14 March 2016

Amanuensis Monday: Another Eyewitness Account of Civil War Railroad Accident that Killed Henry M. Walker, Sr.

(Click to Enlarge.)
The following is my transcription of a copy of a transcription of a letter appearing in the folder -- Edward H. and Duncan G. Ingraham letters, 1856-1865 (bulk 1861-1865) by Ingraham, Edward H. (Edward Henry), b. 1832 -- at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois.
Algiers     March 3, 1865 
Dear Anna,
     I received your last kind letter yesterday just after the occurrence of our railroad accident.  I may as well give you an account of it.  It was as fatal to our regiment as a sharp battle might have been.  We had received orders to report to Gen. A.J. Smith at the "Battle Ground" eight miles below new Orleans, and the morning train from Brashear City had gathered up all the companies of the regiment along the railroad except one.  Some are inclined to blame the engineer, but the officers have looked into the matter and think it to have been purely accidental. A horse and a mule were on the track before the engine. The engineer slackened speed, we came to a dry place in the swamp and the two animals left the track, whereat he put on steam again but just as we were fairly started the horse suddenly returned to the track and was run over.  The engine and the first car remained on the track; the next eight cars were thrown into a pile, five of them broken up.  It was a long train and about half a dozen cars in the rear were uninjured.  Eight men of the regiment were killed instantly, two of them ground to pieces.  Five more have since died and several I fear are mortally injured.  About 60 are disabled, most of them only temporarily.  I think our regiment will be delayed and probably we cannot go on the expedition at all.  I went over to New Orleans last night to see the wounded put away in the hospital.  The box car in which most of Co. B was riding was swung around off the track and partly capsized.  All were jarred and more or less sprained but only hurt serious enough to be sent to the hospital.  The statistics I have given you are not quite certain.  You will see the most correct account of it in the Chicago Tribune, Springfield Journal, and Bloomington Pantagraph.
     I hope Philander will not be compelled to leave home.  He is one of the sort most needed at home, I wish I could have some of those cowardly fugitives drafted.  If he should enlist, do you think he will come to the 33rd?  He could find better opening probably but we should like to see him here very much.  I will write again in a week or two.  Excuse such hasting writing.  We are in the Algiers depot expecting momentarily an order to move. 
Love to all from brother, Ned 
Direct New Orleans, La.
Our Col. (Lippincott) has been promoted this morning to Brig. Gen.
We continue to see some agreement and disagreement between the accounts of this event.  Almost always the numbers agree.  But there are differences if it was a mule and a horse or just a horse, and there are differences about which cars flipped.  Because this is a next day account and it is an eyewitness not newspaper reporter, I am inclined to give this the greatest weight as a source.  Other eyewitness accounts we have found were done from memory.

One new thing this account gives us is that it happened at a dry place in the swamp.  This could aid in identifying the actual location.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin W. Walker

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