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Steamboat Sultana


Loss of the Sultana.

With biographical sketches of men from Henry County, Indiana, who were on board

Hazard's History of Henry County, Indiana, 1822-1906, Military Edition, Volume I; George Hazzard, Author and Publisher, New Castle, Indiana, 1904

The Steamer Sultana was built at Cincinnati, Ohio, January, 1863, and was registered at 1,719 tons. She was a regular St. Louis and New Orleans packet, and left the latter port on her fatal trip, April 21, 1865, arriving at Vicksburg, Mississippi, with about two hundred passengers and crew on board. She remained there little more than one day, repairing one of her boilers and receiving on board 1,965 Federal soldiers and thirty five officers, just released from the Confederate prisons at Cahaba, Alabama, Macon and Andersonville, Georgia, and belonging to the States of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Tennessee and West Virginia. Besides these, there were two companies of infantry, under arms, making a grand total of 2,300 souls on board. There were also a number of horses and mules and over one hundred hogsheads of sugar, the latter being in the hold of the boat and serving as ballast.

Leaving Helena, the boat arrived at Memphis, Tennessee, about seven o'clock p.m. of the 26th of April. Here the sugar was unloaded, many of the exchanged prisoners helping the crew, thus making a little money for themselves. Sometime in the evening, probably well towards midnight, the boat steamed across the river to the coal bins or barges and, after taking on her supply of coal, started on, up the river, to Cairo, Illinois. All was quiet and peaceful, many of the soldiers, no doubt, after their long, unwilling fast in Confederate prisons, were dreaming of home and the good things in store for them there, but alas! those beautiful visions were dissipated by a terrific explosion. About two o'clock in the morning of the 27th, as the boat was passing through a group of islands known as the "Old Hen and Chickens," and while about opposite Tagleman's Landing, she burst one of her boilcrs and almost immediately caught fire, for the fragments of the boiler had cut the cabin and the hurricane deck in two and the splintered pieces had fallen, many of them, back upon the burning coal fires that were now left exposed. The light, dry wood of the cabins burned like tinder and it was but a short time ere the boat was wrapped in flames, burning to the water's edge and sinking. Hundreds were forced into the water and drowned in squads, those who could swim being unable to free themselves from those who could not and consequently perishing with them.

One thing favorable for the men was the fact that there was a little wind, hence the bow of the boat, having no cabin above it, would face the wind until the cabin was burned off the stern, then the boat gradually swung around, the unburned part of the boat above the water acting as a sail while that below acted as a rudder, and finally drove the men into the water. A part of the crowd was driven at a time, thus giving many of those who could swim or had secured fragments of the wreck an opportunity to escape. But there was one thing that was unfavorable, and that was the pitchy darkness of the night. It was raining a little, or had been, and occasional glimpses of timber were all that could be seen, even when the flames were the brightest, consequently the men did not know what direction to take. Another thing that added greatly to the loss of life is the fact that the river at this place is three miles wide, and at the time of the accident was very high and had overflown its banks, and many doubtless, perished after reaching the timber, being unable to climb a tree or crawl upon a log and thus get out of the water.

Among the passengers on board were twelve ladies, most of them belonging to the Christian or Sanitary Commission. One of these ladies, with more than ordinary courage, when the flames at last drove all the men from the boat, seeing them fighting like demons in the water in the mad endeavor to save their lives, actually destroying each other by their wild actions, talked to them, urging them to be men, and finally succeeded in getting them quieted down. The flames now began to lap around her with their fiery tongues. The men pleaded and urged her to jump into the water and thus save herself, but she refused, saying: "I might lose my presence of mind and be the means of the death of some of you." And so, rather than run the risk of becoming the cause of death of a single person, she folded her arms quietly over her bosom and burned, a voluntary martyr to the men she had so lately quieted.

It was claimed at the time of the explosion that the same had been purposely caused to destroy the lives of the Union soldiers aboard the vessel, but official investigation showed that this was not the case. The boilers of the Sultana had been constructed for the upper Mississippi River trade and had afterwards been put in a boat running on the lower Mississippi to New Orleans. The lower part of the river being muddy caused sediment to sink in the boilers and the boilers became leaky: this added to the fact that the boilers were too light and the vessel loaded to nearly her double capacity, were, in brief, the causes of the explosion. The vessel had been in continuous use and no opportunity given to clean the boilers.


