Part of the Burnside Expedition, the Pocahontas was loaded with 90 horses intended for the 4th Rhode Island Infantry and 25th Massachusetts when she wrecked off the North Carolina coast. She was a wooden hulled side-wheeler built in 1829 by Beacham and Gardiner in Baltimore, MD.
Illustrations from Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, February 15, 1862, Page 193
New York Times
January 29, 1862
From Our Special Correspondent.
LOSS OF THE STEAMER POCAHONTAS -- ONE HUNDRED HORSES LEFT TO PERISH.
The steamer Pocahontas, well known as a Baltimore and Chesapeake boat, which was chartered to convey horses to this point, and which had on board 113 horses, mostly belonging to the Rhode Island Fourth Regiment, went ashore in a storm on Friday night last, about twelve miles north of Hatteras, and all the horses, except 24, which swam ashore, were lost. No lives of the crew were lost. The steamer is a total wreck. During the gale she first blew out sums portion of her worthless boiler, and the grates fell down. The boiler was plugged or patched, and then the steering gear gave way. This was mended, when the smoke-pipe blew down, and as the vessel, from laboring in the sea, had sprung a leak, she was run ashore. The sending to sea of this worthless old bulk, after it was known how utterly unsafe she was with a full deck load of valuable horses and a crew of men, was most inexcusable. There was drunkenness and disorder on board. The boat is said to have been built in 1829.
Valuable horses were thrown overboard ten miles at sea, and when the vessel struck, or was near the beach, the teamsters who had charge of the horses were so careful of their own worthless carcasses, that they refused to go down on the lower deck and cut the halters of the animals, thus leaving the poor brutes to perish on the wreck, When they might nearly all have been saved. The Government ought to sift this case to the bottom, and call as witnesses the pilot of the Spaulding, and GORGE BROWN, and intelligent surfman of Long Branch, both of whom were on board. They found oats and hay on the bench, thrown ashore from the wreck of the Grapeshot.
There were, besides the crew, five carpenters on board, who test all their tools and clothing. They were hospitably received and entertained by the people near Hatteras, and arrived at Hatteras Inlet on Saturday, bringing with them the horses which had so courageously struggled through the surf and reached the shore, despite the neglect of their keepers.
TUESDAY, Jan. 21.
TWO HOURS OF CALM WEATHER!
Today affairs are progressing favorably, though slowly. The wind from the south died away, and between the hours of 10 and 12 o'clock we have actually had two hours of calm weather. The sun shown out warmly, bringing smiles and gladness to all human faces. "Now we shall have some settled weather, I think," said Capt. DACK. Deceived and deluded man! In ten minutes more it was piping from the northeast, the sky was overcast, and we had a gale in the afternoon, which has continued ever since. The Cossack and one other steamer have crossed the bar, and are where they can be made serviceable.
WEDNESDAY, Jan. 22.
The three-masted schooner Maria Pike, containing horses, is at anchor outside. This discovery relieved much anxiety which was felt for the safety of Lieut. BARNARD, who is on board, with the signal corps of some fifty men. Thus, one after the other, our vessels is making their appearance, and we shall soon be "all here." She had not got in on the 25th.
THURSDAY, Jan. 23.
A TERRIFIC GALE FROM THE NORTHEAST -- A CRY FOR WATER -- NO COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE FLEET.
The barometer yesterday went up six-tenths, indicating a "change." We thought, when affairs were as bad as they well could be, a change must be for the better; but it seems, with all our experience of bad weather, we had not yet seen the worst. Accordingly Old Boreas let out another link, or rather placed some fresh hands to the bellows, and to-day we have certainly attained the windy climax. It commenced blowing yesterday noon, and by 2 o'clock P.M. we thought the gale had culminated. Mistaken mortals! We had not been "raised hereabout," and this accounts for our inexperience. During the night the gale increased, quacking up an ugly chopping sea, and obliging all the vessels to let go both anchors and pay out all their chain. Strenuous efforts were made to get the Admiral over, but the attempt proved abortive, and during the night-tide another ineffectual trial was made. It was a fruitless contest with the elements, and she remained foundering on the "smash." Today, affairs in the harbor, are in a deplorable state. The severity of the gale prevents all communication between the vessels of the fleet. The Admiral is nearly out of water; her coal is exhausted, and no coal means no Water. A vessel with 300 troops (Massachusetts Twenty-forth) on board, within as many hundred yards of us, has her colors set in the rising. Union down. She is probably in the same condition with ourselves -- no water on board. Here comes a boat from the Cossack, covered with the feathery spray. She comes alongside of the Admiral, and the officer hands Gen. BURNSIDE a message. It is a cry for water. Six hundred troops of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Regiment on board, and six reporters, and no water -- nor whisky. The General reads the letter with moistened eyes, and frankly informs the messenger that their only resource is to go to the Southfield for it. If the gale continues there will soon be water. Water nowhere, and not a drop to drink. There are, also, fears that the Admiral may knock a hole in her by this constant pounding on the hard sand of the midway "swash."
