Noah Davenport wrote a fifteen page account of his ordeal during the Civil War
and passed along his experience to his relatives. His nephew Gordon H. Turner also wrote a book
called The History of Scotts Hill, Tennessee and featured his uncle’s story
found on page 194. Davenport is one of
the men who survived his experience of not only the Civil War or the horrible conditions
they faced in Andersonville Prison, but also survived the Sultana Steamboat
explosion that occurred at 2 a.m. on April 27, 1865. He was on his way home as the Civil War had
Isaac Noah Davenport was born on November 21, 1840 probably
in Henderson County, Tennessee. By 1850
Isaac nickname “Ike” is living with his father Stephen Davenport in Hardeman
County, Tennessee. In 1860 he is known
to be a laborer living in Hardin County, Tennessee at the age of 18. He was living with Samuel K. Gill while his
father was living nearby in Decatur County, Tennessee. Sometime in 1860 Isaac Davenport married
Eliza Ann Holmes who lived in Scotts Hill, Tennessee. Their first child Amanda was just a year old when Isaac enrolled into the
Union Army on August 28, 1862 for a 3 year service as a private. He was assigned to Company C of the 7th
Tennessee Cavalry Volunteers.
During the war he was stationed at Union City, Tennessee. On March 24, 1864 the fort came under siege
by Confederates who claimed that General Nathan Bedford Forrest was on his way
with reinforcements. The Union commander surrendered the fort believing that
they would surely be massacred if Forrest arrived. They were marched southward to be imprisoned
at Andersonville, Georgia prison.
Davenport described one of their stops where they were held was a fenced-in
cotton shed. I believe this to be the Cahaba prison in Alabama where there is
record of him being held. They did not
have beds only the sandy hills and very few had raged blankets to wrap
themselves in at night. He witnessed so
many men’s death he was afraid he would succumb to that fate as well, but he
would immediately think of his home and friends which encouraged himself that
he would reach home one day. While there
one soldier he referred to as one of his brethren by the name of S.F. McCollum
was sick so Davenport wrapped his blanket around him and bid him goodbye as
they started marching once again for Andersonville. He never saw him again as his friend died
In October 1864 Davenport said he was hurried off to
Savanna, Georgia where he remained sum time.
He was hurried off to Blackshear at Pine Grove where they took shelter
under branches and slept once again on the ground. They were there a few days until they were
transported to Thomasville, Georgia. On
February 15, 1865 they were happy to hear of orders to start preparing to march
as this brought them closer to going home.
They had to march on foot for about 40 miles across the pine hills of
Georgia. Even though many of them were
weak and feeble just the thoughts of being released and going home gave them
encouragement to keep going. They were put on railcars in Albany, Georgia
and taken to Andersonville, Georgia where once again they found themselves in prison. Davenport described it as a desperate and
gloomy looking place. They didn’t know what to expect as one
incident they noticed confederate soldiers standing in little groups as if they
were studying what to do and thought something was going to happen pretty soon.
there they experienced many horrible scenes through all types of weather
conditions, and stated they were nothing more than just skeletons. He was a witness to 6 men being hung on one
pole which is now known as “The Raiders.”
Davenport referred to them as thieves and murderers that killed and
robbed several men that didn’t have much to begin with anyways. He stated for the most part they had sympathy
towards one another and would help each other as much as they could, except for
on March 20 1865, the word came that the prisoners would be exchanged and they
were soon ordered to fall in line. They
didn’t take much time till they were soon embarked on the confederate cars
which carried them to Jackson, Mississippi.
Once there they had to travel on foot to Black River Bridge for several
miles until they reached the river. He
never mentioned what the place was called, but merely stated once there they
were met by soldiers carrying that brave old flag and was given food and drink
as well as some clean clothes. I believe
this to be Camp Fisk outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi where many other
soldiers are known to have also journeyed to.
Davenport describes remaining there in peace with plenty until they were
to board a steamboat which would then carry them north to Camp Chase, Ohio and
from there be sent home.
April 25, 1865, Davenport along with many others boarded the Sultana Steamboat
that was waiting for them at the port.
