An Account of the Sinking of the Buckeye, March, 1844 – Part II

I exclaimed, “What is the matter?”. He replied, “Bring Frank.”

I took him out of the berth and awakened the nurse who was asleep on the floor and told her to follow us. (She was a grown woman.) There was an open door leading from the gentlemen’s cabin on to the guards. My husband took charge of Frank and I followed, keeping as near to him as I could without inconveniencing him. He attempted to climb up on the wheel house in order to reach the hurricane deck, but it was impossible to do so with the child in his arms.

About that time word was given for all to go the bow of the boat, in order to get on board of the boat that had just run into our boat. I did not know untill then that we had been run into by another boat going down stream loaded with cotton. I had all the while supposed we had landed in haste, and that we would all be able to get ashore, but when I discovered there was another boat, I felt certain we would be rescued. I would not say that I was not frightened for of course I was but I never lost hope, thinking surely the other boat could save us.

Well the word having reached us to pass down the cabin to the bow of the boat, we all started in a run (by this time there was a terrible and terrified throng rushing down the cabin.). When a little more than half way down we met the water. She was going down bow first. Of course all turned and ran back the way we had come, and before we had gone many steps the weight of the water in my clothes pulled me back so that had I not caught on to a table I should certainly have fallen backwards and have been trampled to death. All this time I never touched or spoke to my husband for fear he would lose our boy, but I kept as near him as I could never losing sight of him.

Well the force of the water rushing through the cabin naturally sought the first outlet which was the same side door that we first went out at on to the guards, tho I never knew when we reached the door as the water was over my head before I reached it. I thought I would find myself on the guards, but the force of the water was so great that it carried me at least twenty or twenty five feet from the boat; out into the great Mississippi. (It seemed truly great to me at that time.)

The moment I arose, I looked for my husband. I saw him a short distance from me. I still did not speak to him for fear of confusing him, as I knew he was no swimmer. Indeed could scarcely keep his head above the water. Well I suppose you would like to know how I was able to keep myself up. It always has seemed something very much like a miracle to me myself, for I had never tried to swim before in my life, and the water was ascertained afterwards to be forty feet deep just where the boat sank. I had a younger brother who was one of the finest swimmers that I ever saw. I had frequently in our childhood questioned him about the art of swimming, and at that critical moment it all came to my mind. I remembered one thing he told me, that was never whilst in deep water to throw my arms above my head. I took the precaution not to do it, but made every effort to swim. I have no idea how long I kept my head above the water, but I saw some bales of cotton thrown from the boat that had run into our boat. I watched the bales float past me, and thought if I could only swim a little I might save myself by putting my hands on one of them, but I could not advance at all that I could see.

About that time I saw some persons in a yawl picking up drowning persons. It occurred to me instantly that they would not see me, as I had that night worn a colored wrapper that was rather dark. (You might say could she have time and presence of mind to think of such things?) I certainly did, for as soon as I thought they would not see me I commenced to call for help, that being the first time I had spoken since I asked Mr. Garrett what the matter was. As soon as I commenced to call for help I sank, and it seemed to me that I went round like a spinning top. Then for the first time I ceased to hope, and offered up a prayer to our Heavenly Father for the forgiveness of all my sins, and I thought to myself, I am not so much afraid to die as I thought I would be. Then I thought of my little daughter at home and wished she could have been with us, as I did not want to leave her alone in the world, as I felt sure that my husband and son would both be lost. Whilst under water I felt a very disagreeable pressure on my ears.

I suppose you think I would scarcely have time to think so much, but you can have no conception of how rapidly one can think at such a time. I knew of course that I was not already dead, but thought I would never breathe again. I did not remember (altho I knew it) that drowning persons always rise to the surface two or three times before they make their final exit, but I did rise, and rose just in reach of the wreck. By this time she had sunk to the roof, the current having carried me back to the wreck. Of course I seized it with both hands and held on with all my strength. I did not at first know what I was holding to, for we only had star light.

When I first caught on I saw no one, but very soon there were several hanging on in like manner. The most of them seemed to crawl out from under the roof and hung on in the same way that I did. There was one very large man, who pulled himself from under by the skirt of my wrapper. you may be sure that caused me to squall. I cried out for him to let me loose. He paid no attention to my cries.

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