Submitted by scott on
Start Date
End Date


17 February - 5 June 1858


February 6 Saturday – The Pennsylvania, now repaired and refitted, left New Orleans with William Brown as pilot, George Ealer as co-pilot, John Simpson Klinefelter (1810-1885) as Captain. Sam had procured a job for Henry as “mud clerk,” so called because the job required leaping to shore in places where there was no pavement or dock. The job did not pay, but was a way to rise in the ranks. Henry Clemens was nineteen, and would make six trips with his brother Sam [Powers, MT A Life 84].

February 14 Sunday – Pennsylvania arrived in St. Louis.

February 17 Wednesday – Pennsylvania left for New Orleans. The Mississippi was choked with ice, but Captain Klinefelter thought the boat could handle it. They went aground several times.

February 18 Thursday – Due to ice, the Pennsylvania had only managed to reach Rush Tower, some 40 miles south of St. Louis.

February 19 Friday – The Pennsylvania reached Cairo, Illinois in the afternoon. Other boats had either elected to stay in St. Louis or were aground.

February 25 Thursday – Pennsylvania arrived in New Orleans.

February 27 Saturday – Pennsylvania ,left for St. Louis

March 9 Tuesday – Pennsylvania arrived in St. Louis. Sam wrote to Orion and Mollie about the difficult trip of Feb. 17, which took twenty days, six or seven more than usual for the round trip. Dear Brother and Sister: I must take advantage of the opportunity now presented to write you, but I shall necessarily be dull, as I feel uncommonly stupid. We have had a hard trip this time. Left Saint Louis three weeks ago on the Pennsylvania. The weather was very cold, and the ice running densely. We got 15 miles below town, landed the boat, and then one pilot, Second Mate and four deck hands took the sounding boat and shoved out in the ice to hunt the channel. They failed to find it, and the ice drifted them ashore. The pilot left the men with the boat and walked back to us, a mile and a half. Then the other pilot and myself, with a larger crew of men started out and met with the same fate. We drifted ashore just below the other boat. Then the fun commenced. We made fast a line 20 fathoms long, to the bow of the yawl, and put the men, (both crews) to it like horses, on the shore. Brown, the pilot, stood in the bow, with an oar, to keep her head out, with and I took the tiller. We would start the men, and all would go well till the yawl would bring up on a heavy cake of ice, and then the men would drop like so many ten-pins, while Brown assumed the horizontal in the bottom of the boat. After an hour’s hard work we got back, with ice half an inch thick on the oars. Sent back and warped up the other yawl, and then George [Ealer] (the first mentioned pilot,) and myself, took a double crew of fresh men and tried it again. This time we found the channel in less than an hour, and landed on island till the Pennsylvania came along and took us off. The next day was colder still. I was out in the yawl twice, and then we got through, but the infernal steamboat came near running over us. We went ten miles further, landed, and George and I cleared out again—found the channel first trial, but got caught in the gorge and drifted helplessly down the river. The Ocean Spray came along and started into the ice after us, but although she didn’t succeed in her kind intention of taking us aboard, her waves washed us out, and that was all we wanted. We landed on an island, built a big fire and waited for the boat. She started, and ran aground! It commenced raining and sleeting, and a very interesting time we had on that barren sandbar for the next four hours, when the boat got off and took us aboard. The next day was terribly cold. We sounded Hat Island, warped up around a bar and sounded again—but in order to understand our situation you will have to read Dr. Kane. It would have been impossible to get back to the boat. But the Maria Denning ,was aground at the head of the island—they hailed us,—we ran alongside and they hoisted us in and thawed us out. We had then been out in the yawl from 4 o’clock in the morning till half past 9 without being near a fire. There was a thick coating of ice over men, yawl, ropes, and everything else, and we looked like rock-candy statuary. We got to Saint Louis this morning, after an absence of 3 weeks—that boat generally makes the trip in 2. Henry was doing little or nothing here, and I sent him to our clerk to work his way for a trip, by measuring woodpiles, counting coal boxes, and other clerkly duties, which he performed satisfactorily. He may go down with us again, for I expect he likes our bill of fare better than that of his boarding house. I got your letter at Memphis as I went down. That is the best place to write me at. The post office here is always out of my route, somehow or other. Remember the direction: “S.L.C., Steamer Pennsylvania, Care Duval & Algeo, Wharfboat, Memphis.” I cannot correspond with a paper, because when one is learning the river, he is not allowed to do or think about anything else. [MTL 1: 76].

