Memorial to Congress
By the Life-Saving Benevolent Association of New York, asking for an appropriation by that body for the saving of life from wrecked and stranded vessels on our Coast.
TO THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITES STATES IN CONGRESS ASSEMBLED
That your memorialists were chartered on the 19th of March last, wholly for charitable and benevolent objects, and its funds are solely derived from the donations of friendly disposed persons; that it has been organised; its duties are performed by officers without salaries, and its managers are chiefly merchants or persons in some way connected with commerce; that hitherto its efforts have been directed towards the saving of life from shipwrecked vessels, and vessels in distress.
That this Association acted with Mr. George Watts in recently locating on Long Island and on Fisher’s Island, boat-houses, and superintending the outlay of $10,000 appropriated
by Congress at the last session, with which ten houses have been built, and Metallic Boats and Life Cars and sundry other articles purchased therefor.
That in order to build one more house on Watch Hill, (near the dividing line between Connecticut and Rhode Island,) and eight more on Long Island, and to furnish them with Francis’ Metallic boats, cars, carronades, hawsers, lines and other suitable articles, and also to add certain articles which are deficient in the ten already constructed, the further appropriation of the sum of $19,000 is needed, and your memorialists respectfully ask that a sufficient appropriation may be made by Congress to complete the before mentioned facilities for saving life from wrecked and stranded vessels.
Your memorialists further represent that during the year 1838, 25,581 passengers entered the port of New York by the way of Sandy Hook from foreign ports, that the number has been increased every succeeding year, and that during the last year the number arrived, as reported at the emigration office, and other reliable sources, reached the astonishing number of 221,799, showing an increase of eight times in eleven years.
Your memorialists further represent that humanity, benevolence, and the interests of the United States, require that all suitable and proper protection, to the lives of such an immense number of persons entering this port, shall be protected.
Your memorialists further represent that within the last three months, than vessels have been stranded within short distance of three boat-houses, built with the funds heretofore appropriated by the liberality of the government. The first was the steamer Eudora, bound from New York to California, with passengers, stranded near Absecum. The government Metallic Life Surf Boat near that place was most successfully used in saving both the crew and passengers in the month of November last.
The next was an emigrant ship called the Ayrshire, with 201 passengers, stranded in a snow storm on Squam Beach, on the shore of New Jersey, on the 18th of last month. The gale was so violent no open boat could approach or leave the ship. The cannonade provided by government was brought to the beach, two shots were fired with lines attached; the violence of the gale carried the first to the leeward of the ship. The second shot carried and fastened the line to the ship; with it a larger line was soon hauled off, and subsequently the Metallic Life Car was hauled through the terrific and foaming surf to the ship; in the Life-car embarked from two to four persons at a time, and with another line the loaded car was hauled to the shore, with its load of passengers tightly enclosed within it, through the surf, and safely landed.
On the first day 120 persons were landed unharmed, with one single exception, which, as the last car left the ship at night, he, an anxious passenger, on the outside, contrary to orders, thinking that he could thus land in safety; unfortunately, as was foreseen, the surf immediately washed him off and he was lost. The next morning, the remaining passengers were landed in like manner. During the time no open boat could reach or land from the ship.
More recently, the British ship Constitution, with passengers, got on shore at Moriches, and landed by the Metallic Life Boat, and the boa house, then hardly finished, was resorted toby the wreck-master; no other shelter exited, and thus a large number of passengers, consisting partly of women and children, where sheltered from the severity
of the cold, which was so intense that it is reported that a number would have probably perished had no place of shelter been provided. Your memorialists, therefore, respectfully ask that the further sum of twenty thousand dollars may be appropriated by Congress for the purposes referred to, to be expended under the supervision of the Secretary of the Treasury, and a committee of this Association.
Walter R. Jones,
Pres. of the Life Sav. Beno.
Assoc. of New York
B. McEvers, V. President.
Robert C. Goodhue, Treasurer.
John D. Jones, Secretary.
Signed by Brown, Berther & Co., Spofford, Tilleston & Co.,
Horland & Aspinwall, Moses H. Grinnell,
Boormann, Johnston & Co., Francis Skiddy,
A.B. Neilson, Hugh Maxwell,
Chas. H. Marshall, D.S. Kennedy,
Robt. B. Minturn, And many others
Secretary of Treasury.
Extract from the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Treasury to Congress, 1850.
“Measures have been taken promptly to execute the design of Congress in providing for the security of life and property on the sea coast. Francis’ Metallic Life Boats, with the
usual fixtures, designed for five points on the coast of Florida, and three for Texas, have been contracted for.
Like facilities, with the addition of mortars, shot, rockets, and station houses, have been authorised along the shores of Long Island, including a station at Watch Hill, in Rhode
The Metallic Boats referred to are to be similar to those now on the coast of New Jersey and Long Island, provided for by Congress under an appropriation in 1848.
Treasury Department, March 8th, 1851.
Sir, It having been determined by the Department to substitute in future Francis’ Metallic Boats for the wooden boats now in use for revenue purposes, no further repairs will be
sanctioned on such boats. When the boat at your port is deemed unfit for further use, without repairs, you will so advise the department, giving the length, , breadth and depth of said boat, when her place will be supplied with the metallic boat above referred to.
Very respectfully, your obdt. servt.,
Secretary of the Treasury.
To Collectors of the Customs
and Captains of the Revenue Cutters.
Letter from A. D. Bache, Supt. Coast Survey.
Coast Survey Office,
Washington, April 17, 1852.
Sir, I have the honour to present for your consideration, a report from Charles H. McBlair, U. S. Navy, Assistant in the Coast Survey, on the necessity for Life Boats in the region of the operations of his party, in the Coast Survey, including part of the coast of Massachusetts. My own views coincide entirely with those expressed by Lieut. McBlair.
Your Obdt. Servt,
Signed, A. D. Bache,
Superintendent of Coast Survey.
Hon. Thomas Corwin,
Secretary of the Treasury.
Report of Lieut. Chas. H. McBlair Coast Survey Office,
Washington, April 17th, 1862.
Sir, I have just learned that the Hon. Secretary of the Treasury is preparing his estimates (to be presented on Monday) of the number and cost of the Francis Life-Boats thought
necessary along our coast. I beg leave, in connection with this subject, to call your attention to the following several localities, where boats of this description are required.
1. That part of the coast of Massachusetts lying between Cape Cod and Monomoy Point.
2. The east coast of Nantucket Island.
3. Some points on the north side of the island of “ No Man’s Land.”
The great stream of commerce pouring into Massachusetts Bay, converges near the first locality cited, and our N. E. storms are attended, perhaps on no part of the coast, with more frequent and terrible disasters than in this quarter. The “Humane Society of Massachusetts” have already testified their sense of the dangers of this navigation, and extended all the comfort and succor in their power to the wrecked seamen, by erecting lodges and sign posts along the shore, to shelter and direct them.
This line of coast extends between the points indicated, about thirty-three miles, and I would recommend the establishment of three boats placed at equal distances apart, as likely to be sufficient for any exigency. Near Nantucket Island, the ocean is strewed with dangerous shoals, rendered still more formidable to the navigation by fogs and rapid currents. Every succeeding year new histories of wrecks and suffering are recorded as having taken place in the neighbourhood, and I would therefore suggest, that one boat be stationed at Leascausett, as the nearest available point to the field of danger. The island of “No Man's Land” stands near the point of conveyance of the trade, passing into Buzzards Bay and Marthas Vineyard Sound, and traders on the passage to the Nantucket shoals, lying to the southward of the island of Marthas Vineyard. Within eighteen months two vessels have been wrecked on the shores of “ No Man’s Land,” in one of which every one of the crew perished. An eye witness of the more disastrous of those wrecks informed me that the inhabitants, gathered on a projecting rock, were left to gaze passively upon the dying struggles of the unfortunate crew, wasting nearly the entire day without being able to extend any aid whatever, while, had the island been furnished with a Life-boat, not a life would have been lost. I state these facts to show the urgent necessity of providing without delay, the enterprising fishermen occupying this island with the proper means of extending relief on similar occasions hereafter. To recapitulate, I would respectfully recommend the following Life-boats: Three on the east coast of Massachusetts, between Cape Cod and Monomoy Point; one at Leascausett (island of Nantucket) and one at “ No Man’s Land ” (island) My recommendations on this subject are of course confined to that part of the coast lying in the neighbourhood of the survey operations of my party, and with whose wants in this respect I am thus rendered more familiar. I cannot, however, doubt that a system of Life-boats which would embrace our whole sea coast with one continuum cordon, would fulfil a most beneficent purpose, and in conducing to the safety of life and property, would only be inferior in importance to the Light Houses, Beacons, and other aids to navigation, which it is the policy of the government to establish.
Very respectfully, Your Obdt. Servt.
Signed, Charles H. McBlair.
Prof. A.D.Bache, Lieut. U.S.N.,Asst. C.S.
Supt. Coast Survey, Washington
Report of the Secretary of the Treasury.
Treasury Department, }
April 20th, 1852. }
Sir, I have the honour to report that, of the appropriations of 28th and 30th September, 1850, of ten thousand dollars each, made by Congress for the locating of Life-boats on the coast of the United States, the sum of $10,000 has been expended in pursuance of the law, under the direction of the Life Saving Benevolent Association of New York, by authority of this Department, in the building of boat-houses, purchase of boats and Lifecars and other articles for saving of life and property from shipwreck on the coast of Long Island, Fisher’s Island and at Watch Hill in Rhode Island; and that of the remaining ten thousand dollars, the sum of $8,534 has been expended on portions of the coast of North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Texas. The balance of the appropriation, amounting to $1,486, will be consumed in the erection of houses for the preservation of the boats and appurtenances already located.
