7 Replies Latest reply on Jun 3, 2021 6:12 PM by Diane White

    Seeking records of the Cahaba Civil War Prison Camp Flood

    natalie lovins Wayfarer

      I have been doing some more research, and I found one of my ancestors who was in the Cahaba Prison Camp when it flooded in 1865. I read that they were in water up to their waist for four days in winter. How would that even be possible? Would they be able to sleep? I am interested in knowing more about the flood. I find any little tid-bit interesting. I would appreciate any help that could guide me in the right direction, or know if there is any documentation of the details of this situation, that would be great. Thanks!

        • Re: Seeking records of the Cahaba Civil War Prison Camp Flood
          Elliot Schneider Ranger

          Natalie,

           

          Here is some information. The Camp had so much rain during Jan-Feb 1865 and being so close to the Alabama River the River crested its banks and ended up flooding the Camp.

           

          https://www.historynet.com/surviving-a-confederate-pow-camp.htm

           

          https://digitalalabama.com/alabama-civil-war-sites/castle-morgan-cahaba-prison-selma-alabama/5830

           

          http://www.civilwarprisoners.com/search.php?database=cahaba

           

          2 people found this helpful
          • Re: Seeking records of the Cahaba Civil War Prison Camp Flood
            Jason Atkinson Ranger

            Dear Ms. Lovins,

             

            Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

            We searched the National Archives Catalog and located Letters Received by the Confederate Secretary of War, 1874 - 1899 (documenting 2/1861 - 4/1865) in the War Department Collection of Confederate Records (Record Group 109) that may include correspondence referencing the flood.  These records are indexed by the record series Index to Letters and Telegrams Received by the Confederate Secretary of War in Record Group 109. While both series have been reproduced on microfilm, neither series has been digitized and are not available online. For more information about these records please contact the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) at Archives1reference@nara.gov. Please note that the National Archives does not have any administrative records such as correspondence or orders for the Cahaba Prison itself.

             

            Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT1. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.

             

            Another possible avenue for research is to search for back issues of local newspapers or records of state and local governments. The Alabama Public Library Service and the

            Alabama Department of Archives and History may be able to assist you in locating state and local resources, as might local libraries and historical societies for Dallas County, Alabama.

             

            We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!

            1 person found this helpful
            • Re: Seeking records of the Cahaba Civil War Prison Camp Flood
              Diane White Newbie

              I have found a letter in my families old letters written about the flooding.  What I could fact check about it appears to be factual.  This is what it says about the flood.  "During the winter we had no snow, but lots of rain, which made it bad for us, as we were obliged to cook out in the yard when the mud was sometimes knee deep" "During February it rained about 3 weeks, and raised the river so that it covered the whole country and filled our prison waist deep.  We were obliged to wade about in the water, unable to get a fire to warm or dry ourselves for ten days, when happily we were taken out on the morning of the 6th of March.

              1 person found this helpful
                • Re: Seeking records of the Cahaba Civil War Prison Camp Flood
                  natalie lovins Wayfarer

                  Oh my gosh! This is wonderful information! Can I ask who wrote the letter??? This might be the best snippet of a letter I've ever read about Cahaba Prison.

                  I'm in the process of working on a novel about this prison with my 13-year-old daughter and would love to visit.

                    • Re: Seeking records of the Cahaba Civil War Prison Camp Flood
                      Diane White Newbie

                      The letter was signed by. Wm. N. McCarty.  It was written to his sister.  I found it in a box of old letters that my family had.  It goes in to quite a bit of detail about being captured and put in prison. And their release from prison.  It says it was written from Vicksburg March 20, '65.  It is a very interesting letter.  In my fact checking it all appears to be true.  In my limited search about it I have not yet checked about how or if he is related to me.  And in checking my facts after this letter was written most of these former prisoners were loaded on a ship the Sultana to go north.  It had a accident and about half the men died in the river.  I have not been able yet to see if he survived that.  So any information about that I would like to know. If this letter can be more helpful to you and your daughter I am willing to help.

                        • Re: Seeking records of the Cahaba Civil War Prison Camp Flood
                          natalie lovins Wayfarer

                          Hi Diane,

                          Thank you again for all this information. William was a private in Company F, 18th Michigan Infantry, and was captured September 24th, 1864, in Athens, Alabama, by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, in an attempt to help reinforce Union Fort Henderson. My GGGGGreat Grandfather was in the same battle and captured on the same day! I like to think they would have known each other. If the letter was written on March 20, '65, it might have been from Camp Fisk, in Vicksburg, on Christian Sanitary Commission paper. In my quick search of Sultana passengers, he was 25 years old and survived the disaster. The Sultana Association would be the best place to contact to find out if William's story of surviving the Sultana was documented.  They have detailed records.  Their website is https://www.thesultanaassociation.com/ and there is a contact us section. Maybe we can meet through the Sultana Survivors Association of Descendants and Friends. We have been working closely with them asking lots of questions!!  They are so kind and most gracious in answering.  Sorry, I can't give you an email, but I tried doing that once and the moderators deleted it. The Sultana Association can tell you pretty much everything there is about William N. McCarty and the Sultana.

                           

                          Thank you so much again for willing to help us. My mother and I (this is the 13-year-old writing) pretty much jumped for joy. We have lots and lots of more details about Cahaba, the Sultana, and the battle at Athens. If you're interested, we'd love somebody to talk to. You see, everybody in our house quickly leaves the room if words such as "Civil War," "Sultana,"  "Cahaba," or, "Guess what we learned today," enter the conversation.

                           

                          1 person found this helpful