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Eye Witness


Butler Co Men

Oaklawn Cem



This website is dedicated to the
17 casualties of war in the train wreck that occurred on November 4, 1862 at Cleveland, Tennessee.

Eye Witness Account
transcribed from
The Train Wreck

The information pertaining to the train wreck near Cleveland, Tennessee, on or about 4 November 1862 was copied from the memoirs of Pvt. Marvin L. Wheeler, Company A, 33rd Alabama Infantry Regiment. Pvt. Wheeler enlisted July 1862 at Stevenson, Alabama. He was wounded at Chickamauga. The following is Pvt. Wheeler's story.

A True Copy

"It was then the ladder part of October and first of November. Climatic conditions caused Knoxville to be the smokest place we were at, the smok from our green oak wood fires did not rise but settled and remained in a heavy black bank just above the earth and kept our eyes running water nearly all the time that we were not laying down, it being less dense just next to the earth, and we wer glad to leave there one morning early in November in box cars, a company in a car, with three days cooked rations of flour bread, fresh beef and bacon. The engines could pull but ten loaded box cars, say twenty four to thirty six feet long. The 33rd moved in the cars, that time by the left flank, the regimental staff officers or those who were along at the time and part of the baggage, the cooking utensils, axes and medicine chest, occupying the rear or tenth box and this time it fell to the lot of Company D, thought its place was not on the extreem tright of the battalion, to occupy a box in the second section or train to our rear, the engine of which train frequently pushed our train up the grains when we stalled, as it did up the grade two or three miles south of Cleveland. And while running fast down grade our trained was wrecked about one or two p.m. the day we left Knoxville, south of Cleveland, killing nine or ten of Company G, one or two of Company E and of Company F and of Company H. Seventeen in all, whom we buried the next morning in a long ditch we dug on the southeast side of the railroad track, and built a worn rail fence around them. We pad put sixty seven crippled ones in box cars and sent them back to the hospital at Cleveland the evening of the wreck, soon after getting them out of it.

Company B was in the box car next to the tender which was heaping full of split wood and it was supposed that a stick of wood dropped off the tender breaking the front axle under our car. At any rate all the wheels suddenling came out from under our car, causing a dreadful jar and clogged under the second car, which Company G Cooper's Co. from Daleville were in. Many were riding on top of the cars as was usual when moving by rail, and were shuck off like shaking peaches off a tree and badly jolted when they hit the ground. The coupling Company B's and Company G's boxes parted and the primitive engine carried Company B's box bouncing along without any wheels under it for two or three hundred yards, and it was the roughest riding we ever experienced. Those of Company B in the front end of the box got out at the doors on either side, some of the alighting on their heads.

The company guns, accountrements, knapsacks and things soon all worked back to the rear end of the box in bouncing along would strike the rails it would us men and things a foot or more from the floor then when the floor would come in contact with us some would be beneath the pile and get bruised and mashed and were all banged up and badly frightened when the old fashioned engine stopped and after gettin out and find we had no broken bones we hurried back to where the cars were piled up in and on top of each other and assisted while men pried up or chopped to pieces the boxes in getting the crippled or dead out.

We were delayed about twenty four hours, then we rode in a coal car to Chattanooga where we drew crackers and bacon."

In another part of his document, Pvt. Wheeler wrote:

"Brevet Second Lieutenant Charles Scott was in charge of Company E at Knoxville and was killed in the railroad wreck near Cleveland, Tenn. Nov. 1862."

He also wrote:

"Captain Ruben J. Cooper of Daleville killed in a railroad wreck near Cleveland, Tenn. November 1862."

In a newspaper reprint of the entries in the diary of Myra Inmans in November 1862 it shows:

"Wednesday, 5: cloudy day, rained a little this morning. A gloom was spread over our town this morn. Caused by a sad accident which occurred 16 miles from here. The cable of a car broke, which caused 18 men to lose their lives, while 70 were wounded. There brought to the hospitals."


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