"If Anybody's Boys Go Out, Mine Go." Turchin's Escape at Chickamauga
In the final hours of the Battle of Chickamauga, Corporal George L. Camp of Co. G of the 92nd Ohio witnessed General John B. Turchin's determination to lead his brigade to safety. "About 4 p.m. an officer came up to General Turchin and told him his brigade was surrounded and must cut its way out or surrender," Camp wrote. "His answer was 'I think is anybody's boys go, mine go.' We at once left our works which we had held for eight hours, went to the rear through the woods and passed around to the left of the Kelly House. We came to the edge of the woods where we halted and soon saw coming down across the farm from towards Snodgrass Hill eight columns of Johnnies. We lay low until they got close enough to be good marks, then General Turchin took his hat by the crown and waving it over his head gave the order 'My brigade, charge bayonet! Give 'em hell, God damn them!'
Turchin led his boys out, but it came at a high price: when Co. G stacked arms that night, Corporal Camp counted eight guns and found himself in command of the company, being the senior surviving non-commissioned officer. His account of Chickamauga is constructed from segments of two articles he wrote for the National Tribune in 1898 and 1908.
|Corporal George L. Camp, Co. G, 92nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry|
(Ohio History Connection)
On September 18, 1863, our portion of Thomas’ army lay near the foot of Lookout Mountain. In a few hours we started on an all-night march. Every rod of fence was burned as we marched along, and it was dangerous at times for the artillery to get by, and if it had not been for the pain they caused us by smoked out we should hardly have known we had any eyes left. We reached Crawfish Springs about daylight, passed Lee’s Gordon’s Mills, and arrived in the neighborhood of the Kelly farm between 9 and 10 o’clock, rested, cooked breakfast, and then went in about 11 a.m. There was no skirmish line in front of the regiment. The ground descended in front of us. We lay flat on the ground.
A comrade and myself selected a pine tree a few feet in front of the line. We would hug the ground to load then rise up and shoot. As the comrade got up on one knee to take aim, a ball struck him in the breast and passed clean through. I helped him back to the rear of the line, where he was taken to the ambulance. He was taken back as far as Nashville, where he died. Our Colonel Benjamin D. Fearing was wounded through both thighs by the same ball as he was passing back and forth along the line. The Johnnies that afternoon charged our battery four times. We would let them get pretty close, then the brigade would give them a volley and charge them back. That afternoon a ball entered my knapsack as I lay on the ground, just missing my head. At dark we were relieved and went to the rear to get some sleep.
|Private John A. Hoit of Co. H, 92nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry|
Sunday morning was very foggy. We took the front line again about 8 o’clock. The troops we relieved had built breastworks out of old dry logs. My company and Co. B were sent out to feel for them in the fog. We did not go far before finding all we wished for and had to return to the works. Later, when the fog lifted, the sun dried the leaves and they took fire from our battery, which was located to the left of the regiment and only one company between ours and the battery. The fire got into the breastworks and threatened to leave us without protection unless stopped. We tried to get Co. B to pull out the logs in their front and get over and rake away the leaves, but they declared it would be sure death to a man in front. I said, “Boys, if the works burn, probably most of us will be killed. If one or two get in front and stop the fire and get killed, it may save many lives. If there is one who will volunteer with me, we will run the risk.” A little fellow by the name of John McVey spoke up, “I am your man.” We jumped over and worked with a will, raked away the leaves and pulled out the logs, and assisted by those behind the works, the fire was put out; but how the balls spat all about us and every chunk we picked up a ball would spat it, reminding us to make haste and you can bet we tarried no longer than we needed to. We both got back again without a scratch but McVey, poor fellow, was missing at Buzzard’s Roost Gap and never heard from after.
|First Lieutenant James W. Merrill of Co. G, 92nd Ohio was wounded in the right knee and captured on September 20, 1863. He was paroled nine days later and discharged for his wounds the following spring.|
About 4 p.m. an officer came up to General Turchin (who commanded our brigade) and told him his brigade was surrounded and must cut its way out or surrender. His answer was “I think if anybody’s boys go out, mine go.” We at once left our works which we had held for eight hours, went to the rear through the woods, passed around to the left of the Kelly house and came to the edge of the woods where we halted. Soon we saw coming down across the farm from towards Snodgrass Hill eight columns of Johnnies. We lay low (only four regiments of us) until they got close enough to be good marks, then General Turchin took his hat by the crown and waving it over his head gave the order: “My brigade, charge bayonet, give ‘em hell, God damn them!”
|General John Basil Turchin, the Russian Thunderbolt. "My brigade, charge bayonet, give 'em hell, God damn them!"|
We fired a volley into them and came out of the woods with a yell. The eight lines, not knowing what was in the woods, broke and ran. We ran them clear across the farm. The first volley left Lieutenant James W. Merrill and First Sergeant Charles A. Brown wounded on the field besides a number of others. We captured about 500, but lost about 300. A battery of ours got in position on a hill at our left and began to shell the enemy and we filed up between the guns and stacked arms. All told, in my company there were eight to stack guns, not a commissioned officer, and I the only non-commissioned officer in the company. They kept coming back to the command so that after three days we could muster 25-20 men.
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