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

Well I could not raise myself out of the water on to the roof. I did not have strength enough in my arms to raise myself as my clothes were pretty heavy. Some one came and told me to give him my hands. I gave him my right hand but held on with my left. He said he could not get me out unless I would let go. I told him no. I feared he would let me fall back into the river. He came right down and unclinched my fingers and pulled me out.

Just then I looked up and saw a man standing by, a house painter. I knew him for he had painted our house not long before. It seems there nearly always occur ludicrous little scenes even in the most trying times. He was standing in his night clothes with a pair of shoes under his arm. I recollect so well his odd appearance. I said, “Mr. Jervey where shall I go?” His reply was, “Oh don’t ask me, don’t ask me!”

I immediately darted off in the direction of the other boat, and in running down the length of the boat I came near going in where the chimneys had been, leaving an immense hole, but through the kind protection of providence I escaped that peril. I ran on to where I saw people passing over to the other boat, on what I supposed was the stage plank. Without looking at all I started across and had made several steps when some one cried out to me to get down on my knees. I immediately dropped on my knees, and discovered that I was on an open ladder. I believe I would have instinctively passed over safely. I was barefooted and I think would have gotten over. It seemed that some supernatural power directed my movements.

I found myself on the boiler deck of the DeSoto, the boat that had run into our boat. I had just left the roof of the Buckeye, and was a little surprised to find myself on the lower deck of the DeSoto, but soon understood it, seeing that our boat had sunk to the roof which brought it on a level with deck of the other boat. I found myself standing by an immense pile of wood, and some one reached down and drew me up over the wood by my hands.

I was now on the cabin deck of the DeSoto, and there I planted my feet, determined that I would go no further untill I could hear from my husband and child. Then a friend of ours, Judge Scarborough [Thomas C. Scarborough, a former law partner of Isaiah Garrett’s], brought a bed comfort and threw it around me, and told me that my husband and child were both safe on board. That news reconciled me sufficiently to induce me to go into the ladies’ cabin by the fire, not knowing untill then that it was cold. (It was the first day of March.) The water was like ice.

Well my husband and child did not get in for some minutes after I did. Judge Scarborough told me afterwards that when he told me they were safe on board, he was confident that they were both lost. He told me the story to get me into the cabin. When my husband came in he was scarcely able to walk. He was so much exhausted that they had to lay him down on the boiler deck to recover sufficiently to come up stairs. Just after he came in some one brought Frank in all puffed up with water. I put him to bed and covered him up warm. Mr. Garrett lay down also. As for myself I was now suffering too much with my wrist to lie down. It had been badly hut. I never knew how it got hurt. Indeed I did not know it was hurt untill I was seated by the fire and attempted to lift it from my lap and discovered I could not lift it up without the assistance of the other hand. Oh how it beat and throbbed! It pained me dreadfully.

About that time the stovepipe took fire. It looked like an immense glowing coal of fire. Very soon the cabin commenced to fill with smoke, the ceiling began to be very much scorched. The utmost confusion prevailed. Everyone seemed to lose their presence of mind except my husband; he seemed perfectly calm. There had been a glass of spirits brought in for the ladies but no one had touched it. One of our lady friends seeing it sitting there and supposing it a glass of water seized it and was just in the act of dashing it into the fire when I caught her arm and told her what it was. It did seem to me that we were doomed to be destroyed. There was great confusion in trying to put the fire out. They seemed not to be able to find the water buckets that should have been in order on top of the boat, but they finally extinguished the fire.

By this time it was day light, but Oh the heart rending screams! Everyone seemed almost crazed with grief, mothers screaming for their children, several of them frantic with grief, children being brought in stark and stiff out of the water, whilst others could not be found, and parents fearing the DeSoto would leave before their dead could be found.

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