Diary in America—Series Two, by Captain Marryat.
In the late 1830s Captain Marryat, already a famous literary figure in North America, visited the United States and Canada, writing his observations in two Series of volumes, each containing three books.
These were published in Britain as the six books, but were published in America as two books with small print and thin paper, thus enabling the Diary to be published as two books only. It is from first editions of the American version that we have worked, though we do possess three of the British first edition of six volumes.
While some of the observations are trivial, and some even possibly misleading, there is a great deal of useful fact in these books, making them well worth looking at. There are some tables that may not reproduce well in the PDA version of these books.
Marryat used his knowledge of America to write a novel based in the more southerly part, especially California and Texas.
DIARY IN AMERICA—SERIES TWO, BY CAPTAIN MARRYAT.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER ONE.
I believe that the remarks of a traveller in any country not his own, let his work be ever so trifling or badly written, will point out some peculiarity which will have escaped the notice of those who were born and reside in that country, unless they happen to be natives of that portion of it in which the circumstance alluded to was observed. It is a fact that no one knows his own country; from assuetude and, perhaps, from the feelings of regard which we naturally have for our native land, we pass over what nevertheless does not escape the eye of a foreigner. Indeed, from the consciousness that we can always see such and such objects of interest whenever we please, we very often procrastinate until we never see them at all. I knew an old gentleman who having always resided in London, every year declared his intention of seeing the Tower of London with its Curiosities. He renewed this declaration every year, put it off until the next, and has since left the world without having ever put his intention into execution.
That the Americans would cavil at portions of the first part of my work, I was fully convinced, and as there are many observations quite new to most of them, they are by them considered to be false; but the United States, as I have before observed, comprehend an immense extent of territory, with a population running from a state of refinement down to one of positive barbarism; and although the Americans travel much, they travel the well beaten paths, in which that which is peculiar is not so likely to meet the eye or even the ear. It does not, therefore, follow that because what I remark is new to many of them, that therefore it is false. The inhabitants of the cities in the United States, (and it is those who principally visit this country), know as little of what is passing in Arkansas and Alabama as a cockney does of the manners and customs of Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man.
The other day, one American lady observed that, "it was too bad of Captain Marryat to assert that ladies in America carried pigtail in their work-boxes to present to the gentlemen;" adding, "I never heard or saw such a thing in all my life." Very possible; and had I stated that at New York, Philadelphia, Boston, or Charleston, such was the practice, she then might have been justifiably indignant. But I have been very particular in my localities, both in justice to myself and the Americans, and if they will be content to confine their animadversions to the observations upon the State to which they belong, or my general observations upon the country and government, I shall then be content; if, on the contrary, their natural vanity will not allow any remarks to be made upon the peculiarities of one portion of society without considering them as a reflection upon the whole of the Union, all I can say is that they must, and will be annoyed.
The answer made to the lady who was "wrathy" about the pigtail was, "Captain M has stated it to be a custom in one State. Have you ever been in that State?"
"No, I have not," replied the lady, "but I have never heard of it." So then, on a vast continent, extending almost from the Poles to the Equator, because one individual, one mere mite of creation among the millions (who are but a fraction of the population which the country will support), has not heard of what passes thousands of miles from her abode, therefore it cannot be true! Instead of cavilling, let the American read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest all that I have already said, and all that I intend to say in these volumes; and although the work was not written for them, but for my own countrymen, they will find that I have done them friendly service.
There is much comprehended in the simple word "travelling" which heads this chapter, and it is by no means an unimportant subject, as the degree of civilisation of a country, and many important peculiarities, bearing strongly upon the state of society, are to be gathered from the high road, and the variety of entertainment for man and horse; and I think that my remarks on this subject will throw as much light upon American society as will be found in any chapter which I have written.
In a country abounding as America does with rivers and railroads, and where locomotion by steam, wherever it can be applied, supersedes every other means of conveyance, it is not to be expected that the roads will be remarkably good; they are, however, in consequence of the excellent arrangements of the townships and counties, in the Eastern States, as good, and much better, than could be expected. The great objection to them is that they are not levelled, but follow the undulations of the country, so that you have a variety of short, steep ascents and descents which are very trying to the carriage-springs and very fatiguing to the traveller. Of course in a new country you must expect to fall in with the delightful varieties of Corduroy, etcetera, but wherever the country is settled, and the population sufficient to pay the expense, the roads in America may be said to be as good as under circumstances could possibly be expected. There are one or two roads, I believe, not more, which are government roads; but, in general, the expense of the roads is defrayed by the States.
But, before I enter into any remarks upon the various modes of travelling in America, it may be as well to say a few words upon the horses, which are remarkably good in the United States: they appear to be more hardy, and have much better hoofs, than ours in England; throwing a shoe therefore is not of the same consequence as it is with us, for a horse will go twenty miles afterwards with little injury. In Virginia and Kentucky the horses are almost all thorough-bred, and from the best English stock.—The distances run in racing are much longer than ours, and speed without bottom is useless.
The Americans are very fond of fast trotting horses; I do not refer to rackers, as they term horses that trot before and gallop behind, but fair trotters, and they certainly have a description of horse that we could not easily match in England. At New York, the Third Avenue, as they term it, is the general rendezvous, I once went out there mounted upon Paul Pry, who was once considered the fastest horse in America; at his full speed he performed a mile in two minutes and thirty seconds, equal to twenty-four miles per hour. He took me at this devil of a pace as far as Hell Gate; not wishing "to intrude," I pulled up there, and went home again. A pair of horses in harness were pointed out to me who could perform the mile in two minutes fifty seconds. They use here light four-wheeled vehicles which they call wagons, with a seat in the front for two persons and room for your luggage behind; and in these wagons, with a pair of horses, they think nothing of trotting them seventy or eighty miles in a day, at the speed of twelve miles an hour; I have seen the horses come in, and they did not appear to suffer from the fatigue. You seldom see a horse bent forward, but they are all daisy cutters.
The gentlemen of New York give very high prices for fast horses; 1,000 dollars is not by any means an uncommon price. In a country where time is every thing, they put a proportionate value upon speed. Paul Pry is a tall grey horse (now thirteen years old); to look at, he would not fetch 10 pounds,—the English omnibuses would refuse him.
Talking about omnibuses, those of New York, and the other cities in America, are as good and as well regulated as those of Paris; the larger ones have four horses. Not only their omnibuses, but their hackney coaches are very superior to those in London; the latter are as clean as private carriages; and with the former there is no swearing, no dislocating the arms of poor females, hauling them from one omnibus to the other,—but civility without servility.
The American stage-coaches are such as experience has found out to be most suitable to the American roads, and you have not ridden in them five miles before you long for the delightful springing of four horses upon the level roads of England. They are something between an English stage [see note 1] and a French diligence, built with all the panels open, on account of the excessive heat of the summer months. In wet weather these panels are covered with leather aprons, which are fixed on with battons, a very insufficient protection in the winter, as the wind blows through the intermediate spaces, whistling into your ears, and rendering it more piercing than if all was open. Moreover, they are no protection against the rain or snow, both of which find their way in to you. The coach has three seats, to receive nine passengers; those on the middle seat leaning back upon a strong and broad leather brace, which runs across. This is very disagreeable, as the centre passengers, when the panels are closed, deprive the others of the light and air from the windows. But the most disagreeable feeling arises from the body of the coach not being upon springs, but hung upon leather braces running under it and supporting it on each side; and when the roads are bad, or you ascend or rapidly descend the pitches (as they term short hills) the motion is very similar to that of being tossed in a blanket, often throwing you up to the top of the coach, so as to flatten your hat—if not your head.
The drivers are very skilful, although they are generally young men— indeed often mere boys—for they soon better themselves as they advance in life. Very often they drive six in hand; and if you are upset, it is generally more the fault of the road than of the driver. I was upset twice in one half hour when I was travelling in the winter time; but the snow was very deep at the time, and no one thinks anything of an upset in America. More serious accidents do, however, sometimes happen. When I was in New Hampshire, a neglected bridge broke down, and precipitated coach, horses, and passengers into a torrent which flowed into the Connecticut river. Some of the passengers were drowned. Those who were saved, sued the township and recovered damages; but these mischances must be expected in a new country. The great annoyance of these public conveyances is, that neither the proprietor or driver consider themselves the servants of the public; a stage-coach is a speculation by which as much money is to be made as possible by the proprietors; and as the driver never expects or demands a fee from the passengers, they or their comforts are no concern of his. The proprietors do not consider that they are bound to keep faith with the public, nor do they care about any complaints.
The stages which run from Cincinnati to the eastward are very much interfered with when the Ohio river is full of water, as the travellers prefer the steam-boats; but the very moment that the water is so low on the Ohio that the steam-boats cannot ascend the river up to Wheeling, double the price is demanded by the proprietors of the coaches. They are quite regardless as to the opinion or good-will of the public; they do not care for either, all they want is their money, and they are perfectly indifferent whether you break your neck or not. The great evil arising from this state of hostility, as you may almost call it, is the disregard of life which renders travelling so dangerous in America. You are completely at the mercy of the drivers, who are, generally speaking, very good-tempered, but sometimes quite the contrary; and I have often been amused with the scenes which have taken place between them and the passengers. As for myself, when the weather permitted it, I invariably went outside, which the Americans seldom do, and was always very good friends with the drivers. They are full of local information, and often very amusing. There is, however, a great difference in the behaviour of the drivers of the mails, and coaches which are timed by the post-office, and others which are not. If beyond his time, the driver is mulcted by the proprietors; and when dollars are in the question, there is an end to all urbanity and civility.
