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     Henry C. Foster was one of the 19 West Virginia soldiers aboard the Sultana steamer when it exploded on the Mississippi River on April 27, 1865, killing most of the passengers. The majority were Union soldiers recently released from Confederate prison camps. Henry C. Foster survived.

The story of Henry C. Foster, is published in a book, ON THE WAY HOME -- West Virginia Soldiers on the Sultana

By Linda Cunningham Fluharty.

Henry C. Foster, born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania about 1831-1833, was the son of John and Ann Foster. Henry does not appear with his family in the 1850 or 1860 censuses for Wheeling, Ohio County, (W) Virginia and his whereabouts during that period is unknown. His pre-war occupation was that of a brick maker and he was probably employed somewhere in that capacity.

1850 Census, Ohio County, (W) Va.
Foster, John, 50-M, Stage Agent, Pa
Foster, Ann, 45-F, Pa
Foster, James, 23-M, None, Pa
Foster, Isabel, 19-F, Pa
Foster, Mary, 17-F, Pa
Foster, John, 14-M, Pa
Foster, Eliza, 12-F, Va
Foster, Lurana, 9-F, Va
McNulty, Margret, 45-F, Pa

1860 Census, Ohio County, (W) Va.
Foster, Ann, 48-F, Keeping House, $50, Pa
Foster, James, 30-M, Salesman, Pa

It is likely that the family moved from Pennsylvania to Wheeling because of John Foster’s employment with the Stage Coach lines. He is named in Chapter XI of the book, History of the Upper Ohio Valley: “…There were two separate lines running between Frederick City, Md., and Wheeling, Va., - the National Road Stage company and the Good Intent Stage company….. Mr. John Foster, better known as 'Pap Foster' was the office agent for the two companies in Wheeling. No more faithful man was ever employed by any company. He always slept at the office and was well-known to the traveling public. In 1852 the Baltimore & Ohio railroad was finished to Wheeling, and then the wheels of the coaches stopped. The horses were sold and the drivers scattered."

At the outset of the Civil War, Henry C. Foster, a brick maker, enlisted in Company “H” of the 1st (W) Va. Infantry, organized for three months, May through August, 1861. At the end of that enlistment, Henry joined Company “A” of the newly organized 1st Infantry and served from Sept 25, 1861 until he re-enlisted on Feb 23, 1864.

Henry’s brother, John A. Foster, 24, mustered into the 1st (W) Va. Infantry on Sept 25, 1861. He was wounded at Piedmont, Va., Jun 1864 and was discharged on a Surgeon’s Certificate, Nov 12, 1864.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is named as the birthplace on the enlistment records of both Henry C. and John A. Foster.

Soon after re-enlisting in February 1864, Henry, on furlough, returned home to Wheeling, W.Va. On March 18, 1864, he married Margaret Jane Boring, a daughter of George Washington Boring of Wheeling.

Henry was captured May 15, 1864 at the Battle of New Market and was subsequently imprisoned at Camp Sumter, a.k.a. Andersonville. During his captivity, on Dec 10, 1864, the 1st Infantry was consolidated with the 4th W. Va. Infantry to form the 2nd W. Va. Veteran Infantry.

After nearly a year in the Rebel prison, Henry was on his way home on the steamer Sultana, when it exploded. He was thrown into the water and was rescued five hours later, with no apparent residual effects. He was finally mustered out of the army at the beginning of June 1865.

In 1870, Henry Foster was residing in the home of his mother in Wheeling. Also in the residence is Isabell Sutherland, his sister, who married John Sutherland on Sept. 8, 1851.

1870 Census, Ohio County, West Virginia
Foster, Ann, 60-F, Keeping House, Pa
Foster, James, 38-M, Invalid, Pa
Sutherland, Isabell, 32-F, Seamstress, Pa
Foster, Henry, 30-M, Carpenter, Pa
Sutherland, Matilda, 14-F, School, Va
Sutherland, Eliza, 12-F, School, Va

On April 9, 1871, in West Alexander, Pa., Henry married Sarah Margaret (Ritchey) Jones, allegedly the widow of William Jones, whom she had married in West Alexander on March 21, 1864.

Explanations for the marriages of both Henry and Sarah Margaret are presented in the Pension file, specifically in the widow’s portion that was filed following Henry’s death on March 25, 1890.

The Henry C. Foster family has not been found in the 1880 Federal Census of the United States. However, Henry stated in an affidavit (below) that he had resided in Wheeling since his discharge.