The reports received by the Department show that many hundred persons have been rescued from imminent peril from shipwrecked vessels, by means of these boats located at different points, a large portion, if not all of whom, would probably have perished but for the means of safety thus placed at command under the authority of Congress. Much property, that otherwise would have been lost, has also been saved through the instrumentality of these boats, and the duties accruing thereon paid to the Government.
There are numerous applications, from different points, for the location of similar boats, and many places along our extensive sea coat where they would be advantageously placed, and would, in all probability, be the means of saving many valuable lives, and much property, and the Department would, therefore, session, a further appropriation of twenty thousand dollars for this purpose. The Department has adopted the plan of having all the boats made of Galvanised Iron, which possesses not only the advantage of much greater durability than wood, and consequently much less expensive in point of repairs, but also that they are always in a proper state for immediate service, which would not be the case with wooden boats after laying for months in a boat-house, by which their timbers and sheathing become warped or cracked, and their seems opened.
I am, dear sir, &c.,
Sec’y of the Treasury,
To Hon. Linn Boyd
Speaker House Rep.
Edwin Dennis, Wreck Master,
Long Branch, N. J., May 8th, 1852.
Mr. Joseph Francis:
Dear Sir, I take this opportunity to write about your “Metallic Life-boats.” I have used them at wrecks, and think they are the best boats I ever saw for hard work. They are always tight and very lively in the surf. I used one at the ship Argo, down on long Island; also at the schooner Splendid, we took off the cargo, consisting of heavy casks of brandy and boxes of dry-goods, which we rolled into the boat anyhow, just as it happened, without any fear of breaking timbers or starting butts. The people on the ship said we would tear the boat all to pieces, but I told them she was all iron, and they might throw in the boxes as they saw fit and I would risk any harm. I had used them before and knew that they could not make them leak.
I have seen many cases along on our beach, when, if I had had your Metallic Life-boats, I could have saved a great many lives. It is very often the cue, when a vessel strikes our shores, that she breaks up quick, and then there is no chance to get a wooden boat through the floating broken plank and timbers where there is so many spikes and bolts.
I think a great deal of these Metallic boats and Life-cars. It is the best thing that the Government ever done to place these along our coast to save life. There was a brig on shore at Long Branch, last winter, and had it not been for the mortar and Life-car the crew would have perished. I think the Government should appoint some good man to take care of these houses and boats, so that when the boats and rigging were used at a wreck they could be put away again, and kept in good order, which now is not always the case. At present, however, at our station, they are ready for immediate use at a moment’s notice, and this should be so at all the stations.
I remain yours truly, &c,
Capt. Edwin Dennis,
Wreck Master, Long Branch, N. J.
From R.C. Holmes, Esq.,
The Wreck of the Eudora—The Metallic Surf Boat.
Cape May Court House, Nov. 17, 1849 11 P. M.
Lieut. John McGowan :
Dear Friend,—I am jut off the beach, Ludlam’s, immediately opposite the boathouse, where there is a large steamer ashore, the Eudora, from New York, bound to California.
Knowing your desire to hear how the Metallic Surf-boats work, it affords me great satisfaction to acquaint you. I landed all the passengers this day and their baggage, through a heavy northeast surf, without difficulty. My men remarked, “It was only fun to play in the breakers with her.” She is the finest thing I have ever seen for the purpose for which she is intended, and does the inventor great credit. I have acquainted Mr. W. R. Jones, of New York, with her performance.
I am, very truly yours, in haste,
(Signed,) R.C. Holmes,
Collector of Customs
New York, Dec. 3, 1849.
Walter R. Jones, Esq.,
President of the Board of Underwriters, New York:
Dear Sir, While landing the cargo of the steamer Eudora, ashore on Ludlam’s Beach, Cape May, I had the honour to address you, though hastily, and inform you, that the crew, passengers and their baggage, had been landed through the surf with safety, in one of the Government Metallic Life Surf-boats, under my care. Permit me, now that I have more leisure, (the cargo and passengers being again back to New York) to perform an agreeable duty to the government, Mr. Francis, the manufacturer, and Lieut. John McGowan, under whose care they were erected, and state more fully the performance of the Metallic Life Surf-boats, that they may be better known, more appreciated, and more extensively adopted along our dangerous coast. With these boats properly managed and manned, it appears to me there can be little danger of loss of life by shipwreck. They will live in almost any surf; and it must indeed be a terrific storm when a stranded vessel can not be boarded by them. If they are not entirely proof to the waves, nothing has ever been made to outlive them. They are strong, light, lively, and are so constructed that they will carry their crews when full of water. When kept head or stern to the sea, they cannot be filled or swamped. Our boatmen have so much confidence in them, and consider them so entirely safe, that the difficulty of obtaining crews to man them is no longer considered. The surf must be indeed terrible when these boats, which we now have, cannot go in safety. In my district there are six Metallic Life-boats and six Life-cars, with houses and apparatus, all of which the government have furnished. They are about eight miles apart, and kept in constant readiness. All being of metal, are always ready for instant use.
I have the honour to be, dear sir,
Truly, your Obdt. Servt.,
R. C. Holmes,
Collector of Customs.
Sag Harbour, May 17th, 1852.
Walter R. Jones, Esq,
President of the Life Saving Benevolent Association:
Sir, I presume you will be pleased to hear of any good service rendered by the use of the Life-boats, &c., stationed on our coast. The brig Marcellus recently stranded at Montauk was saved by means of the Metallic Life-boat, in the following manner: The vessel lost her boats, and there being no other boats to be had, the Life-boat was used to put a gang of men on board, who landed considerable of her cargo of molasses on the beach, and then, circumstances favouring, they succeeded in heaving the vessel off: there was neither provisions nor water on board; the men were unwilling to attempt getting her in port, so the Life-boat was man’d and they were furnished with the necessary articles, (there was a tremendous sea running at the time). Sail was made on the vessel and they got her safe into port; they took the Life-boat with them,and returned her again to the station as soon as possible, uninjured The boat is spoken of as being a first-rate one, and were the boats provided with organised crews, it would be rare to hear of the loss of life, and much property would in consequence be saved.
Respectfully, your obdt. servt,
(Signed,) J. N. Schillinger
Wm. R. Knight, Boarding Officer, Belize.
Belize Boarding Station, March 20th, 1852.
To Joseph Francis, Esq,
Respected Sir, Agreeable to your request, respecting the peculiarities of your splendid Metallic Boat, I beg leave very respectfully to report as follows :' I take particular pleasure in informing you, that after giving her a fair trial, I feel proud to say, she answers every purpose for which she was intended. She pulls, tows and sails well, and in fact she is perfectly safe, just such a boat as we stood in need of; she is far superior to either of the other boats that have been sent out here. She has been much admired by those that call themselves good judges. I take pride in informing you that she is built very much to my entire satisfaction, as I feel assured she will answer every purpose for which she was intended.
N. B. Dear sir, there is one thing I beg leave to call your particular attention to: You have sent out 15 feet oars with the boat; the boat requires 17 feet oars, as we have a strong current of the old Mississippi to pull against; we find also that the mast and sail is also too small by one-half; but those things are nothing, as the boat's crew can very soon alter the above.
Wishing you every success,
I am truly, very respectfully,
Your obdt. servt,
Wm. R. Knight,
Boarding Officer, Belize, La.
Belize Boarding Station, May 5th:, 1852.
Mr. Joseph Francis:
Respected Sir, Yours of the 19th of April has this moment come to hand. Agreeable to your request, I have given our worthy Collector a full description of your Metallic Lifeboat, and strongly recommended her to the Hon. the Secretary of the Treasury, and I have made a strong report in favour of your Metallic Surf-boat, in preference to wood boats, on this station. In justice to you I think them myself far superior to the boats we have had on this station. Previous to receiving your kind favour of the 19th of last month I had made my views known to Geo. C. Lawrason, Esq., our Collector for this port, and you may rest assured he will forward the same to the Hon. the Secretary of the Treasury at Washington. Strongly recommending your boat, I do nothing but what you are entitled to; it certainly is a very great improvement, and I hope you will be successful in all your undertakings.
Wishing you all happiness, and hope this will find you in the enjoyment of excellent health, &c., &c.
I am very truly and very respectfully,
Your obedt servt,
Wm. R. Knight,
Boarding Officer, Belize, La
Selah Strong.-Fire Island Light.
Fire Island, 14th April, 1852.
Dear Sir, I am in receipt of your favour of the 2d March, inquiring of me how your Metallic Life Boat worked in landing passengers of the Constantine.
Immediately on discovering the wreck, I manned the boat with six oarsmen, was fortunate in procuring good men, the sea was terrific, and the least error in management would in all probability have found us all a watery grave.
I am pleased to say that the boat worked admirably, and that I consider her superior to any surf boat in existence, and will add that such is the prevailing opinion here of those who are used to the ocean.
I boarded the Minerva, wrecked off Oak Island, in 1850; many believed it impossible for us to reach the vessel, owing to the extreme roughness and heavy swell; it did appear impossible for any boat to live, yet she worked beyond our most sanguine expectations.
The principle of surf boats and station houses along our coast, is an excellent one; their present management, in detail, I deem bad; government should appoint a qualified man to take charge of each boat, with power, in extreme cases, to employ men and fairly remunerate them for services rendered.
Very truly yours,
(Signed) Selah Strong,
Keeper Fire Island Light.
