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

Well we were going through swamps, and of course could not have a steamboat, so the Capt. procured an immense skiff, and hired two colored men to row it, and put his steamboat clerk in the stern to steer it. It was large enough to have carried a dozen persons comfortably, whereas we were only five in number, namely, the Capt., clerk, Miss Caldwell [Angelina Caldwell, daughter of James C. Caldwell], myself, and servant. After leaving Natchez we traveled down Lake Concordia a few miles; it was truly the most beautiful sheet of water I ever saw. It looked like a sheet of molten silver, and lined on each side with splendid plantations, it was very lovely. Then we had to strike out into lakes, lagoons, and bayous innumerable, but it was delightfully shady nearly all the way, and you may be sure the Capt. had provided everything to make us comfortable. The weather was warm but we had an abundance of ice and a most elegant lunch.

In coming through one of the lakes, Turtle Lake, I believe, the rowers had to rise in the boat, and with their oars beat away the lily plants before they could progress. They were to thick and tout the boat could not move untill they broke them away. I think they would almost have borne the weight of a man. They were very pretty but troublesome. I would like to see them in bloom, it was rather late in the season for the blooms.

We knew we would have to spend a night or two on the way, so we, or rather the Capt. selected to spend the first night at Col. Huntington’s. They were acquaintances of ours and very elegant people, but at that time were surrounded by the overflow. We rowed right up to the steps and disembarked. We found Col. Huntington [Henry William Huntington] and family at home. They were very kind and hospitable. They lived on a large plantation on Little River but at that time the most of it was inundated. They lived near the town of Trinity. By the way the Col. was a passenger on the Buckeye when she sank.

After leaving Little River, we proceeded up the Ouachita River. The young folks had a good deal of sport in stirring up the willow flies. There were millions of them on the willow branches. The man that steered the boat would slyly run the boat near enough to them for the oars to strike them, when they would swarm out and nearly cover the two oarsmen. They never suspected that it was done on purpose. We had our veils on and were not troubled by them. There was no harm in them only very disagreeable to have them swarm in their faces.

We spent that night at my sister’s [Zelia Ann Grayson Thompson, wife of Dr. John McBride Thompson] in the town of Harrisonburg. From Harrisonburg we continued our journey in a carriage of my sister’s, and the Capt. drove the carriage, and kept looking back and talking to Miss Angeline, untill I felt sure he would turn us over, and told him so several times. Finally over we went. Fortunately for us the team was very gentle but we were all greatly frightened. I believe the driver was frightened more so than any of us. I suppose on account of his responsibility. It was certainly very amusing to see his maneuvers in trying to right the carriage. He put a rope through one of the wheels then around a tree and commenced hauling away. we burst out laughing at him, and told him he was mistaken that it was not a boat he had hold of. that brought him to his senses. he threw down the rope and put his shoulder to the wheel and raised it right up.

I believe he had no more accidents but got to our summer home, and found all quite well, but my wrist was still paining me. It was not that excruciating pain that it had for the first six weeks, but a constant dull pain. Not long after that we returned to our home in the town of Monroe and in February I went to New Orleans to have my wrist treated by Dr. Warren Stone, said to be the finest surgeon in LA. It was nearly a year now since the sinking of the Buckeye, would be a year the first day of March. It had suffered much in that year. The Convention in the meantime for revising the Constitution had been removed from Jackson to New Orleans. They met in Jackson in the summer on account of its being a very healthy place, New Orleans being very healthy in the winter.

It had never occurred to me that I would have to lose my hand, but always had a hope of its being cured. I had several physicians in the city to see my hand but they all seemed to think it incurable. Oh the agony of the week that I thought, or rather knew that I would have to lose my hand, for I only knew it for about a week. That was surely long enough. Previous to that time I had kept up wonderfully well, but when I knew that I was obliged to lose it, I changed rapidly. I lost my spirits, and my appetite both and became very dependent. I think I have the organ of hope very large. had it not been for leaving my dear husband and children, I would have preferred to die to losing my hand, but I had everything to live for, for no one ever had a more tender and indulgent husband than I had.

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