Civil War Soldiers Killed
600 Indiana Ave.
New Albany, Ind.
April 4- 1963
Dr. J. R. Current
Tell City, Ind.
Dear Dr. Current,
Thanks a million for your nice letter and to Mr. Bert Fenn for finding a line on the Civil War Soldiers buried below Rono or Magnet, Indiana. Hatfield Landing at the time of the accident for Mr. Dow Hatfield operated the wharf and a store here for years. Mr. Hatfield is buried in the Stephenson Cemetery south of Magnet, Ind. My father worked for Mr. Hatfield in his early life before he joined the Union Army.
Just think these soldiers have been buried here almost a hundred years without any attention or just honor due them. I am so glad and happy I haven't words to express my feelings.
I have searched the libraries here in New Albany and Jeffersonville, Ind. and other leads to no avail. I am willing to put up some money o the expense of a marker.
I also think a marker at the sight of the the old log schoolhouse where Captain Hines and men camped at Cross Roads in the woods east of the M.E. Church on the Joseph Springer's old farm, it would help a bit on the Lincoln Hills Program.
Joseph Springer reared my uncle John McNaughton and some of Hines men came up to the Springer barn and took a young mare of his and Kitty Springer went in the back yard and sounded distress calls on a conch shell and my grandmother Elizabeth Deen answered from Turkey Knob so Hines and men heard the conch shells and camp was broken and they fled north and were almost destroyed at Leavenworth a little later. My grandfather Joseph Deen was Captain of a bunch of neighborhood farmers that called themselves Homeguards, they got on the warpath but didn't overtake Hines and men.
Thanks again and the best of luck.
General Services Administration
National Archives and Records Service
Washington 25, D.C.
May 10, 1963
In reply refer to: NMRA
Dr. J. R. Current, Secretary
Tell City Historical Society, Inc.
515 Main Street
Tell City, Indiana
Dear Dr. Current:
In your letter of April 25, 1963, you requested information concerning a steamboat accident which occurred on the Ohio River on August 21, 1865.
We search the records of the War Department but did not find any report concerning this accident. If you know to whom Colonel Phillips sent the report and can furnish us with this information, we will search further.
The records of the Quartermaster General's Office contain a cemeterial list for the soldiers of the 70th Ohio Infantry, Union Army. According to this list, one soldier from this regiment died on August 21, 1865 -- Corporal Aaron Fiscus of Company K. According to this soldier's pension file, corporal Fiscus was killed when the steamer "Argosy" wrecked during a storm, in the manner which you described. We will furnish photostatic copies of the cemeterial list of the 70th Ohio Infantry for $1.20. Xerox of the documents from Corporal Fiscus' pension file which relate to this accident can be furnished for fifty cents. Remittance should be made to the National Archives and Records Service by check or postal money order payable to the General Services Administration (NMRA). Please return the enclosed copy of this letter when placing your order.
Elmer O. Parker
for Victor Condos, Jr.
Chief, Army and
Air Corps Branch
23 April, 1963
Plan Dedication Rites
Hines Crossing To Be Marked
By County Civil War Group
Members of the Perry County Civil War Committee Friday night learned that the Civil War veterans buried in a mass grave near Magnet have been identified by official records, members also had a preview of a marker which will be placed at a point near the river (on the highway) where Thomas Hines and a small group of Confederate guerillas crossed the Ohio from Kentucky into Perry county (Ind.) for a foray in June, 1863.
Robert Cummings, chairman, and Dr. J. R. Current, secretary of the Perry County Civil War committee, unfolded the story of the mass graves where eight or ten Civil War veterans were buried following an explosion of a government boat. Government markers for these Civil War veterans will be obtained also.
The Perry county committee learned for the first time of the mass grave last June when Forrest McNaughton of New Albany, former resident of Union township, came down to attend the Civil War program at Rome. He knew of the grave by hearing the story from his parents, however he had no official information.
Later Bert Fenn, Tell City river enthusiast, read a story concerning the government boat explosion in a Waterways Journal and passed the information on to the Civil War Committee. Then Dr. Current began a campaign of letter-writing and travels in efforts to track down the information.
Meanwhile the committee began plans for a program on June 16 at the old court house at Rome. Mr. Cummings named James Groves, chairman of arrangements. This will be in connection with the dedication of the Hines marker, Site for the Hines marker will be determined by Messrs. Cummings, Current and Lloyd Whitmer.
