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

Transcripts - Box 13: John S. Mahoney

July 23, 1889

Bradner, Ohio
July 23d 1889

Col. A. McMahan
East Toledo, Ohio

Dear Sir,

The question having been raised as to who gave the order for the final advance of the 21st O.V.I. at Chickamauga on the evening of Sep 20th 1863 which resulted in the capture of the regt, I wish to state what came under my own personal observation. The men of my Co. were told that when they got out of ammunition they should fall back under the crest of the ridge a few rods & remain under that shelter for further orders. They did so singly & in squads. By this time it was dusk. In the rear of where I was with the co. (K) were two mounted officers near two large trees and about, say, 30 feet from us. One of them wore colored spectacles. My attention was called by hearing this man say to someone, who I supposed to be yourself, you being in command of the regt. "This position must be held at all hazards." That bayonets must be fixed & an advance made. Knowing that the men were out of ammunition & had been for some time, I went over to him and said, "It will be the same as murder to take the men in". He turned in his saddle & replied "It must be done sir". "If it must be", I answered, "we can do it", and turning to the Co. went with the remainder of the regt. as ordered. As I said before, it was getting dusk and being so taken up with any desire to speak to the officer who was giving this order for an advance on the enemy with empty guns that I did not notice to whom it was given, but always supposed it was given to yourself. Who the officer was who gave the order & wore the colored glasses I do not know, but always supposed Col. Vandervere was commanding a brigade on our left from about 3 o'clock in the afternoon until we were captured, or rather until we made the last advance. The officer with the glasses was by me supposed to be Col. Vandervere. If this will tend to throw any light on the question I shall be glad & remain very truly

John S. Mahony
Late 2d Lieut. Co.K Com. of Co.
21st O.V.I.

July 23, 1889

Bradner, Ohio
July 23rd 1889

Wood County

Col. A. McMahon,
East Toledo, Ohio

My dear Sir,

In reference to the identity of the officer who gave the order for our final advance, let us examine & see if we can determine who would have derived any advantage from that order. At that time there were no troops on the right. Stedman's [Steedman's] men who had been fighting on our right had gone and the line was being then withdrawn. By our advance it would be easier to withdraw the remainder of the line, which was being done. Viewed in this light, it looks to me as if we were sacrificed to help some others off the field. The men on our right having gone there of course would be no ranking officer on our line from them, and Col. Vandervere's brigade being on our left, he would be the officer in command of our part of the line. The man with the spectacles, I think, gave the order; but who was he. I do not know. Do you? If we could identify him, it would be all plain sailing.

J.S.M.

I write this at the request of Capt. Canfield

August 22, 1889

Bradner, Ohio
Aug. 22d 1889

Col. A. McMahon
Toledo, Ohio

Dear Sir,

Yours of Aug. 12th is received. I think the names of the four (4) men wounded in Co.K are as I list below. I am not certain of the last ones but others of the Co. say it is as I state below, so I think we may conclude it to be so. His name was I think either Smith or Taylor & was a recruit. He borrowed my six shooter at "Cave Springs" before we crossed the Tennessee to shoot a hog. He missed the hog, but did not the nickname of "Mahony's butcher", or the "butcher". My memory is so poor that I can't depend on it in anything important. Any information I can give, or assistance render, in your work will be cheerfully given.

Very truly
John S. Mahony

Wesley Pember, shot in arms
Robert Forrest, shot in arm & powder burns
George Hathaway, hit by spent ball, think in leg
One man by name of "Smith" or "Taylor" can't be sure what his name was, but known by the nickname of "Butcher" was run over by the retreating artillery we met in the woods on taking up our first position after leaving the "Peach Orchard"

[added in ink--in McMahon's handwriting]

