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Wisconsin in the Civil War

Wisconsin's Governor Drowns While Trying to Help Soldiers

After the battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, reports reached Madison that hundreds of wounded Wisconsin troops were suffering without adequate medical treatment in Tennessee. Physicians and state officials, including Governor Louis P. Harvey, rushed to Tennessee to see what needed to be done to help them. When they were ready to return home by steamboat on the night of April 21, the governor accidentally drowned. The Wisconsin State Journal ran a story about it three days later.

It was not expected that the boat would call for them before morning, and many of the party had laid down to rest; but at about ten o'clock in the evening the Minnehaha hove in sight and the party were aroused — Gov. Harvey and others taking a position near the edge and fore part of the boat "Dunleith."

As the Minnehaha rounded up, her bow coming near to the "Dunleith," the Governor took a step back — apparently to get out of the way, but the night being very dark and rainy, he made a misstep, and fell overboard, between the two steamers. Dr. Wilson, of Sharon, being present, immediately reached down his cane, and the Governor grasped hold of it with such force as to instantly pull it from the Doctor's hands.

Dr. Clark, of Racine, immediately jumped into the water, and made every effort to save the Governor, but without success. He made himself fast to the rigging about the wheel of the Minnehaha, and threw his body out in the direction of the Governor, as far as possible. At one time he thinks the Governor came within a few inches of getting hold of him, but was finally washed down the current — it being very strong — and is supposed to have passed under a flat-boat that lay just below.

Every assistance was given — all persons — acquaintances or strangers — doing all in their power to aid, first in saving the life, and afterwards to recover the corpse, but all efforts were unavailing.

Source: "E.B. Quiner Scrapbooks: Correspondence of the Wisconsin Volunteers,1861-1865", Volume 10, Page 153.

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Louis P. Harvey.
Louis P. Harvey.

WHI 37904
Steamboats at Pittsburg Landing.
Steamboats at Pittsburg Landing.

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