Joseph Francis Esq
Simpson P. Moses.
Custom House, Dist. Puget’s Sound, Olympia, Oregon
Hon. Thomas Corwin, March, 13th, 1852.
Secy. of the Treasury:
Sir, I deem it my duty to express my opinion of the two boats in the revenue service in this district. They are both metal boats, one copper and the other galvanised iron, constructed by Joseph Francis, Esq, New York city.
For the duties necessary to perform here, they are certainly and incomparably the very best and most suitable yet projected. To keep them in good order the cost is but trifling, whilst wooden boats, in their stead, would be very expensive.
The copper boat, in which I have been exposed to boisterous weather and a high sea, has made twelve knots under one small sail. I consider her invaluable to the government, and a bargain, whatever she cost.
I am, with the highest regard,
Your most obedt. servt.,
(Signed) Simpson P. Moses,
John Maxen, Esq.
Squam Beach, Monmouth County, New Jersey,
Walter R. Jones, Esq, March 13th, 1850.
President of the Board of Underwriters of New York :
Sir,—-I am present, and superintended and sent the line by the mortar on board the ship Ayrshire, on the 12th of January, 1850, and by means of the Metallic Life Car, we landed in safety her passengers, in all, two hundred and one, which, in my opinion, at that time, could not have been otherwise saved, as the sea was so bad that no open open boat could have lived. We attached the line to the shot and fired it from the mortar. It fall directly across the wreck, and was caught by the crew on board, and the hawser hauled off, to which we attached the Metallic Life Car, and pulled her to and from the wreck through a terrific foaming surf. Every soul, men, women, children, and infants came through the surf during that cold snowstorm, dry and comfortable. During the whole time of landing these persons, one of the India Rubber floats put around the cars outside by order of the government officer who superintended, was full of water, and the other full of air, showing the ability of the Metallic Boat to do her work, even under such disadvantages as having air on one side, and the weight of water in the India Rubber float on the other, in a heavy surf.
The ship came on shore abreast of the station house, and they are ten miles apart; now, if she had struck between two houses, or even four miles from shelter, many of those we saved from drowning would have perished with cold, as it was a cold snowstorm at the time; but, as it was, all were landed “dry and comfortable,” and no one suffered, as we immediately put them in the house, where they had the benefit of the fuel provided by government, and this, in my opinion, shows the necessity of having the stations nearer together.
I have had much experience in wrecking, and was present at the wreck of the ship John Minturn, and now say decidedly, (and many others who were present at both wrecks join with me,) that if we could have had the mortar and Metallic Life Car, we could have saved a great proportion, if not all, of the souls from the John Minturn, which was wrecked on this beach.
The car is also very valuable for landing specie, jewels, silks and packages of all kinds, that could not be saved by an open boat We can also now communicate with the ship, by means of the mortar and car, as soon as she strikes, without waiting, as heretofore, for the storm to cease, by which time she may go to pieces, and all be lost.
With the above arrangements, well attended to, there need be but few lives lost, and much less property.
Yours very respt.,
Signed John Maxen,
From Capt. Benj. Downing.
Extract of a letter from Benj. Downing, Light House Keeper, Eatons Neck, L. I.
September 11th, 1850.
I assure you that no person, except myself and son, left the shore in the Government Metallic Life Surf Boat, and took a man of a wreck, named John Clark.
The boat is 25 feet long, and rows six oars. I went alone with my son, because the storm was so great that no one would go with me. Six men stood on the shore at the time. I could not stand on the beach, old as I was, and see a man perish when I had the means to save him, and I have the reward in my own breast. I am 66 years old, and my son 16.
Had l been present with this Life Boat, at the dreadful calamity of the bark Elizabeth, lost on Fire Island, last month, I have the vanity to think no one need have been lost. I have been on the water all my life, and in all kinds of vessels, from a yawl boat to a seventy—four, and could not have got off to the wreck in any other boat I ever saw.
From Capt. E. Crabtree.
Extract of a Letter from Capt. E. Crabtree, U. S. Hail Steam Ship Hermann,
19th June, 1848.
During the tremendous gale encountered by this Steam Ship, 24th March, her two Metallic Quarter Boats on the larboard side were blown off our the devils several times before we
could get them in upon deck and secure them. Had the boats been of wood, they must have been destroyed.
I was present when the stern boat of the Steam Ship Washington came in contact with a post at the Novelty Works‘ dock.‘ She was twisted by the pressure at least two feet, and
very much crushed. She was repaired at small expense, and now looks as well as ever. A wooden boat would have been destroyed entirely, under the same circumstances. I find the metal boat always tight and ready for use.
U.S. Mail Steamship Hermann, New York,
August 13th, 1850.
Having used the Metallic Life Boats made by Mr. Joseph Francis, during the whole time since she has been built, and having added two others of larger size to my number, after making several voyages I now have the pleasure to state, in addition to all former testimonials of my approval, that I still consider these boats the most effective now in use, in all situations of danger and difficulty; they are secure against fire; they do not become leaky; they are always ready for use in any exigency, and when they may be hastily and roughly used, are not injured by casualties that would either destroy wooden boats or render them useless when moat needed, and I unhesitatingly recommend their use generally.
U.S. Mail Steamship Hermann, New York,
February lst, 1851.
Sir,—I have had another opportunity of testing the superiority of your Metallic Life Boats over all boats made of wood.
On the 21st ult., the steamer Prometheus, in attempting to get into the slip, ran into the stern of the Hermann. The ship’s Life Gig was hanging at the stern davits, and took the whole shock upon her broadside, breaking the gunwale and thwarts at a snap, and bending the sides of the gig almost flat together. The shock having been received by the gig entirely, the stern of the ship having escaped free from damage. I sent the boat to your works, and she was soon put into her original shape, and made as good as before the collision.
Had it been a wooden boat, she would have been hardly worth repairing.
If this statement can be made of any service in bringing your Metallic Boats into general use, you are free to use it.
(Signed) E. Crabtree
Joseph Francis, Esq.
This boat was one of the first made, and most imperfect, and has been in constant use since the ship was built.
From J.N. Schillinger
Extract of a letter from J.N. Schillinger, Esq.
Sag Harbour, May, 1852.
The brig that recently stranded at Montauk, together with her cargo, was saved by means of your Metallic Life Surf Boat, recently sent there by the government. The boat performed admirably; the men that used her, speak in the highest terms of her sea qualities. The brig lost her boats, and had not the Metallic Boat been there, I think both vessel and cargo would have been lost; and further, a wooden boat or boats could not have stood what the iron one did.
With a well organised system of management for the Government Live Boats and apparatus there would be but few lives lost, comparatively, and an immense amount of property saved. I think this will soon receive their attention, for the system is sadly deficient in its purpose and organisation as it now stands.
To Joseph Francis, Esq,,
From Capt. G. W. Floyd.
U. S. Mail Steamship Washington,
New York, September 13th, 1850.
Mr. Joseph Francis :
Dear Sir, The Metallic Boats furnished by you for the United States Steamship Washington, when she was built, are as good as new, and have needed no repairs. I consider the Metallic Boats superior in every respect, as they are always tight and ready for sea. In case of wreck or burning of a vessel, a tight and fire-proof boat is of vital importance, and at such times they are appreciated.
From my own experience, I can say that the Metallic Boats have the requisite of safety and durability.
George W. Floyd,
From Capt. C. Stoddart.
Extract of a letter from Capt. C. Stoddart, of the U. S. Mail Steamship,
September 30th 1848
I have just received the Galvanised Iron Boat which I sent you for repairs. She was crushed as she hung on the davits, by another ship coming in collision, and she now appears as good as when I purchased her. Had she been of wood, she would have been entirely mined and beyond repair; whereas, being of metal, she was repaired in six hours at an expense of only five dollars, and made as good as new. I feel constrained to say, that the metal boats are far superior to wood, because they are always ready for use, are not affected by the heat of the sun or burning of a vessel, and are capable, far beyond boats of wood, of resisting the action of the waves, and if jammed, too, as mine was, can be repaired at trivial expense, when a wooden one, in like circumstances, would have to be replaced by a new one.
From Capt. J. Comstock
New York, Aug. 26th, 1850.
Sir, I am fully of opinion, that your Metallic Life-boats are invaluable to all seagoing vessels. Their great strength and buoyancy renders them available when the ordinary wooden boats would be of no service, and their lightness will allow of their being carried on ship board, where other boats could not be put. In case of fire no other boat of course is its equal, and on the score of humanity, I hope all passenger carrying vessels will be by law compelled to carry as many of your boats as is consistent with room or space available for such purposes. When landing on rough beaches they would be available, other boats would be dashed to atoms.
Very truly yours,
Jos. J. Comstock,
To Mr. Francis,
Patentee of Metallic Life Boats
From Capt. H. Windle.
U. S. Mail Steamship Cherokee.
New York, August 12, 1850.
I have had Mr. Joseph Francis‘ Metallic Life-boats on board this ship from the time she commenced running. I take pleasure in adding to other statements of my experience, that I conceive them the most effective boat now in use, under all circumstances of danger and difficulty. That they will go comparatively in safety through perils that would destroy wood boats, has been proved to me by the fact that a part of my crew having taken one up to the head of navigation in the Chagres River, and then set her adrift. She came down and was restored to the ship after thumping over rocks that would have broken up a wood boat before she could have passed through the channels in which the rocks are situated; these boats have therefore my unqualified approval.
(Signed) H. Windle,
From Capt. J. Comstock.
New York, Aug. 26th, 1850.
Hon. John Davis, Senator, &c.