It is a coincidence that the Henry County soldiers on the Sultana, both the lost and saved, were all confined in the same Confederate prison at Cahaba. Alabama; they were all released at the same time; with other released prisoners; they went across the country to Vicksburg, Mississippi, together; and then, still in company, they boarded the steamer Sultana, which afterwards exploded its boilers and sent so many souls into eternity.

Cahaba was the first capital of Alabama, situate on the Alabama River, in Dallas County. six miles from the present city of Selma, in that State. No vestige of Alabama's first seat of government now remains. During the Civil War, an old brick cotton shed at Cahaba was turned into a prison for Federal soldiers, and was commonly called "Castle Morgan," after the daring raider of that name.

It is stated that the density of the population of this prison was greater than that of Andersonville and the mortality fully as great. The restricted accommodations, however, prevented such a large gathering of prisoners here, as at Andersonville. The greatest number confined in Cahaba, at any one time, was less than three thousand, whereas, at Andersonville, at the time of the greatest mortality, there were thirty two thousand. A sketch of each Henry County soldier who was aboard the steamer Sultana, when it was destroyed, is appended.



This soldier lived in Delaware County, just north of the village of Luray, in Henry County, which was at that time the common centre for the surrounding country. When the 9th Indiana Cavalry was recruited and organized, he enlisted with many others from the neighborhood of Luray, in Company G, and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, January 21, 1864. He was a faithful, conscientious soldier and received deserved recognition, while in the service, by being appointed a corporal of his company. He was mustered out of the service June 17, 1865. He was a survivor of the Sultana disaster. When the explosion occurred, he was on the hurricane deck, near the wheel house. When he recovered from the shock of the explosion, he wrenched a piece of timber from its fastening and lowered it into the water, where it was seized by a drowning comrade, and he was obliged to let go. Among the hundreds of struggling men, he fought for pieces of the debris. He finally secured a floating board to which he clung and from which he was rescued some seven miles down the river. After his rescue, he returned to his home in Delaware County, where he continued to reside until his death, November 28, 1902. Mr. Allison was a respected and influential citizen of his community, in the welfare of which he was always interested. His remains are buried in Beech Grove Cemetery. Muncie, Indiana.

Surviving him are his widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Allison, and four children. namely: Mrs. John Parrott, of Albany; Mrs. Alfred Aoleux, of Swissville, Pennsylvania, and Myrtle and Cassius Allison, who lived with their parents.



Stephen K. Chenoweth came to Henry County from Ohio and Casandra Perfect came, with her parents, from Marion County, West Virginia. Both settled in Prairie Township, Henry County, where they were married February it, 1841, the ceremony being performed by William H. Williams, a Justice of the Peace.

They were the parents of five children, three boys and two girls. When the Civil War began, John Franklin Chenoweth, the oldest son, born January 5, 1844, enlisted in Company F, 57th Indiana Infantry, and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, November 18, 1861. He was a faithful soldier, veteranized with the regiment and came home on veteran furlough, this being his first visit to his parents, at the old home, since his enlistment in the army. He was slightly wounded in the Atlanta Campaign.

At the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864, he was captured and taken to Cahaha Prison, Alabama, where he remained a prisoner until March, 1865, when he was released. With others of his comrades, he was sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, and there going on board the Sultana, became one of the more than seventeen hundred victims of the explosion of the boilers of that vessel. His body was never recovered.



James M. Fletcher did not enlist from Henry County, but as Company A. 37th Indiana Infantry, to which he belonged, was a distinctively Henry County organization, in the roster of which his name and service are fully set out elsewhere in this History, it is fitting to make mention of this soldier. When the war began, he and his brother. John W. Fletcher, were residents of Hancock County, Indiana, near the postoffice of Willow Branch. Both enlisted and served as privates in the company and regiment above named. At Kenesaw Mountain. Georgia, June 18, 1864, James M. Fletcher was captured and held in a Confederate prison, presumably until March, 1865, when he was released in time to reach Vicksburg, Mississippi, and go aboard the Sultana. When the boilers of the steamer exploded, he went down to death in the waters of the Mississippi and his body has never been recovered. The author of this History has made diligent effort to procure more satisfactory information regarding the life of this gallant young soldier, but without success.



