Detroit Free Press Favorite

Benjamin F. JOHNSTON

I ENLISTED on the 16th of August, 1862, at Almont, Lapeer county, Mich., as a private in Company A of the 5th Regiment Michigan Cavalry. Mustered in the United States service at Detroit on the 26th of August, 1862, and left Detroit for Washington, D. C., on the 6th of December, 1862, arriving there on the 9th, and went into winter quarters on East Capitol Hill. Our regiment, in the spring, joined the army of the Potomac and I was taken prisoner on the 11th of June, 1864, at Trevillian Station, Va. Taken first to Libby Prison in Richmond, Va., and from there to Andersonville, Ga., where I was confined until the 25th of March, 1865. I was paroled out and sent to Vicksburg, Miss., arriving at Black River on the 1st of April, 1865, crossed the river and went into camp, remaining there until the 24th of April, afterwards marching about four miles to Vicksburg where we went on board the steamer "Sultana."

My company being near the rear of the columnn would naturally fall on the lower deck and on the bow of the boat. We arrived at Memphis, Tenn., on the evening of the 28th of April, and the steamer stopped and unloaded three hundred hogsheads of sugar which detained her until nearly eleven o'clock at night. Left there about that hour and went up the river about four miles, where we stopped and took on a supply of coal to last as far as Cairo, Ill., leaving the barges about two o'clock in the morning of the 27th, when, after steaming up the river three more miles, the explosion took place.

Taking in the whole situation at a glance I got up, put on my shoes and waited for a favorable opportunity to leave the boat, realizing that I was safe on the boat as long as the fire did not affect me. When the opportunity presented itself I took off my blouse, hat and shoes, keeping on all my underclothing, and took an ambrotype likeness of my wife and boy, out of my blouse pocket and put it in my pants pocket so that if I was lost and ever found it would be the means of identifying me. I then put my left hand on the railing of the boat and jumped into the river and commenced swimming for the shore. After being in the water a short time a piece of board, about six inches wide and from six to seven feet long, came floating along in front of me. Having secured it and placed it under my breast I bad no trouble in reaching an island, but on account of high water it was overflown. After a great amount of trouble I finally succeeded in getting out of the river into the fork of a small tree and remained there until eight o'clock, when I was picked up by a steamer and taken to the

Soldiers' Home at Memphis. Left there the second day for Michigan. Was discharged from the service as a veterinary surgeon, at Detroit, July 7, 1865.

Full List of Michigan Men  |  Reminiscences Of Survivors

(Reminiscences also linked in Full List of Men)

Sources For Your Research


Civil War Files On This Site

Michigan Civil War Files | 1883 Michigan Pensioners | 1894 Civil War Veteran Michigan Census
African Americans Who Served From Michigan | 1st Michigan Sharp Shooters Co. K | Loss of the Sultana
Honor Roll Interments in Michigan