A Strange Story

Another survivor of the General Lyon Disaster

*Contributed by Mary Lou Jacobson

The Southern Illinois soldier mentioned was not from Hamilton Co.  
He was, instead, from Golconda, Pope  Co., IL. 
The story is so interesting, I am including it here.


Of the many hundreds who were aboard the General Lyon, but 28 were known to have been saved; they were picked up by the steamer General Sedgwick four hours after the burning of the General Lyon.

The non-veterans of the 56th Illinois Volunteers, 205 in number, were passengers aboard the General Lyon.  Five of those men were saved by the Sedgwick, and they reported the rest of their comrades as lost.  After the lapse of more than ten years, one more of the passengers of that ill-starred vessel, long ago given up as lost, turns up at Guy Hospital, London, England, and writes to his father near Golconda, Illinois, giving an account of himself.  The name of this man of misfortune is Henson G. Raines; he belonged to Company K, 56th Illinois Volunteers.  After his time of service expired, he and his comrades were started home for muster-out and were furnished transportation on the steamer General Lyon.  Very soon after sailing, the vessel encountered a storm off Cape Hatteras, and in the midst of it took fire and was totally destroyed.  Raines escaped into the sea, and, with Lieutenant Butler, clung to a cabin door.  They drifted upon the billows for four days without food or drink, and, more dead than alive, were picked up by a schooner and left on an island, where Butler died and Raines remained ten years.  In March, last he escaped aboard the British man-of-war Vengeance, and was taken to London, and being sick, was placed in Guy Hospital.

Application has been made to the Secretary of War to have our Minister at London requested by cable to have Raines properly cared for and funds furnished him for his return.

The stories of Robinson Crusoe and the hero of 'Foul Play' are probably equaled in interest by the adventures of this gallant soldier who, after serving his country for more than three years, and participating in victories of the Army of the West at Corinth, Vicksburg, Mission Ridge, the Atlanta, Savannah and South Carolina campaigns, fled the burning deck of a ship in mid-ocean, to find refuge on the raging sea, and with an endurance scarcely to be credited, resisted death from cold, hunger, thirst, fatigue and the violence of a raging sea, and at last is about to be restored to his friends, after a captivity of ten years on a lonely island.  Surely, truth is stranger than fiction.

From: the Golden Era.  Date unknown.  Article was submitted to the Illinois Magazine by Mrs. Roy Capps (1984).

Carol's note:  The Illinois Roster of Officers and Enlisted Men gives Henson G. Raines as having enlisted as a private on 11/7/61. They further state that on 2/27/62 he was commissioned into "K" Co., IL 56th Infantry and that he was drowned on March 31, 1865 on the Steamer "General Lyon".

To learn more about the General Lyon disaster, click here!

Here's another great link - passenger lists here!


Copyrighted 2000.  All rights reserved.


Back to Hamilton County     Back to Hamilton County Miscellaneous