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United States. Army. Ohio Infantry Regiment, 21st - MS 562: Transcripts
|January-March 1890 ||April 1890||May 1890||June 1890|
St. Louis, May 5, 1890
Col. Arnold McMahan, Toledo, Ohio--
Dear Sir,--I am happy to hear from you again and I assure you it will give me great pleasure to take your place, as far as my ability, at the Meeting in the locating if the different points where your regiment was, or to determine anything else which you may indicate, and shall be very grateful for everything that you can think of bearing on the matter, as each will be of much value in the settlement of the whole. You know that these apparently unimportant items are the very best of testimony. Having had much experience in establishing lost land-marks, I know the value of that tree root, and I know well how to set about to prove where it was, even if the roots were very close to the surface, and your description of it, so fully, is valuable. And also, as to the large oak tree. Yet, if you can recall anything else about there, please inform me, as the more witnesses, the better. I want to fix your regiment to the very foot, on the Ridge. Then I shall have a positive point to work from. One of the Officers of the 115th Ill., if I do not misunderstand him, claims to have been on the field and located where his regiment was, and he covers the ground right where you fought the longest. I am convinced he is wrong and does not know where he was, for his regiment was to the right of the 22nd Mich. on the first charge, and when it next went into line, was still farther to the right. Quite a few, I learn, have been there, and located where they were, and in nearly every case, they are as near correct as that man--equally as near as those officers were who placed Mitchell where Whitaker fought.
I have been in the neighborhood of the tanyard but once--(last Nov.) and then but casually glanced over the field as I was not then particularly interested in anything but the location of my battery, and had completed that work. This time, I intend to locate every vestige to be found of any breastworks or protections of any kind on all parts of the field, so far as I can do so on this trip. I may make many more trips there, as to do such work thoroughly would require weeks--and anything short of thorough work will not make a true history of the battle possible--and I dislike to think that the Monuments will be placed at hap-hazard.
As to the Tanyard--I shall take particular pains to locate it--also your breastworks to the east of it. Do you remember the road near you? If so, were you to the east or west of the road[?]
I judge there must be a sort of creek as shown on the War Dept. Maps as I find it on various Confederate Maps, and the lay of the land, as I noticed it when riding down the way last Nov, would necessitate it. Gen. Fulton speaks of passing over a ravine about there, while the Union reports call it a "gully." I suppose it was dry at the time. Besides, from your Report and that of others near you, I infer that you did not go so far west. I mistrust that the tanyard was to the East of the Creek. Which side of the road were they, and how far from the road--I mean the vats.
I enclose a couple of rough Maps, made to Seale which maybe of some service at some time.
I enclose you Col. Bailey's article. Please return it, as I have not been able to get a duplicate.
Have you seen the Chattanooga Times of Spet. 19th, last? There was a very lenghthy account of the battle in it. I have not seen It, but I judge it is very erroneous. I should like much to see it.
I this morning received a stunning statement. The Rev. D.C. Milner, Adjt. of the 98th Ohio, of Mitchell's brigade and who commanded it at the close of the day says-- "I received and communicated the orders for us to move over farther to the right [to near Bat. M. 1st Ill.] Just as I saw the regiment all moved, I found the body of Capt. Russell, Gen. Granger's Chief of Staff ( I think), lying near the top of the Ridge. I got off my horse and dragged the body behind a tree and took his Pocket-book, watch and field-glass which were sent for from Hdqrs. that night." You remember Col. Carlton says that the Capt. was killed near him. How can the two statements be reconciled? Certainly the 89th and the 98th Ohio could hardly have been on the same ground that day. The 98th claims to have been no farther east than about N on the map enclosed, at any time during the action, while, according to Col. Carlton, and several others, Capt. Russell was killed near P.
21st. Ohio Reply to yours of the [illegible]
St. Louis, May 15, 1890--
Col. Arnold McMahan, Toledo, Ohio.
Yours with copy of a portion of Lieut Kellies letter, with be of great assistance in definitely locating positions on the Ridge. I think I know exactly where that "elbow" is which he speaks of.
I deeply regret your backset in health, and hope this will find you recovered from it. I wish you could be with me.
This correspondence is unearthing quite a few letters written at the time, which are settling many disputed points, and are convincing the writers that it is possible for them to forget, or to become confused in their memory, after so many years. A man who commanded a Co. of the 98th, Ohio that day, has been hard at work to prove that he saw the 115th Ill. Fall back, and that his regiment was next to the 121st. Ohio, and with it, supported my battery. I knew very well that the 98th, joined on the right of the 96 Ill. and with the 113 Ohio, supported two guns of my battery early in the afternoon, and that the 113th fell back, early in the fight as was reported to me that day. Now he has found a letter, in a distant State, which he wrote Sept. 24, which fully confirms me. You can imagine how he must feel after working hard for several weeks to prove that I was wrong. I am after the truth whether I was wrong or not.
