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

Transcripts - Box 13: C. H. Carlton

August 8, 1889

325 North Front St.
Harrisburg, Penn.
August 8th, 1889

Colonel Arnold McMahan
526 Front Street
Toledo, Ohio

Dear Colonel,

Your kind letter of July 22nd, after following me about the country is received.

I am sorry I cannot talk over the circumstances of the Chickamauga battle with you instead of writing them. As I wrote Genral Turchin "it is difficult to accurately describe from memory alone all the events of an exciting battle that occurred twenty five years ago. And especially as I have not seen anyone to talk over the battle with for at least fifteen years.

You have doubtless often met men who were in the battle and even in your own regiment and talked over the battle and kept your memory fresh not only in the events but in details and times.

When the army moved the 89th [Ohio] was on detached duty and not being relieved in time to join Turchin's Brigade it was ordered to report to Gordon Granger and by him to report to Steedman. The 22nd Michigan, LeFavor's (also a stray regiment) had reported a few hours before. so they were ordered to act together as a temporary brigade the senior Colonel, Lefavor commanding. We crossed the river with Granger, marched to Rossville made a demonstration to Ringgold and had a small fight. On the 19th Lefavor was ordered to report to General Whittaker and the 89th had a sharp little fight at crossing of Chickamauga. On 20th moved to Thomas' assistance. In rear of his troops six regiments were formed in two lines. The 22nd Michigan being the 3rd or left regiment in the first line. The 89th Ohio the 3rd or left regiment in 2nd line. After passing the right of Thomas' troops, the 2nd line was halted. The 1st line moved forward and was soon out of sight and the firing indicated that it was heavily engaged. As LeFavor had ordered me to support him, and as the 2nd line remained halted (Whittaker having been wounded was probably the reason) I left it and moved forward to get in supporting distance of him. After marching some distance to the front a battery (I had not seen before but which had doubtless followed the first line) came to the left about and moved rapidly to the rear. I obliqued to the right to escape it and then moved forward and soon met the first line retreating pursued by the enemy. My obliques to the right had brought the 89th to the right and behind the 2nd regiment of the 1st line. Making the 89th lie down the 2nd regiment passed over it and went on out of sight to the rear. As soon as it passed the 89th opened fire. The 3rd regiment LeFavor's also faced about and opened fire and the two regiments marched forward to the top of the ridge. As the 1st and 2nd regiments of the 1st line had passed out of sight to the rear. The 89th had practically taken the place of both of those regiments in the 1st line. This was probably between one and two o'clock. this I think answers your first two questions.

The right of the 89th was entirely unprotected, it puzzled me, then and does now, as to why they did not attack my right vigorously. Their skirmishers did gradually get in a flank fire on my right and I faced one company after another diagonally to the right. So when you joined us most of the 89th was facing that way making an obtuse angle with the line of the 22nd Michigan. This was about our only change of position after taking the crest.

There were none of our troops in sight up on the same line as us on our right, and the firing on our right seemed to be (judging from its sound) well to the rear of the continuation of our line, and late in the afternoon it seemed to be farther in our rear. A few moments after we got on the ridge Capt. Bussell [?] of Granger's staff came to us and as he turned to ride away from me, he was killed. About an hour after, during a lull in the firing Steedman came to us on foot from the right rear and passed to the left. No troops (except your regiment) came to us or marched by us while on the ridge. Nor did any wounded or stragglers come to or by us. I didn't hear of or see any troops to support us. (I understood that after the 89th left the 2nd line the two regiments remaining in that line were wheeled to the right and then moved in that direction to attack. Their line making an obtuse angel with ours. If you have Turchin's book please look at map No. 8. I think LeFavor's position was at W instead of at the position marked "LeFavor", and that Brannan's right extended towards W. If so, it would explain why the second line wheeled to the right to get to it's position at "M". With all of Steedman's troops in the vicinity of "M" it would explain why all the heavy firing on our right sounded to the 89th at "W" as thought it was in it's right rear. The appearance and fire of Steedman's troops at "M" although a long way off would to a certain extent prevent any heavy attack on my right at W. While the final withdrawal of the troops on "M" would enable the enemy in force to move around to the right and rear of the 89th at W without opposition.

If the position marked "LeFavor" on map 8 was our position, there should have been a ridged running from the 89th to its rear which is not in accordance with my remembrance. I think there was a rise of ground or ridge running from the left of the 22nd Mich. to its rear. Perhaps you may remember whether you marched slightly downhill in going from left to right of 22nd Mich. or not. If you did it would indicate W as our real position.

