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I WAS born in Yorkshire, England, in 1842, and came to this country when a boy with my father, mother and one sister. My brother Thomas was born in Hillsdale, and mother died when he was a baby. Soon after her death father went back to England to attend to some business and died there. I, but a mere lad, took care of myself, sister and baby brother by doing anything I could get to do.

June 20, 1861, when but nineteen years old, I enlisted in Company E, Capt. W. Lombard's company, at Hillsdale, Mich., and was mustered into the 4th Michigan Infantry, in command of Col. D. A. Woodbury, at Adrian, Mich. The regiment left its rendezvous for Washington, June 25, arrived during the night of July 2, and went into camp near Georgetown, where we joined the Army of the Potomac. We remained here in camp but a few days and then were ordered to Bull Run, but were halted at Fairfax Court House, nine miles this side, until further orders. A message came from Washington to be delivered to Gen. McDowell commanding the Union forces at Bull Run. I was detailed to deliver it, and was told to take the first horse I came across. I captured a fine bay stallion from a rebel planter living near by. I mounted him and delivered my message. When I arrived there I found the army retreating towards Washington, and we camped near there all winter. In the following spring we went with Gen. McClellan's army down in front of Richmond. We were engaged in the battle of Yorktown, defeated the "rebs," and then marched on towards Richmond. At New Bridge, seven miles this side, our regiment was ordered to the front, where we met the "Louisiana Tigers" and killed and captured half their number with but a small loss on our side. In the seven days' fight in front of Richmond I was captured and sent to Libby prison. I was there but a short time when I was exchanged on account of sickness, and was sent to Philadelphia hospital, remaining there until I received my discharge, when I went home.

I was home only one week, for, as they were organizing a company in Hillsdale, I re-enlisted in the 1st Michigan sharpshooters and encamped at Kalamazoo. I was made Sergeant of Company B, and being a veteran was appointed drill master. Shortly after this we were mustered into the regiment under command of Col. C. V. DeLand.

We assisted in driving Morgan out of Ohio and Indiana, and then returned to Dearborn, Mich., and proceeded under orders to "Camp Douglass," Chicago, where we were placed on duty guarding a camp of rebel prisoners. We remained in Chicago nearly six months and then were ordered to Annapolis, Md., to join the Army of the Potomac. We arrived there in due time, and proceeded to Warrenton Junction. A few days later we marched across the Rapidan river, and the following two days were engaged in the battle of the Wilderness, we sustaining a very small loss. Marching with the army to Spottsylvania Court House we participated in a three days' fight, suffering very severely. From there we marched on to Cold Harbor, where we were engaged again, but being in the supporting line suffered but little.. We arrived in front of Petersburg June 16, 1864, and on the following day happened one of the most prominent events in the history of this regiment. At night, while charging into the "rebs," I had a rooster tied to my belt that I had just captured, intending to have a feast for supper, but I was captured in that action, still holding onto the rooster, and it was eaten by the "Johnnies." The 14th New York Heavy Artillery was on our extreme left, and when the rebels came rushing out of the woods, charging upon us with a terrible yell, the New York regiment, like a flock of sheep, ran and left us. This left our extreme left without any support, and the "rebs" came upon us with a furious charge, but we met them with cold steel and had a fierce struggle until we were overpowered and obliged to surrender, leaving most of our regiment killed wounded and captured.

I was then taken to Petersburg to the provost marshal's office to be searched. I had two twenty dollar greenbacks hid on my person where they could not find them. There I was put in a tobacco house which was used as a temporary prison. The next day a squad of us were detailed to go after some rations. I was one of the first who volunteered to go, thinking I would have a chance to escape, but they had us guarded too strong. On our way a party of women that were standing before a mansion spit in our faces. I then said to the guard: "We wouldn't allow you men to be treated so in the north." He replied, "keep still you d—n yank, or I'll shoot you." They kept us here a few days under Grant's fire. One of his shells struck the roof of the tobacco house, but injured no one. From here we were loaded into box cars and sent to Andersonville prison. We were eight days on the road, and on arriving my money was all gone—I had spent it for food.

We were then taken to the stockade in which were imprisoned at that time thirty thousand Union men. Here I met a number of my old comrades who were in my company (4th Michigan), captured the preceding year. My friends warned me of a gang of raiders, men who had become desperate. When new prisoners came these men would rob the poor fellows and some times cut their throats. We formed a company to capture the leaders of this notorious gang. We captured six of them and turned them over to the rebels for safe keeping until we could send word to Gen. Sherman to ask what we could do with them. His answer was, "court martial them, and do what you think best." They were then "court martialed " and sentenced to be hung, and the balance of the raiders to run the gauntlet. We had a scaffold erected inside the stockade, and then the rebels delivered them over to us. We stood them in a row each with a rope around his neck. Our minister then offered a prayer for them, and when he finished the trap fell, but the rope broke and let one of them loose. He ran through the crowd but was soon brought back and seeing the rest hanging pleaded for mercy, but the cry was, "string him up." He was put upon the scaffold the second time and hung there with the others until sun down, so everyone could have an opportunity of seeing them, as a warning for the rest of the gang. They were taken down and buried all in one grave.

