Philip A. Brandon

Sep 11, 1841 - Mar 6, 1859

Philip Brandon was the first child born to parents Gerard and Charlotte Brandon, after having married in October of the preceeding year. At the time of his birth, the couple were living in a 3-room brick dwelling on land owned by Charlotte's father, Nathanial Hoggatt.

That 3-room dwelling would later become the foundation for their great home, Brandon Hall; work, however, would not begin on the Hall until Nathanial's, death in 1853.

In 1856, Brandon Hall was complete and the Brandons moved into their new home. Philip was then one of seven surviving children, and would have been fifteen when the family began their life at Brandon Hall.

He would live with his family there until the age of eighteen, when a trip away from home ended in a tragedy that prevented him from ever returning.

If the absolute beauty of Philip Brandon's final resting place doesn't move you, there is no getting around the poignantly forlorn words of his grieving mother:

Death heeds not affections tears. Then wherefore should I weep. He cannot return to me, but I can go to him.

Most of poor Charlotte's children buried here are young; Philip is the exception. He is the oldest child buried in the cemetery to die young. The mystery of Philip Brandon was one I was eager to solve. How did this young man come to lose his life?

The answer surprised me. Eighteen year-old Philip Brandon was a passenger onboard the steamboat Princess that sunk, after a boiler explosion, just outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana en route to New Orleans, Louisiana for Mardi Gras. Philip was one of the 70 passengers that did not survive the disaster out of the 200 on-board.

I originally found the cause of Philip's death in Memoirs of Henry Tillinghast Ireys, Papers of the Washington County Historical Society on the piece "A Sketch of the Brandon Family":

...the eldest son, Philip, was lost on the great steamer, Princess, that plied the river from New Orleans to Vicksburg, when it blew up.

SS Princess went down on February 27, 1859; Philip's recorded death date is a few days later, on March 6. This later date confused me for some time until a chance conversation with a good friend who was doing researching for a book concerning a local 1960s murder at Cottage Plantation.

In his research, he had found this excerpt in Along the River Road: Past and Present on Louisiana's Historic Byway by Mary Ann Sternberg:

In 1859, the steamboat Princess, heavily loaded with passengers and freight on a voyage to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, exploded in midstream off Conrad Point. Other steamboats in the area picked up survivors, who were taken to many different towns in the area for medical attention. About seventy are thought to have died as a result of the accident.

From this account, I have deduced that it is probable Philip was alive immediately following the explosion, but died under medical care a few days later from his injuries.

All else I was able to find concerning the sinking of SS Princess was a blurb in a newsgroup; it was stated it came from "a Parker Family" website.

The Last Voyage of the Steamship "Princess"

The dawn of February 27, 1859 emerged shrouded in a heavy fog. The steamboat Princess, which was then said to be the fastest on the Mississippi, left the dock at Baton Rouge to resume her journey to New Orleans. Several factors were involved to make it so that the boat had a full quota of passengers. The state had just completed its session and several of the legislators were looking forward to returning home aboard the Princess. Carnival, otherwise known as Mardi Gras, was to begin on Tuesday, March 8 and some on board were anxious to reach New Orleans before the celebrations began.

With almost 200 passengers and crew aboard, along with quite a bit of cotton and other cargo, the Princess was heavy in the water. She had reportedly undergone major repairs amounting to $30,000 during the summer of 1858, including $900 of repairs to her boilers. She was the fourth of ten steamboats of the same name and was classified a "Mail Packet". Her route included stops all along the Mississippi River from Vicksburg to New Orleans, calling at Donaldsonville, Plaquemine, Baton Rouge, Port Hudson, Bayou Sara, Red River Landing, Fort Natchez, Waterproof, Rodney, St. Joseph, Grand Gulf and Warrenton.

More recently, a November 2013 article in the Louisiana newspaper, The Advocate, discussed the fate of Princess: "BR steamboat explosion reverberates across the years".



BORN SEPT. 11TH, 1841. DIED March 6TH, 1859

A youth of Noble and Generous nature. Manly, Truthful and kind. Affliction developed a gentleness and fortitude made sublime by his steady repose on God.

Death heeds not affections tears. Then wherefore should I weep. He cannot return to me, but I can go to him.

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