A gentleman of my acquaintance was in a mail which was behind time, and the driver was proceeding at such a furious pace that one jerk threw a lady to the top of the coach, and the teeth of her comb entering her head, she fainted with pain. The passengers called out to the driver to stop. "What for?" "That last jerk has struck the lady, and she has fainted." "Oh, that's all! Well, I reckon I'll give her another jerk, which will bring her to again." Strange to say, he prophesied right; the next jerk was very violent, and the lady recovered her senses.
Mr E, an employe of the American government, was travelling in the state of Indiana—the passengers had slept at an inn, and the coach was ready at the door, but Mr E had not quite finished his toilet; the driver dispatched the bar-keeper for him, and Mr E sent word he would be down immediately.
"What is he about?" said the driver impatiently to the bar-keeper when he came down again.
"Cleaning his teeth."
"Cleaning his teeth!" roared the driver, indignantly; "by the —," and away went the horses at a gallop, leaving Mr E behind.
The other passengers remonstrated, but without avail; they told him that Mr E was charged with government despatches—he didn't care; at last, one of them offered him a dollar if he would go back. They had proceeded more than a mile before the offer was made; the man immediately wheeled his horses round, and returned to the inn.
The Rev Mr Reid gives an anecdote very characteristic of American stage-coach travelling, and proving how little the convenience of the public is cared for.
"When we stopped at Lowell to change horses, a female wished to secure a place onward. We were already, as the phrase is, more than full; we had nine persons, and two children, which are made to go for nothing, except in the way-bill. Our saucy driver opened the door, and addressing two men, who, with us, would have been outside passengers—'now, I say, I want one of you to ride with me, and let a lady have your seat.' The men felt they were addressed by a superior, but kept their places. 'Come, I say,' he continued, 'you shall have a good buffalo and umbrel, and nothing will hurt you.' Still they kept their places, and refused him. His lordship was offended, and ready to lay hands on one of them; but, checking himself, exclaimed, 'Well, if I can't get you out, hang it if I'll take you on till one of you gets out.' And there we stood for some time; and he gained his point at last, and in civiller terms, by persuading the persons on the middle seat to receive the lady; so that we had now twelve inside."
I once myself was in a stage-coach, and found that the window glasses had been taken out; I mentioned this to the driver, as it rained in very fast—"Well, now," replied he, "I reckon you'd better ax the proprietors; my business is to drive the coach." And that was all the comfort I could procure. As for speaking to them about stopping, or driving slow, it is considered as an unwarrantable interference.
I recollect an Englishman at New York telling me, that when in the Eastern States, he had expressed a wish to go a little faster—"Oh," said the driver, "you do, do you; well, wait a moment, and I'll go faster than you like." The fellow drove very slow where the road was good; but as soon as he came to a bad piece, he put his horses to the gallop, and, as my friend said, they were so tossed and tumbled about, that they hardly knew where they were. "Is that fast enough, Mister," said the driver, leering in at the couch window.
As for stopping, they will stop to talk to any one on the road about the price of the markets, the news, or any thing else; and the same accommodation is cheerfully given to any passenger who has any business to transact on the way. The Americans are accustomed to it, and the passengers never raise any objections. There is a spirit of accommodation, arising from their natural good temper (note 2).
I was once in a coach when the driver pulled up, and entered a small house on the road side; after he had been there some time, as it was not an inn, I expressed my wonder what he was about. "I guess I can tell you," said a man who was standing by the coach, and overheard me; "there's a pretty girl in that house, and he's doing a bit of courting, I expect." Such was the fact: the passengers laughed, and waited for him very patiently. He remained about three-quarters of an hour, and then came out. The time was no doubt to him very short; but to us it appeared rather tedious.
Mrs Jamieson, in her last work, says: "One dark night, I remember, as the sleet and rain were falling fast, and our Extra was slowly dragged by wretched brutes of horses through what seemed to me 'Sloughs of Despond,' some package ill stowed on the roof, which in the American stages presents no resting-place for man or box, fell off. The driver alighted to fish it out of the mud. As there was some delay, a gentleman seated opposite to me put his head out of window to inquire the cause; to whom the driver's voice replied, in an angry tone, 'I say, you mister, don't you sit jabbering there; but lend a hand to heave these things aboard!' To my surprise, the gentleman did not appear struck by the insolence of this summons, but immediately jumped out and rendered his assistance. This is merely the manner of the people. The driver intended no insolence, nor was it taken as such; and my fellow-travellers could not help laughing at my surprise."
I have mentioned these little anecdotes, as they may amuse the reader; but it must be understood that, generally speaking, the drivers are very good-natured and obliging, and the passengers very accommodating to each other, and submitting with a good grace to what cannot be ameliorated.
Note 1. Miss Martineau in her work speaks of that most delightful of all conveyances—an American stage-coach; but Miss M is so very peculiar in her ideas, that I am surprised at nothing that she says. I will, however, quote the Reverend Mr Reid against her:—
"I had no sooner begun to enter the coach than splash went my foot in mud and water. I exclaimed with surprise. 'Soon be dry, sir,' was the reply; while he withdrew the light; that I might not explore the cause of complaint. The fact was, that the vehicle, like the hotel and steam-boat, was not water-tight, and the rain had found an entrance. There was, indeed, in this coach, as in most others, a provision in the bottom, of holes, to let off both water and dirt; but here the dirt had become mud, and thickened about the orifices, so as to prevent escape. I found I was the only passenger; the morning was damp and chilly; the state of the coach added to the sensation; and I eagerly looked about for some means of protection. I drew up the wooden windows; out of five small panes of glass in the sashes three were broken. I endeavoured to secure the curtains; two of them had most of the ties broken, and flapped in one's face. There was no help in the coach, so I looked to myself. I made the best use I could of my garments, and put myself as snugly as I could in the corner of a stage meant to accommodate nine persons. My situation just then was not among the most cheerful. I could see nothing; every where I could feel the wind drawn in upon me; and as for sounds I had the calls of the driver, the screeching of the wheels, and the song of the bull-frog for my entertainment."—Rev Mr Reid's Tour, vol. I, page 100.—Very delightful, indeed!
Note 2. This spirit of accommodation produces what would at first appear to be rudeness, but is not intended for it. When you travel, or indeed when walking the streets in the Western country, if you have a cigar in your mouth, a man will come up—"Beg pardon, stranger," and whips your cigar out of your mouth, lights his own, and then returns yours. I thought it rather cool at first, but as I found it was the practice, I invariably did the same whenever I needed a light.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER TWO.
In making my observations upon the rail-road and steam-boat travelling in the United States, I shall point out some facts with which the reader must be made acquainted. The Americans are a restless, locomotive people: whether for business or pleasure, they are ever on the move in their own country, and they move in masses. There is but one conveyance, it may be said, for every class of people, the coach, rail-road, or steam-boat, as well as most of the hotels, being open to all; the consequence is that the society is very much mixed—the millionaire, the well-educated woman of the highest rank, the senator, the member of Congress, the farmer, the emigrant, the swindler, and the pick-pocket, are all liable to meet together in the same vehicle of conveyance. Some conventional rules were therefore necessary, and those rules have been made by public opinion—a power to which all must submit in America. The one most important, and without which it would be impossible to travel in such a gregarious way, is an universal deference and civility shewn to the women, who may in consequence travel without protection all over the United States without the least chance of annoyance or insult. This deference paid to the sex is highly creditable to the Americans; it exists from one end of the Union to the other; indeed, in the Southern and more lawless States, it is even more chivalric than in the more settled. Let a female be ever so indifferently clad, whatever her appearance may be, still it is sufficient that she is a female; she has the first accommodation, and until she has it, no man will think of himself. But this deference is not only shewn in travelling, but in every instance. An English lady told me, that wishing to be present at the inauguration of Mr Van Buren, by some mistake, she and her daughters alighted from the carriage at the wrong entrance, and in attempting to force their way through a dense crowd were nearly crushed to death. This was perceived, and the word was given—'make room for the ladies.' The whole crowd, as if by one simultaneous effort, compressed itself to the right and left, locking themselves together to meet the enormous pressure, and made a wide lane, through which they passed with ease and comfort. "It reminded me of the Israelites passing through the Red Sea with the wall of waters on each side of them," observed the lady. "In any other country we must have been crushed to death."
When I was on board one of the steam-boats, an American asked one of the ladies to what she would like to be helped. She replied, to some turkey, which was within reach, and off of which a passenger had just cut the wing and transferred it to his own plate. The American who had received the lady's wishes, immediately pounced with his fork upon the wing of the turkey and carried it off to the young lady's plate; the only explanation given, "a lady, Sir!" was immediately admitted as sufficient.
The authority of the captain of a steam-boat is never disputed; if it were, the offender would be landed on the beach. I was on board of a steam-boat when, at tea time, a young man sat down with his hat on.
