Memphis, TN Area Sultana Disaster book - part 3
gotten how to use toilet articles, bounced in after me and scrubbed me from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, and dressed me in a new suit of linen such as the soldiers were then wearing. I walked back to the company's quarters reduced in weight several pounds, and feeling as though I had just got over a spell of sickness. Sim Gaston declared that he saw my cast-off garments on the outskirts of Vicksburg, walking off toward the Big Black.
There was not a day while we remained in parole camp that I was not in some part of the ground that was contested in the advance on Vicksburg. With the choice of positions the rebels had, and the natural advantages presented, it was almost a mystery how the troops under General Grant could have advanced as close as they did to the rebel line. But it would not do for me to start on General Grant, for, like the old-time Democrats with General Jackson, I would be willing to continue to vote for him during the balance of my days.
On April 24, 1865, our paroles having been arranged, we were taken from the camp to the city and embarked on the ill-fated steamboat "Sultana," bound for Cairo, Illinois. The men were marched onto the hurricane deck of the boat, around to the cabin, and then to the lower deck, until all the available space was occupied, including the fore part of the decks, the cabin being occupied by the officers. Most of the men were emaciated and weak, being prisoners released from Andersonville and Cahaba prisons, with a few from other points.
The "Sultana" was a boat that had been built for the cotton trade of the lower river, and therefore her lower deck was higher than that of ordinary boats. She was on an up trip from New Orleans to St. Louis, and had on board a number of passengers, many of whom were to get off at Memphis. I remember in particular one, a gentleman from near Madison, Indiana, who had come down to see his son, a member of the Tenth Indiana Cavalry, who had been a prisoner. There were perhaps half a dozen women, one of whom was a bride returning with her husband from their bridal tour. My recollection is that the crew numbered about sixty-two, and that in all there were over 2,200 souls on board. My recollection is confirmed by a letter from F. A. Roziene, dated at the Seventy-second Regiment Illinois Infantry Volunteer Society, Rookery Building, Chicago, July 6, 1912, in which he says :
"I was an A. A. A. G. of Camp Fisk, at Four Mile Bridge, near Vicksburg, where we received paroles, exchanged prisoners, etc. This camp was under the immediate command of Gen. M. L. Smith, commanding post of Vicksburg. The camp was named after A. A. G. Captain. C. A. Fisk. The superior command was in General J. N. T. Dana, and his A. A. G. Captain Frederick Speed, who controlled the shipment of the last squad of the camp, on April 25, 1865. I have reason to remember the deplorable occurrence from the reprimand I received from Captain Speed for advancing the impression to the men that they were to be apportioned to different boats.
"At the time I had a list of the officers and men shipped on the ill-fated steamer 'Sultana.' Their aggregate number from each State was, Ohio, 552; Michigan, 420; Indiana, 460 ; Kentucky, 180 ; West Virginia, 12; Tennessee, 522; total, 2,134. Added to this list was a squad of Confederate prisoners under guard, on their way to another military prison camp, other passengers and the crew. At Vicksburg the loss was estimated at 1,900 lives."
Some one was certainly at fault for crowding so great a number of human beings on one boat, when there was
The Sultana disaster by E.J. Hecker, Indianapolis, 1913, pages 167-168