Preserving Peninsula's Past for the Future.

Summit County and the Sultana Disaster

On Wednesday April 10, 2013, Paul Huff will speak on Summit County and the Sultana Disaster at the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Hall in Peninsula. The 7:30 p.m. event, sponsored by the Cuyahoga Valley Civil War Round Table, is free and the public is welcome.

Thirteen days after the Lincoln assassination, the North suffered another terrible disaster, one never told in many newspapers, or if reported, quickly forgotten. News of America’s worst maritime disaster was pushed aside for news of Lincoln’s assassins.

Yet the story was personal for most Summit County communities. It was a story many of their soldiers had a front row seat to, a story most of them would never live to tell.

Huff has been researching the regiment which was on the Sultana for over two decades. “Generally, when we speak of Summit County boys on the steamboat Sultana, we’re talking about the 115th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.”

“Eighty-five men from the 115th Ohio were on board the paddle-wheeler, 55 of them were from Summit County.  Thirty-five of those were among the over 1700 men, women and children who perished.  An added terrible twist to this is that most of the 2300 on board were soldier’s released from the Confederate prisoner of war camps Andersonville and Cahaba.”

“Imagine that! You survive battle, capture, imprisonment-starvation and disease, only to be killed by the ineptitude of your own government…”

Luckily, Sultana survivors wrote of their experiences. “William Norton from Northampton and Arthur A. Jones from Stow wrote home about their experiences and the Summit County Beacon published their letters. They also recounted that terrible morning in a collection of survivor accounts published in the l892.”

Along with the talk, items relating to the 115th Ohio will be on display.  Huff said, “The 115th had kind of an odd service record, in some cases more infamous than famous. They were involved in the arrest and trial of Congressman Clement Vallandigham, one of the most controversial civil rights cases of the Civil War. They were also accused of brutally murdering a Confederate soldier they captured while in Tennessee.”

Huff said although the Sultana and 115th had been forgotten by much of the country shortly after the war, their local communities remembered.  “Cuyahoga Falls erected a monument to their Civil War dead in October of 1866.  Those who died aboard the Sultana were marked with an “S.”  There’s also a monument in Alliance.”

Local GAR members also memorialized the 115th by naming their posts after members of the unit. The GAR was Civil War equivalent of the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars in the North.

Huff said, “It’s fitting I’m speaking at the “George L. Waterman Post” (GAR) Hall in Peninsula. Waterman was a member of the 115th, so was his friend John Eadie from Cuyahoga Falls. Cuyahoga Falls named its GAR Post after all three of the Eadie brothers.  With the death of James and John on the Sultana, Mother Eadie sacrificed all three of her sons to the Union cause.”

Huff is currently the Vice-President of the Cuyahoga Valley Civil War Round Table. He is also a Past Camp Commander of the General A. C. Voris Camp (Sons of Union Veterans) and currently serves as its Patriotic Instructor. He has spoken to groups throughout Ohio on a variety of topics including Civil War P.O.W.s from Cuyahoga Falls.