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United States. Army. Ohio Infantry Regiment, 21st - MS 562: Transcripts

Transcripts - Box 13: Henry Alban

June 12, 1889

Findlay June 12 /89

Colonel Arnold McMahan

Dear Colonel

Yours of the 10 inst is received. Some six or seven years ago, before Lieut Vance wrote the history of the part the 21st played in the battle of Chickamauga a part which appeared in the Cincinnati Com. Gazette of May 25 1889. Before he wrote to me for a Statement of the particulars of the the movement in which the right wing of the regiment was retired and a change of front effected just previous to the charge made by the enemy between three and Four oclock on Sunday Sept 20 1863. adding "I considered that movement the one that saved the army from utter destruction (I could not see it in that light) and to you belongs the credit." I gave it to him, as nearly as I can recollect in the following language. Between three and four oclock the enemy after having made two unsuccessful attempts to break our line during the day, were preparing for a last desperate charge. The Union troops on our right had been forced back so that the rebs were on our flank. Discovering this I sent a Lieut (I think on studying the matter over it was acting Lieut. Wilson Brown) to Colonel McMahan for permission to relieve the right wing of the regiment over the brow of the hill for the double purpose of facing the enemy and getting a better position, for you will remember undoubtedly that the regiment was drawn diagonally across the brow of the hill with the right wing on the face next to the enemy and the left just over the brow. In this exposed position the right suffered terribly in the two previous charges, having lost fully half their numbers in killed and wounded besides the usual number of Skulkers. The messenger was not gone over one minute and a half certainly not more than two minutes till he returned with the verbal message to me "Take charge of the right wing and use your own judgment" The short time in which the messenger returned with the order shows conclusively that you were in your place or you could not have been so easily found. After establishing the new line we improvised a breastwork of fallen timbers and such other available material as we could readily get but before we could complete it the enemy opened upon us and came within thirty feet of us before we Succeeded in checking them. I do not now recollect that Lieut. Vance made a single suggestion during this movement or at any othore other time during the day nor did he ever claim to me till very recently. He was brave and did his duty well for his age and experience. I do not think he wishes to detract from the credit due to others but he naturally wishes to appropriate a large Share of the honors and in this case there was not enough to go round. As to the importance of the movement I have little to say. It was evident to me that in our decimated condition and exposed position we could not frame withstand another such a charge as we had twice before repulsed and if the enemy had broken our time So early as four oclock the results might have been disastrous whereas by the advantage gained we were able to hold them in check till nightfall which afforded Gen Thomas an opportunity to readjust his line. As to his assertion that neither of us knew what to do, could only have been true so far as he was concerned because there was not a moment of time lost in getting permission and making the change after the enemy were discovered on our flank. Again he says "Capt. Alban said who Shall give the order? I said, you are the ranking officer, you give the order and we will obey" He seems not to have known anything about my sending a messenger to you for permission to make the change which alone oversets his claim to having made the suggestion for change of front[.] I will simply say that I did not think any person thought me such a consummate fool as to not know that a captain ranked higher than a 2nd Lieut and had the right to command. I think therefore that all who know me will readily understand that I am not accustomed to surrender my rights so easily. And now to sum up the whole matter. There was very little credit due anyone for taking in the situation. It was simply this. The enemy were forming on our flank[.] there was not an enlisted man in my company that could not have seen that and comprehended the remedy. In fact it would have been a downright disgrace for a man commanding a company not to have seen it and be able to know that to do. I never considered the matter of sufficient importance to Speak of it till Vance wrote me in reference to it never afterward till recently. I was rather amused at first at his claims but the wide publicity given it and his insinuations and arrogance have become really annoying.

Please accept my sincere Regards
H H Alban

July 10, 1889

Findlay O July 10/89

Col Arnold McMahan

Dear Colonel

Your kind letter came the 5th inst. Am very much gratified at the interest you manifest in the history of the Regiment and particularly as co F is concerned. If I come to Toledo I will most certainly look you up for I feel as though I would enjoy a long talk I cannot give you a full list of the casualties of my co. I have no records. J L Keller has the co records I have corrected your list as far as it goes and added from memory the name of G W Bonsel to the list of wounded

Your Truly
H H Alban

MS 562: Introduction | Transcript List
MS 562 Series Description: MS 562: Introduction | 86th O.V.I. Records | Arnold McMahan Papers
MS 562 Abstracts: Part 1 (McMahan Correspondence) | Part 2 (Box 12) | Part 3 (Box 13) | Inventory
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