Sir, My familiarity with numberless feats performed by Francis‘ Metallic Life-boats, and their perfect adaptation to be carried on ship board, warrant my saying that they are superior to every other kind of boats in present use. I hope the Honourable Committee of which you are a member, will in their judgment, enact some wholesome law in regard to the general use of this invaluable boat, the advantages of which over all others, are so great that I scarce know where to commence enumerating them.
I therefore will only say, that I am sure this is the best boat yet known for all life saving purposes.
Very respectfully, your obdt. servt.,
Jos. J. Comstock
U. S. Mail Steamer Baltic.
Awful Collision at Sea
Between the Steamship Southerner and bark Isaac Mead.
New York, October 5th, 1850.
The Steamship Southerner, which arrived here last night from Charleston, ran into the bark Isaac Mead, from this port, bound to Savannah, yesterday morning at 2 o'clock. The
latter sank immediately, and twenty-two souls were lost! We give the account of this terrible disaster from the Log-book of the Southerner.
On Friday, at 2 A. M, lat. 88 ° 39', sounded 22 fathoms water; relieved the wheel. In 10 minutes after, we made a sail on the larboard bow, put the helm hard aport, stopped the engine and backed strong, when we came in contract we backed clear and stopped the engine when the vessel went down under our bow, which was in less than five minutes from the time of the collision. Hearing the cries of distress in the sea, through the exertions of the crew and passengers, we were able to man three of Francis’ Metallic Lifeboats, and saved seven of the crew and two passengers, out of thirty-three in all. She proved to be the bark Isaac Mead, from New York for Savannah, with a valuable cage. She was steering S. S. W., we N. N. E.; the wind to the North, blowing strong with a sharp sea; they unfortunately put their helm to starboard to cross us, as they saw us first and took us for a vessel standing in shore. We remained until every vestige of her disappeared, and nothing was heard but the moaning of the sea.
Too much cannot be said in favour of Francis’ Metallic Life-boats; had it not been for them we could not have saved one soul of all on board; a wooden boat would have been stove to pieces in lowering or coming alongside, the sea was so bad. To show with what facility they were got ready, in 45 minutes from the time the first boat was lowered and manned by the second officer and two of the crew, she returned with seven; the second, manned by the first officer and two of the crew, Capt. Imbbock and Capt. J. C. Berry, who nobly volunteered their services; the third, manned by Thos. Vail and the balance of the crew. When we gave up all hopes of finding any more, we turned our attention to our own damage, found that we had carried away our cutwater, bobstay and flying jib-boom, with the head rails and some scratches on the bow.
These Metallic Boats were about the first made, and have been used by the Southerner ever since she was built. They are of small dimensions and imperfect construction compared with those of the improved kind made now. They were used without floats or fenders, or any extraneous aid, presenting an entire metal surface alone, inside and outside, for that hard service.
From Capt. M. Berry.
Steam Ship Southerner, New York,
August 6th, 1850.
Sir, When this ship was built, four years ago, I had her fitted partly with ordinary wood boats and partly with Francis’ Galvanised Iron Life Boats ; the wood boats have long since been given up, as they became leaky, staved, and unless, and have been replaced with metal; while the Iron Boats remain sound and useful, and are at this time being cleaned for new painting, and are found to be as good as near, without ever having had any repair, (though in that time they have been subjected to duty that would have destroyed a wood boat,) and have given me and my crew unlimited confidence in them in the worst positions conceivable. (These were the same metallic boats used so successfully at the Collision at Sea between the Southerner and the Isaac Mead, October 6th, 1850)
On one occasion of speaking another ship, in distress for provisions, her wood boats were too leaky to float, and we were obliged to use ours to supply her. They cannot either sink, burn, break or remain overset; they are the only kind of boats in which unqualified confidence can he placed at all times, as they are always ready for use, and I would not now have wood boots at all. There is no comparison in the safety and durability, and above all, in the important confidence they give to the passengers and crew of ship in dangerous situations; they are the only boats that can be depended upon in case of a steamer or wreck taking fire.
Signed, M. Berry
To Hon. John Davis,
U. St. Senate, Washington, D. C.
Capt. N.L. Carter,
United States Revenue Brig Washington,
New York, August 8th, 1852.
Sir, Having used the Copper and Galvanised Iron Quarter Boats and during my last cruise for several months upon the Florida coast, it affords me greet pleasure to add one to the many testimonials you have already received, setting forth their advantages under all circumstances.
They are not injured by exposure to the sun. The worm, so destructive to wood, is foiled; it is almost impossible to bilge them, and if they should be, are so easily repaired; they pull well, are good sea boats, very buoyant, kept in order at a less expense, requiring less paint; are not injured by the concussion of heavy guns; such are among the many advantages which make them superior to wooden boats.
The last boat you built tor the cutter cannot be surpassed in speed, nor are her qualities as a sea boat excelled by any wooden boat of her age and class. As life-boats they would be of incalculable value against the many accidents which occur to steamers upon our rivers, resulting in the loss of so many lives. Your small sized boats being very light, enabling two persons to pick them up and throw them overboard, capable of sustaining eight or ten persons each, are the kind that I should recommend to be placed on board of every passenger steamer, say twenty-five of these boats, disposed about the decks, occupying so little room, and procured at so trifling an expense, is a matter worthy of consideration, and should not be overlooked. They should be placed on board steamers as a means of safety against fire and other accidents.
I am, very reapt’ly, Your obedt. servt.,
Josh. Francis, Esq., Capt., Revenue Service
Wreck of the Schooner A.R. Taft
May 6th., 1850
As soon as information of her perilous position was known, several smacks and a pilot boat went out to her assistance, but the sea was so rough that they found it impossible to approach near enough to rescue the crew. Capt. Magee, of the steamer Nina, got his boat under way at about 5 P. M, and went to her aid, and having one of Francis’ Metallic Boats on board, launched her, and by his great exertions took off the captain and the crew, and brought them to the city between 8 and 9 o’clock last evening. Great credit is due to Captain Magee for his exertions. He proceeded on his own accord to the assistance of the distressed mariners, and had it not been for his promptitude, and the fact of having attached to his steamer the Metallic Life Boats, mentioned, there is great doubt whether the crew of the A. R. Taft could have been saved from a watery grave.
From Messrs. Everett and Brown.
New York, Aug. 30th, 1852.
Mr. Joseph Francis:
Sir, In reply to your enquiries, asking our opinion of your “ Metallic Life-boats,” it gives us pleasure to say that several years experience with the boats you have furnished us, of different sizes and descriptions, for our orders, and for three steamers fitted out for South America, as also for our Liverpool packets, have confirmed us in the opinion that your metallic boats are more safe, durable and economical in all climates (but particularly in the tropics) than any boats of wood or other construction within our knowledge, and much less liable to injury or expense for repairs.
We think your boats entitled to our preference, and should recommend them to our friends with confidence.
Everett & Brown
From D. Stuart & Sons.
Baltimore, August 12th, 1852.
Messrs. Everett & Brown:
Dear Sir, Your esteemed favour of 11th inst. at hand and contents duly noted.
Had it not escaped the writers memory when in New York, he would certainly have complied with the promise made Mr. Scranton, of a certificate respecting the intrinsic worth of Francis’ Life-boats. In November, 1848, we fitted out our ship Greyhound, and for the first time substituted iron for wooden quarter boats, more as an experiment than otherwise. After an absence of two years and upwards, the major part of the time confined to the tropics, the Greyhound returned home, and upon examination her boats were pronounced to be in good order, requiring no repairs whatever, the only repairs done to either boat during the ship's absence was to replace a portion of the gunwales and stern post of the smaller boat, which were torn from her during a collision of the Greyhound and another ship in the bay of San Francisco, and it is the writer’s opinion, had an ordinary wooden boat been subjected to the same ordeal, an utter destruction of the after part of the boat, at least, would have ensued, as the boat was tightly jammed between the two ships. Subsequent to this, and up to the time of the ship's arrival in your city, in May last, we are not aware of any repairs having been done to either boat, and even up to that point they were in general good order, but inasmuch as the ship was about entering upon a long voyage, it was deemed advisable to replace the gunwales and row-locks by new ones. As Surf-boats (with a slight alteration in the model, viz.: in depth of hold) the writer considers them unequalled, and would here mention that when in Pisco, on the coast of Peru, where the surf is remarkable for its violence, these boats were universally admired for their admirable performance, and upon one occasion, although the rudder was torn from the boat by the violence of the sea, and consequently at its mercy, still she went safely through and lauded her passengers with scarcely a wet garment. It is the writer's decided opinion, that any ordinary wooden boat, under similar circumstances, would have capsized.
We remain, yours truly, '
D. Stuart & Son.
P. S. When the paint was scraped from the surface of the iron, it was found entirely free from rust, the sea water having perceptibly had no action whatever upon it.
From Capt. M. Berry.
New York, 0ct. 23, 1850.
Mr. J. Francis:
Sir, I send you an order for a suit of Metallic Life-boats for the new steamship General Marion, now building for the Charleston Line.
They will be required in January.
From Capt. Thos. S. Budd
Extract of a letter from Capt. Thos. S. Budd, U.S. Mail steamship Northerner
22nd August, 1848.
Francis’ Patent Galvanised Iron Life-boats have given me satisfaction. They cannot become nail-sick, worm eaten, water soaked nor leak however much exposed to the sun, and are of course always ready for instant use in cases of emergency. As to economy, there is no expense to keep them in repair, and for preserving life they are always ready for instant use. For all the qualities for ship boats, such as durability, economy, capacity and safety, they are far superior to wooden boats.