The food they gave us was corn cobs, all ground up and made into mush, and there wasn't near enough of that to keep the boys alive any length of time. Those that lived had to speculate by trading their brass buttons, boots, etc., with the guards. There were from one hundred to one hundred and fifty boys dying every day. A large wagon, drawn by four mules, was used in drawing out the dead. They were laid in as we pile cord wood and taken to the burying ground, generally putting fifty in a grave, and returning would bring mush in the same wagon, where worms that came from the dead could be seen crawling all over it; but we were starving, therefore we fought for it like hungry hogs.

The squad that I was in was quartered on the north side of the creek which ran through the prison. The boys would dig wells in the day time and at night would dig tunnels and attempt to escape. Very few, however, ever succeeded, for the "rebs " would set the blood hounds on the track. The hounds would tree them and wait for their masters to come to shoot the poor fellows down, but SOMETIMES would bring them back unharmed. One day there was a call for a detail of men to go to the hospital to help take care of the sick. A friend, by the name of William Smith, was quartermaster of the hospital. He had been captured a year before and was a comrade of mine out of Company E, 4th Michigan. By the aid of friend Smith I was put on the detail list, and was made ward-master of one of the wards. The first day I was in there the rebel doctors left prescriptions to give the sick. I killed seven boys that evening from the effects of that medicine. I told Smith I couldn't do that work any longer, and tho next day I played off sick so as to get off duty, and the doctors left me medicine to take, but I wasn't prepared to die and so did not take any. I then commenced to make a kind of beer which is good for dysentery. It was made of corn meal, molasses and water. I would let it ferment and sour over night in a barrel, and then deal it out to the boys, a cupful only to each. This was much better than the rebels' medicine. It was the means of saving the lives of a good many boys. I would trade this beer off for brass buttons and postage stamps and then would take these and trade with the guards for sweet potatoes. For doing this, I was taken before Werz, the captain in command of the prison, and a villain who would shoot our men down in cold blood. I expected to be dealt with the same, but fortunately some of my friends (Union men) were clerking for him, and when he was about to shoot me, after taking an oath, with his revolver, the boys talked to him and begged him not to. I was then searched and ordered back to the hog pen, where I remained for ten long months.

About the middle of April, 1865, there came an order for an exchange of prisoners. Although my name was not called for exchange, I stole away, secreted myself in a box car and was carried through to Vicksburg, Miss., with the others. I think where our exchange took place was at Black river bridge near Vicksburg. We then crossed the pontoon bridge into our lines and proceeded to get clothing and recruit up. We remained there about ten days. I met my brother-in-law, Wm. Finch, here. He had just been exchanged from Cahaba prison in Alabama.

On April 25th, 1865, about 2,000 of us, just released from rebel prisons, were put aboard the ill-fated steamer "Sultana" and started for home. We stopped at Memphis, Tenn., to take in coal and unload 300 hogsheads of sugar. While there I and my brother-in-law took a walk up town to get something good to eat which we had not tasted for many a long day. When we returned we took our blankets and laid down on the hurricane deck next to the wheel house to sleep and dream of our dear ones at home, and believing that in a few more hours we would be in their embrace. I at once fell asleep and did not awake until the boiler blew up, six or seven miles above Memphis. The boat was soon in flames and the screaming and moaning from those that were injured was something terrible. Hundreds of them would jump into the water together, clinch each other and go down in one body. My brother-in-law commenced fretting and crying because he couldn't swim. I could not swim either and begged him not to get discouraged and give up for there was some hope yet of being saved. He started for one of the life boats and I warned him to keep away from them, for those in first were knocking everybody in the head that tried to get in. That was probably where he lost his life. I remained on the boat praying until the fire burned me off. On falling into the river I sank, never expecting to arise again, but by some means I came to the surface again and saw the captain tearing off window shutters and throwing them into the river for the boys.

I now commenced swimming dog-fashion, but my strength soon gave out and I began to strangle. I yelled for help, and comrade Charles Taber, one whose life I had saved while in prison, heard and knew my voice, and swam away from the bale of hay on which he was floating, caught me by the hair and with the aid of the other men who were on the bale, pulled me on top, and thus in turn saving my life. I was chilled and lost consciousness, and when I came to I asked if it had been raining for I was wet through. We hung onto the bale and floated down six or eight miles below Memphis, where we were picked up by a gunboat that was out for the purpose of rescuing survivors of the wreck. The Sisters of Charity were there ready to take care of us. We were then taken to the hospital in Memphis, where I remained about two weeks. I can well remember seeing the captain putting life preservers on his wife and little girl and letting them overboard. The girl's life preserver slipped too far down for she was found (drowned) floating with her feet upwards. His wife was saved and the captain lost his life in trying to save others. We had a number of mules aboard the boat and some of the boys hung on to their tails while they swam to shore. Others would get out by means of planks and barrels.

This was one of the most terrible steamboat disasters that history has ever recorded, over 1,500 perishing. I was taken to "Camp Chase," Ohio, where I received my discharge, and then started for Hillsdale to meet my brother and sister. I have left a great deal out which I would like to have mentioned, but thinking I am taking more space than is my share in your book I will close.

Am now living in East Buffalo, N. Y., in live stock commission business, under the firm name of Dunning & Stevens.

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