"You are in the company of ladies, sir," observed the captain very civilly, "and I must request you to take your hat off."
"Are you the captain of the boat?" observed the young man, in a sulky tone.
"Yes, sir, I am."
"Well, then, I suppose I must," growled the passenger, as he obeyed.
But if the stewards, who are men of colour, were to attempt to enforce the order, they would meet with such a rebuff as I have myself heard given.
"If it's the captain's orders, let the captain come and give them. I'm not going to obey a Nigger like you."
Perhaps it is owing to this deference to the sex that you will observe that the Americans almost invariably put on their best clothes when they travel; such is the case whatever may be the cause; and the ladies in America, travelling or not, are always well, if not expensively dressed. They don't all swap bonnets as the two young ladies did in the stage-coach in Vermont.
But, notwithstanding the decorum so well preserved as I have mentioned, there are some annoyances to be met with from gregarious travelling. One is, that occasionally a family of interesting young citizens who are suffering from the whooping-cough, small-pox, or any other complaint, are brought on board, in consequence of the medical gentlemen having recommended change of air. Of course the other children, or even adults, may take the infection, but they are not refused admittance upon such trifling grounds; the profits of the steam boat must not be interfered with.
Of all travelling, I think that by railroad the most intriguing, especially in America. After a certain time the constant coughing of the locomotive, the dazzling of the vision from the rapidity with which objects are passed, the sparks and ashes which fly in your face and on your clothes become very annoying; your only consolation is the speed with which you are passing over the ground.
The railroads in America are not so well made as in England, and are therefore more dangerous; but it must be remembered that at present nothing is made in America but to last a certain time; they go to the exact expense considered necessary and no further, they know that in twenty years they will be better able to spend twenty dollars than one now. The great object is to obtain quick returns for the outlay, and, except in few instances, durability or permanency is not thought of. One great cause of disasters is, that the railroads are not fenced on the sides, so as to keep the cattle off them, and it appears as if the cattle who range the woods are very partial to take their naps on the roads, probably from their being drier than the other portions of the soil. It is impossible to say how many cows have been cut into atoms by the trains in America, but the frequent accidents arising from these causes has occasioned the Americans to invent a sort of shovel, attached to the front of the locomotive, which takes up a cow, tossing her off right or left. At every fifteen miles of the rail-roads there are refreshment rooms; the cars stop, all the doors are thrown open, and out rush the passengers like boys out of school, and crowd round the tables to solace themselves with pies, patties, cakes, hard-boiled eggs, ham, custards, and a variety of railroad luxuries, too numerous to mention. The bell rings for departure, in they all hurry with their hands and mouths full, and off they go again, until the next stopping place induces them to relieve the monotony of the journey by masticating without being hungry.
The Utica railroad is the best in the United States. The general average of speed is from fourteen to sixteen miles an hour; but on the Utica they go much faster. [See note 1.] A gentleman narrated to me a singular specimen of the ruling passion which he witnessed on an occasion when the rail-cars were thrown off the road, and nearly one hundred people killed, or injured in a greater or less degree.
On the side of the road lay a man with his leg so severely fractured, that the bone had been forced through the skin, and projected outside his trowsers. Over him hung his wife, with the utmost solicitude, the blood running down from a severe cut received on her head, and kneeling by his side was his sister, who was also much injured. The poor women were lamenting over him, and thinking nothing of their own hurts; and he, it appears, was also thinking nothing about his injury, but only lamenting the delay which would be occasioned by it.
"Oh! my dear, dear Isaac, what can be done with your leg?" exclaimed the wife in the deepest distress.
"What will become of my leg!" cried the man. "What's to become of my business, I should like to know?"
"Oh! dear brother," said the other female, "don't think about your business now; think of getting cured."
"Think of getting cured—I must think how the bills are to be met, and I not there to take them up. They will be presented as sure as I lie here."
"Oh! never mind the bills, dear husband—think of your precious leg."
"Not mind the bills! but I must mind the bills—my credit will be ruined."
"Not when they know what has happened, brother. Oh! dear, dear—that leg, that leg."
"D—-n the leg; what's to become of my business," groaned the man, falling on his back from excess of pain.
Now this was a specimen of true commercial spirit. If this man had not been nailed to the desk, he might have been a hero.
I shall conclude this chapter with an extract from an American author, which will give some idea of the indifference as to loss of life in the United States.
"Every now and then is a tale of railroad disaster in some part of the country, at inclined planes, or intersecting points, or by running off the track, making splinters of the cars, and of men's bones; and locomotives have been known to encounter, head to head, like two rams fighting. A little while previous to the writing of these lines, a locomotive and tender shot down the inclined plain at Philadelphia, like a falling star. A woman, with two legs broken by this accident, was put into an omnibus, to be carried to the hospital, but the driver, in his speculations, coolly replied to a man, who asked why he did not go on?— that he was waiting for a full load."
Note 1. The railroads finished in America in 1835 amounted in length to 1,600 miles; those in progress, and not yet complete, to 1,270 miles more. The canals completed were in length 2,500 miles, unfinished 687 miles.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER THREE.
The most general, the most rapid, the most agreeable, and, at the same time, the most dangerous, of American travelling is by steam boats. It will be as well to give the reader an idea of the extent of this navigation by putting before him the lengths of some of the principal rivers in the United States.
======================================================+ Y YMiles.Y +——————————————————————————-——— YMissouri and Mississippi Y 4490Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YDo. to its junction with the Mississippi Y 3181Y +——————————————————————————-——— YMississippi proper, to its junction with the MissouriY 1600Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YDo. to the Gulf of Mexico Y 2910Y +——————————————————————————-——— YArkansas River, a branch of the Mississippi Y 2170Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YSt Lawrence River, including the Lakes Y 2075Y +——————————————————————————-——— YPlatte River, a branch of the Missouri Y 1600Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YRed River, a branch of the Mississippi Y 1500Y +——————————————————————————-——— YOhio River, Do. Do. Y 1372Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YColumbia River, empties into the Pacific Ocean, Y 1315Y +——————————————————————————-——— YKansas River, a branch of the Missouri Y 1200Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YYellowstone Do. Do. Y 1100Y +——————————————————————————-——— YTennessee Do. Ohio Y 756Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YAlabama River, empties into the Gulf of Mexico Y 575Y +——————————————————————————-——— YCumberland River, a branch of the Ohio Y 570Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YSusquehanna River, empties into Chesapeake Bay Y 460Y +——————————————————————————-——— YIllinois River, a branch of the Mississippi Y 430Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YAppalachicola River, empties into the Gulf of Mexico Y 425Y +——————————————————————————-——— YSt John's River, New Brunswick, rises in Maine Y 415Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YConnecticut River, empties into Long Island Sound Y 410Y +——————————————————————————-——— YWabash River, a branch of the Ohio Y 360Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YDelaware River, empties into the Atlantic Ocean Y 355Y +——————————————————————————-——— YJames River, empties into Chesapeake Bay Y 350Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YRoanoke River, empties into Albemarle Sound Y 350Y +——————————————————————————-——— YGreat Pedee River, empties into Atlantic Ocean Y 350Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YSantee River, empties into Atlantic Ocean Y 340Y +——————————————————————————-——— YPotomac River, empties into Chesapeake Bay Y 335Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YHudson River, empties into Atlantic Ocean Y 320Y +——————————————————————————-——— YAltamaha River, empties into Atlantic Ocean Y 300Y ——————————————————————————-———+ YSavannah River, empties into Atlantic Ocean Y 290Y +========================================================
Voice from America.
Many of the largest of these rivers are at present running through deserts—others possess but a scanty population on their banks; but, as the west fills up, they will be teeming with life, and the harvest of industry will freight many more hundreds of vessels than those which at present disturb their waters.
The Americans have an idea that they are very far ahead of us in steam navigation, a great error which I could not persuade them of. In the first place, their machinery is not by any means equal to ours; in the next, they have no sea-going steam vessels, which after all is the great desideratum of steam navigation. Even in the number and tonnage of their mercantile steam vessels they are not equal to us, as I shall presently show, nor have they yet arrived to that security in steam navigation which we have.
The return of vessels belonging to the Mercantile Steam Marine of Great Britain, made by the Commissioners on the Report of steam-vessel accidents in 1839, is, number of vessels, 810; tonnage, 157,840; horse power, 63,250.
Mr Levi Woodbury's Report to Congress in December, 1838, states the number of American steam vessels to be 800, and the tonnage to be 155,473; horse power, 57,019.
It is but fair to state, that the Americans have the credit of having sent the first steam vessel across the Atlantic. In 1819, a steam vessel, built at New York, crossed from Savannah to Liverpool in twenty-six days.
The number of sea-going steam vessels in England is two hundred and eighty-two, while in the United States they have not more than ten at the outside calculation. In the size of our vessels also we are far superior to them. I here insert a table, shewing the dimensions of our largest vessels, as given in the Report to the House of Commons, and another of the largest American vessels collected from the Report of Mr Levi Woodbury to Congress.
Table shewing some of the Dimensions of the Hull and Machinery of the five largest ships yet built or building.
[Table to be added in a later edition.]