He described them being as thick as bee’s on board, but they were so glad
they marched right on board. They moved
out around ten o’clock moving very slow as the river was very high and swift
from the spring rains. He then describes
landing at Memphis, Tennessee about nine o’clock the next night where some
unloading and loading took place and stayed sometime. Many of the soldiers got off and got
something to eat, but Davenport was listening at all times for the signal bell
to ring which did about eleven o’clock. Once
back on the steamboat they had to find a spot on deck to lay down. He along with some other guys went around on
the outside of the banisters of the middle deck. They used their shoes, hats, and coats for
their bedding. He had not been asleep
long when he was awakened by a loud noise.
though he saw many horrible things while a prisoner to him it wasn’t anything compared
to what he saw that night. Men’s faces
were sheet white with fear as they were jumping overboard as if wolves were
after them. Some men were drowning and
some burning while many others were crying out for help from being
smashed. He said that some were killed
instantly and others were scared to death while others burned away. He himself was slightly wounded by a pile of
timber and two of his buddies that were on each side of him, named Isaac Smith
and Guan Flowler, both died. He stated that Isaac Smith was killed instantly as
his head was smashed and Flowler spoke saying, “boys, I am a dead man.” He didn’t see him anymore after he fell off
into the river. Davenport met up with
another one of the men he became friends with while in prison, Morgan L. Gray. Davenport asked him what they should do so
his friend told him to tear up some strings and he would tear up some planks
and tie them together and swim out on them.
Davenport stepped to the bow of the boat to see if he could see any
chance for them to make their escape when he went back to Gray he wasn’t
there. Davenport thought he had drowned
and was left alone once more. He couldn’t
swim very well and didn’t like the idea of having to just jump into the river,
but he was running out of time and had to do something by this time the flames
and smoke was busting through all parts of the burning boat. He didn’t want to stay on boat and burn to
death so he got another piece of plank and jumped. As soon as he hit the water someone snatched
his plank away, and was left to help himself the best he could.
While trying to swim himself a nearby drowning man grabbed
him and carried him beneath the river.
They struggled until he thought he was about to drown himself he finally
broke free by what he stated was the strength of God. Weakened by the struggle he knew he couldn’t
make it to shore so he started back towards the hulk of the boat when he was
struck in the head by another piece of plank which he held onto till the break
of day when he saw a large piece of timber fell from top of the boat. He managed to get from the plank onto the
log. After settling down he saw a man
swinging on a rope, he paddled over to him and pulled him up a little. The man spoke as he wasn’t sure if he was
dead or alive. Two men spotted them that
had a raft and rescued not only them but all that was hanging around the
boat. Davenport stated he was one of
nine that got away from the burning boat.
There was a large sycamore tree they took them to so they could quickly
go back and save as many as they could.
Amusingly even after going through all of this once these men were on
the limbs of the tree they shared wet tobacco and after taking a good chew,
amused themselves in fitting the musketeers.
He thought they were a happy little band as ever that sat on limbs of a
sycamore tree above the waves of the Mississippi River.
The two rescuers came back at sunup and gathered them back
up and took them to shore. As they were
heading to shore Davenport looked out to where the Sultana was and saw the hulk
for the last time as it sunk beneath the waves.
Others had built a good fire and were already warming themselves when
another steamboat came to their rescue had about eighty survivors on board. They were taken back to Memphis. When they landed they got off the boat where
there was another group standing around a fire trying to dry themselves. Some of them swam the seven miles from the
burning boat. Surprisingly he had seen
his friend Gray. In a token of their friendship and love they
gave each other their hand of token as they thought the other had drowned. They marched up through the streets of Memphis
bare footed as they had lost their shoes as well as their hats. They were wet and cold but they soon reached
the Soldiers Home where they got some warm dry clothes and something to eat. Davenport said there were about eight of his
regiment on the boat and six of them were lost.
Only he and John Derryberry were left to tell their story. Morgan. L. Gray and Olynthus. G. Shelton was
from the 6th Tennessee Cavalry Company E, but they were like
brothers to them from their long prison life together. They all stayed at the Soldiers Home a few
days then they were ordered to their own states to be discharged. Davenport was discharged in Nashville,
Tennessee on June 29, 1865 and arrived back home in Scotts Hill, Tennessee on
July 3, 1865.
By the 1870’s Census, Davenport had settled in Scotts Hill,
Tennessee with his wife and three children. Altogether Isaac and Eliza have ten children. Eliza had two sets of twins.
Eliza dies on June 27, 1893 and is buried in Grandsire Holmes Cemetery
which is named after her father, Ralph Holmes.
Isaac remarries his first wife’s second cousin, Margaret Austin
Maness. She was the widow of J. Frank Maness
who died in 1891. They continued to live in Henderson County, Tennessee for the
remainder of their lives. Isaac served
as one of the deacons in the Scotts Hill Church of Christ. He died on September 16, 1922. He is buried at Grandsire Holmes in Henderson
Descendants of William Dabenporthttp://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/p/i/e/Maureen-E-Pierce/GENE1-0003.html
Find A Grave Memorial #74548424http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=74548424
Family Tree Makerhttp://familytreemaker.genealogy.com/users/p/i/e/Maureen-E-Pierce/index.html