Friday, November 4, 2016

Steamboat Disasters

Below are a couple of excerpts from Steamboat Disasters and Railroad Accidents ©1840. The first one I'm sharing with you regards the Steam packet HOME and it's sinking off of Cape Hatteras, NC. Hatteras is one of the locations where a tremendous amount of ships have sank over the years. Near Hatteras just south of it is another Island called Ocracoke. Not only was it the setting for one of my stories but it was also the location of where my husband's great grandfather's ship went down. Capt. Coleman was the last captain to run a four-masted schooner on the East Coast. Capt. Coleman survived his shipwreck, along with all hands. He died 5 days later in a car accident.

Ocracoke, N. C. Oct. 10, 1837. Mr. James P. Allaire, New York,
Dear Sir : I have now the painful duty of informing you of the total loss of the steam packet Home, and the lives of most of the passengers and crew : The following passengers are saved : H. Vanderzee, New York. Capt. John Salter, Portsmouth, N. H. Capt. Alfred Hill, do. do,
I. S. Cohen, of Columbia, S. C.
Andrew A. Lovegreen, Charleston.
Charles Drayton, do.

B. B. Hussey, do.
Thomas J. Smith, do.
Mrs. Lacoste, Charleston.
Mrs. Schroeder, do.
Mr. C. C. Cady, Montgomery, Ala.
J. D. Rowland, New York.
James Johnson, Jr., Boston.
John Bishop, New York,
Darnis Clock, Athens, Geo.
William S. Read, New Haven, Conn.
Jabez Holmes, New York.
John Mather, do.
Conrad Quinn, Jersey City.
Hiram Anderson, New York.
Twenty passengers saved, is all we can find.
The following persons of the crew :

Levi Miller, Stamford, Conn.
William Bloom, New York.
Thomas Smith, do.
Timothy Stone, do.

Deck Hands.
Michael Burns, James DufTee, John Trust, James
Jackson, Samuel , Calvin Marvin, (boy) New
York, David Milne, steward.
And six waiters, (names not given,) making 19 belonging to the boat.

20 passengers, 19 hands, 1 captain,—40 souls saved. There can be very little saved from the wreck. We had a heavy gale of wind after leaving New York, from N. E. The boat sprung a leak a little to the Northward of Hatteras ; at first we were able to pump the water out as fast as it came in, but the leak soon increased, so that it gained very fast on us. We scuttled the cabin floor, and all hands, passengers, gentlemen and ladies, commenced bailing with buckets, kettles, &c but the water soon came up to the furnaces, and put the fires out, and we were obliged to run under sails only. By the time we came to the shore, the water was over the cabin floors ; we run her head on, but owing to her having so much water in, she stopped in the outward breakers. The first sea that came after she struck, stove the weather quarter boat, and all the houses on the deck were stove in, and 25 minutes after she struck, she was all to pieces, and I suppose about 80 souls were drowned. Both mates, all three of the engineers, and James B. Allaire are lost. Most of the passengers saved have lost nearlyall their baggage. I have lost every thing; having nothing but one pair of pantaloons, and a shirt that I had on when I washed ashore.
In haste, yours respectfully.

And below is part of the account from one of the survivors, Mr. John D. Roland.

At 6 P. M. the water reached the engine, to the alarm of all, and extinguished the fires, when of course the machinery stopped. The boat was still out of sight of land, but was running with sails, the gale severe, and she laboring dreadfully. The greatest efforts were all the time made, by bailing, &c, and all were actively engaged, until 10 P. M., when the boat struck about a quarter of a mile from, but in sight of the outer breakers.

In an instant alter the strike all was utter confusion and alarm; men, women, and children screaming in the most agonizing manner. The scene was most heart-rending; women clinging to their husbands, children to their mothers, and death, almost certain death before them. It was apparent that the boat could hold together but a very few moments, and that few, very few could under any circumstances be saved. The wind blew a gale—the sea was high, and there were only three boats, and one of them had been staved.

All were engaged in efforts to save their lives,— some lashing themselves to spars on board, and others making what struggle they could. Our informant made his calculations, that his only chance was in swimming ashore, and he accordingly threw off all his clothes but his shirt and pantaloons ; and before any had left the wreck, threw himself into the water. He found the sea so- high that he could with difficulty encounter it, and on reaching the surf, he came near perishing. He, however, landed in safety, though the current took him about a mile and a half to the southward of the wreck.

On reaching the shore, Mr. Rowland found all mariner of pieces thrown up, from which it was evident that the boat had broken up. One man he pulled out of the surf. Only two persons on board had life preservers, both of whom were saved ; one of them however, had no use for his, as he went ashore on the forecastle ; the other person (although he could not swim,) was saved by means of his life preserver.

The boat fortunately had a high forecastle, on which a number of the crew and passengers had collected. This parted entire, and all or nearly all on it, some eight or ten persons at least, went ashore and were saved—Capt. White among the number.
The boat, almost immediately on striking, Went to pieces. Her keel and kelson both drifted ashore about a mile from the wreck. About twenty bodies were found men, and women—among them an infant and the chief mate. The shore, for some miles to the southward, was covered with fragments. The boilers of the boat were to be seen, but every vestige of the vessel had parted from them.

Of the three small boats belonging to the Home, one was staved by the violence of the gale as she hung in the davits, one other filled alongside, and the other was cast off with a number of passengers in her, but she upset in the surf, and only one person was saved. One of the stewards swam safe ashore naked, but he nearly perished afterward with cold.
The scene the next morning was too horrid to describe, the boiler being the only unbroken relic of what was the beautiful packet Home. The shore was lined with bodies constantly coming up. All hands were engaged in collecting them together. The survivors in groups, were nearly naked, and famished and exhausted. The few inhabitants appeared friendly, but many of the trunks that came on shore were empty.

Mrs. Lacoste, the aged lady that was saved, is about 70. She is very fleshy, and almost helpless. She was found in the surf, but how she got there neither herself nor any other person could give any account. Mr. Hussey, who was saved, lashed his wife to a spar, but she was forced off by a sea and lost.

Mr. H. afterward lashed himself to a spar and reached the shore. It is the opinion of our informant that a large portion of the passengers were lost together, soon after she struck, when the boat separated. All the children on board were lost except one lad about 12 years old.

Ocracoke Island, to which place the survivors were washed or swam, is principally inhabited by pilots. Mr. Littlejohn, a Southern planter who was spending the summer there, Mr. Howard, who resides also on the Island, Capt. Pike, and other gentlemen paid every attention to the survivors, and to the interment of those bodies which were washed on shore. Within two days after the fatal occurrence, which time Messrs. Rowland and Holmes were obliged to wait for a conveyance, about twenty bodies, among which were those of two or three of the ladies, were washed on shore and buried.

After the survivors reached the shore, they separated in various directions—some to Raleigh, N. C. others to Newbern—two as before stated, came to New York, and the remainder made their way towards Charleston, by the best conveyances they could find.

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