Cherokee Phoenix


Published July, 8, 1829

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Seldom indeed has it become our duty to record so distressing a calamity as that which has befallen the United States Steam Ship Robert Fulton, and used as a Receiving Vessel, under the command of Captain J. T. Newton. About a quarter past two o'clock on Thursday afternoon, her magazine took fire, containing 4000 lbs. of powder,* and she blew up with a tremendous explosion, having been made a complete wreck, with the loss of 22 persons killed, and 19 wounded three of whom have since died, and among the number, we lament to state, is that promising and meritorious young officer Lieut. S. M. BRECKENBRIDGE.

The particulars of this afflicting disaster, as we have them from several officers belonging to the ship, some of whom were on board when the accident occurred and a0s corroborated (in part) by the testimony given before the Corner's Inquest, are as follows:- A short time before the explosion, Mr. Williams, the Gunner, who had been appointed to that office only a day or two previous, asked permission of Lieut. Platt to go into the Magazine. Lieut. P. ordered a sentry to stand at the Magazine, scuttle, and directed that no light be carried into the powder room. This was separated from the 'light room' by a double partition, and it was in the latter only that a light was permitted to be carried. It is stated by a midshipman that immediately before the explosion, he perceived a smoke rising from the gang-way leading to the magazine, and had just time to speak of it to a shipmate, when the accident occurred. From this it is inferred that there must have been loose powder on the floor of the light-room, and that in some way, unknown to any persons now living, the fire was communicated.

At the moment of the explosion, the higher officers were at dinner, and Mrs. Breckenbridge, the lady of Lieut. B. was with them. Lieut. Mull, who was of the number, and who has strangely escaped almost unhurt, states, that he was thrown about ten feet. A midshipman who was sitting on the gun-deck tell us that a mizzen mast was taken from its step and tossed quite into the air, after which it fell upon whatever remained upon the poop-cabin and stern-works. Not a mast remains standing; not a foot of rigging; many of the guns are overboard; and the main part of the stern is entirely demolished.- The interior, (for it is completely laid open) present a picture of confusion which it is impossible to describe. In short, the whole structure is a complete wreck, and will never be worth repairing. Were it at sea instead of resting, as it does, upon the ground, we doubt if it would keep afloat for five minutes.- Journal of Commerce.