AHC, ETG 11/4/1862

The Train Wreck

   The information pertaining to the train wreck near Cleveland, Tennessee, on or about 4 November 1862 was copied from the memoirs of Pvt. Marlvin L. Wheeler, Company A, 33d Alabama Infantry Regiment. Pvt. Wheeler enlisted July 1862 at Stevenson, Alabama. He was wounded at Chickamauga.

A True Copy

   "It was then the ladder part of October and first of November. Climatic conditions caused Knoxville to be the smokiest place we were at, the smoke from our green oak wood fires did not rise but settled and remained in a heavy black bank just above the earth and kept our eyes running water nearly all the time that we were not laying down, it being less dense just next the earth, and we were glad to leave there one morning early in November in box cars, a company in a car, with three days cooked rations of flour bread, fresh beef and bacon. The engines could pull but ten loaded box cars, say twenty-four to thirty-six fee long. The 33rd moved in the cars, that time by the left flank, the regimental staff officers or those who were along at the time and part of the baggage, the cooking utensils, axes and medical chest, occupying the rear or tenth box and this time it fell to the lot of Company D, though its place was not on the extreme right of the battalion, to occupy a box in the second section or train to our rear, the engine of which train frequently pushed our train up the grades when we stalled, as it did up the grade two or three miles south of Cleveland. And while running fast down grade our train was wrecked about one or two P. M. the day we left Knoxville, south of Cleveland, killing nine or then of Company G, one or two of Company E and {blank} of Company F and {blank} of Company H. Seventeen in all, whom we buried the next morning in a long ditch we dug on the southeast side of the railroad track, and built a worn rail fence around them. We had put sixty-seven crippled ones in box cars and sent them back to the hospital at Cleveland the evening of the wreck, soon after getting them out of it. 
   Company B was in the box car next to the tender which was heaping full of split wood and it was supposed that a stick of wood dropped off the tender breaking the front axle under our car. At any rate all the wheels suddenly came out from under our car, causing a dreadful jar and clogged under the second car, which Company G, Coopers Co. from Daleville were in. Many were riding on top of the cars as was usual when moving by rail, and were shook off like shaking peaches off a tree and badly jolted when they hit the ground. The coupling between Company B's and Company G's boxes parted and the primitive engine carried Company B's box bouncing along without any wheels under it for two or three hundred yards, and it was the roughest riding we ever experienced. Those in Company B in the front end of the box got out at the doors on either side, some of them alighting on their heads.
   The company guns, accoutrements, knapsacks and things soon all worked back to the rear end of the box and got mixed up with us, and when the rear end of the box in bouncing along would strike the rails it would bounce us men and things a foot or more from the floor then when the floor would come in contact with us some would be beneath the pile and get bruised and mashed and were all banged up and badly frightened when the old fashioned stopped and after getting out and finding we had no broken bones we hurried back to where the cars were piled up in and on top of each other and assisted while men pried up or chopped to pieces the boxes in getting the crippled or dead out.
   We were delayed about twenty-four hours, then we rode in a coal car to Chattanooga where we drew crackers and bacon."
   In another part of his document, Pvt. Wheeler wrote: "Brevet Second Lieutenant Charles Scott was in charge of Company E at Knoxville and was killed in the railroad wreck near Cleveland, Tenn. Nov. 1862." He also wrote: "Captain Ruben J. Cooper of Daleville. Killed in a railroad wreck near Cleveland, Tenn. November 1862."
   The above transcription was provided by the Atlanta History Center in Atlanta. It is part of a letter from J. Michael Moss to the Norfolk Southern Corporation, Department of Archives, of December 13, 1990.
   Also with the letter is a newspaper article from the November 5, 1989 Cleveland Daily Banner. The article is "Monument unveiled, dedicated" by Allen Mincey and details the dedication of a monument at Fort Hill Cemetery, honoring the men who died in the wreck. The following names are on the monument: Capt. R. J. Cooper, Lt. Charles Scott, Privates Wm. M. Watson, T. A. Pritchard, Clinton Evans, O. M. Broxton, Z. Chandler, John Hughes, T. Z. Nichols, G. L. Smith, Edward Nix, Lovett M. Bush, John G. Lewis, H. Clark, M. Noblin, and B. Lloyd.