Notes: from the source: Elisha Kent Kane (1820–57), a U.S. Navy surgeon, participated in two unsuccessful Arctic expeditions in the 1850s in search of Sir John Franklin, the explorer who died in 1847 while trying to find a northwest passage to the Orient. Kane published two popular accounts of the expeditions. Also: “Clemens artfully inscribed his closing and signature to suggest a gradual loss of control over his pencil.” See other notes in source.

March 11 Thursday – Pennsylvania left for New Orleans.

March 17 Wednesday – Pennsylvania arrived in New Orleans.

March 19 Friday – Sam gave a deposition in a lawsuit (Klineflelter, et al, vs. Vicksburg) over the collision between the Pennsylvania and the Vicksburg on Nov. 26, 1857. See that entry. Sam was a steersman on the Pennsylvania at that time [Marleau, “Eyewitness” 18].

March 20 Saturday – Pennsylvania left for St. Louis.

March 27 Saturday – Pennsylvania arrived in St. Louis.

March 31 Wednesday – Pennsylvania left for New Orleans.

April 6 Tuesday – Pennsylvania arrived in New Orleans.

April 10 Saturday – Pennsylvania left for St. Louis.

April 16 Friday – Pennsylvania arrived in St. Louis.

April 20 Tuesday – Pennsylvania left for New Orleans.

April 26 Monday – Pennsylvania arrived in New Orleans.

April 30 Friday – Pennsylvania left for St. Louis.

May 5 Wednesday – Pennsylvania arrived in St. Louis.

May 10 Monday – Pennsylvania left for New Orleans.

May 16 Sunday – Pennsylvania arrived in New Orleans.

May 20 Thursday – Pennsylvania left for St. Louis. When the boat was backing out, Sam had to leap for the rail from the John J. Roe, ending his visit with Laura Wright. Years later he would send her a thousand dollars in response to a letter asking for help. The loves of Sam’s life were invariably put on haloed pedestals, none more so than Laura Wright [MT Encyclopedia Baetzhold 799; Powers MT A Life 82].

May 27 Thursday – Pennsylvania arrived in St. Louis.

May 29 Saturday – In St. Louis, Sam dreamed of Henry “lying in a metallic burial case in the sitting-room, supported on two chairs” [MTB 134]. He related the dream the next morning to his sister Pamela Moffett and family, who later recalled him taking it quite serious. Henry and Sam were staying with their sister for a three-day layover. Sam left St. Louis on May 30 [MTL 1: 387] so he must have had the dream on May 29.

May 30 Sunday – Pennsylvania left for [St. Louis ??] New Orleans.

June 3 Thursday – Mid-morning: [Powers, MT A Life 85] Pilot William Brown called Sam’s brother Henry Clemens a liar, and started after him with a big chunk of coal. Sam stepped in between and “stretched him out” with a heavy stool. Sam then “stuck to him and pounded him with my fists a considerable time – I do not know how long, the pleasure of it probably made it seem longer than it really was…” For a few minutes no one was steering the ship. Called on the carpet in Captain John Klinefelter’s cabin, Sam was questioned about the fight. The Captain said he was “deuced glad of it!” and advised Sam to further thrash Brown on shore. Brown refused to stay on the same boat with Sam, so was let off in New Orleans. This is the only violent act Sam was ever known to commit, though he threatened or wished more than a few other times.

June 4 Friday – Pilot William Brown forbade Sam entrance to the pilothouse for the rest of the trip. Sam was “ ‘an emancipated slave’ listening to George Ealer’s flute and his readings from Oliver Goldsmith and Shakespeare. Sometimes he played chess with Ealer, and learned a trick which he would use himself in the long after-years—that of taking back the last move and running out the game differently when he saw defeat” [MTB 137].

June 5 Saturday – After the Pennsylvania arrived in New Orleans on this date, Brown left the boat. Captain Klinefelter offered Sam a co-pilot position back up the river, but Sam did not feel ready. He left the boat with the understanding he would rejoin it after Brown was replaced. Henry Clemens stayed on the Pennsylvania as a mud clerk.

June 8 Tuesday – Sam and Henry chatted until midnight on the levee. It was their last conversation.

June 9 Wednesday – The Pennsylvania left New Orleans at 5 PM without Sam and with Henry Clemens aboard. Klinefelter had been unable to hire another pilot, attributed by Powers to the pilot’s union [Powers, MT A Life 86].