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Company "A"


     Theophilus W. Richardson 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. Theophilus Richardson survived.

For more information about the book, see

ON THE WAY HOME -- West Virginia Soldiers on the Sultana

By Linda Cunningham Fluharty.



Photo provided by Sara Richardson Kelly, descendant

     Theophilas W. Richardson’s name appears on the list of soldiers who were taken to the Soldiers’ Home in Memphis, Tenn. following the explosion of the Sultana. He is also named as a survivor in a letter written by survivor, George C. Loy, on the day after the tragedy. And his presence on the Sultana is mentioned at least once in both his pension and service records.

     But how he came to be on the Sultana is not clear. In his testimony at the trial of Confederate soldier, James W. Duncan, his friend from Wheeling and his benefactor at Andersonville, Theophilas stated that he escaped from Andersonville on November 28, 1864. Yet, somehow, he ended up on the Sultana some five months later.

     From Wheeling, W.Va., Theophilas Richardson is found in the 1860 census, residing in the home of his father, Joseph, and his step-mother.

1860 Census, Ohio County, West Virginia
Richardson, Joseph, 43, Steamboat Captain, $800/$150, Pa
Sarah, 25, Keeping House, Va
Thopolis, 17, Student, Va
Ida B., 4, Va

     On a roll dated 27 Aug 1861, Theophilus Richardson is listed as a Private in Captain Charles J. Harrison's Company, 4th Militia, Ohio County, West Virginia State Troops. The militia units were usually assigned to guard railroads and towns.

     On September 25, 1861, Theophilas mustered into Company “A” of the 1st (W) Virginia Infantry and served as a Corporal. His military records tell of his harrowing war experiences, which left him weak and debilitated and led to his death less than nine years after his discharge

     Theophilas married Mary Ellen Wiley in Wheeling, W.Va. on December 21, 1865 and they had five children. But by all accounts, he was never well and suffered with Chronic Diarrhea until his death in Sardis, Monroe County, Ohio on September 10, 1873. He is buried in Sardis Cemetery.


Photo by Herb Parkinson.

The marker was placed by HIRAM BOWEN, of Belmont County, Ohio, and HERB PARKINSON, of Guernsey County, Ohio. These men locate graves and place markers to memorialize soldiers of the Sultana Disaster, as well as Medal of Honor recipients.

     Mary E. Wiley Richardson, remained in Sardis, Ohio. She applied for and received a pension for herself and her children, commencing September 1873. On December 25, 1883, she married David W. Skinner. He died in 1888. Mary Ellen died in 1923.


Widow’s Brief - (Excerpts)

Claim No. 257.879
Soldier, Theophilus Richardson
F. H. W. Rutland, Ex’r.
June 23d 1881

Immediate cause of death, Inflammation of the bowels-
Remote cause, - Chr.” Diarrhea - Contracted in the service

J. B ? Rafter, Medical Reviewer
June 28, 1881


Mary Ellen Richardson, widow of Theophilas Richardson Rank, Private; Company A; Regiment 1st West Va Vols.
Residence of claimant, Monroe County, and State of Ohio.
Post Office, Sardis, Monroe Co. Ohio
Attorney, A. W. McCormick, Cincinnati, Ohio
Fee, $ Agent to pay…
Rate of pension, $8.00 per month, commencing Sept 10, 1873, the date of soldier’s death, and two dollars per month additional for each child, as follows:

     Allie {Born Sept 26, 1866 – Sixteen, Sept 25, 1882}
     Joseph Edgar {Born June 28, 1868 – Sixteen June 27, 1884}
     Eugene {Born May 12, 1870 – Sixteen, May 11, 1886}
     Maud {Born Nov 17, 1871 – Sixteen, Nov 16, 1887}
     Amy {Born, Feby 2, 1873 – Sixteen, Feby 1, 1889}


     Enlistment, September 18, 1861.
     Muster into pensionable rank, Sept 25, 1861.
     Discharge, March 27, 1865.
     Death, Sept 10, 1873.
     Widow’s app. Filed. January 2, 1880.
     Right accrued, Sept 10, 1873
     Claimant’s marriage to soldier, Dec 21, 1865.