George W. Hathaway
John Wesley Pember
William Robert Forest
Isiah Smith

May 12, 1890

Bradner, Ohio
May 12th 1890

Col. A. McMahon
Toledo, Ohio

My dear Sir,

Yours of May 8th is received. As you said, I thought that there was some uncertainty as to the positions of some of the commands at Chickamauga on Sep 20th, 1863. I suppose those who now go on the field, who were in the fight, think that they recognize their positions & think, I could, but perhaps I should be as far from being correct as they are. If however we take the "Snodgrass House" as the starting point in determining the positions of the Regt. (21st Ohio) I do not see how any mistake can be made. If my memory served me right there was a tree lying where Co.K (21st) took up position (as is marked on your map as No. 2). Seeing this, at Capt. Canfield's or it might have been at the suggestion of someone else, I formed the left of the Co. in the rear of that log. The top end of the log, I think, laid to the N.E. or between E. and N. I can't now remember what kind of log it was, but it was 18 inches or perhaps 2 foot through. To the left of our Co. I remember a steep ravine at right angles with our line. I saw the enemy marching past the mouth of that ravine on the flat ground below, heading to the E. & N. They appeared to be "closed in mass" and carried their guns at a "right shoulder shift". Just as I saw them, a battery on the ridge, somewhere in our rear, fired down the ravine. When the smoke and dust cleared away there were none of the enemy in sight at the mouth of the ravine. do not know what battery it was. This must be the ravine on the left of the regt. as marked on your map as position No. 2 occupied by us from about noon to near sundown. I think that you have perhaps put our position at No. 3 on map, a little too far back on the ridge. I think it was about the place where I saw two mounted officers, one of whom wore colored glasses, and who, the one who wore the glasses, was speaking to you. I had the impression from what I overheard that he was ordering a charge of our regt. The boys of the Co. (K) had been told that as fast as their ammunition was exhausted they should fall back out of the way. This they did, one or two at a time, as their cartridges gave out, and at the time of this occurrence were all gathered near a good sized tree, in the rear of their position in the line, say, some 6 or 10 rods. I am very sure it was not any more. I think the tree leaned, but can't say now in what direction. From this tree to the 2 trees by which the mounted officer who wore the glasses talked to you could not have been but a few paces. Knowing the condition of our cartridge boxes and having command of the Co. I steped up and said to the officer with the glasses, "It will be murder to take the men up again". Turning in his saddle to me, he answered, "It must be done sir. this position must be held at all hazards." I always supposed that our last position, marked on the map as No.4, was more at right angles with the ravine up which the enemy marched. I mean those who came up in our front. If it had not been so, the fire from the troops who came up round in the rear of us and the 22d Mich. and the 89th Ohio could not have struck us in the rear. There could not have been any of our men on the left of the regt. mentioned, for if there were we could not have been fired on from the rear. I think if the Confederate General Kelly and the other brigade comdr. who captured us should be present at the meeting on May 21st they would certainly remember the regt. who had the Colts revolving rifles, and could point out the position of the regt. at the time of capture on the evening of Sep 20th 1863. Time flies, and we are all growing old. If anything is ever to be surely determined with regards to positions it must be done now, before the survivors of that bloody field are numbered with their comrades who have gone before and whose life battle closed 27 years ago on the hard fought field of Chickamauga.

Yours very truly
John S. Mahony
Late of Co.K 21st
O.V.I.

May 12, 1890

Bradner Ohio
May 12th 1890

Col. A. McMahon
Toledo, Ohio

Dear Sir,

I have written what I can recollect of the positions occupied by us at the battle of Chickamauga. It is so long ago that many of the points you would like to have me speak of are gone out of my memory. I do not see how any difficulty can arise in defining our positions on Sep 20th 1863 if the Snodgrass house is taken as the starting point. I wonder if "Boynton" will be there, and what he will think. Perhaps he could identify our position from the two trees spoken of. I would like to ask him. I am very much troubled with the rheumatism & it has been hard work to write. Would be very glad to hear from you at any time, and will be pleased if I can help in any way in placing the 21st Ohio right before the people.

Very truly yours
John S. Mahony

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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