History states that Captain Thomas H. Hines and a company of the 9th Kentucky Cavalry was sent from Morgan's Landing of Bragg's Brigade in Tennessee, and sent to Kentucky to take charge of a champ for recruiting disable horses with permission to operate "against the enemy north of the Cumberland river." He interpreted the order "north of the Cumberland" to push into Indiana, across the Ohio. It was on June 17, 1863, that Hines watered his weary horses in the Ohio between Rome and Derby at Roberts' Landing. His 62 men were ferried across by flats. Hines galloped a while on northern soil but finally he was trapped by National Guards from Perry county as Hines tried to escape across the river. Only Hines and two others escaped; the others drowned...
The marker to designate the location of Capt. Hines' entry into the county will be dedicated with appropriate ceremonies in connection with the program at the Rome court house. Carl A. Zenor, chairman of the Indiana State Civil War Commission and Hubert R. Hawkins, director and editor of the Indiana History Bulletin, will be invited. Mrs. Ashley Mills will contact the Ft. Knox Military Band to participate in the program. Women of the county who have dresses of the Civil War period are invited to attend wearing the dresses. Other plans are being considered for the occasion.
Information on the Civil War veterans buried in the mass grave on the Clyde Benner Farm in Union Township included a story provided by Bert Fenn written by Frank Y. Grayson entitled "Thrills of the Historic Ohio"; information from the Louisville Daily Journal dated Friday, August 25, 1865, and another story from the same publication dated Thursday, August 24, 1865, concerning names of boats arriving and departing.
However the official information in the form of a letter to Dr. Current came from the adjutant General's Department for the State of Ohio, Columbus, under the date of April 8, 1963 -- (this month) and provided a thrill for the entire committee. It reads in part:
Dear Dr. Current:
This is in reply to your letter of March 27th, concerning the mass grave of Civil War soldiers in Indiana. With the help of our State Library, a research historian and consulting our unit Civil War files, I have gathered the following information:
The 70th Regiment, OVI, was mustered out on August 14, 1865, at Little Rock, Ark., and was enroute home when the incident involving the wreck of the ship on the Ohio river occurred. I find a somewhat more detailed account of the incident in the New York Times for August 25, 1865, page 8.
Several errors are noted in spelling names of the men involved in the shipwreck. Our "Official Roster of the Ohio Soldiers in the War of the Rebellion" provides the following data:
Sergeant Hugh K. Taylor, Co. K, from Brown or Adams county (Ohio)
Private George W. McKinley, Co. K, from Brown or Adams county
Corporal Aaron Fiscus, Co. K, from Brown or Adams county
Private John Robuck, Co. G, from Manchester
Private Amos Rose, Co. G, from Manchester
Private Albert Rader, Co. C, from West Union
Comm. Sgt. John H. Behrens, Regt'l Hq., Cincinnati (this man is listed as Comm. Sgt. Hiram Behrus in your letter, but Behrens is the only Commissary Sergeant with a like surname)
Private John McDaniel, Co. F, from West Union (this man listed as McDonald in your letter but no like name in company roster)
Private Martin Long, Co. K, from Brown or Adams county
Sergeant William Eagelhoff, Co., I, from Cincinnati
Private M. Busbee, (no record of this man in entire regimental list)
Private Isaac Taylor, Co. C, from West Union
Colonel Henry L. Phillips -- Commanded the 70th OVI
According to the information obtained by Mr. Fenn from the Louisville Daily Journal and Waterways Journal, the 70th Ohio Veterans Volunteer Infantry men had been mustered out at Little Rock, Ark., and were enroute home on the Argosy III (there were three Argosies) when a storm broke and the boat commanded by Capt. Vandergrift, was blown against rock between Concordia, Ky., and Alton, Ind., some 80 miles west of Louisville.
The men to escape the rain had gathered around the boiler when breaking of the pipes threw steam and hot water among them. Ten or twelve were badly scalded, fifty jumped into the river, eight of whom were drowned.
The Louisville Journal story states that the Morning Star passed up but rendered no assistance, later Argosy I with Capt. Schenck arrived and brought the survivors to Louisville.
Those who died were brought together and buried -- one or two of the drowned men were recovered, it is reported.
