Launched in Indiana in 1852, the Eliza Battle was a luxury wooden hulled paddle steamer regularly entertaining Presidents and VIPs. Disaster struck on a cold night in February 1858, when the steamer navigated the Tombigbee. A fire started on cotton bales on the main deck and soon spread out of control. The strong winds helped the fire spread quickly over the upper deck. Out of control, the Eliza Battle drifted downstream, coming to rest at Kemp’s Landing. Men died in efforts to save their loved ones and women died in their efforts to save their children, though, fortunately, there were few aboard the ill fated final trip of the Eliza Battle. Of the estimated 100 people on board, 26 souls were lost, mainly attributed to death by exposure. The ship sank in 28ft of water, and its wreck remains to this day.
During the spring floods, late at night during the full moon, it is said the riverboat can be seen rising out of the water and floating up the river with music playing and fires burning on the deck, sometimes only the outline of the steamer is sighted. The fire is so bright a name plate bearing the name Eliza Battle can be seen on the side of the vessel. Local fisherman believe that sighting the Eliza Battle is a sign of an impending disaster and ill omens to ships still plying the Tombigbee River.