The following bio is taken from “The Underwood Families of America” compiled by Lucien Marcus Underwood, 1913.
“Richard F. Underwood was a soldier in the Civil War, enlisting 12 Dec. 1861, as a private in Co. F, 31st Reg., Mass. Vol. His regiment was the first to land in New Orleans, companies F, I, and G being stationed at Fort Pike for a year. In 1864 he was in the Red River campaign and on 8 April was wounded in the right thigh at the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. He received furlough and was on board the steamer Pocahontas which was run into on June 1 at midnight and sunk in twenty minutes. He was one of the last five rescued and forty of the 101 soldiers on board were drowned. He was promoted corporal 13 Aug. 1865, and discharged 9 Sept. 1865, at Mobile, Ala. After the war he engaged in farming at Mt. Tom, Mass., where he still resides.” (1913)
The following is from the New York Times of 3 June 1864:
“SAD CALAMITY; A STEAMSHIP SUNK AT SEA.
Collision Between the Steamer City of Bath and Steamship Pocahontas.
The Pocahontas Sunk and Forty Lives Lost.
The U.S. steam transport City of Bath, Capt. LINCOLN, hence June 1, at 11 A.M., bound to Washington, D.C., returned to port last night, having been in collision with the steamship Pocahontas, from New-Orleans, near Cape May, having her bows stove in and stern carried away. The Pocahontas sunk in twenty-five minutes, carrying down with her about forty of her passengers and crew. Capt. LINCOLN reports:
The City of Bath left New-York June 1, at 11 A.M., bound to Washington, D.C. At 11:50 P.M., made a steamer’s light ahead; put our helm a-port to clear her; at the same time the Pocahontas’ helm was put to starboard, and the two boats came together, the City of Bath striking the Pocahontas about the fore rigging; backed off from her, and found that we were leaking badly; commenced throwing overboard cargo to lighten her forward, and succeeded in stopping the leak. Sent our boats to the assistance of the other vessel, and lay by the place until daylight, in hopes to find more of her people (a large number having already been received on board), but picked up only one. At the time of the collision, Cape May light-ship bore S.W. 17 miles.
Her Captain, (BAXTER) and one discharged Lieutenant and two engineers were lost. The passengers lost were soldiers discharged or on furlough. The Pocahontas was a screw steamer of 800 tons, commanded by JOHN BAXTER, of Hyannis, and sailed from New-Orleans on May 24, with 101 souls on board. She had rendered good service to the Government during the Texas expedition under Gen. BANKS. The voyage up to the time of the disaster was unusually pleasant. The Captain (BAXTER) was in feeble health. With the consent of the Chief Quartermaster of the Department of the Gulf, he had placed in charge Capt. SAMUEL BAXTER, an efficient officer of much experience. All the officers did their very best to render the passage a pleasant one. On board of the steamer was the body of the noble Capt. FRANK B. HALLECK, Company K, Scott’s Nine Hundred, in charge of his brother, Capt. HARVEY HALLECK. On Wednesday night, June 1, the night being dark and hazy, a steamer’s light was seen within a few hundred yards of the Pocahontas. Capt. BAXTER and officers were on the lookout; soon our whistle was blown very loud, several times; the Pocahontas was making 10 or 11 knots through the water by steam and a heavy piece of canvas. Everything apparently was done to prevent a disaster, but by some fatal mistake of the helmsmen on both steamers, the ships came in collision. The City of Baltimore [sic], bound to Washington, ran into the Pocahontas bow on, striking her on the starboard side, just abaft the fore rigging. It being nearly 11 o’clock, most of the passengers had retired to their berths, many of whom soon started for the upper deck. The two Captains soon discovered that the vessel was sinking. The boats were ordered to be lowered immediately; the engines were stopped. The two vessels remained thumping each other for a few minutes, and then separated. One of these boats, during the excitement, was swamped, and the other two did what they could to save the poor souls already afloat; for the Pocahontas went down in about 20 minutes. Planks and ladders were thrown overboard, and Capt. LINCOLN, of the City of Bath, threw overboard scores of cork life-preservers; but the sea was high and the wind fresh, which caused many of the poor fellows to sink into a watery grave. A Chaplain in the United States Army, an invalid on a leave of absence to his family, staid by the ship to the last, encouraging the men, and threw many planks into the water, and kept saying, “Hold on, boys,” until he was quite hoarse; and when the ship was going down, bow first, the Chaplain deliberately took off his overcoat and plunged into the sea. He swam off as last as he could, not having been able to secure a plank or life preserver for himself. He providentially reached the stern of one of the boats, exhausted, and was kindly helped in by two men already in the boat. There being not sufficient means to keep the water out of the boats, the Chaplain gave his cap to one of the sailors to bail with. This boat, which was under the charge of Capt. SAML. BAXTER, did good service by picking up many a soldier near the jaws of death. One of the soldiers saved had but one arm, having lost the other in the battle of Pleasant Hill; his name is TENISON, and belongs to the Veteran Second Regiment. The survivors have been very kindly received on board of the City of Baltimore.
Capt. LINCOLN was compelled to throw overboard much of his cargo to keep his own ship from sinking. He remained near the spot until morning, and had the satisfaction of saving one poor fellow who had hugged up to a good plank all night. The scene is beyond description. Many have been saved without a hat or a shoe, losing everything but their lives. Mr. DUNCAN, second officer of the Pocahontas, deserves much praise for his great exertions in saving many who were ready to perish. There is an excellent chance for the gentlemen of the Christian and Sanitary Commission to do good. Many of the soldiers have not any means to reach their homes in comfort. Many of the destitute may be found on board of the City of Bath for a day or two.”