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Commodore SMITH

I WAS born in Holmes township, Crawford county, State of Ohio, on the 18th day of January, 1842. Removed with my father's family to Hillsdale county, State of Michigan, in the fall of 1854.

My great-great-grandfather and my grandfather were soldiers in their day, and my father, Isaac Smith, with his three sons and son-in-law participated in the late war for the union of the States in America. Father was a member of Company C of the 1st Michigan Volunteer Infantry. He was born of Scotch and English parentage in the year A. D. 1809, in eastern Virginia, being at the time of his enlistment (in October 1861) fifty-two years of age. He received a wound in the head and was taken a prisoner of war on the third day of the notorious seven days battle before Richmond, Va., under the command of Gen. Geo. B. McClellan. Was taken to Richmond, and confined in that h-1 commonly called "Libby prison" for a period of about three months. He was soon afterwards paroled and sent to exchange camp, near Alexandria, Va., where after eight days (from exposure, starvation and disease contracted while a prisoner) he died. "Peace be to his ashes," whilst his blood crieth aloud for vengeance and just retribution against the rebel hordes that caused his suffering and death.

My eldest brother, Columbus Smith, was a member of Company I, 18th Regiment Michigan Volunteer Infantry, and enlisted August 11, 1862, and died at Lexington, Ky., of typhoid pneumonia, December 28, 1862.

My youngest brother, James Henry Smith, was a member of Company K, 27th Regiment Michigan Volunteer Infantry. He served to the close of the war and was discharged with his regiment. He died at Cambria, Hillsdale county, Mich., from the effects of la grippe, December 31, 1891.

My eldest sister's husband, Andrew A. Ewing, was a member of Company —, 2d Regiment Michigan Volunteer Infantry. He served to the close of the war and was discharged with his regiment, and is still living at this date, April 10, 1892, in Hillsdale county, State of Michigan, and long may he live to enjoy reunions with his old comrades.

I, myself, was a member of Company F, 18th Michigan Volunteer Infantry. I enlisted August 11, 1862, at Hillsdale, Hillsdale county, State of Michigan. Was captured September 24, 1864, by consolidated bands of guerillas, at Athens, Ala., the notorious rebel General N. B. Forrest being in chief command. I was taken to Cahaba, Ala., and there confined in prison for a period of nearly six months, and was reduced to a mere skeleton. My weight when captured was 175 pounds, and when I reached our lines at Vicksburg, Miss., March 16, 1865, my weight was 94 pounds, although I had not been sick a day while in prison.

We remained at Vicksburg until April 25th or 26th, when we, to the number of 2,333 souls, all prisoners, were taken on board the ill-fated "Sultana." At the time her boilers exploded I was lying sound asleep on the lower deck, just back of the rear hatchway to the hold. I was not long in waking up, for I was nearly buried with dead and wounded comrades, legs, arms, heads, and all parts of human bodies, and fragments of the wrecked upper decks. I struggled to my feet and tried to go forward on the boat, but could not on account of the wreckage and carnage of human freight which now covered the lower deck. The surface of the river for rods about the boat was covered with the same kind of wreckage. I remained on board the hull of the boat for perhaps twenty or thirty minutes, throwing overboard all the loose boards and timbers and everything that would float to assist those in the water and save them from drowning if possible.

And now occurred the hardest task of my life. The boat was on fire and the wounded begged us to throw them overboard, choosing to drown instead of being roasted to death. While our hearts went out in sympathy for our suffering and dying comrades we performed our sad but solemn duty. I say we because there were others besides myself who were fortunate enough not to be hurt or blown overboard by the explosion, and they too were doing all they could to alleviate the sufferings of their unfortunate comrades. We waited hoping, but in vain, to be rescued from the burning wreck. When at length the last shadow of hope had expired, and we were forced to leave the burning boat and try our luck in the seething, foaming, cold and turbulent waters of the mighty Mississippi, and this too at about two o'clock in the morning and almost total darkness prevailing, except the light from the burning wreck, we proceeded to perform carefully, but hurriedly, the most heart rending task that human beings could be called upon to perform—that of throwing overboard into the jaws of certain death by drowning those comrades who were unable on account of broken bones and limbs to help themselves. Some were so badly scalded by the hot water and steam from the exploded boiler that the flesh was falling from their bones. Those comrades who were doubly endeared to us through mutual suffering and starvation while we were penned up in the rebel h--s, or so called confederate prisons, and who instead of throwing them thus overboard, we were wanting to render every kindness to, dress their wounds and soothe their sufferings. But, alas! this was impossible, the only alternative was to toss them overboard.

Reader of this narrative, do you not think that this was a hard task for us to perform? If not, just hearken to this a moment; listen to the heartfelt prayers of those suffering and wounded comradeg and hear their dying requests as they commended their wives, children, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers to God's kind care and keeping, and hear them thanking us for our kindness to them, notwithstanding the pain they were suffering. They fully realized the fact that their last day, hour and even last minute to live had come; and then to hear the gurgling sounds, the dying groans and see them writhing in the water, and finally see them sink to rise no more until the morning when all shall come forth. Was this not heart rending to us? My heart, even now, after twenty-seven years, nearly stands still while I write this sad story. After we had thus cared for the helpless ones, I leaped over the burning wreck into the mighty waters and headed for Memphis, Tenn., which, from this point, was about seven miles down the river. I was a good swimmer, and after encountering several whirlpools and being carried around and around in them, each time being carried back into the center of the river, by hard straggling, keeping a cool head and using my dexterity as a swimmer I finally reached a point half a mile above the city of Memphis where I lodged in a tree out in the flats of the river. The water at this point was about twenty feet deep. I remained in the tree until a boat came, just at dawn, and picked me up together with twenty-seven others. Was afterwards taken to the city where the Christian Commission cared for us until we were able to resume our journey homeward to "God's country," as we called it, there to meet our loved ones from whom we had long been parted, and once more to enjoy the blessings of a free and united country, which we had so dearly bought, the price being "blood."

Occupation hardware merchant. Postoffice address, Remus, Mich.

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