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I WAS born in Reading, Mich., on the 8th of October, 1843. I enlisted in the service of the United States on August 5, 1862, at Woodbridge, in Company F of the 18th Michigan Volunteer Infantry. I was taken prisoner near Athens, Ala., on the 24th of September, 1864, by Gen. Forrest's cavalry, and was sent from Athens to Cahaba prison, where I suffered everything but death. My legs were one raw sore from my knees down to my feet, with scurvy.

In March we left for Vicksburg, Miss., and after remaining there until the 25th of April, 1865, we were placed on board the steamer "Sultana." We were all happy with the thought of soon seeing our loved ones at home; but at the dead hour of midnight, when all or nearly all were soundly sleeping on her broad decks, one of her boilers exploded. (Nearly 1,700 were lost.) I was sleeping on the hurricane deck just forward of the wheelhouse and was knocked senseless by a piece of the deck falling on me.

After I came to, a terrible sight met my eyes. The boat was all in flames and the water was covered with men. My first thought was to get a door out of the cabin. I looked down into the cabin and there saw women and children running to and fro and screaming for help. I shouted to them that they would try and run the boat on shore but there was so much confusion that they could not hear me. At last I got a barrel but soon threw it away as I thought that would be a poor thing to use in the water. I then slid down on one of the posts back of the wheel, stood on the lattice work and took off my clothes except shirt, drawers and stockings. Then I watched my chance to jump into the river. When all looked clear I leaped in and soon came to the surface and struck out for the Tennessee shore. I saw some drown so close to me that I could place my hand upon their heads as they were going down.

While in the water I found a bale of hay with three or four men hanging on to it. As I made up to them they fought me off, but I clinched on and rested for a moment and then left them. I had gone about one-half of a mile from the boat when I found a small board (painted white on one side) which helped me to get to the shore. I got quite near the Tennessee shore but a strong current set in and took me farther from the shore. I got tangled in some grape vines that were floating in the river and came near sinking. I managed to get out of the vines, then the current carried me nearer bhe Arkansas shore. I could look back and see that the boat was in flames and see the fire drive those left on board off by the hundreds. When it was getting daylight I struck a snag about ten rods from the timber and flood-wood. I rested a little then swam for the flood-wood. The water came near drawing me under I was so weak. I crawled up on the logs nearly dead. I then looked back and saw men drowning and calling for help.

After daylight steamers came up the river and picked us up. I was taken to the hospital at Memphis, where I was doctored and clothed, and when able to travel was sent with others to "Camp Chase," Ohio. The Michigan men were then sent to Jackson, Mich., and from there we went home on furlough. Was afterwards ordered to Detroit, where I was discharged from the service on the let of July, 1865, as a private.

My present occupation is farming. Postoffice address, Cambria, Mich.

Full List of Michigan Men  |  Reminiscences Of Survivors

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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