An Account of the Sinking of
the SteamshipPocahontas

Among those lost in the sinking of the Pocahontas was a soldier from Madison County, Private Avery Watson, Co. D, 114th NYSV. Private Watson was 24 years old when he enlisted in August of 1862 in the Town of Nelson.


from The New York Times, June 8, 1864:

               SAD CALAMITY.
          A STEAMSHIP SUNK AT SEA.
     Collision Between the Steamer City of
         Bath and Steamship Pocahontas.
         The Pocahontas Sunk and Forty
                Lives Lost.
  The U.S. steam transport City of Bath, Capt.
LINCOLN, hence June 1, at 11 A.M., bound to Wash-
ington, D.C., returned to port last night, having been
in collision with the steamship Pocahontas, from
New-Orleans, near Cape May, having her bows
stove in and stern carried away. The Pocahontas
sunk in twenty-five minutes, carrying down with her
about forty of her passengers and crew. Capt. LIN-
COLN reports:
 The City of Bath left New-York June 1, at 11 A.
M., bound to Washington, D.C. At 11:50 P.M.,
made a steamer's light ahead; put our helm a-port
to clear her; at the same time the Pocahontas' helm
was put to starboard, and the two boats came togeth-
er, the City of Bath striking the Pocahontas about
the fore rigging; backed off from her, and found that
we were leaking badly; commenced throwing over-
board cargo to lighten her forward, and succeeded in
stopping the leak. Sent our boats to the assistance
of the other vessel, and lay by the place until day-
light, in hopes to find more of her people (a large
number having already been received on board), but
picked up only one. At the time of the collision,
Cape May light-ship bore S.W. 17 miles.
             FURTHER PARTICULARS.
  Her Captain, (BAXTER) and one discharged Lieu-
tenant and two engineers were lost. The passen-
gers lost were soldiers discharged or on furlough.
The Pocahontas was a screw steamer of 800
tons, commanded by JOHN BAXTER, of Hazannis, and
sailed from New-Orleans on May 24, with 101 souls
on board. She had rendered good service to the
Governemnt during the Texas expedition under
Gen. BANKS. The voyage up to the time of the dis-
aster was unusually pleasant. The captain (BAX-
TER) was in feeble health. With the consent of the
Chief Quartermaster of the Department of the Gulf,
he had placed in charge Capt. SAMUEL BAXTER, an
efficient officer of much experience. All the officers
did their very best to render the passage a pleasant
one. On board of the steamer was the body of the
noble Capt. FRANK B. HALLECK, Company K, Scott's
Nine Hundred, in charge of his brother, Capt. HAR-
VEY HALLECK. On Wednesday night, June 1, the night
being dark and hazy, a steamer's light was seen
within a few hundred yards of the Pocahontas. Capt.
BAXTER and officers were on the lookout; soon our
whistle was blown very loud, several times; the Po-
cahontas was making 10 or 11 knots through the
water by steam and a heavy piece of canvas. Every-
thing apparently was done to prevent a disaster, but
by some fatal mistake of the helmsmen on both
steamers, the ships came in collision. The City of
Baltimore, bound to Washington, ran into the Poca-
hontas bow on, striking her on the starboard side, just
abaft the fore rigging. It being nearly 11 o'clock,
most of the passengers had retired to their berths,
many of whom soon started for the upper deck. The
two Captains soon discovered that the vessel was
sinking. The boats were ordered to be lowered imme-
diately; the engines were stopped. The two ves-
sels remained thumping each other for a few min-
utes, and then separated. One of these boats, during
the excitement, was swamped, and the other two did
what they could to save the poor souls already afloat;
for the Pocahontas went down in about 20 min-
utes. Planks and ladders were thrown over-
board, and Capt. LINCOLN, of the City of Bath,
threw overboard scores of cork life-preservers;
but the sea was high and the wind fresh, which
caused many of the poor fellows to sink into a wa-
tery grave. A Chaplain in the United States Army,
an invalid on a leave of absence to his family, staid
by the ship to the last, encouraging the men, and
threw many planks into the water, and kept saying,
"Hold on, boys," until he was quite hoarse; and
when the ship was going down, bow first, the Chap-
lain deliberately took off his overcoat and plunged
into the sea. He swam off as fast as he could,
not having been able to secure a plank or
life-preserver for himself. He providentially reached
the stern of one of the boats, exhausted, and
was kindly helped in by two men already in the boat.
There not being sufficient means to keep the water
out of the boats, the Chaplain gave his cap to one of
the sailors to bail with. This boat, which was un-
der the charge of Capt. SAML. BAXTER, did good ser-
vice by picking up many a soldier near the jaws of
death. One of the soldiers saved had but one arm,
having lost the other in the battle of Pleasant Hill;
his name is TENISON, and belongs to the Veteran
Second Regiment. The survivors have been very
kindly received on board the City of Baltimore.
  Capt. LINCOLN was compelled to throw over-
board much of his cargo to keep his own
ship from sinking. He remained near the
spot until morning, and had the satisfaction
of saving one poor fellow who had hugged up to a
good plank all night. The scene was beyond descrip-
tion. Many have been saved without a hat or a shoe,
losing everything but their lives. Mr. DUNCAN,
second officer of the Pocahontas, deserves much
praise for his great exertions in saving many who
were ready to perish. There is an excellent chance
for the gentlemen of the Christian and Sanitary
Commission to do good. Many of the soldiers have
not any means to reach their homes in comfort.
Many of the destitute may be found on board of the
City of Bath for a day or two.


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