I hope to receive your promised letter before I start next Monday, as I want everything to be had to definitely fix as many points as possible.--
Hoping your health is very much improved--
G. E. Dolton
P. S. I have just run across [illegible] from the 22d. Mich. Who ran away early in the afternoon, claiming that the regiment was captured at that time. As two of them were officers, I suppose their report was what led to the so general understanding that the 22d. was captured early in the day.
[in left margin] Since writing this, a staff officer who has furnished several magazine articles has called and said that when writing one about Chickamauga, he did so hurriedly and without consulting anything as he said "Like a dumb fool." Yet, that same article is quoted to me almost daily, as authority.
21st Ohio-- Reply to yours of the 16--
St. Louis, May 17, 1890--
Col. Arnold McMahan, Toledo, Ohio
I am glad to receive yours of the 16th in time, as I want to fix just as many things as possible so that no one can disprove them. The position of my Battery, I have found no one to dispute. This work is costing me several hundreds of dollars, and I do not intend to let it prove a failure, if hard work can prevent. I expect that I will have to go there several times more, and intend to be with the Confederates on July 5th, if I can get away. I am after the truth, even it it should compel the Government to go to a little expense to get out a new set of Maps. I have no favorites and none to punish--am totally unbiased, so as to be able to accept the truth, when positively proven, and not until then.
The old log you speak of, I think is still there. There is one in about the position, and is a honey-comb now, having been pecked to pieces by visitors in search of bullets. The stones, I was told, had been hauled away for buildings. I do not recall having noticed the reclining tree, yet it may be there.
In the dusk of smoke and closing day, if you were where I think you were, you would naturally conclude it was the end of the ridge.
I will try to learn what regiment it was that you captured the prisoners from: but think I have it among my papers now.
Health & c. permitting, I intend to make quite full surveys of courses, distances and elevations all around Snodgrass Ridge, and as much more as time will permit. You can depend, I shall do no guess-work--I am a poor guesser--hence I am giving so much time to hunting up and tracing out, every little point or incident. I know just where that infantry was that I saw lying down, if I know anything at all of any point there.
As to Official Reports--I saw at once that nearly every one was made up from having compared notes with someone else--hence errors were repeated and confirmed, and conversations with from Gen. Rosecrans down, showed that memory was defective, and that, in many cases, more attention had been given to hiding than stating facts. Gen. Boynton has mad many statements that he has had to retract, as the proof of his error was produced, and not long since, a General acknowledged in the presence of my Clerks taht he had writing of Chickamauga, without investigating, and had conveyed the impression that the 22d. Mich, was captured early in the afternoon, because some one had told him that some regiment had charged far ahead and the rebels had closed in behind them, and he supposed it was the 22d. Mich. Now the 96 Ill. made just such a charge, only far worse, according to its history, and he ought to have said ti was that--or the 113th. Ohio which also claims much the same.
There were statements made to me on the ground, last Nov. while standing where your regiment fought, that I thought at the time would bear accepting as quite likely doubtful.
Ge. Brannan, like all other general officers, had to make out his report from what was told him. I would give much to know where the two brigade commanders, of the Reserve Corps were, after 430 P.M. I have not yet found a single trace of them.
Please pardon my stretching this out so; but when I begin to write to you, I do not know when to stop, forgetting what in infliction it must be--
G. E. Dolton
Reply to yours of 5/18
St, Louis May 27, 1890.
Col. A. McMahan,
Dear Sir: -
Please pardon me for employing the hand of another in writing, but after my absence at Chattanooga there has so much accumulated that to attend to it all in any reasonable time I must do it in this manner.
