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I WAS born in Cattaraugus county, N. Y., August 8, 1846. I enlisted in the service of the United States in Company B, 8th Michigan Cavalry, Dec 2, 1862, at Quincy, Branch county, Mich., and served until the close of the war as a private. I was sixteen years of age when I enlisted. I served in the East Tennessee campaign under Gen. Burnside,was wounded November 18, 1863, at the siege of Knoxville.

Was with Gen. Sherman on the Atlanta campaign until September when we were ordered to Nicholasville, Ky., to recruit and get remounted. In October we were ordered to Nashville, Tenn. My regiment was in the advance and met Hood in his advance on Nashville. I was taken prisoner by Forrest's Cavalry November 24, 1864, near Mount Pleasant, Tenn., and was confined in a stone fort at Columbia, Tenn., for two or three weeks until Hood commenced his retreat, when we were taken south. We landed at Meridian, Miss., on Christmas day, and remained there a few days when we were sent to Cahaba, Ala., and confined in Castle Morgan until March, when we were paroled and sent to Vicksburg, Miss. I was with the last squad that left Cahaba prison and reached Vicksburg March 24, 1865.

I remained at Vicksburg in the parole camp until I took passage on the ill-fated steamer "Sultana." When her boilers exploded I was asleep on the hurricane deck, aft of the wheel-house, on the Arkansas side, and was not injured by the explosion. I thought at first a rebel battery had fired on us and that a shell had exploded on board. I heard the officers give orders that we should remain quiet for the boat was going ashore, but I soon saw that it was every man for himself. I dressed and went below. The scenes were heart-rending. The wounded and dying were begging for help, some were praying, others were taking God's name in vain, while those in the water would catch hold of one another and go down in squads. The fire was getting so hot that I saw I must soon be making my escape into the water. I was quite expert in the art of swimming and thought if I could get away from the crowd I might save myself, although I was quite weak through having been sick a great deal of the time while in prison.

As I stopped to take a hurried glance around me I heard some one near me exclaim, "For God's sake some one help me get this man out." I turned and saw a lieutenant of a Kentucky regiment. He was a very large man and was called "Big Kentuck." He had found a man that was held fast by both feet, a large piece of the wreck having fallen across them. I took hold and helped the lieutenant but we could not release him and he was soon roasted by the intense heat. I then went to the edge of the boat, removed my shoes and palled my cap down, and then gave a plunge into the water with my clothes on as they would keep me warmer. I was very fortunate in making my escape through the crowd without any one catching hold of me and also in finding a plank, but I did not go far with it when a comrade grabbed it away from me. He was about half drowned and apparently crazy. The plank would have answered for us both if he had remained at one end. I tried to reason with him, but on hearing my voice he would keep coming for me, grabbing and yelling. He got almost within reach of me and I was afraid to have him get hold of my clothes for fear he would drown us both, so I left him with the plank and struck out without any support. It was very dark and all I could see was the burning steamer. I could not tell which way to make for land so I just floated on the water and let the current take me.

When it came daylight I was going around a bend in the river and the current carried me towards the shore. I could see trees but no land, as the water had risen very high and overflowed its banks. I thought my only chance was to get to those trees. I was very cold and nearly exhausted. When I got there the first tree I came to the water was up to the branches. I threw my arms over a limb and had just strength enough to hang on to it. It was some time before I could climb up out of the water. I found that I had gone down the river six miles and landed on the Arkansas side. As it grew light I could see comrades all around me, some in trees, some in drift-wood and most all were destitute of any clothing, and to make it still worse the gnats were so thick that they nearly ate us up. Then I was glad that I kept on my clothes, for a good many chilled to death after getting out of the water before they were picked up by any of the boats. I was picked up by the steamer "Silver Spray," after remaining in the tree about three hours. We were treated kindly on the boat, bed clothing being taken from the state rooms and given to the boys to wrap around them. We soon landed at Memphis, at which place the excitement was intense, and it seemed to me as if every one in the city was down to the wharf and nearly every hack, in charge of a soldier, backed down to the wharf-boat ready to take us to the hospital as fast as we were landed.

As we stepped from the gang plank into the wharf-boat the first to greet us were the Sisters of Charity (women of the Christian Commission). God bless them! They handed each of us a red woolen shirt and drawers, and as fast as we donned our red suits we stepped into a carriage and were driven rapidly to the hospital, where all was done for us that could be to make us comfortable.

After remaining in Memphis a short time I was taken to "Camp Chase," Ohio, where I remained about two weeks. From there I went to Jackson, Mich., where I received a furlough and went home on the 9th of June, 1865. I reported at Detroit and received an honorable discharge.

There were four of us that slept together on the boat that night: Henry Narton, Charles Seabury, Truman Smith, and myself, all of my company. We all escaped but Narton (poor boy). He was lost. He had been my companion and bunkmate all through our service for the United States and I felt his loss next to that of a brother.

My occupation is farming.

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
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