From Edward K. Collins, Esq.
New York, Aug. 4th, 1850.
Sir, I have provided Francis‘ Metallic Life-boats for the Collin’s Line of Liverpool Steamships, as from my own experience they are far superior to any others in point of Economy, Durability and Safety.
I should think no other kind of boat could be relied on for spare boats for passengers when steamboats are destroyed by fire. They are fire proof and are not affected by the heat.
To Hon. J. P. Phoenix, Edward K. Collins.
Committee Commerce, Washington, D. C.
From Capt. Thos. Brownell.
Extract of a letter from Capt. Thos. Brownell, U.S. Navy, 11th September, 1848.
These boats are always ready for use at a moment's warning, in any climate, and such as would render a wooden boat entirely useless. They can be used at sea, and lives saved, where wooden boats could not live, even if in a floating condition. The boats I have in use I have put to very severe tests.
From Report of the Judges on Naval Architecture.
Extract from the Report of the Judges on Naval Architecture, appointed by the
American Institute at the 20th Annual Fair.
Judges: Jacob A. Westervelt, Ship Builder,
Thos. Brownell, U. S. N.;
John H. Rhodes, Naval Constructor.
The Galvanised Iron Life Boats have superior advantage over all others, for the following reasons:
First. Their endurance under severe trial, it being almost impossible to meet with sufficient injury to disable them from sustaining their complement of persons for any length of time in case of storm, wreck or fire.
Secondly. Their extreme lightness united with great strength.
Thirdly Their inability to become nail sick, worm eaten, or leaky from exposure to the sun, however long they may be out of water.
Fourthly. These Life Boats may be used at sea to preserve life when nothing else can live, or for the daily use of the ship, being always in readiness for either service.
From Capt. Thos. S. Budd.
New York, October 21st, 1850.
Mr. J. Francis:
Sir, I herewith send you an order for a suit of Metallic Life Boats for the new steam ship building to take the place of the Northerner. Those ordered by me for the Northerner
when she was built are yet as good as ever, having been in service ever since without repairs. I therefore renew my orders for more.
Thos. S. Budd.
From E. Mills, Esq.
New York, October 19th, 1850.
J. Francis, Esq.:
Enclosed please find an order for your Metallic Life Boats, one set each, for the new steamers Louisiana and Mexico building for Messrs. Harris & Morgan, Gulf Line; and one
set for the new steamer Brother Jonathan building at Williamsburg, for the Pacific.
The Metallic Boats ordered by me for the steamships Washington and Hermann, when they were built, are yet as good as ever, and have required no repairs. I am satisfied, from my own experience, that the Metallic Boat is far superior to any other in every respect.
From Walter R. Jones, Esq.
Extract of a Letter from Walter R. Jones, Esq, President of the Board of Underwriters, to Hon. James G. King,
June 26th, 1850.
I am decidedly in favour of Galvanised Iron Boats; the air chambers can be sufficient in number to float all the passengers that can get in and around her sides.
The controlling advantages of the Metal Boats are, that they do not burn, and can always be kept tight and fit for immediate use, whereas boats built of wood are sure to leak like
riddles, as they generally are placed where they are exposed to the sun and rain.
New York, May 6th, 1851.
Walter R. Jones,
President of the Board of Underwriters of New York:
Sir, The Galvanised Iron Cargo Surf Boat, built by your order, for the Board of Underwriters, we received from the establishment of Mr. Francis, the 14th March, 1850, and as this is the first Metallic Boat in this service, the undersigned take the liberty to report to you her performance, strength and ability to perform the severe duty required of a Wrecking Cargo Boat.
Immediately on receiving her she was taken to the ship Argo, then ashore with a valuable cargo, on Mastic Beach, Long Island. The boat was attached to that ship until she was unloaded and got off; and was the only safe and efficient boat we had. Later this she was used at other vessels ashore. She has been constantly in the hardest possible service for nearly one year.
The first service with this boat was to take onboard one of the largest Worthington Steam Pumps, together with the boiler, suction pipes, and materials weighing three tons. She carried all these easily to the ship, through a heavy surf and blowing hard. ‘We safely assert that no wooden boat between Egg Harbour and Savannah could have done this. In a wooden boat it would have required three trips, and not safe at that.
Cargo sufficient to load two wrecking schooners, the Mary Eflin and Splendid, was taken from the Argo, consisting principally of brandy, in pipes and half pipes, and dry goods. Besides this, there were 300 burr stones, and 150 tons kintlege, also an anchor weighing 3,000 lbs., which was laid on the thwarts.
Amongst the cargo taken off were four cases plate-glass, each weighing 1,600 lbs.; those cases were so large we had to carry them across the gunwales, and the thwarts at the time were not secured to the boat, showing the strength of the iron aide. This would have crushed a wooden boat.
We could carry in the Metallic Boat 30 pigs of kintlege, when the wooden boats could take but 15, and they split open at that. We sent from the schooner to the ship 100 oil casks, five at a time, in one hour and twenty minutes. No wooden boat could take more than three asks at once.
The Metallic boat has been subjected to the roughest and hardest possible service, and in many cases, severe abuse, and yet, in hauling her up at the Novelty Iron Works, a few days since, her bottom was found to be perfect, and needed no repairs, and she is now as good as ever.
This Metallic Boat will take off cargo without wetting it, while the wooden boat is always leaky. We had one wooden boat in use that cost $120 ; she split open twice, and was repaired at a cost of $60, and again $30, and she is now worthless.
After much experience, and constant experiment and use, we feel bound to say that there can be no comparison in value between a Metal Boat and a wooden boat, for safety of life,
taking out anchors, or for discharging on a beach with a full cargo in a heavy surf, and with all this we feel full confidence as to our own safety to go through any surf in any storm, which we cannot feel in any wooden boat we ever saw.
Jas. H. Perry, Engineer of Board of Underwriters,
E. C. Perry, Engineer of Board of Underwriters,
Henry Clock, Capt. of Underwriters‘ Sch. Parmle.
From John S. Rhea, Collector.
Collector’s Office, June 2d, 1852.
Sir, I have the honour to transmit herewith, copies of certificates furnished this office on the 1st inst, by Capt. Thos. B. King, branch pilot, and Capt. Wm. Evan, master of the
lighter schooner Yazoo, in relation to certain valuable services performed by Francis’ Metallic Life Boat, stationed at Brazos Island.
When the condition of the brig Brownsville was reported to this office, and upon the application of Capt. John Rogers, master of said vessel, the Inspector of Customs at Brazos Island was promptly instructed to place the Life Boat at his disposition.
She performed the services as stated in the certificate as was verbally confirmed by Capt. Rogers.
Mr. Gauge, of the Tea depot, and myself were passengers on the steamship Yacht when the pilot boarded her at sea by means of the Life Boat, and can attest the correctness of
Capt. King's statements in that particular service.
Your obedt. servt,
(Signed,) John S. Rea,
To Hon. Thos. Corwin Collector.
Secy. of the Treasury, Washington.
From Thos. B. King, Pilot.
I, the undersigned, do hereby certify, that on Monday, the 26th of April, A. D. 1852, the steamship Yacht arrived off the Brazos bar, and that I attempted to cross the bar in the pilot boat, and could not, for want of sufficient wind, and on account of the heavy surf running on the bar; that I returned and manned Francis‘ Metallic Life boat, crossed the bar and sounded it carefully, and then boarded the steamship and brought her in safely.
Had there been no Life boat stationed here, there was no other species of open boat could have performed that service, and the steamship would have been detained outside for a smoother opportunity.
(Signed,) Thos. B. King, Branch Pilot,
Port of Point Isabel, Texas.
To John S. Rhea, Collector,
Port of Point Isabel, Texas.
June 1st, 1852.
I certify the foregoing to be a true copy.
(Signed) Jno. P. Butler, Clerk.
From J. Taylor, Esq., Collector.
District of Oeracoke, N.C., Feb. 21st, 1852.
Sir, Your letter of the 6th inst, enclosing bill of lading for one of your Metallic Lifeboats, was received by last mail. The boat has also arrived in safety, and is now in my possession.
The Secretary of the Treasury is entitled to all praise for ordering a boat of the kind to this place. There are but few points on our whole coast where it is more probable she may prove serviceable.
The harbour (if it can be so called) lies open to the sea, and but few vessels escape from shipwreck that may happen to be here, in one of our autumnal gales. At such a time your Life-boat may be the means of saving many lives, managed by our pilots.
It is my purpose to make her useful, should an occasion offer.
Very respectfully, your obdt. servt.,
Mr. Joseph Francis,
From John S. Rhea, Esq., Collector.
We, the do hereby certify, that the Francis‘ Metallic Life-boat, stationed at this port, was the means of saving the brig Brownsville and cargo from wreck and loss, on the 12th of April, 1862. The brig struck in crossing the bar, and the wind dying away, she was thrown on the beach of Brazos lsland. The Metallic Life-boat was the only boat that could carry an anchor out, which service she performed through a heavy surf, carrying a nine-inch hawser at the same time. The boat received some severe knocks, thumps along side, which I believe would have disabled a wooden boat, doing no further injury than tearing the canvas of the cork fenders in one or two places.
The brig and cargo was worth at least thirty thousand dollars. We are also of opinion that this port ought to be furnished with another Metallic Life-boat, as in one of one being out of repair or suffering any serious damage, we would have the other to save life or property.
(Signed) Thos. B. King, Branch Pilot.
Wm. Evans, Master Schr. Yazoo.
