The No. 2 express train departed Paris, Tennessee, at 9:40 p.m. on July 27, 1869, en route to Clarksville.
The train, which left Memphis at 3 p.m. on July 27, was scheduled to steam for nearly 12 more hours, passing through Clarksville, Tennessee; Bowling Green, Kentucky; and other points during the night hours before arriving in Louisville at 9 a.m., 190 track miles to the north.
In Humboldt, Tennessee, the Louisville-bound No. 2 express train added a “through” sleeping car from a New Orleans train.
By 10 p.m., passengers retired for the evening. The train — consisting of a locomotive, a baggage car owned by the Louisville & Nashville, a first-class car owned by the Memphis & Ohio, a second-class car owned by the Louisville & Nashville and a pair of sleeping cars owned by the Rip Van Winkle Sleeping Car Company — was due in Clarksville at 1:15 a.m.
By 1 a.m., the train was perhaps a couple of minutes behind schedule as it approached the bridge over Budds Creek, crossing consisting of “four spans of short wooden girder bridges joined to a trestle.” Because the railroad rebuilt the line following the Civil War, the trestle was said to be just two years old, and the bridges three. Coincidentally, Budds Creek was the scene of a fatal crash less than three years earlier, but that thought likely entered no one’s mind in the early morning hours of July 28, 1869.
The action was, apparently, odd considering there was no requirement for him to do so at this location.
Moments later, the bridge gave way. The train crashed into the creek bed below. Fire began to consume the train’s cars. Only the sleeping car at the rear of the train did not fall into Budds Creek. Five people ultimately died as a result of the wreck.
“As described by those who were aboard the ill-fated train when it went down, the situation was awful in the extreme,” the Federal Union newspaper of Milledgeville, Georgia, reported. The ensuing fire “made nearly a complete ruin of the train and its contents.”
|Engineer Eugene Riley||Bowling Green|
|Fireman Charles Shields||Bowling Green|
|Hugh McColl||New Orleans|
|Susan McColl||New Orleans|
|Thomas Baxter (also identified as Thomas Shields and John Baxter)||Nashville or Carbondale, Mississippi|
Injured Crew Members
|Brakeman Ed. Boone|
|Baggage Master Charles A. Brown|
|Express Messenger John C. Dugan|
|Sleeping Car Conductor Sam Lewis|
|Brakeman C.B. Webster|
|Mail Agent W.W. (or W.D.) Wray|
|John Burt (or Bart)||Columbia (or Columbus), Mississippi|
|Judge and Mrs. H.C. Caulkins and their two children||New Orleans|
|J. O’Donnell (or J.L. Connell, J. O’Connell or J.S. Connell)||Stewart Station|
|C.H. Doge (or Sage)||Fulton, New York|
|Mr. and Mrs. Nolan Fontaine and their three children||Memphis|
|Lou (perhaps Louise) Gholson||Clarksville|
|J.C. Hannah||Coffeeville, Mississippi|
|Seth (or Sethe or Lethe) Henderson||Memphis|
|Captain Langdon||Mobile, Alabama|
|J.C. Levy||Holly Springs, Mississippi|
|William McCall||New Orleans|
|H.B. Michael||New Orleans|
|Hattie Michael (or Mitchell)||Lauderdale, Mississippi|
|Joseph Nutt (or Mut)||New Orleans|
|W.S. Packer (or Parker)||Pittsburg|
|Mr. and Mrs. Patterson||Baton Rouge, Louisiana|
|Barton Salisbury||Stewart Station|
|W.C. (or W.E.) Shephard (or Shepherd or Sheppard)||New Orleans|
|Ed. Stowe (or Stoull or Stone or Stover)||Eufaula, Alabama|
|Mr. Wood||New Orleans|
|Mr. Doll||New Orleans|
|Hamilton Pike and his sister|
|Mr. White||New Orleans|