Raising The Sultana

Josephus Test: A Sultana Death

Sylvia Clemons | 25 April 2015 | Comment(s)
Josephus Israel Test was born in 1822 to Benjamin Franklin Test and Abigail Cornwell in New Hope, Brown County, Ohio.  Census in 1840 lists him as living in Tate Township, Clermont County, Ohio.  Test married Sarah Landon on November 14, 1858 in Ohio.  They had four children:  George was born around 1860, Maxie M, Eva E, and Rebecca J who was born around 1863.  Test joined the military on May 2, 1864 to the 153rd Regiment Infantry.  It was organized at Camp Dennison, Ohio.  He was mustered in on May 10, 1864 and they left state for Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  There they were on guard duty along the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad system until June 29.  On July 3rd a brigade encountered a scouting party of the 153rd under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Leeds at Hammack’s Mills, Oldtown which is also known as North River Mills.  The larger Confederate forces captured 34 men and killed one officer. All in all 3 were killed and 7 others wounded. Test was one of the 34 men that was captured that day and taken to Andersonville Prison where he stayed until they were exchanged on April 12, 1865 at Vicksburg, Mississippi.  On April 25 he boarded the Sultana Steamboat along with around 2000 other Union Soldiers. On April 27, 1865 the Sultana Steamboat boilers exploded.  It is only by the testimony of William Lugenbeal that we know the fate of Josephus Test.  Lugenbeal mentioned Test in his recount of that horrible night in Chester Berry’s book, Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors: Hisotry of a Disaster.  He said when the explosion happened that he was on the second deck and a piece of timber had went through his partner’s body killing him instantly.  We can only imagine if they had met while held captive at Andersonville Prison or maybe it was while they were at Camp Fisk.  They may have just so happen sit next to each other after boarding the steamboat itself.  Then we can only imagine that their conversations were about their families they were returning home to.   Even though we don’t know how they met, we do know that Lugenbeal thought enough about Test to mention him so that he would never be forgotten. Test would never make it back home to his family as the Mississippi River became his watery grave that night.  We must continue to share his story as well as all the other passengers who boarded that steamboat 150 years ago.   

The town where Test was born started as a post office called New Hope established in 1828, and remained in operation until 1893.  An outbreak of cholera in 1849 decimated the town's population.  Today the town is currently still there and considered a ghost town.  It probably has less than 100 residents who keep it clean & preserve their history.   The Old U.S. Route 68 iron bridge, built in 1884, sits abandoned & closed off from traffic crossing White Oak Creek at the end of Main St. Before you even get to that point there's a very old hotel & an abandoned  grocery store / meeting hall across the street, both of which are super cool! A small building marked Scott Township Hall is in the lot behind the town marker on Main St. (maybe a reproduction?). Over on New Hope - McKinley Rd. the Methodist church built in 1851 is still open. A little on down the road is the abandoned Scott Township School built in 1935 & closed in 1971. There's also a few old cemeteries on the outskirts of town.

Sources:  Ancestory.com Family Search.org Civilwarprisoners.com Southern Historical Society Papers/ West Virginia Battles 1864 http://www.researchonline.net/wvcw/battles1864.htm
A compendium of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 1   http://www.ohiocivilwar.com/cw153.html Complete Regular Army Register of the United States for One Hundred Years Engagement and Battles pg. 182 https://books.google.com/books?id=_CxFAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA183&lpg=RA1-PA183&dq=Hammack+Mills,+West+Virginia&source=bl&ots=MIDS1w5Z53&sig=c0J-swSsDNHj88YaC9lRryenCvM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=l3IyVfksxMewBdeWgfgK&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Hammack Mills, West Virginia&f=false   
Loss of the Sultana and Reminiscences of Survivors: History of a Disaster ...  By Chester D. Berry https://books.google.com/books?id=CEh3AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA423&lpg=PA423&dq=john+henry+king+9th+Indiana+Cav...