The Rise and Fall of River and Rail transportation in Madison, Indiana.

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Effie Deans: Civil War riverboat

Captain Frank Burnett supervised the building of the “Effie Deans” at Madison, Indiana during the summer of 1863. He was described as “a gentleman and a good fellow, as well as an accomplished officer”. The “Effie Deans” was built 159 feet by 35 feet at the beam and with a 5 foot hold. She was fitted out and finished on the same plan as other Keokuk packets and had accommodation for 100 passengers. As soon as the finishing strokes were applied to her, he sold the “Effie Deans” for a neat $6,000 profit. Captain E. A. Shipley bought it while it still sat at the building docks for the Keokuk Packet Company. The boat left Madison About the 15th of August, 1863 with Captain Shipley as her master. Persons who had freight to ship were informed the boat would depart from Madison at 4 p. m. She worked trips to New Orleans and up the Missouri.

During the last years of the war, the Native Americans of the west began, in earnest, to press for the return of their lands. Only a handful of U. S. soldiers in scattered forts existed to defend the civilians in the area. With this end in mind, General Grant decided to send a contingent of “galvanized soldiers” (*footnote 1) to the west and in the summer of 1864, six companies of galvanized soldiers (also called U. S. Volunteers) were gathered in St. Louis where 600 of them boarded the “Effie Deans” which was to make the 600 mile trip to Fort Rice in the Dakota Territory. However, due to low water in the Missouri River, the “Effie Deans” could not proceed to her appointed destination and found it necessary to abandon her pathetic cargo. The men, with only meager rations and unsuitable clothing, were forced to march the last 270 miles. They finally arrived at Fort Rice on October 17 after a grueling struggle. (*footnote 2)

This boat accomplished a phenomenal voyage in 1864. She left St. Louis in April, traveled to Fort Benton and back, a distance of 4,500 miles. On her return to St. Louis she was sent down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico when she encountered the Alabama River and traveled to Montgomery. She made the return trip in the same season. She did all of this, arriving back in St. Louis without accident or incident. The whole distance of this incredible journey was 8,276 miles.

The “Effie Deans” was burned and lost at St. Louis on April 7, 1866, a little less than three years after her construction began.

  • footnote 1: The word galvanized usually refers to a metal coated with zink to protect it from corrosion. The surface color may change but the metal beneath the coating remains the same. The word was used during the civil war to describe soldiers who were captured and to avoid the horrors of a prison camp, they change sides. They color of uniform changed the outward look of the men but beneath the uniform they did not change allegiance.
  • footnote 2: Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis

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