Away Back in War Days

Two months after the end of the Civil War in June of 1865, many Missouri families were tragically affected by the sinking of the Confederate steamer, the SS Kentucky, on the Red River below Shreveport, Louisiana. The following is an abstract of articles and files referring to Howard County: 


An Old Confederate Soldier Tells of the Last Company to Leave Old Howard


I give you a list of the names of the last company of the ex-Confederate soldiers and a short sketch of the history of the last Company to leave Howard, as it was told to the writer. Though many of that list had seen service in some of the most noted battles of the war such as Pea Ridge, Corinth, and Athens. This company was organized on Richland creek near Richland church, October 10, 1864; crossed the river at Arrow Rock on the 12; joined Tyler’s brigade of unarmed men, Douglas’ regiment, Company F.  

This company was led by Captain James Carson, and when the roll was called on Salt Creek, Saline Co, there were 80 gallant young and middle aged men who answered to roll of which some of the names are so faded they cannot be made out. Of this company only 46 went through South; some were taken prisoners, some killed, some died. This piece of a company that served on the field of battle on almost starvation rations, reached Texas about the 30th of November, under the protection of old Pap.  

After a short rest, joined (Pindall’s) battalion of sharp shooters, Parson’s Brigade and marched to the front at Shreveport and made Sam Morrison captain. This battalion took charge of that city, built railroads and made breastworks. Then came a day when Pap (Gen. Sterling Price) came and said, “that we were whipped and would have to surrender”. On the 7th of June ’65, was the day when that devoted banner was taken down to never float again as a nation’s color. The terms of surrender were that all the soldiers be allowed their side arms and personal property and transportation home. 

Go paroled on the 8th of June, chartered the Kentucky on the 9th of June ’65. This battalion boarded the Kentucky and soldiers and boat crew numbering 690 left for the wharf at Shreveport at about 4 o’clock p.m. and ran down river about 16 miles, when the boat struck a snag on Tow Head island about 9 o’clock p.m., and the alarm was given that the boat was sinking. She was run to shore on the south bank, the cable line thrown out and made fast around a cotton-wood tree. The cable line broke, there being so much water in the hull and she settled back into the channel about 30 feet of water with all her freight, both soldier, mother and babe.  

Out of this number only about 402 answered the roll call the next morning, while all that escaped saved themselves by swimming and being helped by other swimmers. Of this company, 4 men were drowned and 5 had died with disease in Texas and Louisiana, 37 was all that was left of the old company. There was a large cotton boat that came to their assistance a few minutes after the sinking of the boat, and carried them back to Shreveport the next morning. They remained in the city one day and then took passage on the Diana, a large cotton boat to Baton Rouge, there took the oath of allegiance and continued on up the river to St. Louis. 

Reached St. Louis on the 27th of June as poor and God forsaken looking mass of humanity as ever landed at the wharf of St. Louis, having on the same garb they had swam the river, some bare-headed and bare-footed. When it was known to the city that the survivors of the Kentucky had landed, the good people and sisters of charity came to their assistance with provisions and clothes, and money was furnished a good many to take them to their homes. What was left of Company F left St. Louis about the 29th, reaching their homes in Howard about July 2.” 

Roll of Company F: 

James Cason, Captain

E.A. Wilson, First Lieutentant

John Robertson, Second Lieutenant 
Orph Ashcraft

Arch Ballew

B.J. Ballew 

Martin Ballew

Neal Blackwell

A.B. Bobett

Enoch Bobett

J.M. Bobett   

Marion Burton

William Burton (Ky victim) 

Jack Bush   

Ben Cason

Henry Cason   

John Cason   

Tom Cason

Ben Cooper (Ky victim) 

Brice Cooper   

W.B. Cooper

B.N. Cropp   

J.R. Cropp   

Joseph Cropp

Mem Cropp   

Bent Crowley   

Tom Crowley

A.J. Ferrel   

Johnson Ferrel   

Frank Ford

Joe George   

Leonard Grady  

T.A. Grider

A. Grisham   

Orth Hall   

J.L. Heberling

W.M. Jones   

Josh Lakey   

Newton Lakey

James Mathes   

James Myers   

Ben Piham

Henry Pyle   

James Reynolds  

Sam Sanders

Granville Sartain  

Henry Sartain   

Howard Sartain

Hiram Shipp    

Joel Shipp   

John Shipp  

Logan Shipp   

Morton Shipp   

Robert Shipp

Blaskey Simons  

T.B. Smith   

Jessie Spence

Isaac Stanley   

Jasper Stepp   

W.M. Stepp

E.D. Tatum   

J.M. Taylor   

J.S. Taylor

Logan Tooley   

Harvey Vivian   

Henry Wills

John Wills   

W.M. Wills, Jr.  

