Camp Hill, PA Train Wreck, Jul 1856

Etching of the Disaster CAMP HILL PA WRECK 1856

The scene at the Shackamaxon station, it would be idle to hope to convey an idea of by description. Places were assigned for the dead, which were laid in a room on the western side of the building, while the wounded were scattered all over the place, under the care of the physicians and their friends. --- Many were bruised and lacerated that uttered no word of complaint, and manifested no sign of impatience at a want of attention, seeing that others so much worse off than themselves were receiving proper care. The torn and disordered condition of the dresses of those but slightly injured, showed how violent had been the collision.

Occasionally a mother, a brother or sister would recognise[sic] a dear object of affection among the dead or the wounded; and their feelings would find vent in groans and tears added to which the cries of the wounded made the place most heart-painful and sad. We trust that we may never be called upon to witness a like scene of human suffering and woe.

One of the first of the dead taken from the ruins of the cars, was the REV. MR. SHERIDAN, of St. Michael's Church, who was in one of the foremost cars. He was shockingly disfigured, and his clothes were on fire when found. MR. SHERIDAN was a native of Ireland, about thirty years old, and was a most eloquent preacher and learned gentleman. He had made himself universally beloved, by this kindness, and his loss will be deeply deplored. The body was removed to the pastor's house connected with the church.

An evening paper of the 17th, gives the following:
The up-train consisted of twelve passenger cars, a baggage car, a locomotive and tender. It is estimated that there were over eleven hundred persons on this train, of which over one half were small children.

The most horrible sight of all was that of the burning cars --- for in a few moments after the collision, the fire spread rapidly through the broken remnants, burning and roasting to death nineteen men, women and children. -- The groans and shouts of the wounded, as those held by the legs and arms to the burning wreck were of a character to appall the bravest heart.

A row of men was at once formed, and buckets used, to extinguish the flames, but they were unsuccessful. A large number of persons were taken from the wreck slightly bruised, who made hair-breadth escapes from being burned to death.

The farmers in the vicinity rendered every assistance in their power, except one man, who demanded $10 for a wagon to go a mile for a physician.

WM. SWAINE who was on the spot shortly after the collision, furnishes the following particulars:
The scene was the most awful I ever witnessed. Of five cars, nothing was left standing but the wheels, every bit of wood-work was totally destroyed. A number of the dead were lying in a heap, so dreadfully burned, that you could not tell whether they were men or women.

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