I found the two large trees, also the reclining tree, the place where the tree had fallen, everything as you described, I would give you the measurements now, but left my book at home this morning. I will try to remember it tomorrow. Major Cusac was with me. He readily identified the ground, also showed me where you first took position near the Snodgrass house, and the way you marched over into the final position, etc. He says that at the surrender, he was yet in that depression on the ridge, and supposed all of the regiment was, of course. As I was there last November, I was perfectly familiar with the lay of the ridge, and knew just as well where your regiment was and where your part of it surrendered as though I had been on the ground at the time. I then went with the Major to what the citizens there call the ash-hoppers. They are entirely destroyed. I had no trouble in locating them. The lady of the house told me about how far they stood from the ditch, and a small cedar tree, that has grown up there, and said I would doubtless find some pieces of bricks, etc, to indicate where they were. Those I readily found. I located them in reference to the ditch, fence, etc, so they can be readily reestablished at any time. What rendered it more easy that day, was the recent rain. This made a great difference in the color of the ground, the ashes mixed with the soil where they were, making that quite yellow and prominent, while all the surrounding ground was quite dark, so you could see their position long before you reached them. From there we went east, through the woods to where your regiment lay in the night and there the Major found 3 of the old logs that you used for breastworks. He showed me the line of march of your regiment up to where you first engaged the enemy, in a small strip of woods to the south of the Snodgrass house. The day before that I was at the hoppers with Col. McSpadden who commanded Deas' brigade which, with Manigault and Anderson, drove Sheridan and Davis from the field. The Colonel told me before we went in the field, that he passed between the hoppers and described the country minutely to me, and when we got there we found it exactly as he had said, one thing, very remarkable, being a stone formation which he had described to me, and which no one would expect to find there, to judge from the surrounding country. The Colonel has a very remarkable memory. He started in at the Snodgrass house, went to the south side of the ridges and moved over to the west until we reached the point in the woods, at the base of one of the many spurs of the ridge, where he said he formed his brigade on the first charge, on their extreme left, in the afternoon. He traced his line up the ridge to the summit, pointed out just the distance he had advanced before being repulsed, and located exactly where my 4 guns stood. I had previously left one of our carriages on the very spot, and as we came up in that direction he said that the guns had stood where the carriage was standing. He said that none of the Confederates were to the west or north of that, that afternoon, and he did not know of the high ridge to the north, where they persist in saying that my Battery fought.
At night he bivouacked his Brigade in the gap, at the foot of that high ridge, on the Crawfish Springs road, but did not ascend it, and knew nothing of what it was, though he sent some pickets up there. I have found how the shell happened to be in the trees on that summit. They were put there by Schultz' Battery, when Gen. Negley was retreating, at the time when B.R. Johnson was capturing the wagons, caissons, etc, in the gap about 11 o'clock A.M. Negley heard the tumult down below, and had the battery fire in that direction, but at the elevation they fired, their shell must have struck a mile and a half beyond the gap. They could not have depressed their guns from where they stood, sufficiently to have done any execution on the rebels below, and they were where they could not see the rebels. They fired at an elevation of about 7 degrees. There is quite an elevation to the hill in front of where their guns stood, and yet, some of the pieces of shell are fully 25 ft. high. I called Col. McSpadden's attention to the hour at which he made his first charge, and he said he was not in the habit of looking at his watch, and when he made his official report, simply guessed at the time. But after carefully considering all his movements from the time of starting in the morning, he was firmly convinced that it could not possibly be later than 1 o'clock when he made his first charge. Of course, I know this to be the case, because I was there where he first put in an appearance, not withstanding so many Confederate and Union Reports to the contrary. If you will refer to page 125, Union Reports of Chickamauga, you will find a dispatch at the bottom of the page from Gen. Granger to Gen. Rosecrans, where the date, 19, is put in brackets. You will see at once that this must have been the 20th, and at 10.30 A.M. when the dispatch was written, the two Brigades were already in motion. Their was nothing to prevent their reaching the front and being in action at the time my records show.
At precisely 12 o'clock, when my Battery received orders to advance into the woods, we were lying by the cross fence in the field about a quarter mile north of the Snodgrass house. He made but one halt from the time of starting until we were in action, and that was but for a few minutes, when the rebels fired on us from the left, on the crest of the hill, after we had entered the woods some little distance, and then only long enough for Gen. Steedman to halt the charging column and take us along to the right.
I have called Major Davis' attention to the error of date, which he inserted, and giving him the proofs that it should have been the 20th. He says the date will be corrected in the volume when it is finally published.
I had no trouble whatever, in locating such commands as were represented at the meeting.
Hoping this will find your health very much improved.