To John S. Rhea, Esq., Collector,
Point Isabel, Texas.
June 1st, 1852.
I made the first effort to carry an anchor with my own boat from the brig; on taking the anchor on board she filled, and failed to perform the service required.
(Signed) William Evans.
Testimonial of Wreck Masters.
Sag Harbour, L.I., Nov. 14th, 1851.
Mr. Joseph Francis:
Dear Sir, The Metallic Life-boats and Cars built by you and placed by government on the coast of Long Island, we think are of great value in saving life and property. As to service, wooden boats cannot compare with them. We were present and assisted in landing the passengers, their baggage, &c., from Br. Ship Henry, (stranded opposite Bridgehampton, in June last,) also in taking them and their baggage from the beach to a steamer, with the Metallic Life-boat, from Bridgehampton Station, through a heavy surf that no wooden boat could have stood; the ship’s long boat was stove to atoms as soon as the surf broke on her. Your boat, after being hove on the beach, by the surf, for several days, was only slightly injured, one half-hour’s labor would repair all damage done to her; the galvanising was not worn out the metal after being so often hove on the beach. In our opinion, the boats and other apparatus are well worthy to be called Life Saving; the houses have been found invaluable in sheltering those who have unfortunately been cast on our shores.
We remain respectfully,
Your obdt. serv’ts.,
(Signed) John L. Cook, Capt. of Life-boat,
Alanson Topping, Wreck Master,
James L. Sandford, Crew,
Charles A. Ludlow, Crew
John N. Hedges, Keeper of Station.
From Captain Lawless Wreck of the Independence.
New York, August 12th, 1852.
Joseph Francis, Esq.,
Dear Sir, Enclosed please find order for two of your Metallic Life-boats, 25 feet long, 6 feet 6 in. wide for steamships Star State, and one of same dimensions for steamship Trinity, now building by Messrs. Westervelt and Sons, for Messrs. Harris & Morgan’s gulfline of steamers.
Those that you furnished the steamship Louisiana, in 1850, are as good as new, although they had very rough usage in preserving the passengers and crew of the steamship Independence, lost on Pass Cavallo bar, in March last. Let me assure you, my dear sir, that no other boats but your metallic boats would have stood the tremendous sea. The boats of the Independence being of wood were all lost together, with the mate, one man‘ and three lady passengers. My mate, in going to the rescue, was swamped, and remained, with his men, in and on your life-boat over six hours, and finally reached the beach in safety, and he, with the same boat, was the first to reach the ill fated ship, by which we saved 150 souls, and but for the noble performance of your boats, the loss of life would have been immense, as the ship soon went to pieces. You will see by the order that they were only 20 feet boats. I will also add, that the 20 feet life boat, ordered by me for the steamship Meteor, in September last, was the only boat saved from that vessel, and is as good as when taken from the shop; all her wooden boats were stove to pieces. Let me return you my many thanks for the valuable service you have rendered the marine in the construction of your noble boats, and wishing you every prosperity.
I remain, your obedient servant,
U.S.M. Steamships Louisiana and Meteor
From the Indianola Bulletin.
Wreck of the Independence.— Distressing Loss of Life.
Bulletin Office, Indianola, March 30, '52.
We have to announce the most heart-tending and melancholy calamity that has occurred on this coast within our knowledge. The new steamship Independence, Capt. Charles Stoddard, on her first trip from New Orleans to this Bay, is a total wreck, the cargo almost entirely lost, and six lives lost. The circumstances attending the sad event, are these. The vessel attempted to cross the bar at 10 A.M., March 26th, without a pilot, having on board a good freight and about 120 passengers, besides officers and crew. The Louisiana, drawing over a foot, more than the Independence, had come in over without the least trouble three hours before but the Independence, having no pilot undertook to cross the reef, about one mile north of the channel, where the breakers rose high, and in a short time struck violently on the bar. But a few moments proved her to be in a perilous situation, and the engine was crowded in a vain endeavour to force her over; she worked ahead so little as to cause great alarm, and convince those on board she must become a wreck. Messrs. John Ayr and Laughlin M‘Kay, part owners, were on board. It is_enough for us to say, that the attempt to come in without a pilot, to say the least, was censurable, but it is not our wish to harrow the feelings of those already in distress.
Soon after the vessel struck, Capt. Wm. Nichols, one of the pilots, boarded her, and Mr. Morgan attempted to do so, but was swamped in the breakers, and escaped narrowly with his life. About noon, the ladies, declining the hazard of the frail boat alongside, Judge Webb, of Austin, Mr. James D. Cochran, of Lockhart, and three Germans were brought off. Directly after, one of the vessel’s yawls, manned by Mr. Hubble Hovey, the chief mate, and two men, took on the young bride of Lieut. W. E. Jones, U. S. Rifles, the wife and three children of Mr. Stephen Minott, (late of Kingston, Jam, moving to Gonzales,) and young Mr. Horrell, of St. Louis, Mo., (nephew to Gen. Somerville) and instantly followed a scene of agony and horror, the recital of which chills our blood. The boat filled in leaving the ship, and capsized in the furious breakers. The mate, in a noble effort to sustain and save Mrs. Jones, sank with her to rise no more, and before aid could be had; the greatest consternation and shrieks prevailing on board. Mrs. Minott and three children perished together, the helpless innocents clinging to her to the last. Both husbands were witnesses of the horrid scene. Mr. Horrell was rescued in a lifeless condition, but restored by prompt attention. No farther efforts were made during that day to carry off the passengers, all the boats being crushed to pieces.
At day-light on Saturday, the 27th, the steam propeller J.W. Rabun, Captain R. Hulton Kerr, having been advised of the wreck, ran down and anchored inside the breakers, about 400 yards in front of the ill-fated Independence; and in conjunction with Captains Nichols, Cummings, Decrow, Mr. George Morgan and others, made every effort with the propeller's yawls to bring off the passengers. About noon they succeeded in rescuing Mrs. Lucy Mitchel, of Groton, Conn., and Mrs. Charles W. Eldridge, of Mt. Carmel, Illinois, (mother and sister of Mrs. John Henry Brown, of Indianola,) with four other ladies and an infant; but from the increased violence of the breakers, and the loss of their boats, they were forced to desist.
In the mean time, Messrs. Webb and Cochran reached the U.S. Mail steamer Louisiana, Capt. James Lawless, at the Indianola anchorage, at31/2 P. M. same day with the sad news. She had on a full head of steam, in waiting for the N. O. passengers, then near by, on a sloop, and in thirty minutes they were on board, and this noble steamship under a heavy press of steam for the wreck. Our senior, (Mr. Brown,) happening to be at the anchorage, and learning that his relatives, before named, were on the wreck, went down in the Louisiana, and, from that time, witnessed all that pained.
In the stream at Decrow’s, Capt. Kerr met us, he being in a yawl, came on board, and from that time he, Capt. Lawless and the gentlemen we have already named, acted in concert. The Louisiana came to, two miles above the wreck, under Pelican Island, and manned her two Francis’ Metallic Life-boats and one of the quarter boats, Capt. Lawless, Kerr and four men in No. 1, Mr. H. Potter Dimond, chief mate, commanding No. 2, and Peter Foster, second mate, the quarter boat. Arriving in front of the wreck, about 300 yards distant, [now half an hour to sun set,) the breakers rolling like hills. Mr. Dimond was ordered, if possible, to reach the vessel, and never did any man make a more noble and daring effort! Whilst in the midst of the breakers, his boat swamped and rolled our and over, the crew clinging to her, and by almost superhuman efforts got through, half a mile above the Independence. It was now dark, and the sea becoming more dangerous, but the dauntless Dimond baled him boat, and made a second attempt to save the lives of others, at the hazard of his own, in which his boat again swamped, floated in aide the breakers, and was again baled. Yet undaunted,he made a third struggle, and for the third time the boats filled,when,finding his men failing, with a reluctant heart, he gave up the effort, and floated inside, two of the crew being in an almost lifeless condition.
It was now 10 o’clock, the wind rising rapidly, and all hope for the night gone. Fires were built on shore, signals set, and dispositions made for a daylight effort on the morrow. During the latter part of the night, distress guns were fired by the Independence, which, with the roar of the surf, added to the horrors around.
At day-break, (Sunday, the 28th,) the work was renewed, other help came in the persons of Capt. James Duke, and others from the bay, and about 8 o'clock, the first life-boat load was taken off and transferred to the Rabun. At 3 P.M., all were safely on the same vessel; the last gun was fired, and, amid loud huzzas the distress signal was hauled down, and the ill-fated ship, already broken in two, abandoned to the mercy of the sea
To discriminate among gallant men on such an occasion is not our inclination or purpose; but the praises of all on board, or in view of the scene,were heaped with such heartfelt emotion upon some, that truth demands their mention, that their names may be honoured by all who appreciate noble daring and humane hearts. In this list, the rescued, point to Captains Nichols, Kerr, Lawless, Cummings, Duke, Messrs. Dimond, Peter Foster, the mate and crew of the Rabun, the detailed crew of the Louisiana, Morgan, Bailey,Serrill, and others, who perilled their lives. Capt. Geo. Heald, Bay Pilot, Otto Von Schroeder, Alfred Da Costa, Clerk, Wm. Randolph, carpenter, and the crew detailed from the Louisiana, are highly complimented. We should also state that at the request of Capt. Lawless, on Sunday morning, we sent on express to Indianola for more help, especially the custom house life boat. That appeal was promptly answered by the life-boat with a volunteer crew in part, Capt. Bochner, with the Louisa, and others, who, against a strong head wind, got down before night, though after all were safe. But we cannot name all, and no doubt have omitted some as meritorious as some we have mentioned. Where all engaged did well, we can add no more.