But the point on which we are so vastly superior to the Americans, is in our steam vessels of war. They have but one in the United States, named the Fulton the Second. The following is a list of those belonging to the Government of Great Britain, with their tonnage:—
======================================+ Y YTons.Y YTons.Y YTons.Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YAcheron Y 722YFearless Y 165YMyrtle Y 116Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YAdder Y 237YFirebrandY 495YOtter Y 237Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YAdvice Y 475YFire Fly Y 550YPhoenix Y 809Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YAfrican Y 295YFlamer Y 496YPigmy Y 230Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YAlban Y 294YFury Y 166YPike Y 112Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YAriel Y 149YGleaner Y 306YPluto Y 365Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YAsp Y 112YGorgon Y 1111YProspero Y 244Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YAvon Y 361YHecate Y 815YRedwing Y 139Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YBeaver Y 128YHecla Y 815YRadamanthusY 813Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YBlazer Y 527YHermes Y 716YSalamander Y 818Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YBoxer Y 159YHydra Y 818YShearwater Y 343Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YCarron Y 294YJasper Y 230YSpitfire Y 553Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YCharon Y 125YKite Y 300YSprightly Y 234Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YColumbia Y 360YLightningY 296YStrombolo Y 966Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YComet Y 238YLucifer Y 387YSwallow Y 133Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YConfianceY 295YMedea Y 835YTartarus Y 523Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YCuckoo Y 234YMedusa Y 889YUrgent Y 583Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YCyclops Y 1190YMegaera Y 717YVesuvius Y 966Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YDasher Y 260YMerlin Y 889YVolcano Y 720Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YDee Y 704YMessengerY 733YWidgeon Y 164Y +————-——-————-——-—————-——- YDoterel Y 723YMeteor Y 296YWildfire Y 186Y ————-——-————-——-—————-——-+ YEcho Y 298YMonkey Y 211YZephyr Y 237Y +======================================
Government Steam Vessels Building.
====================+ YAlectoY 799YLizardY282YPolyphemusY799Y +—————————-——————- YArdentY 799YLocustY282YPrometheusY799Y —————————-——————-+ YDover YIronYMedinaY889Y Y Y +============================
I trust that the above statement will satisfy the Americans that we are ahead of them in steam navigation. In consequence of their isolation, and having no means of comparison with other countries, the Americans see only their own progress, and seem to have forgotten that other nations advance as well as themselves. They appear to imagine that while they are going ahead all others are standing still: forgetting that England with her immense resources is much more likely to surpass them than to be left behind.
We must now examine the question of the proportionate security in steam boat travelling in the two countries. The following table, extracted from the Report of the Commissioners on Steam boat Accidents, will show the casualties which have occurred in this country in ten years.
Abstract of ninety-two Accidents. Table not included.
The principal portion of this loss of life has been occasioned by vessels having been built for sale, and not sea-worthy; an occurrence too common, I am afraid, in both countries.
The author of "A Voice from America" states the list of steamboat disasters, on the waters of the United States, for twelve months out of the years 1837-38, by bursting of boilers, burning, wrecks, etcetera, besides numerous others of less consequence, comprehends the total loss of eight vessels and one thousand and eighty lives.
So that we have in England, loss in ten years, 634; one year, 63.
In America, loss in one year, 1,080.
The report of Mr Woodbury to Congress is imperfect, which is not to be wondered at, as it is almost impossible to arrive at the truth; there is, however, much to be gleaned from it. He states that, since the employment of steam vessels in the United States, 1,300 have been built, and of them two hundred and sixty have been lost by accidents.
The greatest loss of life by collision and sinking, was in the Monmouth, (Indians transporting to the West), in 1837, by which three hundred lives were lost; Oronoka, by explosion, by which one hundred and thirty or more lives were lost and Moselle, at Cincinnati, by which from one hundred to one hundred and twenty lives were lost.
The greatest loss by shipwreck was in the case of the Home, on the coast of South Carolina, when one hundred lives were lost; the greatest by fire, the Ben Sherrod, in 1837, by which one hundred and thirty perished.
The three great casualties which occurred during my stay in America, were those of the Ben Sherrod, by fire; the Home, by wreck; and the Moselle, by explosion: and as I have authentic details of them, by Americans who were on board, or eye-witnesses, I shall lay them before my readers. The reader will observe that there is a great difference in the loss of life mentioned in Mr Woodbury's report and in the statements of those who were present. I shall hereafter state why I consider the latter as the more correct.
LOSS OF THE BEN SHERROD, BY A PASSENGER.
"On Sunday morning, the 6th of May 1837, the steam-boat Ben Sherrod, under the command of Captain Castleman, was preparing to leave the levee at New Orleans. She was thronged with passengers. Many a beautiful and interesting woman that morning was busy in arranging the little things incident to travelling, and they all looked forward with high and certain hope to the end of their journey. Little innocent children played about in the cabin, and would run to the guards—the guards of an American steam-boat are an extension of the deck on each side, beyond the paddle boxes, which gives great width for stowage—now and then, to wonder, in infantine language, at the next boat, or the water, or something else that drew their attention. "Oh, look here, Henry—I don't like that boat, Lexington."—"I wish I was going by her," said Henry, musingly. The men too were urgent in their arrangements of the trunks, and getting on board sundry articles which a ten days' passage rendered necessary. In fine all seemed hope, and joy, and certainty.
"The cabin of the Ben Sherrod was on the upper deck, but narrow in proportion to her build, for she was what is technically called a Tennessee cotton boat. To those who have never seen a cotton boat loaded, it is a wondrous sight. The bales are piled up from the lower guards wherever there is a cranny until they reach above the second deck, room being merely left for passengers to walk outside the cabin. You have regular alleys left amid the cotton in order to pass about on the first deck. Such is a cotton boat carrying from 1,500 to 2,000 bales.
"The Ben's finish and accommodation of the cabin was by no means such as would begin to compare with the regular passenger boats. It being late in the season, and but few large steamers being in port in consequence of the severity of the times, the Ben Sherrod got an undue number of passengers, otherwise she would have been avoided, for her accommodations were not enticing. She had a heavy freight on board, and several horses and carriages on the forecastle. The build of the Ben Sherrod was heavy, her timbers being of the largest size.
"The morning was clear and sultry—so much so, that umbrellas were necessary to ward off the sun. It was a curious sight to see the hundreds of citizens hurrying on board to leave letters, and to see them coming away. When a steam-boat is going off on the Southern and Western waters, the excitement is fully equal to that attendant upon the departure of a Liverpool packet. About ten o'clock AM the ill-fated steamer pushed off upon the turbid current of the Mississippi, as a swan upon the waters. In a few minutes she was under way, tossing high in air, bright and snowy clouds of steam at every half revolution of her engine. Talk not of your northern steam-boats! A Mississippi steamer of seven hundred tons burthen, with adequate machinery, is one of the sublimities of poetry. For thousands of miles that great body forces its way through a desolate country, against an almost restless current, and all the evidence you have of the immense power exerted, is brought home to your senses by the everlasting and majestic burst of exertion from her escapement pipe, and the ceaseless stroke of the paddle wheels. In the dead of night, when amid the swamps on either side, your noble vessel winds her upward way—when not a soul is seen on board but the officer on deck—when nought is heard but the clang of the fire-doors amid the hoarse coughing of the engine, imagination yields to the vastness of the ideas thus excited in your mind, and if you have a soul that makes you a man, you cannot help feeling strongly alive to the mightiness of art in contrast with the mightiness of nature. Such a scene, and hundreds such have I realised, with an intensity that cannot be described, always made me a better man than before. I never could tire of the steam-boat navigation of the Mississippi.
"On Tuesday evening, the 9th of May 1837, the steam-boat Prairie, on her way to St Louis, bore hard upon the Sherrod. It was necessary for the latter to stop at Fort Adams, during which the Prairie passed her. Great vexation was manifested by some of the passengers, that the Prairie should get to Natchez first. This subject formed the theme of conversation for two or three hours, the captain assuring them that he would beat her any how. The Prairie is a very fast boat, and under equal chances could have beaten the Sherrod. So soon as the business was transacted at Fort Adams, for which she stopped, orders were given to the men to keep up their fires to the extent. It was now a little after 11 p.m. The captain retired to his berth, with his clothes on, and left the deck in charge of an officer. During the evening a barrel of whisky had been turned out, and permission given to the hands to do as they pleased. As may be supposed, they drew upon the barrel quite liberally. It is the custom on all boats to furnish the firemen with liquor, though a difference exists as to the mode. But it is due to the many worthy captains now on the Mississippi, to state that the practice of furnishing spirits is gradually dying away, and where they are given, it is only done in moderation.