Declaration for Original Invalid Pension

State of West Virginia
County of Ohio

On this 14th day of October, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and eighty-five personally appeared before me, Clerk of the Circuit Court, a court of record within and for the county and State aforesaid, HENRY C. FOSTER, aged 50 years, a resident of the City of Wheeling, county of Ohio, State of West Virginia, who, being duly sworn according to law, declares that he is the identical person, who was enrolled on the 23rd day of February, 1864, in company A of the 1st regiment of W.Va. Inft. Vols commanded by Captain William J. Robb, and was honorably discharged at Wheeling, W.Va. on the 2nd day of June, 1865 as private of Co G 2nd Regt. W.Va. Veteran Inft Vols. That his personal description is as follows: Age, 50 years; height, 5 feet 11 inches; complexion, RUDDY; hair, BLACK; eyes, GREY. That while a member of the organization aforesaid, in the service and in the line of duty at New Market, in the State of Virginia on or about the 15th day of May, 1864, he was captured by the Rebels and taken a Prisoner of War to Andersonville, Georgia, and so held until on or about the 1st day of April 1865, that while held as a Prisoner from exposure and want of proper food he contracted Scurvy. That on or about the 27th day of April 1865, he was on Steamboat Sultana at the time of the explosion and burning of said boat and remained in the water for a long period of time after said explosion that from exposure and hardships while in service he contracted Debility or weakness of the whole system.

That he has -- been employed in the military or naval service otherwise than as stated above - 3 Months Service - enrolled May 17th 1861. Mustered out August 28th 1861 Co H 1st W.Va. Inft. Vols. 3 years Service Sept 25th 1861 enrolled in Co A 1st Regt. W.Va. Inft Vols. Discharged and reenlisted Feb 23rd 1864.

That since leaving the service this applicant has resided in the City of Wheeling in the state of West Virginia, and his occupation has been that of a CARPENTER.

That prior to his entry into the service above named he was a man of good, sound physical health, being when enrolled a BRICK MAKER. That he is now partly disabled from obtaining his subsistence by manual labor by reason of his injuries, above described, received in the service of the United States; and he therefore makes this declaration for the purpose of being placed on the invalid pension-roll of the United States.

That he has not received nor applied for a Pension.

That his Post office Address is 1042 Chapline Street, county of Ohio State of West Virginia.

Claimant’s Signature: Henry C. Foster

Attest: Thomas Hamm & Adrian Miraben

General Affidavit
Henry C. Foster – 8 Jan 1886

State of West Virginia
County of Ohio
In the matter of the Pension Claim of Henry C. Foster No. 552.020 Private A & K 1st W.Va. Inft Vols.

Personally came before me, a Notary Public in and for aforesaid County and State, HENRY C. FOSTER the claimant residence and Post Office Address is 1042 Chapline St. Wheeling, W.Va., persons of lawful age, who, being duly sworn, declare in relation to the aforesaid case as follows:
That his residence and Post Office address from time of Discharge to the present time has been Wheeling, W.Va.

That for four years after Discharge he worked in a Brick yard. Since said time to the present time his occupation has been that of a Carpenter.

I incurred Scurvy about 3 Months after the time I was captured, at Andersonville, Ga., while a Prisoner of War from want of proper food and from exposure while in Prison and that he incurred Debility or Weakness of the whole system at time of the explosion and burning of the Steamboat Sultana on or about the 27th day of April 1865, near Memphis Tenn. from over exertion while in water and from exposure while in top of a Tree previous to time of rescue that he has not received Medical treatment that he does not take medicine sick or well, that he has not been prevented from following his usual occupation, but by reason of his Disabilities he labors at a disadvantage and at times in pain.

Signature of Affiant: Henry C. Foster
James A. Henry, Notary

Affidavit to Origin of Disability
Henry P. Mazer – 28 Apr 1886

State of West Virginia
County of Ohio

In the matter of the Pension Claim of Henry C. Foster No. 555.020, Private Co. A & K 1st Regt. W.Va. Inft (&) G 2nd W.Va. Vet Inft Vols., personally came before me, a Notary Public in and for the aforesaid County and State, HENRY P. MAZER, of Wheeling, County of Ohio, State of West Virginia, who, being duly sworn, declares in relation to the aforesaid claim that his age is 44 years; that he is the identical person who served as a Private in Co. A, 1st Reg’t W.Va. Inft. Vols. and knows the above soldier, who was a member of Co A, 1st Reg’t W.Va. Inft Vols. that on or about the 15th day of May, 1864, while in the line of duty, and without fault or improper conduct on his part, at or near New Market, State of Virginia the claimant was captured by the Rebels in the Battle of New market, while assisting to carry me to a Farm House. I having received a Gunshot wound in the left leg. I have known the claimant for some five or six years prior to the time of his enlistment in the year 1861, prior to his enlistment, and at the time of his enlistment, and up to the time he was taken Prisoner of War at New Market, Virginia, he was a perfectly sound and able bodied Man. And especially free from Scurvy. I make the above statements from personal knowledge, I having tented and Messed with him a great part of the time previous to the time he was captured, his appearance now indicates that he is suffering from Scurvy. since Discharge I have frequently heard him complain of being afflicted with the Scurvy and of having contracted the same while a Prisoner of War at Andersonville, Georgia.

Affiant’s Post-Office Address: Wheeling, W.Va.

Henry P. Mazer

James A. Henry, Notary
28 Apr 1886

Henry C. Foster’s Pension Application was denied in a letter sent to him Sept 25, 1886. However, he made another attempt in 1889. He died about 1890 and is buried at Mt. Wood Cemetery, Wheeling.