New York Times
January 3, 1866
WRECK OF THE CONSTITUTION.
DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE DISASTER BY THE CAPTAIN OF THE STEAMER.
THE SHOALS OF CAPE LOOKOUT STRUCK DURING A DENSE FOG.
FAILURE OF ALL ATTEMPTS TO REACH THE SHORE IN BOATS.
A FEW OF THE PASSENGERS AND CREW SAVED ON RAFTS.
NAMES OF THE SAVED AND THOSE SUPPOSED TO BE LOST.
Capt. GREENMAN, late master of the steamship CONSTITUTION, wrecked on Cape Lookout shoals, arrived at this port last evening from Morehead City, N.C., in the steamer Louisa Moore, and makes the following statement:
Saturday, Dec. 23d, 11:30 A.M. -- Left the dock at Savannah with a cargo of 728 bales of cotton, a crew of 33 men, 10 cabin passengers, 3 steerage, and six men found stowed away after leaving, in all 52 souls; passed Tybee Bar 2 P.M., wind blowing a gale from northeast; at 4 P.M. bore up for Port Royal harbor where we anchored at 6 P.M. in company with steamers San Salvador and Lee, wind still blowing a gale and weather looking bad.
Dec. 24, 6 A.M. -- Got underway, and proceeded to sea. Wind light from southwest, with a heavy sea running from southeast. Ship going about nine knots, and rolling badly. 5 P.M. The packing from joint of steam pipe blew out; blew off steam and repaired it, causing a delay of three hours.
Dec. 25, 4 A.M. -- Passed lightship, supposed to be on Cape Fear shoals, but found her to be about eight miles to the westward, in fifteen fathoms water. At 5 A.M. got soundings on the shoals in 10 fathoms; 6 A.M., sounding in 15 fathoms to the eastward of the shoals, at which time the steam pipe gave out, caused by the rolling of the ship; blew off steam to repair the pipe and secure the boiler which was working some; got under way again at 10:30 P.M.; steam pipe still leaking, and engineer reported it not safe to carry more than 10 inches of steam. It being foggy through the day, could get no observation, and the ship not having steerage way part of the time, could not keep a correct fun of her; but to the best of my judgment made the end of Cape Fear shoals to bear S.W. by S. 40 miles, and Cape Lookout Shoals N. E. by E. 45 miles distant. Steered E.N.E. At 12 midnight got soundings in 20 fathoms; ship running at the rate of seven miles per hour, with nine inches steam.
Dec. 26, 1 A.M. -- Got 20 fathoms. 2 A.M., 17 fathoms, steering same course. At 2:30 A.M., ship struck on what proved to be the outer shoals of Cape Lookout, judging myself to be at the time we struck about 14 miles to the westward, and had been steering E.N.E., which would have cleared us of the shoals; in four hours after going on, ship was full of water; made every effort to get her off, but was unsuccessful.
At daylight 27th a dense fog prevailed, and being in the midst of the breakers, it was too rough to launch the boats without immediately filling. Called all hands and organized boats crews. One boat I put in charge of Capt. FRENCH, a passenger; another to Capt. LANE, a passenger; another in charge of the mate; and taking charge of the remaining one myself, and had everything ready to leave when the sea moderated, or in case the ship showed any signs of breaking up.
10 A.M. Cut away the foremast. 5 P.M. Fog cleared off with a light breeze, from northwest, and every indication of a pleasant night, the sea still running too high to launch a boat with any degree of safety; called a consultation of the passengers, all of whom preferred to stay by the wreck than to take to the boats. I also gave permission to any of the boats to leave, but none would risk it. At midnight the wind commenced breezing from the southward and the sea to increase; the ship swung two points to the eastward and began to show signs of breaking up; ordered the boats to be launched; my boat was launched successfully, but immediately filled; requested some of the passengers to take her, but all refused, and the boat, after lying alongside a short time, broke adrift; the crews at the same time attempted to launch the other boats, but they were stove by the sea, which was now breaking fiercely over us, and the ship breaking up very fast. The only chance now left to save ourselves was by clinging to pieces of the wreck or cotton bales.
At 4 A.M. of the 27th the whole side fell in, with a large number of the crew and passengers clinging to it, all of whom were thrown into the sea. The next sea that came carried the forecastle with it, and on which I was standing with several others. After being in the water a few minutes I succeeded in getting on a piece of timber where there were three others, after being washed off it several times; saw another raft, which I hailed, and found the second mate and steward on it. I swam for it, and succeeded in getting to it, calling for my companions to follow me, two of whom reached in safety, the other going down before he could get to it. Could see a number around us; hailed for the mate; he answered that he was on a raft all right. At daylight, 28th, could see two rafts, with men on them, drifting to the N.E. At 12 o'clock could discern the lighthouse on Cape Lookout.
5 P.M. saw a boat coming toward us, which proved to be the boat that was lost from alongside and had been picked up by four of the crew. After getting into her we succeeded in picking up two passengers; cruised around the vicinity of the wreck for some time but could find no others. Started for the beach, but finding it too rough to land, lay by for the night; next morning succeed in reaching Cape Lookout, where we landed at 8 P.M. Dec. 28, after being on the raft and in the boat forty hours. After arriving at the Cape, dispatched a boat to Beaufort to get some steamer to go out and cruise. At daylight the steamers Goliah and Corman went out, the latter shortly after broke down and returned, the Goliah came back in the afternoon without success. Have heard nothing since of the others."
The Names Of The Lost.
The following are the names of the passengers lost as near as can be ascertained:
MISS LAND, residence unknown.
CAPT. SHERWOOD, of Savannah.
CAPT. FRENCH, of New York.
CAPT. LANE, of Brigatine.
MR. FITZGERALD, of Savannah Daily Herald.
DANE BIGGS, of Philadelphia.
ANTONY FRENCH, engineer of steamer Indian River.
MR. HAYDEN, of Hartford.
Three other cabin passengers, one small girl, three steerage and six stowaways, names unknown.
List Of Crew Supposed Lost.
C. W. GREENMAN, Mate.
WM. TILTZ, Chief Engineer.
W. J. CROCHERON, Purser.
CAPT. KING, Savannah, Pilot.
EDWD. BAILY, oiler.
DANL. McNEAL, seaman.
JOHN FITZGERALD, seaman.
ANDREW BURK, second steward.
EDWARD READ, pantryman.
MR. READ, mailer, brother to EDWARD.
Three Mailers, Second Cook, Stewardess, Two Coal-Passers, One Fireman, names unknown.
The following are the names of passengers and crew saved.
Passengers -- MR. W. P. LONG, of New York; RALPH LEWIS, engineer of steamer Indian River.
Crew -- WILLIAM GREENMAN, Master; EDW. COTTER, second mate, of Boston; ROBERT L RAY, steward, New York; CALEB P. BORLEY, second engineer, New York; JOHN BORLEY, third engineer, New York; LEWIS SAMSON, New York, carpenter; PETER MURPHY, fireman; ROBERT ERWIN, fireman; CHARLES LEWIS, seaman; C. WRIGHT, seaman; JOHN NELSON, seaman; BENJAMIN BUSH, seaman.
CAPT. GREENMAN wishes to return his thanks, on behalf of himself and crew, for the kind treatment received at the lighthouse on Cape Lookout and at Beaufort. Also to CAPT. PHILLIPS and officers of the steamer Louisa Moore, which brought them to this port.