. If we can seize the railroad in that State, some 40 miles beyond the Gap, the rebels will be conquered. This will cut off communication with Richmond. As soon as provision can be made for feeding this immense multitude, we will go on. The country is robbed and destroyed by the invaders, and we must depend on what we can get from the North.
FIVE O'CLOCK, P.M.--It is reported that Zollicoffer is only 24 miles distant, and is ravaging the country, stealing all he can lay hands on. A darkey belonging to Mr. Pitman, says: "Ole Zollicoffer brought de debil wid him, but de people from Ohio brought de Lod Almighty wid dem." We are anxious to pursue, and just as soon as we can go with safety, Col. Bradley, Col. Woodford's Cavalry, and the two Tenn. regiments will move on and destroy him.
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