Steamboat Desasters


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.

© Copyright by Franz Neumeier