COLLISION OF THE STEAMBOAT MONMOUTH AND THE SHIP TREMONT.
With strict propriety of language, we might call the awful
catastrophe about to be particularized, a massacre, a
wholesale assassination, or anything else but an accident.
In some instances, and this is one of them, a reckless disregard
of human life, when it leads to a fatal result, can claim no
distinction, on any correct principle of law or justice, from
wilful and premeditated murder.
The steamer Monmouth left New Orleans, October 231, 1837, for
Arkansas river, having been chartered by the U. S. government to
convey about seven hundred Indians, a portion of the
emigrant Creek tribe, to the region which had been selected for
their future abode. On the night of tile 30th, the Monmouth, on
her upward trip, had reached that point of the Mississippi called
Prophet Island Bend, where she encountered the ship
Tremont, which the steamer Warren was then towing down the river.
Owing partly to time dense obscurity of the night, but much more
to the mismanagement of the officers of the Monmouth, a collision
took place between that vessel and the Tremont, and such was the
violence of the concussion, that the Monmoutli immediately sunk.
The unhappy red men, with their wives and children, were
precipitated into the water; and such was the confusion which
prevailed at the time, such was the number of the drowning
people, who probably clung to each other in their struggles for
life, tbat, notwithstanding the Indians, men, women and children,
are generally expert swimmers, more than half of the unfortunate
Creeks perished. The captains and cre*s of the steamers Warren
and Yazoo, by dint of great exertion, succeeded in saving about
three hundred of the poor Indians, the remaining four hundred had
become accusing spirits before the trihunal of a just God, where
they, whose crimiual negligence was the cause of this calamity,
will certainly he held acconntable.
The cabin of the Monmouth parted from the hull, and drifted some
distance down the streatn, when it broke in two parts, and
emptied its living contents into the river. The stem of the ship
came in contact with the side of the steamer, therefore the
former received but little damage, while the latter was broken
up, to that degree that the hull, as previously stated, almost
instantly went to the bottom. The ship merely lost her cut-water.
The mishap, as we have hinted before, may be ascribed to the
mismanagement of the officers of the Monmouth. This boat
was running in a part of the river where, by the usages of the
river and the rules adopted for the better regulation of steam
navigation on the Mississippi, she had no right to go, and
where, of course, the descending vessels did not expect to meet
with any boat coming in an opposite direction. The only persons
attached to the Monmouth who lost their lives, were the
bar-keeper and a fireman.
It is not without some feeling of indignation, that we mention
the circumstance that the drowning of four hundred Indians, the
largest number of human beings ever sacrificed in a steamboat
disaster, attracted but little attention, (comparatively
speaking,) in any part of the country. Even the journalists and
news-collectors of that region, on the waters of which this
horrible affair took place, appear to have regarded the event as
of too little importance to deserve any particular detail; and
accordingly the best accounts we have of the matter merely
state the outlines of the story, with scarcely a word of
commiseration for the sufferers, or a single expression of
rebuke for the heartless villains who wantonly exposed the lives
of so many artless and confiding people to imminent peril,
or almost certain destruction.