Notes from Cannelton Tuesday News -- August 24, 1965
Dedication of Civil War graves at Magnet took place on Sunday
Karl Zenor, Chairman of the Indiana Civil War Commission.
Bert Fenn (provided history of Argosy III)
Dr. James Current, Secretary-Treasurer of Perry County Civil War Commission
Gen. Marvin Evans, Principal Speaker
Hugh Potter, President of Radio Station WOMI, Owensboro
Governor's Honor Guard posed with Clyde Benner
Robert Cummins, Chairman of Perry County Civil War Commission, Master of Ceremonies
Names of soldiers on grave markers:
John H. Behren, Co. C
Albert Rader, Co. C
John Robuck, Co. C
Martin V. B. Long, Co. K
Hugh K. Taylor, Sgt. Co. K
George W. McKinley, Co. K
unknown U.S. Soldier (39th Ind. Inf.)
John McDaniel, Co. F
Aaron Fiscus, Cpl. Co. K
Amos Rose, Co. C
Dr. Current gave a brief history of the 70th Ohio Regiment. The following paragraph was the only report in the news:
Dr. Current said that the 70th Regiment was in the thick of battles throughout the war and had a high casualty record. "Many of the soldiers buried near this spot were wounded before dying as they moved toward their homes and private life." he said only one of the soldiers was married.
Civil War soldiers' monument
needs sprucing up: landowner
by Robert Dewig
The Perry County News
24 July 1995
Rono (Magnet) -- With a crash of lightning, the crowded deck of the windblown U.S.S. Argosy (No. 3) was illuminated to Commissary Sgt. John H. Behrens of the 70th Ohio Regiment. With men pressed from gunwale to gunwale, the regiment looked more worried than they had throughout the entire Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea.
The entire situation was ironic in a way, Behrens though, grabbing the deck railing to steady himself against the rolling Ohio River. The regiment had lived through some of the worst battles of the American Civil War in the West. Shot, shell, 50,000 Rebels -- none had been able to stop the brave 70th. And now, thanks be to God, they were going home.
But on Aug. 21, 1865, just off the Perry County stretch of Indiana shoreline. a spectacularly strong gust of wind blew the overloaded transport aground. The paddlewheeler's straining boilers exploded when it hit the Indiana shore, spraying steam and boiling water all over the crewmen nearest the engines.
Behrens did not even have time to think of fleeing. He was scalded to death immediately, along with at least 10 of his comrades.
Sadly, Behrens' soaked comrades carried the mangled dead to shore, where nine dead Union soldiers were buried in a mass grave. One soldier, Martin V. B. Long, was carried ashore mortally wounded, only to die the next day and join his fallen comrades in their grave near the river.
Soon after, more transports arrived to take the surviving soldiers home. But no earthly vessel would ever take the 10 fallen Ohioans home; they rest forever in Perry County, most likely under the surface of the wide Ohio.
But in 1965 Clyde E. Benner, of Magnet, decided to build a monument to the fallen soldiers and place it on his land near where the soldiers died and were buried. The monument, 10 vertical headstones arranged side-by-side, is now one of the more moving monuments in eastern Perry County.
After Benner built the monument on his land, his family cared for the stones, mowing and trimming around them and keeping a space cleared in the woods for visitors to comfortably sit and reflect on the tragedy.
Erosion and time can take its toll on a monument, though. Although the stones themselves are in good shape, the surrounding land is nearly bare dirt. The grass and plants under the shade trees have nearly disappeared, and the entire monument seems to be lacking something.
Enter Pat Irvin, who inherited the land from her father when he died last year. In memory of her father, Irvin has decided to spruce up the site, although she could use some suggestions on just how to do it.
Irvin has considered building an "Abe Lincoln" split rail fence around the monument, which could then be surrounded by shade-loving plants. "Maybe someone with more of an eye for these things would know something better," she said, adding that anyone with ideas and perhaps some time for volunteer labor should call her at 843-5833.
The markers stand about one mile south of Magnet along the gravel road through town. They are on the landward side of the road, and are open to the public.
"You wouldn't believe the people that come and ask where these things are," she said. "There's a lot of people who've come and asked where the Civil War markers are. And Dad was always real proud of this little spot."
Commissary Sgt. John H. Behrens would be proud of her efforts.
Way's Packet Directory
Compiled by Frederick Way, Jr.
