Clarksville, TN Terrible Train Accident, July 1869



We take the following extracts from the Courier-Journal's account of the late disaster on the Memphis and Louisville Railroad. It is proper to state that transfers of passengers are made at Budd's Creek and the usual connections made. Mr. W. H. King, the general passenger agent at Louisville, telegraphs that the bridge will be up and that trains will run through as usual tomorrow:

Property Destroyed.
The fire made nearly a complete ruin of the train and its contents. Only three passengers saved their baggage. All the remaining property, save the garments, money and jewels upon the persons of the passengers, was consumed. The Express books and papers were saved, and from them it is ascertained that there was about $100,000 in the safe. At last accounts from the wreck, the safe had not been recovered. The destruction of the cars, Express and mail matter and baggage involves a loss little if any short of three hundred thousand dollars.

Disposition Of The Victims.
The south-bound train reached the scene of the disaster some two hours after its occurrence, affording all needed relief to the sufferers. The whole of them were taken back to Clarksville, where the dead were neatly dressed and placed in metallic burial cases, subject to the orders of their friends, and the wounded were kindly ministered to by the citizens of the place. The train which arrived here at four o'clock yesterday brought eighteen of the wounded, none of whom are in a dangerous condition. Four of them, MRS. McCall and NORMAN McCall (wife and son of MR. HUGH McCall, killed), of New Orleans; C. H. SAGE, of Fulton, N.Y., and W. C. SHEPPARD, of New Orleans, were conveyed to St. Joseph's Infirmary, on Fourth Street, and the others were cared for at the homes of their relatives and friends in the city. Some of the injured remain in Clarksville, where everything in human power is being done for their comfort and restoration.

What The Passengers Say.
As described by those who were aboard the ill-fated train when it went down, the situation was awful in the extreme. In conversation with the above named gentlemen, now at St. Joseph's Infirmary, we have gleaned many interesting particulars concerning the disaster. Most of the through passengers from New Orleans embarked at Memphis for Chattanooga, and the cars were but partially filled up to the time of the accident. Soon after leaving Paris, where the train men are changed, the passengers retired for the night. An increased rate of speed was noticed by the passengers, and it operated to make many of them wakeful. MR. McCall, one of the killed, was even alarmed at the rapid motion of the train, and expressed his conviction that there was danger ahead. Other gentlemen in the same sleeping car shared this feeling of insecurity, and two of them, MR. DOLL and MR. WHITE, rose and dressed themselves a little while before the terrible crash. This idea may have been imaginary, but there was a connection between it and the fallen trestle.

The Midnight Smash-Up.
About one o'clock the sleeping travelers were awakened by a sudden rough movement of the train as if it were off the track. After this jolting motion the train appeared to come to a stand, and those who had been aroused congratulated themselves that all was right again. Just at that instant, they say, the train was on a poise, ready to fall over the trestle height. In another second the whole line of cars had pitched downward, and lay a crushed and ghastly heap in the basin of the creek. Notwithstanding the turning and shattering of the cars and the indiscriminate wreck of human beings, hardly a voice was heard. The stillness was as profound as death. Two spans of the bridge, about fifty feet in length, and four bents of the trestle fell. The speed was so high that it carried the train under the track on the other side of the creek. The train fell in a zigzag or letter 8 position, and so lay upon the ground.

Out Of The Ruins.
As soon as those who were but slightly disabled recovered from the shock, they set about extricating the less fortunate of their companions. The dead and maimed were all removed to the most comfortable localities around, and the cushions, bedding, etc., from the wrecked cars, were happily brought into use. It is a fact not a little singular that the children, of whom there was a goodly number, were perfectly quiet during the desperate accident, and without exception escaped uninjured. They seemed to take the fearful leap as one of the incidents of railway riding to be expected if not desired.