Robert Wesley Gilbreath is the son of Jesse and Sarah (Burcham) Gilbreath. His father was born August 14, 1808, and died December 29, 1876. His mother was born June 19, 1808, and died August 15, 1879. The family came to Indiana from North Carolina, in 1851, first settling at Greensboro, Henry County, and afterwards moving to Raysville, Knightstown and Carthage, the last named place in Rush County. For thirty years. Robert W. Gilbreath and wife resided in Indianapolis but they now make Charlottesville, Hancock County, their home.

Robert Wesley Gilbreath was born in North Carolina, July 10, 1844, and on January 19. 1870, married Emily A. White. They have three children, namely: Raymond; Beatrice, now Mrs. Dittrich, of Indianapolis, and Paul W. The two sons live with the parents. Robert had three brothers. John S., born in North Carolina, February 23, 1833, and Joseph F., born September 18, 1846. Both were soldiers in the Civil War, the first named in the 19th Indiana Battery and the last named in Company G. 16th Indiana Infantry. Their respective military records will be found elsewhere in this History in connection with those militant organizations. Thomas W. Gilbreath, the oldest of the brothers, was born in North Carolina, May 22, 1831, and died December 22, 1861.

Robert Wesley Gilbreath enlisted in Company E, 9th Indiana Cavalry, and was mustered as a private, December 19, 1863. On December 1, 1864, he and others of his regiment were captured near Franklin, Tennessee, and taken eventually to Cahaba Prison, Alabama, where he was kept confined until March, 1865, when he was released on parole and sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi. He was mustered out of the service. August 7, 1865.

His story of privations and dangers courageously endured, culminating in the Sultana holocaust, is best told in his own words. He says:

"After our capture, we were taken to Columbia, just below Franklin, and confined in an old fort, for two weeks. The snow was knee deep and crusted so hard, one could walk anywhere without sinking through. There was no water for bathing or cooking and hardly enough fit to satisfy thirst. When we left the old fort, the backs of our coats and trousers were burned off from standing close to the fire to keep warm. We were marched afoot for more than two hundred miles to Corinth, Mississippi, before we were put on a train. At Cherokee Station, we camped for the night in a ‘lob-lolly’ of a place and in the morning, many of the boys were frozen to the ground. Arriving at Cahaba, everything was taken from us except our clothing. About March 1st, the prison was flooded by the Alabama River and the water in the prison became from three to four feet deep. How the privations of that prison were endured and life remain is still a mystery. Cahaba was in fact 'Starvation Point.' Those who had them, traded their suspenders and the buttons of their clothing, for food. I did not have a button—not a single button—on my clothes, when released, but used, instead, pins made of wood."

"Paroled and sent to Vicksburg, we there awaited transportation northward and home. On April 25, 1865, we boarded the Sultana and everything went smoothly until we reached Memphis. There two hundred and fifty hogsheads of sugar were unloaded, many soldiers assisting the crew, thus earning a little money, a fair supper and, for those who wanted it, all the whiskey they could drink. From there still northward the steamer ploughed her way through the night, her living freight wrapped in slumber and no noise, except the steady puffing of the engines, disturbed the sleepers. About two o'clock in the morning of April 27th, the widely chronicled explosion took place. For a moment, the darkness of the night was intensified and then came the screams and groans of the injured."

"Andy McCormack, Thomas Laboyteaux and myself were sleeping together on the hurricane deck, about half way between the pilot house and the bow of the boat, dreaming of home and friends. The first thing I knew of the explosion, was standing on my feet, looking right down into the boiler room. The whole of the vessel, amidship, was torn in pieces; fire quickly followed the explosion and the red glare of the flames disclosed a scene of terror and tragedy. My first thought was. 'How can we save ourselves?' Andy McCormack was sleeping soundly and only partly aroused by the explosion, he asked, 'Where is my blanket?' I told him I didn't think he would ever need a blanket again and that we would he lucky to escape with our lives. Andy turned around and started away. I moved to the bow of the boat and saw dozens of men jumping into the river. So many were taking to the water that I feared to follow, lest I should be dragged down by the clutch of some drowning victim. Looking about, I seized a large rope and slid to the lower deck, where I stood until the fierce heat drove me over the side. I threw a door into the water and on that floated two or three miles, but strugglers in the water kept grasping the door and turning it over so that I abandoned it and swam down the river alone, until I overtook some fifteen or eighteen men on a gang plank, whom I joined. Their combined weight sank them to their necks in the water and the gang plank, constantly turning, threw many under the water, never to reappear. The river, from the boat to Memphis, was full of struggling men and dead bodies. Myself and a sergeant of a Michigan regiment caught some driftwood and tried to raft ourselves ashore, but the men were so excited, we could do nothing. When we came around the bend and saw Memphis, we knew where we were. We drifted past the landing which was crowded with people from the city. Opposite Fort Pickering, two men in a skiff rowed out to within twenty or thirty feet of us, but feared to approach nearer, lest the men, in a scramble for safety, should overturn the boat. The Michigan sergeant and myself (I was a good swimmer) swam to the skiff and were taken ashore."