12 o’clock and no sign of the gale abating; on the contrary, otherwise. As far as the eye can discern through the drifting mist, the bay is one broad sheet of white foam resembling a plain of newly-fallen snow. Dark clouds sweep down from the north, and, with their murky edges, seem almost to touch the vessels' masts as they go careening by, casting their gloomy shadows over the fleet, which sways and staggers under the mighty storm. A single person here and there appears on some vessel's deck, holding on by the rail or rigging, and a few scattering groups are seen, pacing the beach, as if in search of shelter from the fury of the blast. The tents of the twenty-fourth Massachusetts, which were, yesterday, pitched upon the beach, have all been swept away, and the poor soldiers must have spent a fearful night, exposed to the pelting of the pitiless storm; and yet there is a worse night before them! Beyond, where their straggling forms are seen strolling on the beach, the billows of Old Ocean break along the shore, tossing the spray from their snowy crests high into the air. It is spectacle truly grand. Camps Wool and Winfield, as well as the Rhode Island Battery, whose unsheltered horses and men were only yesterday put down on the beach, must have suffered fearfully.
Gen. BURNSIDE, who thus far has maintained his accustomed cheerfulness and resolution under all this load of responsibility, watches the careering storm from the deck of the Admiral and seems weighed down with these accumulating misfortunes. His whole concern is for the army. Occasionally he is heard to exclaim, in suppressed tones, "This is terrible." "When will the storm abate?" "The poor men, what will they do?" No one will wonder that such a man is beloved by his men. But he is not the Almighty, to say to the winds, "Be still." Nor Moses, with power to smile the rock, and bid the waters to gush forth to supply their wants. They must wait on Providence, whose ways are past finding out, and who "doeth all thing well." The General says he rests in the assurance that some wise purpose will be accomplished by these strange adversities. We are, he says, as so many grains of sand in the hands of the Almighty. They condition of NAPOLEON before Moscow, or the old Massachusetts Governor at the siege of Lewisbegh, seem only fitting parallels to his situation. Yet he seems as strong-hearted as on the day on which he set sail from Annapolis. With such a leader, let no one despair of the result. The heavens are only overcast -- the sun has not gone out.
FRIDAY, Jan. 24 -- Noon.
We have experienced a terrible night. The storm has made hoarse music among the iron cordage of the Admiral, which has continued to thump in her sandy bed until it seemed impossible for her to survive the gale. Yet she seems as staunch and tight now as ever.
The storm is broken. It wound up in a grand chorus of thunder, last night, and rain that in its grandeur resembled BYRON's storm among the Alps.
Several of the vessels have their ensigns set union down. Some of them are in the habit of hoisting a signal of distress on the slightest occasion. One vessel was visited which had this doleful emblem in her rigging, and upon inquiry the Captain reported that he had a company from Beverly on board, and than they were out of beans. Others had-no sugar to put in their tea.
The bark Voltigeur, whose crew is reported to have knocked off duty, because Quartermaster BIGGS has not come down with their pay and clothing, dragged ashore during the night, and the Spaulding has been all day trying to tow her off. The tide is very high and I fear she is a gone case. She has the Eleventh Connecticut on board, but they are in no danger. The Volliguer, at last accounts, lay high and cry on the beach, not damaged, and will come off during the next southeaster.
All evils are said to have some compensating ad vantages. The heavy gale -- the severest that has visited this coast for a long time -- has caused a high tide on the bar, and thus enabled some more vessels to pass the everlasting "swash."
The Highlander, with the right wing of the Twenty-third Massachusetts, Col. KURTZ, the salient, most musical and most philosophical of "the sons of Gideon," passed safely over the bulkhead this evening and on letting go their anchor, were greeted with rousing cheers from the left wing, which had preceded them on the Huzzar, "Blacksmith's Shop," two days before. There were reunions, music by the band, and a good time generally. This regiment has been very comfortable on board the Highlander, and have constantly beguiled the time with music and other social festivities, which have gone far too alone for the loss of home and the joys of the domestic fireside.
On Sunday there arrived the schooners Juniapta, Paton, Priscilla, S.B. Wheeler, Sarah N. Smith and J.W. Lindsay; the three-masted schooner Maria Pike was going in; the ship John Truck, with the D'Epeineuil Zouaves, was off the bar bound in; the ship Ann E. Thompson, Arrican, Kitty Simpson, and H.D. Brookman, and a Government bark, were at anchor inside.
Among the passengers from Hatteras are Mr. SHELDON, of New-York, who goes to Washington as bearer of dispatches from Gen. BURNSIDE to the President and War Department; Quartermaster LORING, and Dr. A. RAWLINGS.
Sunday was the first whole pleasant day which had been experienced at Hatteras, and affairs were progressing favorably. Several water schooners had arrived; the steam gunboat Commodore Perry came in; the tug Tempest, with Lieut. FLAGLEE, the ordnance officer of the fleet, and a more encouraging state of affairs prevailed. E.S.