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Jackson Citizen Patriot - May 19, 1865 - Joseph STEVENS



More of the Ill-Fated Sultana Disaster --- Narrow Escape of Sergt. Stevens of the Michigan Sharp Shooters.---A Chapter of Horrors --- Sensations of A Drowning Man --- Scenes and Incidents.

Among the 70 Michigan soldiers rescued from the wreck of the ill fated steamer Sultana, who arrived at Camp Blair on Wednesday, was Sergeant Stevens of Co. B 1st Michigan Sharp Shooters, a resident of Hillsdale, who left home with Col. DeLand's Regiment, in 1863. Sergt. Stevens gives the most thrilling account of this unparalleled disaster we have yet seen. The history of his narrow escapes both by the flood and field and in the prison pens of the South, would fill a volume, and would be read with avidity by all classes. He passed all through the fights of the Army of the Potomac, from the Wilderness to the assault on Petersburg, where he was taken prisoner, on the 17th of June. He was confined over ten months in that hell at Andersonville, and experienced all the horrors of prison life there. Saw our brave boys die by scores, of starvation and disease - 140 per day! - 3,000 per month! amid the prayers and tears of those who in their mad ravings asked that they might be spared to get to "God's country" once more; yet he says he never saw anything that equaled in its intensity of horror the scenes witnessed on board the Sultana. Every available space on the boat was filled, even the decks were black with human beings.

The vessel was moving smoothly along beneath the starlight of a cloudless sky, when all at once there was a terrific explosion. The smoke stacks fell over upon either side, carrying away the upper works of the boat and hundreds of men, without any warning, in the river of death. He saw groups of twenty five, fifty and one hundred men clinging together in one mass, sink beneath the waters to rise no more. In a moment the boat was in flames. The scene that followed was indescribable. The explosion filled up the stairways and entirely prevented egress from the lower cabins, and hundreds of unfortunate men literally roasted alive. As the flames increased the intensity of the heat, they would call upon those above them to pour cold water down upon them, cry murder, fire, help and make every appeal for aid, but all in vain. Those above could render them no aid but were obliged to stand and see men, women and children perish in the flames. Sergt. Stevens says the scene on the upper deck was equally appalling. Men who never prayed before were on their knees in prayer. The boat drifting down the current, and as the flames crept nearer and nearer, the scorched and terror stricken men would throw themselves into the river. He saw Senator Snow, of Arkansas, buckle a life preserver around him and leap into the river. He remained on the boat until it was nearly deserted - until the flames fairly drove him off, and with a silent prayer to God to preserve his life, he took, as he supposed the fatal leap. He was unable to swim, but as he rose kept himself on the surface for a time, but soon sank, the water filling his eyes, mouth and nostrils. All suffering had ceased, and the most agreeable sensations ensued. All the acts of his life for the past 20 years, were vividly reviewed in his mind, and then unconsciousness ensued. A comrade saw him floating down, and by the hair of the head drew him to a bale of hay, on which were two others. With convulsive effort he clenched his hands into the hay, and floated on. The comrades of his rescue said there was no use of taking a dead man with them, but could not unclench his hands. There were soon rescued by a gunboat, and Stevens was restored to consciousness. He reports Daniel Wells and a man named Shepherd, of the same regiment, as lost, and also Sergt. Wm. Finch of the 18th Mich., who has relatives living near this city.

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