"As the Sherrod passed on above Fort Adams towards the mouth of the Homochitta, the wood piled up in the front of the furnaces several times caught fire, and was once or twice imperfectly extinguished by the drunken hands. It must be understood by those of my readers who have never seen a western steamboat, that the boilers are entirely above the first deck, and that when the fires are well kept up for any length of time, the heat is almost insupportable. Were it not for the draft occasioned by the speed of the boat it would be very difficult to attend the fires. As the boat was booming along through the water close in-shore, for, in ascending the river, boats go as close as they can to avoid the current, a negro on the beach called out to the fireman that the wood was on fire. The reply was, "Go to h—-l, and mind your own business," from some half intoxicated hand. "Oh, massa," answered the negro, "if you don't take care, you will be in h—-l before I will." On, on, on went the boat at a tremendous rate, quivering and trembling in all her length at every revolution of the wheels. The steam was heated so fast, that it continued to escape through the safety valve, and by its sharp singing, told a tale that every prudent captain would have understood. As the vessel rounded the bar that makes off from the Homochitta, being compelled to stand out into the middle of the river in consequence, the fire was discovered. It was about one o'clock in the morning. A passenger had got up previously, and was standing on the boiler deck, when to his astonishment, the fire broke out from the pile of wood. A little presence of mind, and a set of men unintoxicated, could have saved the boat. The passenger seized a bucket, and was about to plunge it overboard for water, when he found it locked. An instant more, and the fire increased in volumes. The captain was now awaked. He saw that the fire had seized the deck. He ran aft, and announced the ill-tidings. No sooner were the words out of his mouth, than the shrieks of mothers, sisters, and babes, resounded through the hitherto silent cabin in the wildest confusion. Men were aroused from their dreaming cots to experience the hot air of the approaching fire. The pilot, being elevated on the hurricane deck, at the instant of perceiving the flames, put the head of the boat shoreward. She had scarcely got under good way in that direction, than the tiller ropes were burnt asunder. Two miles at least, from the land, the vessel took a sheer, and, borne upon by the current, made several revolutions, until she struck off across the river. A [sand] bar brought her up for the moment.
"The flames had now extended fore and aft. At the first alarm several deck passengers had got in the yawl that hung suspended by the davits. A cabin passenger, endowed with some degree of courage and presence of mind, expostulated with them, and did all he could to save the boats for the ladies. 'Twas useless. One got out his knife and cut away the forward tackle. The next instant and they were all, to the number of twenty or more, launched onto the angry waters. They were seen no more.
"The boat being lowered from the other end, filled and was useless. Now came the trying moment. Hundreds leaped from the burning wreck into the waters. Mothers were seen standing on the guards with hair dishevelled, praying for help. The dear little innocents clung to the side of their mothers and with their tiny hands beat away the burning flames. Sisters calling out to their brothers in unearthly voices—'Save me, oh save me, brother!'—wives crying to their husbands to save their children, in total forgetfulness of themselves,—every second or two a desperate plunge of some poor victim falling on the appalled ear,—the dashing to and fro of the horses on the forecastle, groaning audibly from pain of the devouring element—the continued puffing of the engine, for it still continued to go, the screaming mother who had leaped overboard in the desperation of the moment with her only child,—the flames mounting to the sky with the rapidity of lightning,—shall I ever forget that scene—that hour of horror and alarm! Never, were I to live till the memory should forget all else that ever came to the senses. The short half hour that separated and plunged into eternity two human beings has been so burnt into the memory that even now I think of it more than half the day.
"I was swimming to the shore with all my might, endeavoured to sustain a mother and her child. She sank twice, and yet I bore her on. My strength failed me. The babe was nothing—a mere cork. 'Go, go,' said the brave mother, 'save my child, save my—' and she sank, to rise no more. Nerved by the resolution of that woman, I reached the shore in safety. The babe I saved. Ere I had reached the beach, the Sherrod had swung off the bar, and was floating down, the engine having ceased running. In every direction heads dotted the surface of the river. The burning wreck now wore a new, and still more awful appearance. Mothers were seen clinging, with the last hope to the blazing timbers, and dropping off one by one. The screams had ceased. A sullen silence rested over the devoted vessel. The flames became tired of their destructive work.
"While I sat dripping and overcome upon the beach, a steam boat, the Columbus, came in sight, and bore for the wreck. It seemed like one last ray of hope gleaming across the dead gloom of that night. Several wretches were saved. And still another, the Statesman, came in sight. More, more were saved.
"A moment to me had only elapsed, when high in the heavens the cinders flew, and the country was lighted all round. Still another boat came booming on. I was happy that more help had come. After an exchange of words with the Columbus, the captain continued on his way under full steam. Oh, how my heart sank within me! The waves created by his boat sent many a poor mortal to his long, long home. A being by the name of Dougherty was the captain of that merciless boat. Long may he be remembered!
"My hands were burnt, and now I began to experience severe pain. The scene before me—the loss of my two sisters and brother, whom I had missed in the confusion, all had steeled my heart. I could not weep—I could not sigh. The cries of the babe at my side were nothing to me.
"Again—another explosion! and the waters closed slowly and sullenly over the scene of disaster and death. Darkness resumed her sway, and the stillness was only interrupted by the distant efforts of the Columbus and Statesman in their laudable exertions to save human life.
"Captain Castleman lost, I believe, a father and child. Some argue, this is punishment enough. No, it is not. He had the lives of hundreds under his charge. He was careless of his trust; he was guilty of a crime that nothing will ever wipe out. The bodies of two hundred victims are crying out from the depth of the father of waters for vengeance. Neither society nor law will give it. His punishment is yet to come. May I never meet him!
"I could tell of scenes of horror that would rouse the indignation of a stoic; but I have done. As to myself, I could tell you much to excite your interest. It was more than three weeks after the occurrence before I ever shed a tear. All the fountains of sympathy had been dried up, and my heart was as stone. As I lay on my bed the twenty-fourth day after, tears, salt tears, came to my relief, and I felt the loss of my sisters and brother more deeply than ever. Peace be to their spirits! they found a watery grave.
"In the course of all human events, scenes of misery will occur. But where they rise from sheer carelessness, it requires more than christian fortitude to forgive the being who is in fault. I repeat, may I never meet Captain Castleman or Captain Dougherty!
"I shall follow this tale of woe by some strictures on the mode of building steam-boats in the west, and show that human life has been jeopardised by the demoniac spirit of speculation, cheating and roguery. The fate of the Ben Sherrod shall be my text."
It will be seen from this narrative, that the loss of the vessel was occasioned by racing with another boat, a frequent practice on the Mississippi. That people should run such risk, will appear strange but if any of my readers had ever been on board of a steam vessel in a race, they would not be surprised; the excitement produced by it is the most powerful that can be conceived—I have myself experienced it, and can answer for the truth of it. At first, the feeling of danger predominates, and many of the passengers beg the captain to desist: but he cannot bear to be passed by, and left astern. As the race continues, so do they all warm up, until even those who, most aware of the danger, were at first most afraid, are to be seen standing over the very boilers, shouting, huzzaing, and stimulating the fireman to blow them up; the very danger gives an unwonted interest to the scene; and females, as well as men, would never be persuaded to cry out, "Hold, enough!"
Another proof of the disregard of human life is here given in the fact of one steam-boat passing by and rendering no assistance to the drowning wretches; nay, it was positively related to me by one who was in the water, that the blows of the paddles of this steam-boat sent down many who otherwise might have been saved.
When I was on the Lakes, the wood which was piled close to the fire-place caught fire. It was of no consequence, as it happened, for it being a well-regulated boat, the fire was soon extinguished; but I mention it to show the indifference of one of the men on board. About half an hour afterwards, one of his companions roused him from his berth, shaking him by the shoulder to wake him, saying, "Get up, the wood's a-fire—quick." "Well, I knew that 'fore I turn'd in," replied the man, yawning.
The loss of the Home occasioned many of the first families in the states to go into deep mourning, for the major portion of the passengers were highly respectable. I was at New York when she started. I had had an hour's conversation with Professor Nott and his amiable wife, and had made arrangements with them to meet them in South Carolina. We never met again, for they were in the list of those who perished.
LOSS OF THE HOME.
"The steam-packet Home, commanded by Capt. White, left New York, for Charleston, South Carolina, at four o'clock, p.m., on Saturday, the 7th Oct. 1837, having on board between eighty and ninety passengers, and forty-three of the boat's crew, including officers, making in all about one hundred and thirty persons. The weather at this time was very pleasant, and all on board appeared to enjoy, in anticipation, a delightful and prosperous passage. On leaving the wharf, cheerfulness appeared to fill the hearts and enliven the countenances of this floating community. Already had conjectures been hazarded, as to the time of their arrival at the destined port, and high hopes were entertained of an expeditious and pleasant voyage. Before six o'clock,—a check to these delusive expectations was experienced, by the boat being run aground on the Romer Shoal, near Sandy Hook. It being ebb tide, it was found impossible to get off before the next flood; consequently, the fires were allowed to burn out, and the boat remained until the flood tide took her off, which was between ten and eleven o'clock at night, making the time of detention about four or five hours. As the weather was perfectly calm, it cannot, reasonably, be supposed that the boat could have received any material injury from this accident; for, during the time that it remained aground, it had no other motion than an occasional roll on the keel from side to side. The night continued pleasant. The next morning, (Sunday,) a moderate breeze prevailed from the north-east. The sails were spread before the wind, and the speed of the boat, already rapid, was much accelerated. All went on pleasantly till about noon, when the wind had increased, and the sea became rough. At sunset, the wind blew heavily, and continued to increase during the night; at daylight, on Monday, it had become a gale. During the night, much complaint was made that the water came into the berths, and before the usual time of rising, some of the passengers had abandoned them on that account.