0331 Argosy No. 3
Stw p wh b. Monongahela, Pa., 1864. 155x33x5. Engines 15 1/2's -5ft. Three boilers each 38" by 24 ft. Hull by Latta. Engines from Foster & Co., and boilers built by the Herron Works. Buntling, Miller & Co., built the cabin. Capt. Lew Vandergrift bought control, and took charge. She became a fairly regular Pittsburgh-Cincinnati packet. Captain Vandergrift had her rebuilt at the James Rees shop, Pittsburgh, summer 1866, and put in larger engines, 16's-5ft. There is a full account in S & D Reflector, issue Sept. 1976, pages 24 - 25, of a mud drum explosion near Rono, Ind., some 80 miles below Louisville on Aug 21, 1865, in which ten Union soldiers were lost, drowned or scalded, upbound for Cincinnati. The story includes photograph of the boat, and also the mass grave still in the locality. In November 1866, after getting the new engines, she again entered Pittsburgh-Cincinnati trade, Capt. Lew Vandergrift in charge, W. H. Scott, clerk, and James Rowley and William Hall, pilots. In September 1868 Capt. Vandergrift loaded aboard 600 tons of iron ore at LaGrange Landing, Tennessee River, and brought it to the upper Ohio. Summer 1869 in Pittsburgh-Cincinnati trade, Capt. George D. Moore, master, A. R. Bunting, clerk. Sold December 1869 to Capt. William J. List and W. J. Anderson of Wheeling who ran her Pittsburgh-Portsmouth. She was chartered in 1873 to carry Dan Rice's Circus, and after touring the Ohio River went below New Orleans 50 miles to Myrtle Grove Plantation. She was in charge of Capt. D. K. Barrett, Murraysville, W. Va., father-in-law of A. J. Flesher who ran the boatyard there. Finally Argosy No. 3 was degraded to towing salt from Pomeroy Bend to Louisville, and was dismantled soon thereafter.
Family keep Civil War
cemetery in shape
Tuesday, 27 May 1997
Magnet, Ind. -- It might be Indiana's most overlooked Civil War Cemetery.
The spot near the bank of the Ohio River known to locals as Rono Bottoms sits in a small clearing a half-mile down an unnamed gravel road.
There is no visitors' center, no park ranger and no tour guide. No signs mark it on Ind. 66 in Perry County.
There is only Pat Irwin.
For Irwin, Memorial Day comes every time she replaces the small U.S. flags in front of the headstones. They mark the mass grave of 10 Union soldiers killed in a steamboat accident on the river on Aug. 21, 1865.
The victims -- nine members of the 70th Ohio Regiment and an unknown soldier from the 39th Indiana Infantry -- had survived the Atlanta campaign and some of the worst fighting of the war.
They were heading home to Cincinnati on the USS Argosy III when the steamboat encountered a storm and ran aground. When the paddlewheel struck, the ship's boilers exploded. The victims either drowned or were scalded.
Irwin's father, Clyde Benner, owned 80 acres of woods fronting the accident site. In 1965, he poured a concrete base for 10 white headstones supplied by the federal government, and the Indiana Civil War Centennial Commission supplied a "Civil War Memorial Grave" marker.
The dedication ceremony, one day before the tragedy's centennial, concluded a four-year series of commemorations of Civil War events that occurred in Perry County.
Benner cleared and weeded the grave site in the grove of poplars, maples, locust and cottonwood trees until his death in 1985.
Then his land was divided among his four daughters.
"We put our names in a pot and drew," Irwin said. "When I pulled out my slip, I though, 'Uh-oh." I knew I hand inherited the grave site.
"It's always been maintained by our family. We stop and do whatever needs to be done when we see it needs cleaning."
Her sister Betty Labhart, and Labhart's six sons help weed the clearing. Irwin's husband, Darryl, and their five sons also are frequently at the site.
Last year, Irwin planted hostas and added a split-rail fence behind the graves. This year, she planted ferns, dusty millers and begonias.
"We try to make it look nice for Memorial Day," she said. This month, she put out new flags and placed at the headstones' base a bouquet of red, white and blue artificial carnations with a U.S. flag.
"This was always my dad's project. He liked it presentable," said Irwin, who has worked 21 years at TJ's on the River restaurant, the only business in Magnet.