Cause of Death, Chronic diarrhea. Place of Death, Sardis, Ohio.


The marriage of Theophilas W. Richardson to Mary Ellen Wiley Dec 21, 1865 is shown by Certificate of the Clerk of the County Court.


Shown by attending physicians – persons present and record.


The Adjutant General, U.S.A. reports the military history of the soldier as follows:
Enrollment, muster service, capture & discharge. No evidence of disease.


(Note: these appear to be summaries of affidavits)

Wm. J. Robb, Capt. – May 20, 1880 - That at Belle Isle & Andersonville prison February 1864 soldier contracted chronic diarrhea. On the 31st of Jany 1864 he was captured by the enemy, along with the undersigned. That night he escaped from the enemy and waded the river from which he took a heavy cold. He was recaptured and brought back the next morning. This was at Moorefield, WVa. He was then taken to Belle Isle and removed to Andersonville. From exposure and hardships during imprisonment, he contracted disease from which he died.

Same Officer – March 2, 1881 – States that the soldier with two others were detailed to make a scout towards Moorefield and during their absence the brigade were ordered to retreat to New creek by a road flanking Gen’l Rosser’s command. Next morning Gen’l Early and Gen’l Rosser moved forward to attack Petersburg, capturing a number of our men and in the morning 31 Jany 1864 Corp’l Richardson and Adam Rader was captured while assisting Capt. O’Rourke, his horse having fallen with him and broken his collar bone. Know the fact personally by having been captured same morning myself and was taken to Richmond together.

Capt. Robb - August 17, 1881 – Capt. Robb in a letter to James A. Watson gives account of the soldiers capture. That he does not know soldiers condition when he returned home.

Dr. T. J. Roe, U.S. Ex Surgeon - May 20, 1880 – That he treated the soldier from May 1, 1868, to Sept 10 1873, first from suffering with pain in his bowels and diarrhea and according to his statement it originated in the Army. His bowels bother him nearly all the time. Treated him from 1868 to date of death. That he attended said Richardson in his last illness and the he died near Sardis Ohio Sept 10 1873 of Chronic Diarrhea.

Dr. T. J. Roe - Dec 15, 1880 – States that he treated the soldier at intervals from about July 1868 to the time of his death Sept 1873. Found him suffering from chronic diarrhea. He died of inflammation of the bowels originating from the chronic trouble. He informed officials he contracted the diarrhea in the service and its my opinion he did. He was in Andersonville prison 14 months, Belle Isle 3 months, during this time nearly starved to death. He was also on the Steamer Sultana that was blown up. Was in the water 3 hours, during which time he nearly froze to death.

Captain Wm. Robb’s Account of Capture

     The Brigade under the command of Col. Mulligan composed of 23d IL Infty and Mulligan Battery was stationed at Petersburg, Hardy Co West Va. 42 miles from New Creek Station on the B & O R.R. where we received our provison from and on the after noon of 30th Jan 1864 while a wagon train with supplies was on the road it was attacked by the enemy and was captured by the enemy under command of Gen Rosser in our rear. And we also found by reports that Gen Early was at Moorefield in our front with a large force. On the evening of 30th Jan 1864 Corpl Theophilas Richardson with two were detailed to make a scout towards Moorefield and during their absence the Brigade was ordered to retreat to New Creek during the night by a road flanking Gen Rosser’s command. Next morning Gen. Early & Gen. Rosser moved forward to attack Petersburg, capturing a number of our men and on the morning 31 Jan 1864 Corpl Richardson and Adam Rader was captured while assisting Capt O’Rourke, his horse having fallen with him and broken his (Capt O’Rourke) collar bone all which I know personally by having been captured same morning myself and was taken to Richmond together.

William J. Robb
Late Capt Co. A.
1st Va. Vol. Infty.

Date: 22 February 1881.