But there is a dark side to the painful scene, reflecting upon poor human nature to shame. Some few persons on shore (who they were we know not) appeared to be callous to the scene before them, and to be led away by the love of plunder. The crew of the New York schooner Clinton, Capt. Smith, lying in the stream with cotton, manned her yawl with six hale men, and spent the 28th in picking up floating baggage, furniture and merchandise, against the entreaties of those around them to go to the wreck. This we saw for hours, and in the evening passed that schooner with her decks covered with the fruits of her baseness. A part of the crew of the Independence robbed the passengers’ baggage, boxes of goods, &c., and after becoming intoxicated, mutinied, and made an effort to go ashore on a raft with their booty, leaving the passengers on board, which was prevented by the coolness of Captain Laughlin McKay, to whose praiseworthy conduct throughout, the passengers bear willing testimony.
In justice to all concerned, we willingly introduce here the following note from our brother-in-law, Mr. Eldridge:
John Henry Brown, Esq.
Dear Sir, The following items were communicated to me by Capt. McKay, respecting the loss of the ill-fated steamship Independence, and I place them at your disposal. I was in my state room till near the time the ship struck, and consequently know nothing personally as to the facts connected with her going in. In substance, Capt. M. said:- On approaching the bar of Matagorda Bay, a signal for crossing was made on shore, with a flag on a pole, as we supposed, by a pilot; and judging ourselves right, in view of the ranges, we attempted the crossing. As soon as the ship struck the shoal water, she sheared to the north, and the current being very strong in the same direction, she was brought upon the bar at near equal distance from deep water on either side. Every effort was made to save the ship by throwing over her cargo and working her engines, but without avail. She remained heavily thumping upon the bar for thirty hours without bilging, the engine most faithfully performing its work, until the water extinguished the fires.
It was a fearful and distressing termination of a trip that had been commenced and, till then, prosecuted under the brightest auspices, affording the greatest satisfaction to all the passengers, of which they had designed giving a public expression. How far culpability attaches to the officers of the ship for venturing upon the bar, under any circumstances, without a pilot, I am not prepared to say. But of this I am perfectly sure, that though the loss of their ship to them was great, they felt it as nothing in view of the precious lives that were sacrificed to a watery grave.
And I would bear evidence, which all the passengers, so far as I could lean, would corroborate, to the calm, judicious and devoted efforts of the officers and owners (on board) particularly Capt. McKay, for the comfort, protection and safety, of the remaining passengers whilst exposed on the wreck.
Chas. W. Eldridge,
Such of the passengers as saved their money, offered liberally to reward their deliverers, but in every instance it was promptly refused. The laconic reply was, we have laboured to save lives, not for money. Under these circumstances, a contribution was raised, and committed to the management of Mr. Eldridge, to procure appropriate medals to be presented to Captains Lawless, Kerr, Nichols and Mr. H. P. Dimond, representing respectively the Louisiana, Rabun, and the Pilots and their assistants.
We append a list of the passengers as full as we could get, being a total, including the officers and crew, of 167 souls;
To Captain James Lawless,
Of the Steamship Louisiana:
Sir, We, the passengers of the unfortunate steamship Indepedence, saved from her wreck through your magnanimous and most efficient aid, desire hereby to
present to you the tribute of our grateful hearts. We are apprised of the haste with which, when apprised of our danger, you came to the relief of us, the passengers of a rival boat. We feel conscious that to your metallic life boats, manned by their daring crews, we are most indebted (under Providence) for our safe deliverance from impending death. We appreciate the patience with which you, as well as Capt. Kerr, submitted to the detention of your large ship from day to day in our behalf and know well the cost of that detention must have been great in time and money. We also know that with the true sailor's large heart, you would not listen to any proffer of reimbursement for said loss. May the recollection of this truly generous and most noble deed ever be a living well of pleasure in your breast, as it will of gratitude and thankfulness in ours. Also to Mr. H. Potter Dimond, your noble and daring mate, do we feel bound under a heavy debt of obligation, for his persevering efforts to reach us, in which it seemed that he and his crew must perish in the attempt, as their boat was repeatedly swamped. But heroism conquered every obstacle, and he only left the wreck when he could haul down the flag of distress, and fire the last gun that all was safe. To Capt. W. Nichols, coast pilot, we are also greatly indebted for his cool intrepidity and skilful management of the first boat that came to our succour, and greatly did we admire the spirit with which he braved danger in going to the rescue of his friend Morgan, who in his second attempt to come to us, filled, and powerless and alone, was rapidly drifting out to sea, to our additional distress. Messrs. Morgan and Cummings, pilots, Capt. Duke, and others whose names we cannot command, will please also accept our many thanks, for their important aid.
Signed on board propeller Rabun, March 28, 1852.
Charles W. Eldridge Stephen Minott
W.W. Edwards E.L. Jordan
C.H. Jordan W.E. Jones U.S.A.
and other passengers
From Com. C.W. Skinner
Navy Department, Bureau of Construction,Equipment & Repairs, July 1st, 1848.
Sir I have the honour to present, through you, to the Minister of Marine of France, the model of a boat now building of copper, by direction of this bureau: and if the boat is approved after trial, they will be adopted for the vessels composing the U. S. Navy.
Inferior models have been used in mercantile marine, and given satisfaction. Two of the boats, which recently descended the river Jordan into the Dead Sea, were made of metal, one other of wood which was dashed to pieces in descending the rapids. The officers conducting the enterprise state, that the metal boats alone were capable of resisting the violent concussions which they received in shooting over those descents, of which they encountered twenty-seven; and the only alteration the copper boat sustained, was from indentations by striking rocks, which, with a hammer, were readily removed. They did not leak one drop; the air vessels at their extremities rendered them very buoyant. They will wear along time, and, when no longer serviceable, the material goes far towards paying for a new boat.
Some have been built of galvanised iron, and are approved by the officers that used them. The one now building is of the dimensions of a frigate's quarter boat, and as soon as ready, will be put to a severe trial.
Those that were built for the exploration of the Dead Sea, were made in sections, for the convenience of transporting them over mountains on the backs of camels; they were disjointed or joined together with great ease at the place of embarkation. From the experience already had in the use of metal boats, by the mercantile marine they are considered more economical and superior in all cases to boats of wood.
I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
To M. Alex. Vattemare, Chas. W. Skinner.
Navy Dept., Bureau of Construction, Equipment, &c.,
July 19th, 1850.
Sir, Having been informed that Congress was about adopting measures for the prevention of the great loss of life which sometimes occurs from steamboat disasters on our waters, I take the liberty of expressing my opinion, founded on the various trials to which metallic boats, (furnished with air have been exposed; that they afford the best means of safety to the lives of persons exposed, either by the foundering of a vessel, or
destruction by fire.
A cutter so fitted, 26 feet in length, furnished to the United States frigate Savanna, was reported to this Bureau by the commanding officer, New York, to be capable of sustaining inside, from 25 to 30 men, when filled with water.
The great advantage they posses over boats built of wood, is, that they are fireproof; and are not liable to leak when exposed to the action of the sun, or to be mashed when coming in contact with a ship’s side, or even rocks. (See letter to A. Vattamere, dated July 1st., 1848)
Those used by Lieut. Lynch in descending the rapids of Jordan, although they received violent concussions in striking rocks, did not leak a drop, the indentations thus produced were removed by a common hand-hammer.
Had the unfortunate Griffith, on Lake Erie, been supplied with two of these boats, 30 feet long, and of suitable width, many, if not all her passengers, could have been saved.
Many vessels of the navy have been furnished with one for the purpose of crossing dangerous bars, in a heavy surf, or lowering at sea in the event of a man falling overboard; for such purposes I consider them superior to any others heretofore used in the navy or mercantile marine.
Very respectfully, your obdt. sevt,
(Signed) Chas. W. Skinner.
Hon. Dan’l. S. Dickinson,
Washington City, D. C.
7 Union Place, New York,
Sept. 23d, 1852.
Mr. Joseph Francis
In consequence of my high appreciation of your Metallic Life-boats, I have written and spoken in favour of them in various instances, and now, with pleasure, give you this testimony of my approval of them. I have examined the Copper Boat used on board the U.S. Steamship Mississippi during her late 30 months cruise in the Mediterranean, and so little injury had it sustained, that with very slight repairs it was rendered as good as when first taken from your workshop, which is evidence of the durability and economy of your Life-boats. Your boats have been tested in the surf and seaway, and are buoyant and safe, and there is no shrinkage in them ; they are ever ready for service. Among other advantages, they are fire proof, which I consider of vast importance for the preservation of life, and are not liable to receive injury from concussion produced by the guns.
In fitting out vessels for any service, I would certainly supply them with your Metallic Life-boats, either with respect to their safety or economy.
I am of the opinion, that if their had been two of your boats on board the steamboat Henry Clay when she was destroyed by fire, very nearly all the lives which were lost would have been saved. I am respectfully,
Your obdt. servt,
Commander U.S. Navy.
From Commander Chas. H Bell,
March 27th, 1851
My Dear Sir, I presented the book you gave me yesterday, containing Testimonials respecting your Metallic Life-boats, to a gentlemen of Charleston, South Carolina thinking it might be of service to you in that quarter; before I gave it, I wrote a few lines on one of the fly leaves. It has since occurred to me that a copy of these lines might be of service to you, and I therefore enclose them, giving you permission to use them in any way you may think conducive to your interest.