"Numbed by the cold and exposure, we could hardly walk. Our rescuers took us up the steep bank of the river into the Fort and gave each of us a half pint of whiskey, supplied us with breakfast and lent us clothing, until such time as we could be outfitted by the Government, which was done on the following day, at the hospital to which we were removed from Fort Pickering. From the hospital, we were taken to the Soldiers' Home where we remained until taken aboard the U. S. Mail boat, bound for Cairo, Illinois. Thence we went by rail to Mattoon, Illinois, where the citizens tendered us a reception. From Mattoon, we went to Indianapolis and thence scattered to our homes. This homecoming was to me, as no doubt, it was to all, the happiest moment of my life:



Thomas Jefferson Ginn belonged to the well known family of that name, which before and during the Civil War was so numerous in and around the village of Cadiz. He was the son of James and Margaret (Youngman) Ginn and was born August 17, 1833.

When the Civil War began, he was living near Mechanicsburg, from which place he enlisted in Company F, 57th Indiana Infantry, and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, November 18, 1861. He served with his regiment continuously, veteranized and came home on veteran furlough. At the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864, he was captured and held in Cahaba Prison, Alabama, until March, 1865. Ginn was a Sultana survivor, but the details of his miraculous escape from death by drowning are not now obtainable.

The war being over, he returned to his home in Harrison Township and for many years followed his trade as a carpenter. On December 30, 1874, he was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Josiah and Anna McCormack, of the well known family of that name in Harrison Township. He died December 17. 1900, and is buried in Mechanicsburg Cemetery. His widow survives him and makes her home at Middletown. The author has desired to give a more detailed statement as to this soldier, but has sought for material to that end without success.



On December 18, 1842, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, David M. Hoober and Fannie Raker were united in marriage. The Hoobers were of German ancestry and Henry County has received many valuable accessions from this element of the old Keystone State. Hoober and his wife came to Henry County in 1844 and settled in the northern part of Prairie Township, where they ever afterwards lived and raised a large family. The father was born January 1, 1820, and died July 2, 1899. The mother was born January 18, 1823, and died July 1, 1900. Both are buried in Buck Creek Cemetery, Monroe Township, Delaware County, Indiana.

That the family was patriotic is attested by the service of its only two sons who were old enough to go into the army, during the Civil War. John B. Hoober enlisted from Luray in Company I, 69th Indiana Infantry, and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, August 19, 1862. He served with the regiment until mustered out at the end of the war, July 5, 1865.

William C. Hoober, born November 2, 1847, assisted in recruiting in Prairie Township for Company G, 9th Indiana Cavalry, and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private in that company, January 21, 1864. At Sulphur Branch Trestle, Alabama, September 2; 1864, he was captured, along with Lewis Johnson, William H. Peacock and other comrades, and held in the Confederate prison, Cabaha, Alabama, until March, 1865, when he and other prisoners of war were released on parole. The facts attending his capture and the privations endured in the Confederate prison are substantially the same as set out in the personal recollections of the two comrades of his company, Lewis Johnson and William H. Peacock published in this chapter. Hoober, Johnson and Peacock, all went into the same company and regiment in the army and they went from the same neighborhood in Prairie Township. In fact, they had grown up as boys together. They all boarded the Sultana at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and started with glad hearts on the voyage up the river towards Cairo, Illinois, and thence home. But when the fatal explosion occurred, William C. Molter, not so fortunate as his two comrades, went down to a watery grave. His body was not recovered.



Lewis Johnson was born in Prairie Township, Henry County, Indiana, near the village of Luray, November 27, 1845. His parents were John and Charlotte Johnson, who came to Henry County in the pioneer days from Muskingum County, Ohio. John Johnson, the father, was a native of Virginia.

