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United States. Army. Ohio Infantry Regiment, 21st - MS 562: Transcripts
Washington July 26th 1889
Major Arnold McMahan
I have read your letter with interest. It has never seemed to me that any one was particularly to blame for any order that contemplated desperate fighting on the hill at Chickamauga Sunday afternoon. There was certainly great blame for not notifying the 21st Ohio the 22nd Michigan and the 89th Ohio of the withdrawal of the other troops. That was Grangers fault, as both he and Steedman talking it over after the battle admitted. The talk was not about you, but involved the omission to notify Van Derveer, who was to right of Brannan at the time of the withdrawal, and that of course caused the failure to give you notice.
My regiment was the right of Van Derveer, and it was Separated from the left of Steedmans line (Mitchell's brigade) by a narrow thicket. At dusk I Supposed that Mitchell's line was Still there, and I only discovered by accident to be rebels had got up, and that they were also in the ravine in our rear coming by the flank from toward Mitchell's line. These were Trigg's and Kelly's forces, which after capturing you were trying to take int the next Section of our line to the left of where you had been - that is mine. I discovered the movement just in time to throw back my line to face it, and to get some portions of other regiments to Strengthen our position. We then broke their line and drove it off. This was about 7.45 PM.
The rude map I Send will Show you how I understand the Situation.
You had been on Horseshoe Ridge to the right of Brannan from noon or near it until something after 2 PM. About that time Granger with Whitaker on the right and Mitchell on the left arrived at the front of the hill in your rear. Van Derveer arrived at the same time from Kelly's farm and formed on the left of Steedman, that is on the left of Mitchell. My regiment (35th Ohio) was the right of Van Derveer. When we to the top of the ridge we halted just under the crest. I was directly in rear of you, and halted there just after Lt Col Stoughton was wounded. I was ordered by Gen Van Derveer to relieve your line. This I did and you came back under the crest of the ridge to get ammunition and rest. I think this refilling boxes and reorganizing your line took you into the ravine. I fix the line I relieved in two ways; first I had seen Lt Col Stoughton riding along it, and soon heard of his being wounded. Then as soon as I got my men laid down into the position you had been in, I noticed the Colts revolving rifles, and as I had never seen any in action before, and had heard it claimed that the Chamber heated and would not revolve after a few rounds, I picked up several that wounded men had probably dropped and tried to fire them.
Now the 22nd Michigan Col Le Favour, and the 89th Ohio with which or near which you were operating at the close of the fight were on the left of Whitaker's brigade.
My theory of your getting there is that when you withdrew down the face of the ridge for ammunition, that in going up again you bore enough to the right to follow the depression which leads up to where the 22nd and the 89th were.
Mitchell at Sundown withdrew directly to his rear, and went off on the next ridge back of the one we were on. This left the opening between you and the 35th which the line that swept up from the front to ground you occupied.
Whitaker wihdrew about half an hour after Sundown, that is at 6.30. He went by the flank along the ridge to the right. Here is where the trouble came. The 89th 22nd and 21st did not recieve notice of his withdrawal. This left you and the other two thoroughly isolated and hence the capture.
As to the officer who directed the charge of which you speak I do not know, but I think from a reading of all the reports on file here that it was Col Le Favour, the name is not unlike Van Derveer in sound, and that may have misled you. But I know that Van Derveer for all the closing part of the afternoon was not off his line, and at the attack from the right at dark he was with me and remained until the closing attack was repulsed. This brigade was the last one to leave the position on Horseshoe Ridge.
Please excuse this hasty letter - I have been obliged from pressure of time for other work to take the time I should have had for it. If after reading it there is anything further you want to inquire about I will take pleasure in replying.
Very Truly Yours
H. V. Boynton
In addition to the numerous errors into which General Boynton has fallen in his letter and map must be noticed the error in relation to the time the three regiments were captured. That he was ignorant of the location of these regiments is beyond question.
I do not know if he is aware even now, that the last firing done by Van Derveers brigade and the other regiments which had come to the support of Brannan's right, was delivered right into these same three regiments, which he supposed to be captured and removed from the field. Of course the rebels were coming from up at the time and were also fired upon.
The errors into which General Brannan fell in his repart of October 8th 1863 and his letter of May 3rd 1864 in relation to this Subject, as well as the foundation of his Statements in them, are visible through this letter and map. The disagreeable fact will remain that Brannan's line after firing upon the advance of Trigg's Brigade (and the three Union regiments) under belief that the rebels were "dispersed" quietly withdrew, while at the same time the rebels in forces compeleted the capture which had begun when the firing occurred, and immediately went into bivouac on the ground where the capture was made, unmolested.
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