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

But to return to the sad scenes, the Captain of the DeSoto wished to leave the scene of the disaster before some had recovered their dead children. Among others, Mr. Hyams had not found his little girl and sister-in-law, whom he afterwards found in the upper berth of one of the staterooms. He went to the pilot and told him he would shoot him if he offered to leave the place before he recovered the body of his child and they did not go. Oh, it was pitiful to see and hear the poor mothers lamenting for their drowned children.

We were all a queer looking set dressed in all kinds of strange apparel. We seemed not to care how we looked. We were all carried back to New Orleans, certainly a dreary and miserable looking set, and some of us feeling miserable, physically as well as mentally. I myself was suffering fearfully with my wrist. I for the first time in my life fainted after getting to the boarding house in the city. We remained in the city only about twenty four hours, there being one of our Ouachita boats going up at that time.

When we arrived at home some of our friends told us that they could scarcely recognize us we all looked so worn and haggard. There had been great distress among the citizens of Monroe, the report having reached there of the accident. It was reported that the Buckeye had sunk and that all on board were lost. You know in those days we had no telegraphic communication, only could hear by the boats. Of course there was great distress throughout the town, for there were very few there who had not relatives and friends on board. I was told that it was a painful scene of anxiety and grief. They all seemed so rejoiced to see us back. We were glad to know that our neighbors thought so much of us.

Reverting to the subject of the wreck again, I fear my children you will think my story or rather narrative very rambling, but in thinking it over, the scenes crowd on my mind so rapidly that it is with great difficulty that I can write about it at all. I hope my dear children that none of you will ever be called on to go through such painful and heart rending scenes as we had in the sinking of the Buckeye. There were known to be eighty five persons lost, but in all probability a good many more were lost than was known of, as the boat was crowded to such an extent that it was difficult to know how many were missing.

My wrist continued to pain me for about six weeks, then it settled down to a dull aching and commenced to enlarge perceptibly just at the joint of the wrist. The physicians called it by some technical name that I don’t recollect exactly. We had all the physicians of any note to see it, but they were all puzzled about it. One of our surgeons, Dr. [John] Calderwood, put a set on right through the wrist, thinking that if they could cause supperation it would relieve it, but it did not supperate in the least but instead there was a fungus growing out of it at least an inch long.

I continued to suffer with my wrist, and it enlarged a good deal, and the enlargement would harden untill it felt like solid bone.

About the last of May we went West to our summer home. In the same neighborhood three of my sisters had summer homes, and my brother-in-law, Dr. [John McBride] Thompson, advised me to go to Natchez, Miss., to consult Dr. [Samuel A.] Cartwright, a celebrated physician of that place. Dr. Thompson was well acquainted with Dr. Carwright and knew him to be a learned and experienced physician. This Dr. Cartwright was a brother of the noted Peter Cartwright, who, altho at first a blacksmith, became one of the most famous preachers of his own times.

Court was in session at that time therefore my husband could not accompany me to Natchez but would come on as soon as court was over. My youngest brother [James Stuart Grayson] and a niece accompanied me. We had to go to Natchez on a small boat that was going up the country to lay up for the summer, or untill the boating season came on again. She was a small boat, the Ouachita Belle [Belle of Ouachita, a riverboat packet]. Our best boats had all left the trade as the business season was pretty well over. Our boat traveled very slowly, and the weather was very warm and unpleasant.

Of course I did not feel very quiet and contented, as I had so recently passed through such trying scenes. I scarcely slept at all from anxiety for fear that something might happen to the boat. I frequently sent my servant to the captain [James Murphy] at night to ask if there was any danger of our boat sinking. He kindly sent me word each time not to be afraid, that he had been on the river twenty five years, and had never had an accident.

Well, all this sleepless anxiety had a bad effect on my wrist. The day before we got to Natchez I discovered that it was very much inflamed. There was a stripe running from the fungus nearly to my elbow very red. I sent for Dr. McConchie [William McConchy had also lost his son William and brother-in-law Daniel Breard on board the Buckeye], one of our Monroe physicians to come and see it; he looked at it, and I noticed he turned very pale, and said not a word, but walked away. it seems he thought there were no remedies on board of the boat and knew not what to do. The Dr. was a kind hearted man, and I suppose did not like to say anything.

I was told before I left home to use as a dressing for the fungus, powdered rhubarb and laudanum, and Dr. Thompson had provided me with a large bottle of laudanum. I immediately told the servant to bring me the laudanum and I retired to my stateroom and kept my wrist dripping wet with the laudanum the balance of the day, and by night it had paled off considerably. When the inflammation subsided it left the stripe a purplish color. As soon as Dr. Cartwright saw it, he asked me what had done it. I told him. He said it was fortunate for me that I had the laudanum with me, as it gave me some hope of my wrist being cured.

My husband came on in a few days, and stayed with me untill a day or two before I left for home. he was a member of the Convention for revising the Constitution of Louisiana. The Convention was held at Jackson, LA.

I remained in Natchez about a fortnight and then I returned home. Shall I tell you about my trip home? It certainly was a novel way of travelling. The water was very high that year and we could go right through the swamp by following small lakes, bayous and lagoons, without entering any river. Before my husband left Natchez he made arrangements with Capt. William Wilson to see us safely home. He was an old friend, but not a very old man, and I thought rather more willing to take charge of us than he would have been had there not been a remarkably pretty young lady in company, Angeline Caldwell, a niece of mine, and your cousin. I think she was the prettiest girl I ever saw, and I think the Capt. was very much of my opinion.

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