W.M. Wills, Sr. 

W.W. Wills, Jr.  

Crat Wilson   

W.A. Woods  


The Walton Family Story


“…The last voyage of the Kentucky started at 6:30 p.m. on June 9, 1865. The Kentucky left Shreveport bound for New Orleans with 900 passengers, baggage and provisions. The steamboat had a length of 222 feet, a beam of 32 feet and a depth of 5 feet 6 inches with a capacity of 375 tones. It was built as a large, elegant packer for use on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and had the same layout as other steamboats of the day.  

The main deck had four boilers mounted to it that fed two high-pressure steam engines, and was fitted with guard that extended the deck out from the hull to protect the paddle wheels. The main deck served as the principal cargo desk with the boiler deck above it where passenger accommodations were located. A long, narrow cabin was centrally located with 52 staterooms opening onto it from the sides. Each room was furnished with carpets, chairs, a sofa, bedding, tables and tableware. The sexes were separated aboard packet boats, with the gentlemen’s salon located forward and the ladies in the rear. Above the boiler deck was the hurricane deck and the crew quarters, and the officers were quartered in the texas on the next level. The pilothouse was atop the texas, behind the chimneys. 

The biggest part of the 900 passengers were paroled Confederate prisoners, veterans of the Missouri and Arkansas regiments that had defended Shreveport. They were being taken to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take the oath of the government. Among the passengers were Captain Anthony Walton of Glasgow, his wife, Mary Winn Walton, and their six children ranging in ages from four months to 18 years of age. (Shreveport Journal, July 10, 1974). Mary and the children were crowded into the “ladies’ cabin” on the rear portion of the boiler deck with the families of some of the other soldiers. The forward part of the main deck was packed with 250 horses that the parolees had been allowed to keep after the surrender.  

After traveling about two hours that evening, the steamer struck a snag – a partially submerged log that the Red River was notorious for. The boat ran for about four miles after it began to leak but by the time the captain finally turned for shore, the Kentucky had settled so much he could not get close enough to the bank to put out the landing stage. A line was run to shore but it broke immediately.  

In the New Orleans Times on June 15, 1865, a survivor described what happened those last few minutes: “As the boat careened, a great rush took place to the hurricane deck. Many passengers were in their berths, and were saved almost wholly destitute of clothing. A large number were caught between decks and drowned. The ladies generally succeeded in gaining the hurricane deck and were all saved. Some children were lost.” 

The boat sank instantly with water washing over the hurricane deck while the stern remained above water. In the over-crowded decks below, pandemonium broke out as passengers rushed for the hurricane deck. A large number of people were trapped in the forward cabin and drowned…Another steamer, the Col. Chapin, got word of the disaster and it’s Captain, Stephen J. Webber, ordered steam to be raised and set out in the night to travel the 5 to 7 miles back downstream to help survivors. When the steamer arrived at the site around 11:30 p.m., there were 400 to 500 people crowded onto the elevated portion of the stricken Kentucky. Captain Webber was able to get two lines from the shipwreck to shore and began ferrying the survivors ashore in two small boats. The Walton’s oldest daughter, 18 year old, Clemmie, made it to shore with her infant sister Nannie’s gown clutched between her teeth. Mrs. Walton and three other children were rescued by the Col. Chapin’s boats. Her husband and son were missing. 

Reports of the missing and dead ranged from 20 to over 200. Bodies of the men trapped between decks were pulled from the wreck for days after the sinking. Mrs. Walton’s husband and son were never found and she and her five remaining children made their way back to Missouri. Most of the Missouri men were from the 9th Sharpshooters division with others from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Cavalry and 10th, 11th and 16th Infantry, Hooper’s Cavalry, Shank’s Cavalry and Elliott’s Cavalry.” 

Compilation from the files of Neil Block, Commander, William T. Anderson Camp #1743 SCV; transcribed by Lisa Perry. Information extracted from files and two articles to include (1) Reprinted article “Away Back in War Days”, Pioneer Times, October 1982, Vol. 6 No. 4, pages 409-410; original is an undated and otherwise unidentified clipping to the Editor of the Democrat-Leader, from the Scrapbook of the Jefferson City Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and (2) “Search commences for descendants of Confederate soldiers (lost) in SS Kentucky shipwreck in 1865”, Monroe County Appeal, Paris, MO., Sep 15, 1997, page 11.