In reply to your fifth question, my impression is they first came around our right and rear and around the left of 22nd Mich. I had ridden to 22nd Mich. to see LeFavor and was told he had walked out to reconnoiter the enemy in his front (we afterwards decided that he had already been taken prisoner when I was inquiring for him) after waiting some time and he did not return I rode back to my regiment and found the enemy pretty well around us. You may remember that a moment after our men dropped their muskets a volley came into our left rear, seemingly fired from rear of 22nd Mich. The horse of the rebel officer near Glenn and myself fell. Glenn and I rode with and through the crowd (of our men and the enemy) some distance towards our rear until we came on a line of rebels with bayonets at charge who shouted "who are you" halt, etc. We turned and rode along the line looking for an interval to pass through but they became suspicious as we didn't answer, and seized our bridle and made us prisoners. This line was directly in our rear and evidently a different one from that which came up around our right flank and rear.

I do not remember my conversation with you.

My impression has been that the 21st [Ohio] had been on the same line with but at a considerable distance to the left of 22nd Mich. That when the troops on the left of 21st Ohio were driven back the 21st changed front and faced to its left and at right angles to its first position and when the 21st finally retired it faced about and marched to its then rear. That it didn't see the 22nd Michigan but did the 89th and then you stopped and asked if you could be of any assistance to us. The following is my idea of your position.


My first impression on seeing your regiment was, that it was two or three center Co's of some regiment. As few as you were I was very glad to see you, for we had not seen anyone except rebels for some hours.

I am sorry to bore you with so much detail but it seemed necessary in order that you might clearly understand my answers to your questions.

I wrote a full account of the movements of the 89th Ohio some months ago, and sent it to Genl. Turchin with request that he send it to Lt. Col. Glenn 89th Ohio and then return it to me, so that I could see how Col. Glenn's memory and mine agreed, but have not yet received it.

I wish you would write me your remembrance of events after you joined me on 20th Sept.

I hope you will attend the meeting of army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga. And after examining the ground write me your views as to our position & etc....

I have been surgically treated lately and have suffered severely, but unfortunately it has not been successful and the surgeons will not do anything more until cold weather. So I cannot attend the meeting though I would be delighted if I could.

The positions of 89th Ohio and 22nd Mich are of course correct x. But the positions of 2d line after 89th left it and that of Steedman's other troops is given from the apparent direction that their firing sounded, to us of the 89th.

Please write me.

Very respectfully
C.H. Carlton
Lt Col. 7th Cavalry U.S.A.
Late Col 89th Ohio

X on the rough drawings enclosed

Draft Reply

[draft] Letter to Col. Carlton, extract

Our fourth and last position was on the extreme right of Horseshoe ridge, on the westerly slope. the shades of evening had fallen and the surrounding objects were also obscured by the condition of the atmosphere when we gained this point. While resting after reforming my command in the third position anofficer approached and said that the enemy were coming in on our right and ordered me to move out there and meet him. My men were inpoor condition to meet an enemy and I was reluctant. However I moved forward along the slope and at a charge gained the point of the ridge and took nine prisoners. You may remember some scattering firing in that direction at this time. I believe it was at this time that you were on the line with the 22nd Mich. looking for Col. LaFavor, and did not see the direction of our movement. The enemy appears to have been frightened at us as he did not again approach us in that direction until after we were captured. Reb Col. Kelly refers to this incident in his report. See Turchin's book page 153 at the bottom. I need not pursue this subject further. Your account of the capture which followed is correct.

A word about mistakes--you are puzzled because the enemy did not attack your right very vigorously after Steedman (?) withdrew. That puzzles me too, but I have no doubt the rebels are more puzzled about that than either of us. That is a puzzle that will remain unsolved. There is another puzzle and that is why the rebels did not attack our right in force before the arrival of Granger's men. There was a period of about two hours before your arrival during which the 21st Ohio held the right of the line (2nd position) and the rebels spent their force against the strongest positions on the ridge while the ravine on the right lay open to them. They saw the point after a while but it was too late. Granger's men came up and defeated them. These mistakes were vital. Turchin thinks the mistake was in their not wedgeing a column into the gap between Reynolds right and Horseshoe Ridge but the dispositions on the east end of the ridge could have been easily made to cover that gap, with a good range for our artillery and musketry. But I do not see how we could have met them had they moved upon our right. I am not surprised at your puzzle.

In conclusion I wish to say that as neither of us can attend the meeting in Chattanooga I would be glad if you can find some way to have our positions correctly marked on the maps that are in preparation by Col. C.S. Kellogg, War Department. I hope to hear from you!

Sincerely yours,

Arnold McMahan
Late Lt. Col. 21st Ohio Vet. Vol. Infty
Brevet Col. US Vols.

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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