When the war came, he was too young to enter the army but December 15, 1863, he enlisted in Company G, 9th Indiana Cavalry, and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, January 21, 1864. The regiment served with the Army of the Cumberland under General George H. Thomas.

On September 25, 1864, during the severe engagement at Sulphur Spring Trestle, Alabama, Mr. Johnson, with many others of his regiment, was captured by the Confederates under General Forrest and imprisoned at Cahaba, Alabama, where they were kept until March, 1865. During his confinement there, Mr. Johnson experienced the terrible privations which were so often the lot of unhappy prisoners. Insufficient and unwholesome food was doled out, usually coarse corn meal and occasionally meat, said to be beef, but which Mr. Johnson says was probably mule meat, "tough, hard to masticate and difficult to digest."

When the prisoners at Cahaba were released in March, 1865, they were not exchanged but were simply paroled and sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where they remained in parole camp, until sent on board the steamer Sultana, April 25, 1865, pulling out at once for Memphis, Cairo and home.

On board the steamer, everything went along smoothly until the early morning of April 27th, when the terrible explosion occurred. Mr. Johnson, narrating his experience, says:

"At the time I was lying right in front of the wheelhouse, on the hurricane deck, sound asleep. Aroused by the explosion and taking in the situation as best I could, it was evident that the boat was doomed. I picked up some boards and carried them to the edge of the boat, where I stripped off my clothes, but the flames were already upon me and I was burned about the back and shoulders. Naked as I was, except for a handkerchief tied about my neck, I jumped into the water and sank. On coming to the surface, I struck out with all my strength for the Arkansas shore and finally reached the timber. I, with eight other persons, got on one of a number of logs that were floating about, where we maintained our holds until rescued by boats. The Indiana Sanitary Commission at once took us in hand. I was supplied with a blanket, which I wrapped around me, and was given hot stimulants. We were landed at Memphis and taken to Gayoso Hospital in carriages sent to the wharf for that purpose. After several days spent in the hospital recovering from exhaustion, we were put aboard the United States Mail boat and taken to Cairo, Illinois, thence by rail to Indianapolis, and from there I hurried to my Henry County home, where I remained until final discharge, June 17, 1865. The horrors of that awful catastrophe arc indelibly stamped upon my memory.

After his discharge from the army, Mr. Johnson remained on his father's farm and worked for him until his marriage which took place October 18, 1868, his wife being a daughter of David M. Hoober. They were the parents of eight children, six of whom are still living. His wife died January 23, 1899. Mr. Johnson is now a prosperous farmer living in Delaware County, three miles west of Muncie.

Silas Johnson, a brother of Lewis, was also a soldier of the Civil War, who served three enlistments. He was mustered into the service of the United States as a private in Company K, 57th Indiana Infantry, November 14, 1862, and was mustered out August 14, 1863. He again enlisted in Company B, 134th Indiana Infantry and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, May 24, 1864, and was mustered out September 14, 1864. His final enlistment was in Company B, 147th Indiana Infantry. He was mustered into the service of the United States, as a Sergeant, January 25, 1865, and was mustered out August 4, 1865.



Thomas Laboyteaux was the son of Peter and Anna Laboyteaux, old settlers of Henry County, east of New Castle. Peter is buried in the Batson Cemetery, Liberty Township, and Anna, his wife, in the cemetery near Greentown, Howard County, Indiana. The family came to Henry County front near Hamilton, Ohio.

Thomas was born July 4, 1836, and was married April 12, 1860, to Ellen M., daughter of Imla and Susan Cooper, of the well known Cooper family, of Harrison Township. Imla was one of four Cooper brothers, Caleb, Imla, William and John, who, in the early thirties, emigrated, with their families, from near Cadiz, Harrison County, Ohio, to the western part of Henry County, Indiana, from which fact comes the name of Harrison Township and the town of Cadiz. From their first settlement in the county to the present time, the family has played an important part in the commercial, social, political and religious affairs of Harrison Township.

