The Wreck of the Evening Star.
The Wreck of the Evening Star.

The Wreck of the Evening Star

    The vessel named the Evening Star having on board some two or three hundred passengers, while out about two hundred miles from the Southern coast, encountered a severe gale, which resulted in destroying the vessel. The following is a graphic account of the scenes on board and incident to the wreck.

FERNANDINA, FLA., Oct. 9, 1866.

    Having had an interview with some of the shipwrecked seamen of the ill fated steamship Evening Star, I am enabled to lay before your readers some further details of the dreadful catastrophe, involving, as it did, the plunge of some three hundred and fifty persons into a watery grave. The ship is represented as having been somewhat injured by a previous mishap some months ago, of grounding on the Florida reefs, and needed some overhauling to "tighten her up." In the next place, the ship was sent to sea with a short complement of seamen, having but six men before the mast, when her complement was from twelve to sixteen. Her firemen were also deficient, inasmuch as she had "green" or new men at the work, who were unable to stand the hot work, and hard usage of a fireroom. I learn there had been a strike in your city recently among the coalpassers, and firemen's associations, and by agreement sixty dollars a month was demanded by them, and was refused by the owners or agent. Thereupon a number of new firemen were shipped in their stead at $40 per month, and the more experienced and costly ones dispensed with. Captain Knapp is well spoken of by all who survived the dreadful scene as a most efficient commander, and one who was fully up to his duty on this most trying occasion. His presence of mind and energies were fully up to the duties of the emergency; but alas! that you must record, to the bereaved and the desolate it all availed nothing in the fearful tempest that then raged on the deep. The storm that day (Tuesday) and throughout the succeeding night is described as one of the severest ever known on the Atlantic coast. The passengers worked faithfully with the crew in all their efforts to save the ship, and even many ladies engaged themselves to the latest moment in the desperate work, and only quailed when the fearful announcement was made by the captain that "the ship must go down!" This was indeed a most awful moment; one which no pen can justly describe. Out in mid ocean, companion to the howling tempest, the sea lashed into fury by the wind which came with the force of some solid substance; there, on a great ship, tossed and buffetted about like a child's toy or bubble on the breeze, what could they hope for in this wild commotion with only an open rowboat to bear them on? Some, with clasped hands, stood in mute despair while others raved frantically, and cried out to their companions, "Oh, save me! save!" The mother was seen to press her child closer, and the husband the wife to his bosom. Others ran from the deck into the saloons, and there bent down in some corner to await the end.
    A husband (an army officer) was seen with his devoted wife and two small children, all clasped tightly together, and there remained, even when the foaming surge of the angry waves washed through the saloon where they were kneeling, and there, in that last embrace, death claimed the faithful victims. So rapid was the closing scene of this fearful tragedy that two of the ship's boats were never loosed from the davits or moorings on deck, but went down with the ship. Two of them had been cut loose and efforts made to launch them, but one roll of the ship plunged both, with all who were near, into the yawning gulf, and the next moment returned them and shattered the frail bark into atoms against the steamer's side. Another moment and there came a billow, high-crested and furious. The devoted ship but partially lifted her stern. The shock of that wave drove through and through the saloons, and with a quiver throughout her frame she settled to starboard, and the Evening Star was gone forever.
    This was six o'clock Wednesday morning, October 3d.


    A few second's time were enough to obliterate every appearance that so gallant a ship had gone down with its hundred[s] of precious souls. Nothing, save some broken fragments of timber and here and there a few human heads served to mark the ill fated spot. Two of the life boats rested upon the waves, and towards them the eyes of drowning scores were turned. In the midst of the draft stuff, lashed about like demons of destruction, many found their death, as the severe gashes and bad bruises of the survivors bear witness. A piece of the hurricane deck and pilot house composed the only additional float on which there was the least prospect of life, and to this frail support clung a woman in the wildest energy of despair. The dead body of another woman rested lower down on a portion of the deck--another wave, and both were swept into the deep.


    Is now in earnest, at mid ocean in a raging sea, amid a mass of floating drift, that threatens each moment to give each his death blow, efforts are made to reach the life boats, in which some have secured themselves. In one of these were eleven men--the captain, a lady, five passengers and four seamen. An upset of the boat only a few minutes after the disaster lost the Captain and the lady, Capt. Knapp having been stunned by contact with the floating debris. The woman rose out of reach. At length the boats fairly under way, the one which I described with nine men having one oar, a double handful of bread, a bag and a life preserver. Without one drop of water, no compass, no sextant, no sail and at least two hundred miles from the coast of Florida. With a mast made of an oar, a canvass bag cut open for a sail which when spread out was exactly twenty by twenty-six inches; with a life preserver cut open to assist as a jib, this was the whole means of navigating the wide expanse before us, and with only a piece of plank for steering purposes. With these scanty means of subsistance and locomotion, the boat was put before the wind and with a few upsets on the crests of the seas, our little bark kept on her way, constantly shipping water in large quantities, which was bailed out with our hats and so to the end. On


our bread failed us, and our thirst increased fearfully. It was almost more than could be borne. The night of the second day, Thursday, in shipping a large sea, we had the good fortune to ship also ten small flying fish--a God send--which the men most speedily devoured, and much to their relief.


two men died from exhaustion and delirium from drinking large quantities of salt water. One of these was a Frenchmen, [sic] the other a young officer named Dickson, who said he had recently graduated at West Point Academy, and was on his way to the army in Texas. The bodies were committed to the deep early after death. On Saturday afternoon, only a few hours before making the light, another passenger died, named McKimm, whose body was retained in the boat, and at eleven o'clock p. m., on Saturday Oct. 6, we were cast ashore,


some four miles south and east of Fernandina, Florida. Another passenger was in a dying condition when we reached the shore, and being unable to move, was left in the life boat, and found dead next morning, when relief was sent to him. These bodies, neither of which could be identified from anything on the clothing, were taken in charge by the civil authorities and decently buried in the cemetery.--Herald.


Unknown, "The Wreck of the Evening Star," Huntingdon Globe, Huntingdon, Pa., Wednesday, 24 October, 1866, Page 2.

Created June 1, 2006; Revised June 1, 2006
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