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United States. Army. Ohio Infantry Regiment, 21st - MS 562: Transcripts
State of Iowa
Storm Lake, Iowa, July 13/88
Col. Arnold McMahon,
Dear Sir: - My attention has been called to your note in the National Tribune of June 7 in regard to Chickamauga and the 21st Ohio. I lay aside other duties for a moment to tender my services as a witness on behalf of the gallant regiment which you commanded.
I was a member of the 115th Ills. and after my brigade had been withdrawn, returned to the battle field to find a wounded comrade. It must have been nearly sunset, as I passed along the ridge from east to west, going through the ranks of the 22d Mich. and 89th O. formed across the ridge facing west or southwest, until I reached the skirmish line. After a few minutes on that line I was wounded and rendered nearly helpless. While lying on the ground just as twilight was coming on, between the lines. I suddenly saw a line of blue from our rear coming on the charge. It seemed to me that I never saw a better or steadier line on review or dress parade. As it reached me, files dropped out to avoid treading on me, then the gap was filled and the line went on. A few moments later fragments of that line came back, such men as had ammunition left, stopping occasionally to fire. One of these men, H.H. Van Camp of Co. C. as I now know, helped me for a short distance to the rear at the risk of his life, and disappeared. It was the only time I ever saw that regiment, which I soon after learned was the 21st Ohio, but I shall remember it as long as memory lasts. That charge was, as I believe, the last charge made at that battle, it was made against overwhelming numbers and hopeless from the first, but it was made with remarkable coolness and bravery. I don't know where the regiment came from as I saw only the demi-brigade commanded by Col. LeFavour as I went in, but, I knew it was there. Col. J. B. Wall of the 17th Ky. says a part of his regiment was formed on your right at that time, but it seemed to me that there were not over 300 men all told. I saw no other men on the ridge at that time, excepting stragglers from Steedman's command acting as skirmishers, and a strong rebel line of battle.
I discovered Van Camp through the medium of the National Tribune only two or three years ago, and have had some pleasant correspondence with him.
Should you feel like writing, I should be glad to hear from you and know something more of your movements that Sunday afternoon.
While official duties call me to Des Moines frequently, a letter addressed to me here should be apt to reach me soonest.
Very Truly Yours
Return this copy to Arnold McMahan 526 Front St Toledo Ohio
State of Iowa
Storm Lake, Iowa. Sept. 19/88
Col. Arnold McMahan
My dear Sir,
Your favor of July 18th, and copy of your address made at the Findlay reunion were received in due time and reads with much interest. I regret to learn that you are an invalid, but hope that you will regain your health and be spared many years to come. I have also received a copy of the Wood Co. Gazette containing an account of the late reunion of the 21st O. and notice your appointment as historian of the regiment. I feel confident, from specimens of your work seen, that the history will be a valuable contribution to the literature of the war, and of especial interest to them who [illegible] your regiment. Your account of the battle of Chickamauga so far as it related to matters of which I have personal knowledge, was very accurate. The rebel line on which you made your final charge must have crossed the transverse ravine over which we were firing when I was wounded, as you speeded by pushing the rebels off of the point of the ridge. But my recollection is that your line was badly broken when it retired. I do not see how it could have been otherwise in view of the odds you were fighting.
I like your suggestion of a meeting of the men who fought on the ridge, and should certainly endeavor to be there if one is called.
Trusting that your health may be speedily renewed and that I may at some time have the pleasure of knowing you personally. I am very truly yours,
State of Iowa
Storm Lake, Iowa, Sept. 27, '89
Col. Arnold McMahan,
526 Front St. Toledo O.
My dear Sir; - Your last note of the 23rd inst. is rec'd. I attended the reunion at Chattanooga, and visited Snodgrass Hill twice, but regret to say that while I studied the ground with such care as the few hours at my disposal would permit. I was unable to satisfy myself wholly as to the exact positions of the different regiments. The ground is much hidden and views are restricted by the undergrowth and other growth of the last twenty-six years, and no doubt that was one cause of the difficulty. Many men who fought on Horseshoe Ridge that memorable Sunday afternoon visited it, and some who were on your right thought they located their exact positions, but, others questioned it. The relative positions of Whitaker's and Mitchell's brigades was even a matter for controversy and doubt although a Col. Kellogg who has hid the [illegible] in charge, with others, has driven stakes to indicate Brannan's positions on the highest part of the ridge near the Snodgrass House, which is called I believe Battery Hill, and also the positions of Whitaker and Mitchell. I found no stakes to mark your positions although there was one for the 2d Minn. which I think relieved you went to the right. It is possible I did not find all the stakes. A new map of the battlefield is in preparations, as it is found that these hereupon published are defective and unreliable.
I left the Ridge in some doubt as to whether justice will ever be done those who fought so hard to hold it. Its outline is much more irregular than I had supposed, numerous spurs push out on both sides, and there is surely greater liability to mistakes and composition as to positions among those who spent but a short time on the ridge and those in the excitement of battle than I had supposed. But few of the large trees have been cut down, but twigs have become trees in that warm, moist climate since the battle. A visit to the field when the leaves had fallen might be more satisfactory. These trees which showed the marks of cannonading have been cut down in many instances by relic hunters. The demand for them is so great that I am informed that bogus relics are manufactured and sold. Bullets however can still be easily found. I picked up several in the woods on the hill, although not searching for them especially and hundreds of men had been gathering them during several preceding days. What I have said as to changes on Snodgrass Hill is thus but to a greater degree of need other parts of the field. The wooded land of '63 has in some instances been cleared, and the open fields of those times are in some cases grown up to young timber. New roads have been opened and old ones abandoned, houses have been destroyed and new ones built and fences have been changed and new ones made. You might be able to recognize different positions occupied by your command, but you would see great changes.
We had an excellent gathering and a grand good time, but it was not on some accounts a favorable time to study the field. I felt that I could have spent a week on it with profit.
I regretted that you were not able to be present. I would have enjoyed meeting you there, and trust your health will so far improve as to permit you to visit this field soon. You would enjoy doing so. Chattanooga will probably try for the sectional encampment of '91.
Very Truly Yours
G S Robinson
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