Thomas Laboyteaux was a farmer, near Cadiz. In the winter of 1863-4, when Captain Volney Hobson was organizing what became Company E, 9th Indiana Cavalry, Laboyteaux joined the company and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, January 8, 1864. He was a faithful and efficient soldier and, voicing the sentiment of his surviving comrades, he was brave and daring. He was captured near Franklin, Tennessee, December 1, 1864, along with Robert W. Gilbreath and Andrew J. McCormack, Sultana survivors, and all were held, as prisoners of war, in Cahaba Prison, Alabama, until March, 1865, when they were released on parole and sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where they remained until they boarded the doomed Sultana, homeward bound. Laboyteaux, less fortunate than his companions, was lost and his body never recovered.

When Private Laboyteaux went into the army, he left his family, consisting of his wife and two children, living in Cadiz. The children were Agnes, born February 10, 1861, and Leonora, born September 24, 1864. Mrs. Laboyteaux has ever since her husband's death retained his name, residing continuously with her daughters, in Cadiz, where the family is universally respected and esteemed.



Andrew Jackson McCormack was born June 26, 1846, on the farm of his parents, Melon and Mary McCormack, near Cadiz, Henry County, Indiana. He had three brothers in the Civil War, for one of whom, John R. McCormack Post, No. 403. G. A. R., Cadiz, was named. In the biographical sketch of John Rowdy McCormack, attached to the history of that Post, published elsewhere in this history, will be found further reference to the parents and to the military services of his brothers.

Andrew J. McCormack enlisted in the army in 1863, in Company E, 9th Indiana Cavalry, and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, January 8, 1864. The regiment served with the Army of the Cumberland and was engaged in the military operations against the advance of General Hood's Confederate forces towards Nashville, Tennessee.

In an affair with the enemy, near Franklin, Tennessee, December 1, 1864, he was taken prisoner, along with several comrades of his company. They were captured by the 6th Texas Rangers and taken to Corinth, Mississippi, and thence transferred to a Confederate prison at Meridian, Mississippi, and from there to Cahaba, Alabama, where they arrived in January, 1865. Here was a noted Confederate prison, known during the war as "Castle Morgan." Here they were confined until March, 1865, when Mr. McCormack, along with the other prisoners, was paroled and sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he remained in parole camp, until the arrival of the steamer Sultana, April 25, 1865, when he embarked in that ill fated vessel for the journey northward and home.

At Memphis he helped unload the vessel's cargo of sugar and received seventy five cents for his labor, and this was all the money he had, having received none since the time of his capture. Leaving Memphis, the soldiers were resting in fancied security, but disaster and death were already closing in upon them, Mr. McCormack says:

"About eight miles north of Memphis, the explosion occurred. All was excitement and confusion. I was on the hurricane deck asleep, but aroused by the explosion and gathering my senses, my first thought was of safety. I started towards the bow of the boat but the crowd was too great and I turned and started for the stern. Amidship of the vessel, I was driven back by the flames. Thus hemmed in I climbed to the top of the wheel house and from there jumped into the river and began swimming downstream. I was a good swimmer and after a time, I began to make for the shore on my right, but could not stein the swift current. About four miles below the wreck, I found some twenty five men holding onto a gang plank and I joined. Some of them, becoming chilled by the water and losing their strength, could no longer hold on but sank beneath the waters. Floating in this way, we passed the city of Memphis but, about a mile below that city, three canoes found us and we were rescued by willing hands. From the wreck to the point of rescue was about ten miles and we were in the water about four hours.

"We were taken to Memphis and cared for there in the general hospital. After two or three days' rest, we were put on board the United States Mail boat and taken to Cairo, Illinois; thence we were transferred to Indianapolis, and from there I went as soon as possible to Knightstown and then home to Cadiz, where I was received as one from the dead. After a few weeks of rest, I reported in person to the Adjutant General at Indianapolis and was furloughed back home, where I remained until final discharge, September 1865. I never saw my regiment again after my capture. From about two months before my capture until my final discharge from the army, I drew no pay, but upon discharge, I received for pay and allowances three hundred dollars.

"There were two other boys from Cadiz aboard the Sultana, Thomas Laboyteaux, a member of my company, who was drowned, and Thomas J. Ginn, of Company F, 57th Indiana Infantry, who escaped. There were other men of my regiment aboard the boat but, with the exception of Robert W. Gilbreath, I did not know them nor did I meet them prior to nor after the disaster. It was a fearful experience, never to be forgotten, to which neither pen nor brush can do justice."

In May, 1866, Andrew J. McCormack was united in marriage with Catharine Haggy and to them have been born eight children, five of whom are now living. Mr. McCormack is a carpenter and contractor, living at Cadiz.



