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Alabama River Boats, Burned or Sunk from 1865 to 1894

(Transcription from Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, Volume 2, 1898)

The following facts and information concerning the boats on the Alabama river, that have sunk or been burned since the war, was prepared by an old Alabama river pilot.


The list begins with the steamboat Autauga, which was sunk at Autauga landing. The river was very high and the boat landed on a stump, which tore a hole in her bottom. She filled and turned completely upside down. She was on her way from Selma to Montgomery and was loaded with the corpses of Yankee soldiers. The hull floated down to Carter’s plantation near Gainestown, bottom up. The negroes swarmed out and thought they had struck a rich find, but consternation spread among them when they found nothing but dead bodies. At the time of the accident C. J. English was captain, and Joe Powers pilot.

Autauga County, Alabama

Location of Autauga County, Alabama

The Commodore Ferrand sunk at Packer’s landing; Thomas Eanes master, John Williams pilot.

The Sunny South was burned at Portland and drifted to McMillan’s Landing, where she now lies. George Kirk was her captain at the time.

The Benefit caught fire at Stark’s Landing and after drifting four or five miles down the river, she sank. Charles English was captain.

The Onward was burned just above Bell’s Landing and several negroes and seven hundred and one bales of cotton were lost. The fire was started by a cigarette. Peter Aunspagh was captain and Jack Swan pilot. Captain Aunspagh saved the only lady passenger on board by pulling her down the hog chain over the wheel of the boat.

The Joab Lawrence was sunk at Yellow Jacket and was a complete wreck; Van Gunnison master, Jack Gayle pilot.

The Cliper was burned in the cut-off and several passengers were drowned, among those lost being the captain, Mumford English. She was a total loss.

The Nyanza sank in the cut-off, Owen Finnegan master. Ben Pierce pilot. She was afterwards raised and ran several years.

The Sally List was sunk at Portland lower shoals; C. J. English master, William Rutherford pilot.

The C. W. Dorrance ran over the wreck of the Senator No. 2 and tore her whole bottom out. She was a complete loss; Byrnes Meaher master, Billy McCurdy pilot.

The Jewess ran on a log and sank at the mouth of Chickasabogue Creek in a fog. She was afterwards raised; Byrnes Meaher master. Levi Williams pilot.

The Blackford ran against the Louisville and Nashville Railroad bridge, turned over and was burned up; Van Gunnison master, Levy Gayle and Henry Sullivan pilots.

The Virginia No. 2 sank at Silver Creek Shoals and was afterwards raised ; Byrnes Meaher master; J. D. Vick, pilot.

The Mary Swan sank at the cut-off point and was afterwards raised; Willis O’Bannon, master.

The Lucy E. Gastrell was sunk at Indian Town and raised by the crew in half a day ; Owen Finnegan, master ; J. D. Vick, pilot. The Mist was sunk at Frank Earl’s Shoals and afterwards raised; James Stewart, master; Henry Sullivan, pilot.

The Mary Ida was run over by the Maggie Burke and sank like a shot out of a shovel at Chastang’s Bluff. At the time, Owen Finnegan was master of the Burke and J. D. Vick, pilot.

The Lucy E. Gastrell was sunk the second time at White Bluff Shoals and was a complete wreck; P. J. Lyons, master; J. D. Vick, pilot.

The Captain Sam blew up at Hadnots and eleven people were killed. Captain Sandy English’s little daughter was lost and never a vestige of her ever found; C. J. English, master; William Hawkins, pilot.

According to the Government inspectors’ reports, the Alabama River pilots have the best record of any. Those now living are C. L. Johnston, Andrew Forrey, J. D. Vick, B. F. Peeples, William Hawkins, F. E. Smith, R. B. Brown, William Rutherford, Amos Travis, Andrew Black, John Jackson.

1From Montgomery Advertiser, March 14, 1894. reprinted from the Mobile Register.

The statistical value of this list is obvious. It has a value also as a contribution to the history of water transportation in Alabama, a full account of which is a desideratum.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS – Volume I – IV: Four Volumes in One

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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