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Disaster

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On a personal note I love exploring old cemeteries. I take a lot of flak for it from friends but I just say I find the dead more interesting than most of the living I know. Like this gentleman who's rested in Kendallville's Lakeview Cemetery for 160 years. There are some clues here about George Washington Dawson. He was a Civil War veteran, the 'POW' carved on his headstone means he was a prisoner of war. And the date of his death, June 1865 means he died just two months after the war ended. It was the end of a short life more horrid than we can even imagine.

George Dawson from South Milford, Indiana joined the 30th Indiana Volunteers in 1861, was captured at the battle of Perryville, Kentucky a year later and sent to the infamous Andersonville prisoner of war camp in Georgia, a muddy, pestilent, sewage strewn field of ragged tents and rampant disease. Its Confederate commander was hanged after the war for the inhumane conditions. Union soldiers liberated the camp in April, 1865 and the freed prisoners loaded onto the Sultana, an immense paddle wheel steamboat meant to carry them up the Ohio River to their homes. The Sultana was staggeringly overcrowded, 2200 men on a boat designed to carry 400 and with bad boilers to boot. On April 27th just after midnight the boilers exploded. 1700 soldiers were killed outright. The rest, sick and emaciated, were thrown into the river, George Dawson among them. Badly scalded by the explosion Dawson was rescued by a passing boat but died from his burns in a Memphis hospital two months later. His body was shipped back to Kendallville where it rests in the family plot surrounded by hundreds of graves of his fellow Hoosiers who would no doubt doff their caps if they could in honor of the young war hero in their midst. Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.

Eric Olson

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