The Nation family has been, for a long series of years, identified with the history of Dudley Township, Henry County. The history of the family in Henry County is nearly as old as the county itself. Enoch Nation, the father of Enoch Thompson, was born in Tennessee, September 18, 1804, and died February 15, 1879. The mother, Sophia Thompson, was born in Virginia, March 16, 1807, and died May 12, 1876. They were married in Henry County, Indiana, on December 29, 1825, the ceremony being performed by Elisha Long, Associate Justice, and both are buried in the Leakey Graveyard, north of New Lisbon.

The family was earnest and active in its support of the Government, during the Civil War. Six sons of Enoch Nation marched under the banner of the Union. Sampson served in a Kansas regiment; David was Captain of Company B, 69th Indiana Infantry; William, a private in Company C, 5th Indiana Cavalry; James Rariden, a Sergeant in Company A, 8th Indiana Infantry (three years), afterwards became Captain of Company G, 9th Indiana Cavalry, and Major of the regiment; Seth was a private in Company A, 8th Indiana Infantry (three years); and Enoch Thompson, who lost his life by the explosion of the boiler of the Sultana, and whose body was never recovered.

William Nation, brother of Enoch and the uncle of the above named soldiers, sent two sons into the army, namely: Wallace, who lost his life in front of Atlanta, while serving in the 20th Indiana Battery, and Enoch H., who served in the Indiana Legion and with the State troops, in the Morgan Raid.

All of the above named soldiers, except Sampson and David, are properly accredited to Henry County, and their records will be found appropriately set out in this History under their respective organizations. The record of Sampson in the Kansas regiment is not obtainable; David went into the army in command of a company, from Delaware County. He was for a time a resident of New Castle, where he was editor of the New Castle Courier, and will be remembered by many Henry County people. He was the husband of the Carrie Nation who achieved notoriety in the State of Kansas by her strenuous advocacy of the temperance cause.

Enoch Thompson Nation, who was born January 3t, 1845, enlisted as a private in Company G, 9th Indiana Cavalry, of which his brother, James R., was

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Wilham Henry Peacock was born in Tyler County, Virginia. May 28, 1845. His parents were Elijah and Mary ((Wright) Peacock. They came to Indiana in 1846, settling near the village of Luray in Prairie Township, Henry County. He spent his youth on a farm and remained with his parents until he was seventeen years old when he enlisted December 15, 1863, in Company G, 9th Indiana Cavalry, and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, January 21, 1864. Later he was appointed a Corporal of his company. He was captured at Sulphur Branch Trestle, Alabama, September 25, 1864, and was confined in the Confederate prison at Cababa, Alabama, until March, 1865. During his captivity, he suffered from privations of a most aggravated character. The food especially was of a scanty and unsanitary character, the daily ration consisting of one quart of coarse corn meal, ground cob and all. When captured, he was in robust health and weighed one hundred and ninety seven pounds; when released, his weight was eighty one pounds, and his health so shattered that he did not fully recover until long after the war.

When released from Cahaba on parole, he was sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he remained until the arrival of the steamboat Sultana, on which he and many hundreds of other paroled soldiers embarked April 25, 1865, homeward bound. The vessel reached Memphis, Tennessee, on the evening of April 26th. Leaving there later in the same evening, the boat was gliding smoothly through the waters of the Mississippi, when without warning, she was shaken from stem to stern by the explosion of her boiler and immediately burst into flames.

Mr. Peacock, in his vivid recollections of the event, says:

“When the explosion occurred, I was on that part of the boat where the officers' berths were located, called the 'Texas,’ in front of the pilot house. There were four of my comrades with me, but of the five, I alone was saved. The others perished by fire or were drowned in the icy waters of the river. Enoch Nation and myself, when the explosion took place, fell back on the boat together and were covered with the flying debris. Freeing ourselves from this, we started to find some escape from the impending doom. Enoch went into the flames and was never heard of afterwards. I climbed to the wheel house, which was torn and wrecked, and there, picking up a piece or two of timber, I plunged with them into the river.”

“I started down stream, struggling and battling with the waves, until some distance below Memphis, where I was rescued and taken to the hospital in that city. When rescued, I was entirely naked, except for a pair of drawers, one stocking and a handkerchief around my neck. The explosion was a terrible fatality and the impression made upon my mind by its sufferings and horrors can never be effaced.”

