21Country is full of close ties to our national history.
And you find them everywhere you look.
Like most cemeteries in 21Country, Kendallville’s Lake View Cemetery is full of Civil War veterans, each with his own fascinating story to tell.
Alonzo Anderson was African American and served in the 28th Colored Infantry.
He fought the infamous Battle of the Crater at Petersburg, Virginia.
Any Civil War buff can tell you about that fight.
John Weatherford was a rebel, fought with the confederate 2nd Missouri Cavalry, moved his family to Kendallville after the war and became a doctor.
But the most amazing story in this graveyard has to belong to this man, George Washington Dawson, whose Civil War service was hell, from beginning to end.
Historian Mark Davis says, “So guys were burnt, scalded jumping off. The river was fast, current was fast...it was just a nightmare.”
George Dawson’s war service ended as horribly as it had begun.
The South Milford, Indiana man joined the 30th Indiana Volunteers in 1861 and was captured at the Battle of Perrysburg, Kentucky a year later.
He spent the next two and a half years in southern prisoner of war camps, ending up in the worst of them, Andersonville…a muddy, pestilent, sewage strewn field of ragged tents and rampant disease.
The southern commander was hanged after the war for the inhumane conditions.
On April 4th, 1865 the prisoners of Andersonville were freed, sent to this place, Camp Fisk near Vicksburg, Mississippi.
From here they were herded onto the Sultana, an immense paddlewheel steamboat, for the long trip home up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
Davis says, “They were put on the Sultana, very overcrowded, about 2,200 guys were on that, all basically prisoner of war survivors being sent home to the Midwest, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee.”
Photos of the Sultana show how staggeringly overcrowded it was…2,200 soldiers on a boat built to carry 400, with bad boilers to boot.
Just after midnight on April 27th, the boilers exploded.
Davis says, “The explosion was huge. People were thrown out into the river. The river was very high. The river was flooded at the time. The boat actually caught fire and burnt down to the surface of the water.”
There were 1,700 union soldiers killed outright.
The rest, most of them sick and emaciated from imprisonment, were thrown into the river.
Passing boats rescued a handful, including George Washington Dawson, badly scalded from the boiler explosion.
Dawson lived sixty days, then died in a Memphis hospital.
His body was shipped back to Kendallville where it rests in the family plot...among dozens of other Civil War soldiers, most of whom would doff their caps, if they could, in honor of the young hero in their midst.
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