"The sea, from the violence of the gale, raged frightfully, and caused a general anxiety amongst the passengers; but still, they appeared to rely on the skill and judgment of the captain and officers,—supposing, that every exertion would be used, on their part, for the preservation of so many valuable lives as were then entrusted to those who had the charge of this frail boat. Early on Monday, land was discovered, nearly ahead, which, by many, was supposed to be False Cape, on the northern part of Hatteras. Soon after this discovery, the course of the boat was changed from southerly to south-easterly, which was the general course through the day, though with some occasional changes. The condition of the boat was now truly alarming; it bent and twisted, when struck by a sea, as if the next would rend it asunder: the panels of the ceiling were falling from their places; and the hull, as if united by hinges, was bending against the feet of the braces. Throughout the day, the rolling and pitching were so great, that no cooking could be done on board.
"It has already been stated, that the general course of the boat was, during the day, south-easterly, and consequently in what is called the trough of the sea, as the wind was from the north-east. Late in the afternoon, the boat was reported to be in twenty-three fathoms of water, when the course was changed to a south-westerly. Soon after this, it was observed that the course was again changed, to north-westerly; when the awful truth burst upon us, that the boat must be filling; for we could imagine no other cause for this sudden change. This was but a momentary suspense; for within a few minutes, all the passengers were called on to bale, in order to prevent the boat from sinking. Immediately, all were employed, but with little effect; for, notwithstanding the greatest exertion on the part of the passengers, including even many of the ladies, the water was rapidly increasing, and gave most conclusive evidence, that, unless we reached the shore within a few hours, the boat must sink at sea, and probably not a soul be left to communicate the heart-rending intelligence to bereaved and disconsolate friends. Soon after the boat was headed towards the land, the water had increased so much, as to reach the fire under the boilers, which was soon extinguished. Gloomy indeed was the prospect before us. With one hundred and thirty persons in a sinking boat, far out at sea, in a dark and tempestuous night, with no other dependence for reaching the shore than a few small and tattered sails, our condition might be considered truly awful. But, with all these disheartening circumstances, hope, delusive hope, still supported us. Although it was evident that we must soon sink, and our progress towards the land was very slow, still we cherished the expectation that the boat would finally be run on shore, and thus most of us be delivered from a watery grave. Early in the afternoon, the ladies had been provided with strips of blankets, that they might be lashed to such parts of the boat as would afford the greatest probability of safety.
"In this condition, and with these expectations, we gradually, but with a motion nearly imperceptible, approached, what to many of us was an untried, and almost an unknown shore. At about eleven o'clock, those who had been employed in baling were compelled to leave the cabin, as the boat had sunk until the deck was nearly level with the water, and it appeared too probable that all would soon be swallowed up by the foaming waves. The heaving of the lead indicated an approach to the shore. Soon was the cheering intelligence of 'Land! land!' announced by those on the look-out. This, for a moment, aroused the sinking energies of all, when a general bustle ensued, in the hasty, but trifling, preparations that could be made for safety, as soon as the boat should strike. But what were the feelings of an anxious multitude, when, instead of land, a range of angry breakers were visible just ahead; and land, if it could be seen at all, was but half perceptible in the distance far beyond.
"As every particular is a matter of interest, especially to those who had friends and relatives on board,—it may not be improper to state, that one individual urged the propriety of lowering the small boats, and putting the ladies and children into them for safety, with suitable persons to manage them, before we struck the breakers. By this arrangement, had it been effected, it is believed that the boats might have rode out the gale during the night, and have been rescued in the morning by passing vessels, and thus all, or nearly all, have been saved. But few supported this proposition, and it could not be done without the prompt interference of those who had authority to command, and who would be obeyed.
"Immediately before we struck, one or two passengers, by the aid of some of the seamen, attempted to seek safety in one of the bouts at the quarter, when a breaker struck it, swept it from the davits, and carried with it a seaman, who was instantly lost. A similar attempt was made to launch the long-boat from the upper deck, by the chief mate Mr Mathews, and others. It was filled with several passengers, and some of the crew; but, as we were already within the verge of the breakers, this boat shared the fate of the other, and all on board (about ten in number) perished.
"Now commenced the most heart-rending scene. Wives clinging to husbands,—children to parents,—and women who were without protectors, seeking aid from the arm of the stranger, all awaiting the results of a moment, which would bring with it either life or death. Though an intense feeling of anxiety must, at this time, have filled every breast, yet not a shriek was heard, nor was there any extraordinary exclamation of excitement or alarm. A slight agitation was, however, apparent in the general circle. Some few hurried from one part of the boat to another, as if seeking place of greater safety; yet most, and particularly those who had the melancholy charge of wives and children, remained quiet and calm observers of the scene before them.
"The boat, at length, strikes; it stops, as motionless as a bar of lead. A momentary pause follows, as if the angel of death shrunk from so dreadful a work of slaughter. But soon the work of destruction commenced. A breaker with a deafening crash, swept over the boat, carrying its unfortunate victims into the deep. At the same time, a simultaneous rush was made towards the bows of the boat. The forward deck was covered. Another breaker came, with irresistible force, and all within its sweep disappeared. Our numbers were now frightfully reduced. The roaring of the waters, together with the dreadful crash of breaking timbers, surpasses the power of description. Some of the remaining passengers sought shelter from the encroaching dangers, by retreating to the passage, on the lee side of the boat, that leads from the after to the forward deck, as if to be as far as possible from the grasp of death. It may not be improper here to remark, that the destruction of the boat, and loss of life, was, doubtless, much more rapid than it otherwise would have been, from the circumstance of the boat heeling to windward, and the deck, which was nearly level with the water, forming, in consequence, an inclined plane, upon which the waves broke with their full force.
"A large proportion of those who rushed into this passage, were ladies and children, with a few gentlemen who had charge of them. The crowd was so dense, that many were in danger of being crushed by the irresistible pressure. Here were perhaps some of the most painful sights ever beheld. Before introducing any of the closing scenes of individuals, which the writer witnessed, or which he has gathered from his fellow passengers, he would beg to be understood, that it is not for the gratification of the idle curiosity of the careless and indifferent reader, or to pierce afresh the bleeding wounds of surviving friends, but to furnish such facts as may be interesting, and which, perhaps, might never be attained through any other channel.
"As the immediate connections of the writer are already informed of the particulars relating to his own unhappy bereavement, there is no necessity for entering in a minute detail of this melancholy event.
"This passage contained perhaps thirty or more persons, consisting of men, women and children, with no apparent possibility of escape; enclosed within a narrow aperture, over which was the deck, and both ends of which were completely closed by the fragments of the boat and the rushing of the waves. While thus shut up, death appeared inevitable. Already were both decks swept of everything that was on them. The dining cabin was entirely gone, and everything belonging to the quarter-deck was completely stripped off, leaving not even a stanchion or particle of the bulwarks; and all this was the work of about five minutes.
"The starboard wheel-house, and everything about it, was soon entirely demolished. As much of the ceiling forward of the starboard wheel had, during the day, fallen from its place, the waves soon found their way through all that remained to oppose them, and were in a few minutes' time forcing into the last retreat of those who had taken shelter in the passage already mentioned.
"Every wave made a frightful encroachment on our narrow limits, and seemed to threaten us with immediate death. Hopeless as was the condition of those thus hemmed in, yet not a shriek was heard from them. One lady, unknown to the writer, begged earnestly for some one to save her. In a time of such alarm, it is not strange that a helpless female should plead with earnestness for assistance from those who were about her, or even offer them money for that aid which the least reflection would have convinced her it was not possible to render. Another scene, witnessed at this trying hour, was still more painful. A little boy was pleading with his father to save him. 'Father,' said the boy, 'you will save me, won't you? you can swim ashore with me, can't you, father?' But the unhappy father was too deeply absorbed in the other charges that leant on him, even to notice the imploring accents of his helpless child. For at that time, as near as the writer can judge, from the darkness of the place they were in, his wife hung upon one arm, and his daughter of seventeen upon the other. He had one daughter besides, near the age of this little boy, but whether she was at that time living or not, is uncertain.
"After remaining here some minutes, the deck overhead was split open by the violence of the waves, which allowed the writer an opportunity of climbing out. This he instantly did, and assisted his wife through the same opening. As he had now left those below, he is unable to say how they were finally lost; but, as that part of the boat was very soon completely destroyed, their further sufferings could not have been much prolonged. We were now in a situation which, from the time the boat struck, we had considered as the most safe, and had endeavoured to attain. Here we resolved to await our uncertain fate. From this place we could see the encroachment of the devouring waves, every one of which reduced our thinned numbers, and swept with it parts of our crumbling boat. For several hours previously, the gale had been sensibly abating; and, for a moment, the pale moon broke through the dispersing clouds, as if to witness this scene of terror and destruction, and to show to the horror-stricken victims the fate that awaited them. How few were now left, of the many who, but a little before, inhabited our bark! While the moon yet shone, three men were seen to rush from the middle to the stern of the boat. A wave came rushing on. It passed over the deck. One only, of the three, was left. He attempted to gain his former position. Another wave came. He had barely time to reach a large timber, to which he clung, when this wave struck him, and he too was missing. As the wave passed away, the heads of two of these men were seen above the water; but they appeared to make no effort to swim. The probability is, that the violence with which they were hurled into the sea disabled them. They sunk to rise no more.