She brushed dirt away from the names carved into the headstones: Amos Rose, Aaron Fiscus, John McDaniel, George W. McKinney, Hugh T. Taylor, Martin V.B. Long, John Robuck, Albert Rader, John Behrens and "Unknown U.S. Soldier."
"I look at those names and I think, 'They had a mother, didn't they?'" Irwin said. "I always wonder if someone wonders where they are."
S & D Reflector
Published by Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen
Vol. 13, No. 3, Marietta, Ohio, September 1976
Wood Rutters and wife Bee went bushwhacking along the Ohio in southern Indiana this past April and took the picture on the right. [picture of highway marker] They were near Rono Landing, Perry County, about 4 miles below Alton and 20 below Leavenworth. Also they sent along to us the picture on the next page, the mass grave mentioned on the highway marker. Their query: What's it all about?
As chance would have it, since 1944 we've had cabbaged in our negative file a photo of the Argosy watching for a chance to use it. So here goes:
This Argosy (parenthetically identified on the highway marker as Number 3 inasmuch as three were built in a row) was built at Monongahela City, Pa. on the Monongahela River in the fall of 1864. A note in the Pittsburgh "Commercial" dated Nov. 30 says:
"This was the third boat of the name, the other two having been purchased by the U.S. for gunboat purposes. The hull measures 155x33x5, constructed by Latta at Monongahela City. Foster & Co. built the engines, 15 1/2" bore by 5' stroke. she carries three boilers each 38" in dia. by 24 ft. long made at the Herron Works. Buntling, Miller & Co. built the cabin. The control has been bought by Capt. L. (Lew) Vandergrift who assumes command and is loading for St. Louis."
In Frank Y. Grayson's valuable book "Thrills of the Historic Ohio" pp. 201-202 is an account of Argosy (No. 3) ascending the Ohio loaded with U.S. troops of the Seventieth Ohio Infantry, 300 strong, returning from war duty. Commanded by Capt. Vandergrift, at Hatfield Landing [Rono] 80 miles below Louisville, a sudden squall of tornado-like proportion blew the boat forcibly into the Indiana shore. The mud drum exploded. Forty soldiers jumped overboard to avoid the escaping steam; nine of whom were drowned. Twelve soldiers were scalded, two fatally.
The names of those who died, taken from a contemporary account: Martin Long, Herman Behrens, Hugh Taylor, Aaron Fiscus, John Rodrick, Amos Pore, Alfred Rader, J. McDaniel, and an unidentified Indiana soldier. Apparently these are the nine who drowned. Five of the scalded were considered severe cases.
Strangely enough the first boat along after the accident also was named Argosy, first of the series. She also had been built at Monongahela City, Pa., 1862, a sternwheeler about like #3. She had been taken over by the U.S. for transport service in 1863, and had been sold at public auction to Capt. U. P. Schenck of Vevay, Ind. on Aug 18, 1865, two days prior to the explosion.
So the original Argosy took the soldiers to Louisville, and they were taken on to Cincinnati by the U.S. Mail Line's General Lytle. Most of them boarded trains of the Little Miami Railroad homeward bound.
Next we note that Argosy No. 3 was taken to Pittsburgh where she was completely rebuilt in the summer of 1866 and was given an engine 16" bore by 5 ft. stroke. The work was done at the Rees shop for Cpt. L. Vandergrift. That November she entered the regular trade between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Capt. Vanderbilt [?] in command, with W. H. Scott, clerk. Capts. James Rowley, Sr., and William Hall were the pilots. She plied this trade with some regularity for the next several years. During spells of low water Capt. Vandergrift sometimes wandered afar; in Sept. 1868 the Argosy was up the Tennessee to LaGrange (below Danville) loading pig iron aboard for the upper Ohio.
In 1873 A.J. Flescher, the boat builder at Murraysville, W. Va., chartered the Argosy to Dan Rice, the circusman. The played the Ohio River, then down the Mississippi and showed at Myrtle Grove Plantation, 50 miles below New Orleans.
Hard times and panic in 1873 caused the dismemberment of the circus. Next we pick up the Argosy in a dispatch from Cincinnati dated Nov. 23, 1873.
The lately issued Lytle-Holdcamper List reports Argosy was "lost" in 1875, no details available. Nor do we have any wisdom to add. The boilers did not explode as stated on the highway marker. The explosion of the mud drum was sufficient to cause the steam explosion.
Civil War Soldier Killed in the Steamer Explosion: A Narrative