Monday, April 23, 2012

Steamer Brewster ~ 29 November 1909

Annual Report of the Operations of the United States Life-Saving Service for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1910:

Stranded Nov. 28 on the southeast point of Inner Diamond Shoals, 7 miles south-south-east of Cape Hatteras Station, at 6.30 p.m. Vessel and cargo became a total loss, but her crew of 33 were all saved, 28 being taken off by the life saving crews, and 5, who left the vessel in their own boat, being picked up by a lightship. They were given shelter for 3 days, after which they were transferred to the revenue cutter Onandaga for transportation to Norfolk. The wreck was discovered by a surfman at Cape Hatteras Station at daybreak of the 29th, and the other stations were immediately notified by telephone. Without delay the lifesaving crews started to her assistance, the Cape Hatteras crew in lifeboat, the Hatteras Inlet crew in power lifeboat, and the Creeds Hill crew in surfboat. The Creeds Hill surfboat was disabled on the way out, and its crew was transferred to the Cape Hatteras lifeboat. Before the actual work of rescue began, however, the Creeds Hill surfmen were put aboard the Hatteras Inlet power lifeboat, the captain of the Creeds Hill crew remaining in the Cape Hatteras lifeboat, as the captain of that crew was absent on leave. The offer of the services of a private power boat to tow the Cape Hatteras lifeboat to the wreck was accepted, haste being necessary, as the weather was becoming very rough. The seas were breaking over the vessel fore and aft, and it was therefore out of the question to board her, so the lifeboat was anchored as near as possible to leeward and the Brewster’s crew drifted a line to her by a buoy. By means of this line the seamen were hauled into the lifeboat one at a time. After 10 or 12 had reached the lifeboat they were transferred to the power lifeboat, which remained near by, and then another boat load was taken off and transferred in the same manner. When the entire ship’s company had been taken off, the power lifeboat, with 16 of the rescued party, started for Hatteras Cove with the Cape Hatteras lifeboat in tow, which had the remaining 12 seamen on board. Counting the 5 men who were later taken from the lightship, the Cape Hatteras crew cared for 21 at their station. The other 12 were taken to Creeds Hill Station. The latter were furnished dry clothing. Before the work had been completed the wind increased to a gale from the northwest and the sea became very high. At one time the Hatteras Inlet power lifeboat had 41 men on board. (See letters of acknowledgment.)


SIR: We the undersigned, members of the German steamer Brewster, stranded on Diamond Shoals, beg to express our appreciation of the gallant conduct of the crews of the Cape Hatteras, Creeds Hill, and Hatteras Inlet Life-Saving Stations in rescuing us from the above-named vessel on the morning of the 29th of November, 1909, in a very heavy surf, and under exceptional circumstances. We must say that their conduct on this occasion is worthy of the Greatest praise, and the manner in which the rescue was carried out worthy of American seamen. We also thank them for the kindness ad hospitality extended to us while at the life-saving stations, and assure you that we will never forget same. F. HINE, Master ; W. DUHRING, Chief Engineer ; H. CLAKSEN, Second Officer ; O. WALAAS, Supercargo

BUXTON, N.C., December 3, 1909

SIR: We, the undersigned citizens of Cape Hatteras, Dare County, State of North Carolina, having witnessed the rescue of the captain and crew of the steamship Brewster, of the Hamburg and German line (wrecked on Diamond Shoals on November 29, 1909, during a fierce northeast gale and a very high and dangerous sea), by the acting keeper and crew of the Cape Hatteras Life-Saving Station and the keeper and two of the crew of the Creeds Hill station, believe this to be one of the bravest acts of heroism ever accomplished by the Life-Saving Service. The position of the ship, and the skillful way in which the lifeboat was managed in rescuing all on board demands our recognition. And for the promotion of the Life-Saving Service, and the encouragement of the keepers and crews, we respectfully ask as a matter of justice to said acting keeper and crew of the Cape Hatteras Life-Saving Station and the keeper and two of the crew of Creeds Hill station, that they be awarded medals of gold. Trusting that this letter will meet your favorable consideration, we remain. Yours, very respectfully, C.H. GRAY, United States Commissioner ; C.C. Miller, Notary Public ; F.P. WILLIAMS ; O.M. SCARBOROUGH

HATTERAS, N.C., December 4, 1909

DEAR SIR: Referred to the wreck of the steamship Brewster on Diamond Shoals, November 29, I beg to recommend to your favorable notice the crew of the Cape Hatteras Life-Saving Station and Capt. E.H. Peel, of the Creeds Hill station, for their heroic action in saving the crew of this steamship on the date mentioned. I was out to the shoals on the day mentioned fishing from a power boat, and after the Cape Hatteras crew started to the stranded ship I took them in tow and brought them as near the ship as I dared to go. I remained near the vessel until the crew was taken off, and saw all the difficulties under which the life savers worked; also, their strenuous and heroic struggle against adverse conditions which were at times almost impossible to overcome. The wind was blowing heavy at the time, and the constantly rising sea made it look as though it would be impossible to save the men. I have had experience at surfing all my life, ad I can not speak too highly of these brave men. I wish to add my voice in praise of their noble work. Very respectfully, H.L. Gaskill

U.S. Coast Guard Award:

E. H. Peel
B.B. Miller

Awarded 6 December 1911

On 6 December 1911 E. H. Peel, keeper of Creeds Hill (N. C.) Life-Saving Station and B.B. Miller, Surfman No. 1 and acting keeper of the Cape Hatteras (N. C.) Life-Saving Station, each received the Gold Lifesaving Medal for their assistance in rescuing the crew of the German steamer Brewster. The vessel wrecked on Inner Diamond Shoals (NC) on the evening of 28 November 1909. She struck on the southeast point of the shoals 7 miles south-southeast of the Cape Hatteras Life-Saving Station. The vessel, along with its cargo, became a total loss, but the entire crew of 33 persons were saved. Members of the Life-Saving Service took off twenty-eight of the crew. The other five left the steamer in a ship’s boat and were picked up by the crew of a lightship.
     A surfman from the Cape Hatteras Station discovered Brewster on the shoals at daybreak of 29 November. Three life-saving crews the Cape Hatteras crew under oars in a lifeboat, the Hatteras Inlet crew in a power lifeboat, and the Creeds Hill crew under oars in a surfboat, put off to her assistance. On the way out the heavy seas seriously damaged the surfboat and her crew was compelled to take to the two other boats. Keeper Peel went aboard the lifeboat. From here he and B. B. Miller, acting keeper of the Cape Hatteras crew, jointly directed the ensuing rescue work.
     When the lifesavers arrived at the wreck, the seas were breaking clear over her, at times hiding her from view. As it was impossible to board her, the lifeboat crew ventured in as close as possible under her lee. There, they dropped their anchors, while the powerboat stood by ready to lend any needed assistance. The steamer’s crew tied a line to a buoy and let it drift down to the lifeboat. The seamen were individually hauled into the rescuers’ boat by this line. After a dozen persons had been transferred, they were placed aboard the powerboat. A second boatload of 16 persons, all who remained on the wreck, was likewise taken off. Several of them were also passed to the powerboat.
     Before the rescue was completed, however, the gale became so violent that it jeopardized those in the lifeboat. The two boats with their load of 53 persons reached shore, however, without accident. In addition to these Gold Lifesaving Medals, the gallant work of Peel and Miller, along with their respective crews, was rewarded by the German Government.

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