"During this time, Mr Lovegreen, of Charleston, continued to ring the boat's bell, which added if possible to the gloom. It sounded, indeed, like the funeral knell over the departed dead. Never before, perhaps, was a bell tolled at such a funeral as this. While in this situation, and reflecting on the necessity of being always prepared for the realities of eternity, our attention was arrested by the appearance of a lady, climbing upon the outside of the boat, abaft the wheel near where we were. Her head was barely above the deck on which we stood, and she was holding to it, in a most perilous manner. She implored help, without which she must soon have fallen into the deep beneath, and shared the fate of the many who had already gone. The writer ran to her aid, but was unable to raise her to the deck. Mr Woodburn, of New York, now came, and, with his assistance, the lady was rescued; she was then lashed to a large piece of timber, by the side of another lady, the only remaining place that afforded any prospect of safety. The former lady (Mrs Shroeder) was washed ashore on this piece of wreck, one of the two who survived. The writer having relinquished to this lady the place he had occupied, was compelled to get upon a large piece of the boat, that lay near, under the lee of the wheel; this was almost immediately driven from its place into the breakers, which instantly swept him from it, and plunged him deep into the water. With some difficulty he regained his raft. He continued to cling to this fragment, as well as he could, but was repeatedly washed from it. Sometimes when plunged deep into the water, he came up under it. After encountering all the difficulties that seemed possible to be borne, he was at length thrown on shore, in an exhausted state. At the time the writer was driven from the boat, there were but few left. Of these, four survived, viz. Mrs Shroeder and Mr Lovegreen, of Charleston; Mr Cohen, of Columbia; and Mr Vanderzee, of New York.
"On reaching the beach, there was no appearance of inhabitants; but after wandering some distance, a light was discovered, which proved to be from Ocracoke lighthouse, about six miles south-west of the place where the boat was wrecked. The inhabitants of the island, generally, treated us with great kindness, and, so far as their circumstances, would allow, assisted in properly disposing the numerous bodies thrown upon the shore.
"The survivors, after remaining on the island till Thursday afternoon, separated, some returning to New York, others proceeding on to Charleston. Acknowledgment is due to the inhabitants of Washington, Newbern, and Wilmington, as well as of other places through which we passed, for the kind hospitality we received, and the generous offers made to us. Long will these favours be gratefully remembered by the survivors of the unfortunate Home."
Even if the captain of the Home was intoxicated, it is certain that the loss of the vessel was not occasioned by that circumstance, but by the vessel not having been built sea-worthy.
The narrative of the loss of the Moselle is the last which I shall give to the reader. It is written by Judge Hall, one of the best of the American writers.
LOSS OF THE MOSELLE.
"The recent explosion of the steam-boat Moselle, at Cincinnati, affords a most awful illustration of the danger of steam navigation, when conducted by ignorant or careless men: and fully sustains the remark made in the preceding pages, that, 'the accidents are almost wholly confined to insufficient or badly managed boats.'
"The Moselle was a new boat, intended to ply regularly between Cincinnati and St Louis. She had made but two or three trips, but had already established a high reputation for speed; and, as is usual in such cases, those by whom she was owned and commanded, became ambitious to have her rated as a 'crack boat,' and spared no pains to exalt her character. The newspapers noticed the quick trips of the Moselle, and passengers chose to embark in this boat in preference to others. Her captain was an enterprising young man, without much experience, bent upon gaining for his boat, at all hazards, the distinction of being the fastest upon the river, and not fully aware, perhaps, of the inevitable danger which attended this rash experiment.
"On Wednesday the 25th of April, between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, this shocking catastrophe occurred. The boat was crowded with passengers; and, as is usually the case on our western rivers, in regard to vessels passing westerly, the largest proportion were emigrants. They were mostly deck passengers, many of whom were poor Germans, ignorant of any language but their own, and the larger portion consisted of families, comprising persons of all ages. Although not a large boat, there were eighty-five passengers in the cabin, which was a much larger number than could be comfortably accommodated; the number of deck passengers is not exactly known, but, as is estimated, at between one hundred and twenty and one hundred and fifty; and the officers and crew amounted to thirty, making in all about two hundred and sixty souls.
"It was a pleasant afternoon, and the boat, with steam raised, delayed at the wharf, to increase the number—already too great—of her passengers, who continued to crowd in, singly or in companies, all anxious to hurry onwards in the first boat, or eager to take passage in the fast-running Moselle. They were of all conditions—the military officer hastening to Florida to take command of his regiment—the merchant bound to St Louis—the youth seeking a field on which to commence the career of life—and the indigent emigrant with his wife and children, already exhausted in purse and spirits, but still pushing onward to the distant frontier.
"On leaving the wharf, the boat ran up the river about a mile, to take in some families and freight, and having touched at the shore for that purpose, for a few minutes, was about to lay her course down the river. The spot at which she thus landed was at a suburb of the city, called Fulton, and a number of persons had stopped to witness her departure, several of whom remarked, from the peculiar sound of the steam, that it had been raised to an unusual height. The crowd thus attracted—the high repute of the Moselle—and certain vague rumours which began to circulate, that the captain had determined, at every risk, to beat another boat which had just departed—all these circumstances gave an unusual eclat to the departure of this ill-fated vessel.
"The landing completed, the bow of the boat was shoved from the shore, when an explosion took place, by which the whole of the forepart of the vessel was literally blown up. The passengers were unhappily in the most exposed positions on the deck, and particularly on the forward part, sharing the excitement of the spectators on shore, and anticipating the pleasure of darting rapidly past the city in the swift Moselle. The power of the explosion was unprecedented in the history of steam; its effect was like that of a mine of gunpowder. All the boilers, four in number, were simultaneously burst; the deck was blown into the air, and the human beings who crowded it hurried into instant destruction. Fragments of the boilers, and of human bodies, were thrown both to the Kentucky and the Ohio shore; and as the boat lay near the latter, some of these helpless victims must have been thrown a quarter of a mile. The body of Captain Perry, the master, was found dreadfully mangled, on the nearest shore. A man was hurled with such force, that his head, with half his body, penetrated the roof of a house, distant more than a hundred yards from the boat. Of the number who had crowded this beautiful boat a few minutes before, nearly all were hurled into the air, or plunged into the water. A few, in the after part of the vessel, who were uninjured by the explosion, jumped overboard. An eye-witness says that he saw sixty or seventy in the water at one time, of whom not a dozen reached the shore.
"The news or this awful catastrophe spread rapidly through the city, thousands rushed to the spot, and the most benevolent aid was promptly extended to the sufferers—to such, we should rather say, as were within the reach of human assistance—for the majority had perished.
"The writer was among those who hastened to the neighbourhood of the wreck, and witnessed a scene so sad that no language can depict it with fidelity. On the shore lay twenty or thirty mangled and still bleeding corpses, while others were in the act of being dragged from the wreck or the water. There were men carrying away the wounded, and others gathering the trunks, and articles of wearing apparel, that strewed the beach.
"The survivors of this awful tragedy presented the most touching objects of distress. Death had torn asunder the most tender ties; but the rupture had been so sudden and violent, that as yet none knew certainly who had been taken, nor who had been spared. Fathers were inquiring for children, children for parents, husbands and wives for each other. One man had saved a son, but lost a wife and five children. A father, partially deranged, lay with a wounded child on one side, a dead daughter on the other, and his wife, wounded, at his feet. One gentleman sought his wife and children, who were as eagerly seeking him in the same crowd—they met, and were re-united.
"A female deck passenger, that had been saved, seemed inconsolable for the loss of her relations. To every question put to her, she would exclaim, 'Oh my father! my mother! my sisters!' A little boy, about four or five years of age, whose head was much bruised, appeared to be regardless of his wounds, but cried continually for a lost father; while another lad, a little older, was weeping for his whole family.
"One venerable looking man wept a wife and five children; another was bereft of nine members of his family. A touching display of maternal affection was evinced by a lady who, on being brought to the shore, clasped her hands and exclaimed, 'Thank God, I am safe!' but instantly recollecting herself, ejaculated in a voice of piercing agony, 'where is my child!' The infant, which had been saved, was brought to her, and she fainted at the sight of it.
"A public meeting was called in Cincinnati, at which the mayor presided, when the facts of this melancholy occurrence were discussed, and among other resolutions passed, was one deprecating 'the great and increasing carelessness in the navigation of steam vessels,' and urging this subject upon the consideration of Congress. No one denied that this sad event, which had filled our city with consternation, sympathy, and sorrow, was the result of a reckless and criminal inattention to their duty, on the part of those having the care of the Moselle, nor did any one attempt to palliate their conduct. Committees were appointed to seek out the sufferers, and perform the various duties which humanity dictated. Through the exertions of the gentlemen appointed on this occasion, lists were obtained and published, showing the names of the passengers as far as could be obtained, and giving the following result:—"
==============+ YKilled Y 81Y +——————-—- YBadly woundedY 18Y ——————-—-+ YMissing Y 55Y +——————-—- YSaved Y117Y ——————-—-+ Y Y266Y +==============
"As many strangers entered the boat but a few minutes before its departure, whose names were not registered, it is probable that the whole number of souls on board was not less than two hundred and eighty. Of the missing, many dead bodies have since been found, but very few have been added to the list of saved. The actual number of lives lost, therefore, does not vary much from one hundred and fifty."
