Daily Alta California, SATURDAY MORNING, JUNE 30, 1855
(from the Crescent City Herald, June 27th.)
After the mail and express matters had come ashore, an unusual quantity of smoke issued from the vessel, and conjecture was busy for a few minutes respecting the cause. But conjecture was soon solidified into certainty. The vessel was on fire, and a scene of excitement, both on shore and at sea, followed which we have feeble powers of painting.
Lighters, boats, and canoes surrounded the fatal vessel and dotted the bay; we could see from the shore that those on board were making almost superhuman exertions to master the threatened calamity. All the soldiers who could be spared from the vessel were soon sent ashore, and in about half an hour after the extra smoke was first perceived, we could see the paddle wheels beginning to move, and this fine ship was run aground in the shallow water about one hundred and fifty yards from shore. Buckets, ladders, ropes and every thing deemed useful, were sent on board with rapidity and an energy truly surprising, and to which no praise can do justice. At times we believed that the fiery element must yield to such a mass of gigantic and united exertion; but no, the dense smoke gradually deepened and darkened, the efforts on board became feebler on account of the impossibility of them maintaining their positions, and a sheet of clear flame that tore through the black smoke, proclaimed the triumph of the destroyer. Human power was vanquished. The vessel from stem to stern was soon a mass of flame, whose brightness was painful to the eye. She was left to her fate. The greedy flame fed eagerly, and on Monday morning, a charred, smoldering and hideous skeleton was all that remained of the so lately, compact, swift and sea-worthy steamer America.
Thus has ended the career of a vessel almost new, and by far the most efficient ship that has ever sailed the Northern Pacific.
We refer our readers to the following documents which we have just received from Capt. Wright, the proprietor of the lost vessel. In addition to what is her e stated, he told us there was not a dollar of insurance on the vessel and that he estimates his loss at $140,000.
On the destruction of the America becoming certain, our City Council convened and appointed M. Wendell and S. G. Whipple of this place to wait upon the owner and commander, and to tender to them, their officers, passengers and crew the hospitalities of the city, and our readers will see with pleasure the gratifying replies the gentlemen make to our extended kindness. Capt. Jones is well known and much beloved here, and our citizens could not have exerted themselves with more hearty zeal. The boatmen gallantly did their duty in carrying off passengers and goods from the ill fated ship.
No lives were lost. It was singularly fortunate that the fire did not break out when the steamer was at sea, for such was the rapidity of the fire, the probability is that the sacrifice of human life would have been dreadful.
All the freight destined for Crescent City was safely landed.
The America was built by Wm. H. Brown, in New York, in 1853, and registered 923 tons, and was brought round Cape Horn by Capt. Mitchell. She arrived in San Francisco in 1854, and was bought by Capt. J. T. Wright, August 2d, of the same year, since which time she has been employed in the coast trade, the principal portion of the time running to Crescent City, and the balance to San Diego.
Her present officers are as follows:-- A. G. Jones, commander; J. Freborn, purser; H. A. Allen, 1st officer; Mr. Coravan, 2nd officer; C. Clayton, 1st engineer; Mr. Rose, 2nd engineer.
P. S. -- Since the above was put in type, we learn that the steamer Goliah, will be sent for to carry Major Prince and his company to their destination. On her return, we understand that the enterprising proprietor of the America, intends to raise the hull and machinery of the lost vessel.
We are also gratified to learn that he intends, if possible, to rebuild her.
May the new vessel be as good as the old one, and may the strife of fire and water in and around her, never result in the triumph of either.
Report of Capt. J. T. Wright.
The steamship America, Albert G. Jones, commander, anchored at Crescent City, on the 24th inst. At 3.20 P.M., designing to remain but a few hours to discharge freight and then proceed on her voyage to Puget's Sound.
In about 15 minutes of anchoring, discovered large quantities of smoke issuing from the coal bunkers, when the cry of fire was given. No flame could be seen, but volumes of smoke and gas enveloped the vessel so completely that it was utterly impossible to go below, and the exact location of the fire could not be ascertained.
Having a large number of troops on board, in addition to the crew of the vessel, all the pumps were manned but to no purpose, and it was deemed necessary to scuttle the ship when she filled up to her between decks, where she now lies, all her upper works entirely consumed.
Every exertion was made to save the ship. The citizens of Crescent City came promptly to our assistance and worked indefatigably, as well the troops under the command of Major Prince, U.S.A., but to no purpose.
The officers and crew of the vessel performed their duty faithfully, and worked incessantly amid the flames and suffocating gas and smoke, and never left their posts for a moment, until they were requested to do so and take to the boats.
The fire was purely accidental, and is supposed to have originated in the coal bunkers from spontaneous combustion.
The cargo of the late vessel was all saved and landed.
Owner Steamer America
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