A brief follow-up on heat exhaustion and water:
One informant said that John Henry raced the steam drill on September 20, 1882, at "Cruzee" Mountain Tunnel on the A. G. S. line. Coosa Mountain Tunnel, also known as Long Tunnel, was built by the C&W. Another informant said 1887, which is consistent with the actual construction dates. I wonder if an error in transcription of handwriting converted a "7" in the letter of the first informant to a "2." In any event, if the competition took place on September 20 (of any year), that is not so late in the year that it could not be very hot and humid in central Alabama, setting up the most favorable conditions for a death from heat exhaustion.