"April 30, 1865, I left Memphis by boat for Cairo, Illinois, and thence I went by rail to Indianapolis. There I was furloughed home, but afterwards returned to Indianapolis, where I received my full pay and allowances and my final discharge from the army, June 25, 1865."

On July 25, 1868, Mr. Peacock was united in marriage with Martha A. Reynolds and to this union have been born three children, namely: Mary E., James R., and John C. Mrs. Peacock was the daughter of Breckenridge Reynolds, a native of Virginia, who was a large land owner, being at one time the possessor of over one thousand acres. Mention of him will be found elsewhere in this History.

Mr. Peacock is now a highly prosperous farmer, whose fine country home is a mile or two from Cowan, Delaware County, Indiana. His home and hospitality are noted in Delaware County and himself esteemed by his friends and neighbors. His farm consists of one hundred and eighty acres of fertile and highly cultivated land. Politically, he is an uncompromising Republican.



For many years prior to the Civil War, there lived, four miles south of New Castle, in Henry Township, a family named Watkins, well known and universally respected for their industry and probity of character. The father and mother of this family were Armistead and Nancy (Thornton) Watkins. They had a large family, consisting of eleven children, all of whom were boys, well remembered for many notable characteristics, and each the possessor of a double name. It was a remarkable though usual custom in that neighborhood, in the schools and elsewhere in the community, to always refer to each of them by his full double name. The names of these boys, given in the order of their births, were as follows: George Thomas, John James, Wilham Morris, Francis Marion, Marquis de La Fayette, Thornton Toliver, Mahlon Smith, Augustus Wilson, Aurelius Leonard, Benjamin Franklin and Alverenas Pentecost.

When the Civil War came, Francis Marion was the first of the boys to enter the army. His record as a soldier is fully set forth in the roster of Company F, 57th Indiana Infantry. He was wounded and died from the effects thereof, all of which together with his present place of burial appears in the "Roll of Honor,”– in this History.

William Morris joined the army, serving first in the State troops, Company B, 110th Indiana Infantry (Morgan Raid), and afterwards in Company G, 17th Indiana Infantry.

Marquis de La Fayette attempted to go to the front as a soldier; went to Richmond, Indiana, where he was accepted and mustered in by the Provost Marshal, drew his uniform, and was ordered to report at Camp Carrington, Indianapolis, for assignment to a regiment. He came home on his way to Indianapolis but never succeeded in getting further, as he was taken sick and died, His remains are buried in South Mound Cemetery. His name appears in this History in the "Incomplete list."

The military record of Thornton Louver Watkins shows that he enlisted at New Castle, as a recruit, in Company F, 57th Indiana Infantry, and was mustered into the service of the United States, as a private, April 6, 1804. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Franklin, Tennessee, November 30, 1864, and was held in Cahaba Prison, Alabama, until March, 1865, when he was released on parole and  sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where with other released prisoners, he became a passenger on the Sultana and was lost in the explosion. It is from the foregoing facts that his record is made up, as it appears in the "Roll of Honor." His brother, Wilham Morris Watkins, now connected with the Soldiers’ Home, at Marion, Indiana, however, writes to the author of this History, as follows:

"I have never believed that brother Thornton Toliver was on the Sultana. Some one heard some one else say they had seen him on the boat at Vicksburg, but there was no record, only rumor. I corresponded with all the organized societies along the river. He was at Andersonville and escaped but was recaptured and taken to Meridian, Mississippi, where he again made his escape. At a point fourteen miles north of Jackson, Mississippi, he and his partner, each wrote a letter home and exchanged the letters. The comrade, Merrill, by name, I believe, succeeded in getting through the lines and we got the letter. In it he wrote that he would try to get to the Mississippi. This was the last from him. Months after the close of the war, a letter came directed to him from a man, who had befriended him, asking after him and saying he had heard that he had been ambushed and killed."


Newest Material

July 17, 2007 -  Added A Federal Railroad Adventure - "Andrews Raiders"
May 10 - Added new page Civil War Era Definitions with definitions to be added as I come across them
May 9 - Added article: Our Captured Correspndent
May 9 - Added page for Prisons and Prisoners and a page for Libby Prison
May 8 - Loss of Sultana, article and biographical sketches
May  - Images of Sultana
May 7, 2007 - Steamboat Sultana pages created