G. E. Dolton
P.S. There are some very jealous men in different parts of the United States, that have been very much afraid that I would do something at Chickamauga, that might possibly upset some of their plans, consequently they have done what they could to impede my work. One of them was kind enough to carry your letter which you mailed to me there, in his pocket for 2 days, and gave it to me when too late. They had worked upon the G.A.R. Post and the Confederate Bivouac, so that there were no representatives from either, to meet with either the Union or Confederate visitors. I have accomplished my purpose, and now they can do what they wish. I am perfectly satisfied. In fact, I am far more satisfied, for I had very many more of my records confirmed than I thought was possible. As to those troops that I saw on the high hill at dusk, Col. Moe thinks he can account for them. He says that in the afternoon he sent some infantry to the high ridge, to watch in case the rebels should attempt to go around in that direction, but he says he has no idea whose troops they were, nor how many there were of them, as he was a stranger, had been with the command but three days, and that his only means of guessing at what commands he saw was by where he found the Brigade commanders at different times. I said to him, "Then if you had chanced to see Gen. Whitaker when he was over at our guns at the time he wanted us to fix bayonets on them, you would think those were Gen. Whitaker's men, and if Col. Mitchell had been seen over to the left, you would think those were Mitchell's men?" He said, "Yes, that he had no other way of determining." As Col. Moe is given the credit of having confused the location of the troops, this will explain how he fell into the errors. He made his statement in the presence of quite a number. My daughter, who was with me, wrote it down at the time. There is no question as to where my two guns were when the 115th Ill. broke and ran, only a few minutes before your surrender, and can be no question as to where your regiment lay. The marks on the trees are too positive to permit any question. Besides there were so many there who located both positions without knowing of these marks and going by them, that there could be no doubt whatever. My guns were not over 15 rods from where you surrendered, but owing to the condition of the atmosphere, and the shape of the ridge you of course could not see them. The greatest trouble we had, but which I could very easily reconcile, though I did not help the others to do it, was to find room between the 89th and 35th Ohio for your regiment and the 22nd Michigan. There is one thing, however, that I am not yet able to account for, and that is, at what time of the day the bulk of the prisoners were captured. The Confederates know of but 249; yet the 22nd Mich. was a very large regiment, and the records state that 247 of them were captured, and 158 of the 89th Ohio, and your regiment lost 120, making 525 enlisted men that were captured, or 276, (being considerably more than half), unaccounted for by the rebels. I suppose at times during the afternoon that these three regiments may have lost a few men in some of the charges, but to have lost so many they must have been taken in a considerable body, at some time. When was that?
Not having been handed your letter until I was ready to start for home, I, of course could not see to locating the 9th Indiana. I could not spare the time to remain and make surveys, and want to return there for that special purpose this fall, after the leaves have fallen, if the "close corporation", as it is called, does not get possession of the field, and prohibit my doing so. The surveys I made last fall of the ridge, came in very handy on this occasion, as at any point where a regiment was located, I had but to go to my witness trees, and from there take my courses and distances. This was a great puzzle to those present, and many asked me what the marks on the trees meant, and why it was that I went to them and seemed to know just what tree to go to. I was not there for the purpose of enlightening them, however.
There was one very loud talker present, who I supposed to be an ex-muledriver, but I subsequently learned that he was a Lieutenant, but the members of his regiment say that if he was on the front line during the battle, they failed to see him, and although he assured me by letter, some months ago, that he knew exactly where his regiment had fought, and could point out all its positions, having been there several times since the war, his own men who were present at the meeting, soon convinced him that he was very far from where his regiment had been. He, and one of the staff-officers, endeavored to convince Col. McSpadden that he had encountered two of my guns out at the point of the ridge, near "A". The Colonel made some remark to me about the guns having been in there, when I asked him to point out to me the position of his line across the ridge at that time. After he had done that, I asked him in what direction the canister came from. He showed me, and that was when he located where my guns actually stood. I asked him how he happened to say that the guns had stood over to his left. He said that the men had told him so. I told him we were not there for the purpose of learning what people had told: He said he could see at once that the man was wrong.
There is a stake driven where they said my two guns were. It was put there by a committee that visited the field in '88, and by direction of Gen's. Fullerton and Boynton. I remarked it last November, with the same inscription which it had previously borne. I told the parties this time, that if they wanted to satisfy themselves as to whether my guns had been there and had done such great execution as was claimed, to examine the trees in any direction and see if they could find any marks to prove that they had been there. There is nothing whatever to sustain the claim. The guns may have been run out there during a lull, but at the only possible time when it could have been done, was when McNair's troops were there late in the afternoon, after Deas' men had been greatly demoralized.
G. E. D.
St. Louis May 28, 1890.
Col. Arnold McMahan.
At 1254 feet east of the witness tree at D. on my map of Snodgrass Ridge, is a large white oak tree, blazed by me.
At 18 feet west of that tree is the hole where a tree was blown down many years since - a rotted pine tree now laying across it. The hole is a little east of the lowest part of the depression in the ridge at that point.
At N. 27' W. 33 feet from the W. O. tree, is a black oak, 24 inches in diameter, and 8 feet farther, is a pine, the same size.
At N. 69' W. 138 feet from the W. O tree, is a reclining Hickory tree - leaning to the north, thus - >. It is 10 inches in diameter, and 5 feet N.W. of it, stands a 14 inch W. O. tree. These two trees stand a little east of the deepest part of the ravine separating the two spurs of the ridge at that point.
You have not told me, so far as I recall, all that you witnessed behind those two large trees - the Black Oak and Pine. They stand a trifle to the west of north of where the right of the 35th Ohio lay, at the time Gen. Boynton saw the rebels to his left front, just at the time of your surrender.
I sent you the article of Dec. 1st from the Cin. Gazette. Did you receive it? If so, will you please return it, when done with it, as I am wanting to quote from it!
G. E. Dolton
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