Plaquemine, LA Burning of the boat JOHN H. HANNA
The Homer Guardian.
Homer, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana
January 4, 1889
The Burning of the Hanna.
On Christmas eve night, the John H. Hanna, a Ouachita boat flying between Monroe and New Orleans was burned on the Mississippi about forty miles below Baton Rouge at the town of Plaquemine. The boat was bound for N. O. with 3000 bales of cotton, picked up along the Ouachita [River], together with a large lot of cotton seed. There were only three passengers aboard, and about seventy-five deck hands and roustabouts. The fire is thought to have originated in the cotton, caught from a cigarette. About fifteen persons among whom were the captain and chief clerk, lost their lives. The boat and cargo was a total loss. We reproduce the following tribute from the New York Herald, to sailorman Givens, who lost his life trying to save others:
The name of James Givens should be written via tracings of eternal light." Under a great impulse our common human nature is capable of sublime self sacrifice and of the heroic deeds of which poets sing. Givens illustrates that statement.
He was one of the crew of the steamer John H. Hanna, just now burned on the Mississippi river. Only one of the crew, mind you, and yet in the pinch, when death was busy gathering his harvest from the flames, he instantly became the master spirit of the occasion.
The steamer was headed for the bank as soon as fire was discovered. She struck with such force, however, that she bounded back into the river like a rubber ball. That was the crucial moment. It looked as thought all on board would be lost.
And they would have been lost but for James Givens. The pilot, horrified by the rapid speed of the flames, left his post and sprang overboard. It was the natural, almost irresistible act of a timid man, and we can hardly blame him.
Givens leaped for the wheel. The pilot house was on fire. There was fire behind him, in front of him, all around him. His clothes were singed. He hung on to that wheel headed the boat for shore again then pinned the wheel and kept it in place.
By that time it became a question whether he could save his life or not. He made a dash for the side of the vessel, was horribly burned, jumped in to the water, was rescued and now he's on a cot in a New Orleans hospital.
The story is a short one, but it took a large souled, courageous man to the hero of it. All honor to James Givens, one of the crew.'