The following observations are made in the Report of the Committee, relative to the tremendous force of the steam:
"Of the immense force exerted in this explosion, there is abundant evidence: still in this extraordinary occurrence in the history of steam, I deem it important to be particular in noting the facts, and for that purpose I have made some measurements and calculations. The boat was one hundred and sixteen feet from the water's edge, one hundred and ninety-two from the top of the bank, which was forty-three feet in perpendicular height above the water. The situations of projected bodies ascertained were as follows: Part of the body of a man, thrown nearly horizontally into a skiff at the water's edge, one hundred and sixteen feet. The body of the captain thrown nearly to the top of the bank, two hundred feet. The body of a man thrown through the roof of a house, at the distance of one hundred and twelve feet, and fifty-nine feet above the water's edge. A portion of the boiler, containing about sixty square feet, and weighing about four hundred and fifty pounds, thrown one hundred and seventy feet, and about two-thirds of the way up the bank. A second portion of the boiler, of about thirty-five square feet, and weighing about two hundred and forty-five pounds, thrown four hundred and fifty feet on the hill side, and seventy feet in altitude. A third portion of the boiler, twenty-one square feet, one hundred and forty-seven pounds, thrown three hundred and thirty feet into a tan-yard. A fourth portion, of forty-eight square feet, and weighing three hundred and thirty-six pounds, thrown four hundred and eighty feet into the garret of a back shop of a tan-yard; having broken down the roof and driven out the gable-end. The last portion must have been thrown to a very great height, as it had entered the roof of [sic] an angle of at least sixty degrees. A fifth portion, weighing two hundred and thirty-six pounds, went obliquely up the river eight hundred feet, and passing over the houses, landed on the side walk, the bricks of which had been broken and driven deeply into the ground by it. This portion had encountered some individual in its course, as it came stained with blood. Such was the situation of the houses that it must have fallen at an angle as high as forty-five degrees. It has been stated, that bodies of persons were projected quite across the river into Kentucky. I can find no evidence of the truth of this: on the contrary, Mr Kerr informs me that he made inquiries of the people on the opposite shore, and could not learn that anything was seen to fall farther than half way across the river, which is at that place about sixteen hundred feet wide."
I was at Cincinnati some time after the explosion, and examined the wreck which still lay on the Ohio shore. After the report was drawn up it was discovered that the force of the explosion had been even greater than was supposed, and that portions of the engine and boilers had been thrown to a much greater distance. It is to be remarked, that Mr Woodbury's report to Congress states from one hundred to one hundred and twenty persons as having been killed. Judge Hall, in the report of the committee, estimates it at one hundred and fifty; but there is reason to believe that the loss on this occasion, as well as in many others, was greater than even in the report of the committee. The fact is, it is almost impossible to state the loss on these occasions; the only data to go upon are the books in which the passengers' names are taken down when the fare is paid, and this is destroyed. In a country like America, there are thousands of people unknown to anybody, migrating here and there, seeking the Far West to settle in; they come and go, and nobody knows anything of them; there might have been one hundred more of them on board the Moselle at the time that she exploded; and as I heard from Captain Pearce, the harbour-master, and others, it is believed that such was the case, and that many more were destroyed than was at first supposed.
The American steam-boats are very different from ours in appearance, in consequence of the engines being invariably on deck. The decks also are carried out many feet wider on each side than the hull of the vessel, to give space; these additions to the deck aye called guards. The engine being on the first deck, there is a second deck for the passengers, state-rooms, and saloons; and above this deck there is another, covered with a white awning. They have something the appearance of two-deckers, and when filled with company, the variety of colours worn by the ladies have a very novel and pleasing effect. The boats which run from New York to Boston, and up the Hudson river to Albany, are very splendid vessels; they have low-pressure engines, are well commanded, and I never heard of any accident of any importance taking place; their engines are also very superior—one on board of the Narangassett, with a horizontal stroke, was one of the finest I ever saw. On the Mississippi, Ohio, and their tributary rivers, the high-pressure engine is invariably used; they have tried the low-pressure, but have found that it will not answer, in consequence of the great quantity of mud contained in solution on the waters of the Mississippi, which destroys all the valves and leathers; and this is the principal cause of the many accidents which take place. At the same time it must be remembered, that there is a recklessness—an indifference to life—shown throughout all America; which is rather a singular feature, inasmuch as it extends East as well as West. It can only be accounted for by the insatiate pursuit of gain among a people who consider that time is money, and who are blinded by their eagerness in the race for it, added to that venturous spirit so naturally imbibed in a new country, at the commencement of its occupation. It is communicated to the other sex, who appear equally indifferent. The Moselle had not been blown up two hours, before the other steamboats were crowded with women, who followed their relations on business or pleasure, up and down the river. "Go a-head," is the motto of the country; both sexes join in the cry; and they do go a-head—that's a fact!
I was amused with a story told me by an American gentleman: a steamboat caught fire on the Mississippi, and the passengers had to jump overboard and save themselves by swimming. One of those reckless characters, a gambler, who, was on board, having apparently a very good idea of his own merits, went aft, and before he leapt overboard, cried out, "Now, gallows, claim your own!"
The attention of the American legislature has at length been directed to the want of security in steam navigation; and in July, 1838, an act was passed to provide for the better security of the passengers. Many of the clauses are judicious, especially as far as the inspecting of them is regulated; but that of iron chains or rods for tiller ropes is not practicable on a winding river, and will be the occasion of many disasters. Had they ordered the boats to be provided with iron chains or rods, to be used as preventive wheel-ropes, it would have answered the purpose. In case of fire they could easily be hooked on; but to steer with them in tide-ways and rapid turns is almost impossible. The last clause, No. 13, (page 170, Report) is too harsh, as a flue may collapse at any time, without any want of care or skill on the part of the builders or those on board.
It is to be hoped that some good effects will be produced by this act of the legislature. At present, it certainly is more dangerous to travel one week in America than to cross the Atlantic a dozen times. The number of lives lost in one year by accidents in steam boats, rail-roads, and coaches, was estimated, in a periodical which I read in America, at one thousand seven hundred and fifty.
VOLUME ONE, CHAPTER FOUR.
To one who has been accustomed to the extortion of the inns and hotels in England, and the old continent, nothing at first is more remarkable than to find that there are more remains of the former American purity of manners and primitive simplicity to be observed in their establishments for the entertainment of man and horse, than in any portion of public or private life. Such is the case, and the causes of the anomaly are to be explained.
I presume that the origin of hotels and inns has been much the same in all countries. At first the solitary traveller is received, welcomed, and hospitably entertained; but, as the wayfarers multiply, what was at first a pleasure becomes a tax. For instance, let us take Western Virginia, through which the first irruption to the Far West may be said to have taken place. At first every one was received and accommodated by those who had settled there; but as this gradually became inconvenient, not only from interfering with their domestic privacy, but from their not being prepared to meet the wants of the travellers, the inhabitants of any small settlement met together and agreed upon one of them keeping the house of reception; this was not done with a view of profit, the travellers being only charged the actual value of the articles consumed. Such is still the case in many places in the Far West; a friend of mine told me that he put up at the house of a widow woman; he supped, slept, had his breakfast, and his horse was also well supplied. When he was leaving, he inquired what he had to pay, the woman replied—, "Well, if I don't charge something, I suppose you will be affronted. Give me a shilling;" a sum not sufficient to pay for the horse's corn.
The American innkeeper, therefore, is still looked upon in the light of your host; he and his wife sit at the head of the table-d'hote at meal times; when you arrive he greets you with a welcome, shaking your hand; if you arrive in company with those who know him, you are introduced to him; he is considered on a level with you; you meet him in the most respectable companies, and it is but justice to say that, in most instances, they are a very respectable portion of society. Of course, his authority, like that of the captains of the steam-boats, is undisputed; indeed the captains of these boats may be partly considered as classed under the same head.
This is one of the most pleasing features in American society, and I think it is likely to last longer than most others in this land of change, because it is upheld by public opinion, which is so despotic. The mania for travelling, among the people of the United States, renders it most important that every thing connected with locomotion should be well arranged; society demands it, public opinion enforces it, and therefore, with few exceptions, it is so. The respect shown to the master of a hotel induces people of the highest character to embark in the profession; the continual streams of travellers which pours through the country, gives sufficient support by moderate profits, to enable the innkeeper to abstain from excessive charges; the price of every thing is known by all, and no more is charged to the President of the United States than to other people. Every one knows his expenses; there is no surcharge, and fees to waiters are voluntary, and never asked for. At first I used to examine the bill when presented, but latterly I looked only at the sum total at the bottom and paid it at once, reserving the examination of it for my leisure, and never in one instance found that I had been imposed upon. This is very remarkable, and shows the force of public opinion in America; for it can produce, when required, a very scarce article all over the world, and still more scarce in the profession referred to, Honesty. Of course there will be exceptions, but they are very few, and chiefly confined to the cities. I shall refer to them afterwards, and at the same time to some peculiarities, which I must not omit to point out, as they affect society. Let me first describe the interior arrangements of a first-rate American hotel.