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I ENLISTED at Pontiac, Mich., in August 1862, as a sergeant in Company A, of the 5th Michigan Cavalry. I was captured the last time at Trevillian Station, Va., with 500 of our brigade (Custer) June 11, 1864, and imprisoned in Libby ten days, Pemberton building a few days and then shipped by cars to Andersonville, Ga., where I remained until removed to Millen prison in September following. Was in the latter prison but a short time when Kilpatrick, trying to capture us with a scouting detachment from Sherman's army, drove us out and the rebels took us to Savannah, there put us on the Gulf road and run us down, finally, to Blackshear, thence to Thomasville, and from there across the country to Americus, Ga. Taking the road again we came back to Andersonville sometime in December, where we remained during the winter. Early in the spring of 186,1 we were ordered to be sent to Vicksburg, where on arriving we went on board the steamer "Sultana." We were placed on this steamer by that careless officer, Gen. Dana, who had charge of shipping all the soldiers at that point. May he never be forgotten as a type of first class don't care--for the boys who were returning to their long looked for home and loved ones.

On the morning of the 27th of April, 1865, I found myself waking from a stupor or unconsciousness, produced by a blow which I received at the time of the explosion upon the head just back of the center part of the brain. I was pinned or held down by the timbers or materials of some sort and felt a smarting sensation on my face; tried to raise my hand but was so pinned down that I could not. I struggled and finally loosened myself only to find I was in darkness. I did not apprehend at all what was the matter, nor was I in the least cognizant of my surroundings, for everything was all right when I went to sleep (just as we pushed off from the dock at Memphis a few hours before). My quarters upon the fated boat were in the center of the upper deck and ten feet in front of the smoke stack, the boilers being back of the smoke stack prevented my being thrown into the water. I remember distinctly of hearing a noise caused by the explosion, and can only describe the noise by measurement (being a mechanic I can do no other way). It appeared to be about one and one-half inch long, and then all was blank until I awoke one-half hour afterward. Not a sound could I hear but the splashing of water. Could see nothing and was in a great wonderment of mind as to the trouble I felt I was surrounded by. Presently I heard voices on the end of the boat crying, "Put out that fire, put out that fire!" I looked and discovered a fire breaking out above the deck about the size of the crown of a hat. It grew rapidly and soon illuminated the awful scene. The thoughts that came rushing upon me were simply appalling and too terrible for my description. I looked for something that was loose on which I could float but could find nothing. I crawled down to the lower deck (the only one which was not broken up) and, as I was so doing, a hand reached up from below me and caught my ankles and I heard some one saying, "Help me out." A timber prevented them from getting out and I tried to raise it but could not quite. A comrade came crawling along, bent upon reaching the lower deck, and helped me to raise the timber from off three or four men and thus saved them from being burned to death.

When I reached the deck I found a box which I made use of in floating although I was a good swimmer. Thinking that I must be in the water for a long time before relief might come, I remained on board the boat until the fire drove me off and then jumped into the water. While I was swimming away from the burning wreck a man attacked me and wanted my box. I moved the box sideways enough for him to miss his clutch upon it, but he caught me by the hip and we both went down under water farther than I ever went before or since. I finally came to the surface of the water but so weak from having taken water into my lungs that I could scarcely keep up, and if it had not been for the box I think I would have drowned. About fifteen feet away from me I saw a bale of hay with a soldier boy lying across it, which I made the greatest physical effort to reach. I finally made it and putting my arm upon one corner, and with the box under the other arm, I was soon able to disgorge some of the water from my lungs. As soon as I could speak I assured the soldier boy that I would not sink his bale of hay. He was piteously begging me not to as he could not swim. I told him to keep a look out and not let any one get on with us. I found by careful observation that it would support both of us with the use of my box under one arm.

The water was cold and chilly and but for my care the boy would have fallen off and drowned. I kept him using his limbs so as to keep the blood in circulation and thus prevent chilling so much. We floated down the river opposite to Memphis where we were picked up by the steamer "Bostonia," which was on her trip to the wreck, and we were afterwards landed at Memphis. I remained about a month at Memphis and then came north to Columbus, Ohio, thence to Jackson, Mich, where I was discharged from the service in June, 1865.

My present occupation is model and pattern making. Postoffice address 62 Duffield street, Detroit, Mich.

Full List of Michigan Men  |  Reminiscences Of Survivors

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Civil War Files On This Site

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African Americans Who Served From Michigan | 1st Michigan Sharp Shooters Co. K | Loss of the Sultana
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