Joseph Francis, Esq., N. Y Chas. A. Bell
I have carefully examined and inspected Mr. Francis’ Metallic Life-boats at various times within the last three years, and believe them to be very durable, and superior to any wooden boat now in use. Those made of Galvanised Iron I have seen tested without injury by severe blows on the bilge from a heavy sledge hammer, which would have stove and rendered unfit for service any boat, however strong, made of wood.
As Life boats, they are safe in all weathers, combining lightness with great strength and durability, are easily managed, and not liable to injury by a severe thump alongside. As Surf boats, nothing can surpass them. The Francis Car, as now constructed, is much improved, and no passenger vessel should be without one. They are not expensive, take up little room, and, with common care, will last a generation without repairs.
Chas. H. Bell, Commander U.S. Navy,
Superintendent and Inspector of Bremen and Havre Line of U.S. Mail Steamships.
New York, March 26th, 1851.
From Professor Grant.
Relative to the Copper Gig made for the United States Sloop of War Albany.
Dimensions: Length, 30 ft.; Beam, 4 ft. 4 in.; Depth, 23 in., Thickness of
Copper, 32 oz.; Straight Sheer, like a Race-boat.
Mr. Joseph Francis,
Sir, Although I have never had the pleasure of knowing you personally, I know you well by reputation, and I deem it my duty to lay before you the following facts with liberty to make me of them as you please.
Your exertions for so many years to bring to perfection an instrument to preserve human life from wrecks by Storm and Fire, and in which you have been so successful, deserve all praise, and to withhold any information that might stimulate or aid you in your efforts, would be most criminal.
Washington, Sept. 30th, 1850.
Being on duty in the U. S. service during the year 1848, on board the U. S. Steam Frigate Mississippi, in the harbour of Sacrificio, near Vera Cruz, and requiring a boat to transfer disinfecting material from the Castle of St. Juan de Ulloa, I made a requisition for one, and was informed that no boat could be had on the station for that purpose. I subsequently learned, during the month of January, that one of your Copper Life-boats was then lying a wreck in the sand on the landing of the Castle. I immediately repaired to the Castle, and discovered the boat lying in about three feet of water, half full of sand, and large pieces of old iron inside, some weighing 150 pounds. She was exposed to the break of the surf on the shore, and the wood work had been broken, such as her seats, rowlocks, and washboard, by apparently heavy blows of a sledge, or a large iron bar, lying near, as the marks of the same were plainly visible upon them. On cleaning out the stones, iron, &c., I discovered large concave indentations upon various parts of her sides, made by heavy blows upon the inside, apparently with a heavy sledge or bar of iron. These indentations were concave like a dish, but not broken through the copper. They were evidently made, however, with the design of destroying the boat, which was unsuccessful from the yielding nature of the copper.
On lifting up the ceiling, I discovered five large holes in the bilge and bottom of the boat, apparently made with the same instrument, which was more successful in this part, as they had evidently been punched through while the boat rested on the coral rock, thus preventing the copper from yielding or becoming indented. I repaired these holes by placing a sledge on the inside and beating the burr from the outside with a hand hammer, thus closing the fracture, apparently as strong and tight as when new. I then fastened the seats and launched the boat, seemingly as good as new. The whole operation certainly did not require an hour’s labour, and in my opinion less time was employed in repairing the boat than in the attempt to demolish her, if the marks of blows upon her were any criterion.
The boat was 30 feet long, narrow, low, and straight, evidently not made for sea service but for a man-of-war gig. She worked well, however, at sea, as myself and two hands navigated her between Sacrificios and the Castle for several weeks, in all kinds of weather, and two or three miles of this passage is in the open sea On one occasion, we were overtaken by a severe norther, which, by the time we reached Washerwoman Shole, within a mile of the harbour, was so powerful a gale of wind, as to drive spray fifty feet high over the mole of Vera Cruz harbour; yet in the face of this, three of us brought this 30 feet boat safely to the Cumberland frigate, under the lee of the Castle. I am confident
any wooden boat of the same dimensions would have inevitably been lost under the same circumstances, as we were several times nearly half full of water, by the sea breaking over. The buoyant air-tanks kept the boat well up, and we arrived safely on board.
The above boat formerly belonged to and was made in 1846 for the sloop of war Albany, Capt. Breese, and had been thrown one side for what was supposed inefficiency, but she was proved to be the strongest, swiftest and safest boat in the Gulf Squadron, notwithstanding the unjust prejudice against her. She is still in use as a shore boat, and good yet.
(Signed) Robert Grant.
From Com. William D. Salter
Navy Yard, New York,
Sir, I recommend that the receiving ship, North Carolina, be allowed one of Francis’ Iron Boats, such as are allowed in the frigates and sloops of war.
The wooden boats of this ship are constantly receiving repairs, and I am of opinion it would be a matter of economy to furnish her with one, if not two of the Galvanised Iron Boats.
William D. Salter, Commandant.
Com. Chas. W. Skinner,
Chief of the Bureau of Construction, &c.,
From Capt. Samuel L. Breese.
Extract of a letter from Capt. Samuel L. Breese, commanding U.S. Sloop of War Albany.
August 16th, 1847.
In consequence of the leanness of the Albany’s aft, she sends so deep in a heavy sea or lying to, or becalmed, that she often dips up her stern boat full of water, which was the case with the Copper Gig. Not liking her, I left her for the use of another vessel of the squadron. Barring accidents, however, I think a metal boat, in point of durability, is superior to a wooden one. This gig had no gripes :under the midships, when dipped full of water, and yet did not breakdown.
From Lieut. Washington A. Bartlett.
Dec. 14th, 1850.
Sir, In answer to your inquiries as to my observations on the character and performance of your Metallic Boats on the coasts of California and Oregon, and of their general value, as compared with wooden boats of like capacity, &c., &c. I have to state that:
There is a large number of your boats in use in California and Oregon, in every possible variety of employment to which a boat can be put, from the largest to the very smallest; and of their ability to endure hard service beyond that of a common boat, no one could doubt, alter seeing the rough handling they get there. In no instance have I seen one out of repair.
The two that I purchased of you have done all they were expected to perform, and both were so much in favour with others, that they were often stolen from their moorings, and for this reason they were sold, to avoid the annoyance of seeking for them; they are still in use in the Bay of San Francisco.
At the mouth of the Columbia, the pilots have one of your small size, which they keep as a safety boat-and in one of the same size, Major Hathaway, U.S.A, with a party of seven persons, crossed the North Breakers of the Columbia River Bar—accidentally going to sea in a dark night, and re-crossed the Breakers the next day, without shipping water. This was a feat for a landsman to perform, of no ordinary character.
The large boat which you furnished to my friends who went round the Cape, left the ship with a party of nine persons, when seventy miles distant from the island of Juan Fernandez, and in a gale which, the same night, reduced the canvass of the ship to a close-reefed top sail, causing those on board the ship to despair of ever seeing them again the little Metallic Boat rode it out in safety, and the whole party safely landed the next morning, while it blowed so hard the ship could not approach the shore. I have used your boats with great satisfaction.
I know that in the tropics, where there is a great shrinkage, and where boats of wood so soon become nail-sick, and where the worm is so destructive to wood, your boats are always ready for service, without the necessity of repair, while they will endure without injury an amount of thumping on rocks and beaches which will destroy an ordinary boat.
The boat you supplied to the U.S. Ship Vincennes, Capt. Hudson, was in daily use; and for lightness, speed, and safety, the favourite boat of the ship. The first lieutenant stated to me that her performance was admirable—that she did all the work of the ships. Such a boat, where an economy of men is desirable, is of the first importance in the equipment of a ship.
Having, some years since, seen your first essay in the construction of the Metallic Boat, both for ordinary use, and for Life-boats, I have, with no little interest, watched the progress you have made in overcoming prejudice and opposition, and consequently, wherever I have been, when meeting with Francis's Metallic Boats, I have been particular to inquire into their performance, more especially among seamen; and I have found in the last two years, whether from actual trial, or the widely disseminated testimony of intelligent seamen, who have fully proved their merits, that there is now little opposition to them in any quarter, their superiority for durability and safety being generally admitted.
For my own part, in fitting out a vessel for any service, I would not fail to supply her with your Metallic Fire-proof Boats, both for safety and economy.
Yours, very truly,
(Signed) Washington A. Bartlett, Lieut. U. S. Navy,
To Joseph Francis, Esq, Ass’t Coast Survey.
From John S. Rhea.
Custom House, Port Isabel, Texas,
Collector’s Office, September 9th 1851.
Sir, I have the pleasure to hand you enclosed the report of Capt. Thomas B. King, Port Pilot, in relation to the performance of your Metallic Surf Boat in saving the passengers from the wreck of the steam-ship Globe, on the morning of the 10th June last, at this port.
The pilot, whose testimonial I send you, is one of great experience and judgment. I am assured that no other boat could have lived in the tremendous sea running on the bar at the time. I am, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Joseph Francis, Esq., John S. Rhea
New York. Collector.
From Thos. B. King, Pilot.
Port of Point Isabel,
John S. Rhea, Esq., July 15th, 1851.
Collector of Customs
I am happy to report to you that the Francis Metallic Life Boat which you put in my charge, for the purpose of saving life and property in cases of wrecks on the coast our bar of this port, comes up to the high recommendations of her builder.
I had an opportunity of testing her qualities in landing the passengers and crew of steam-ship Globe, on the bar of this port, on the 16th June, in a tremendous sea and surf through which no other boat that is open could possibly live. She can neither capsize, or fill sufficiently to prevent her being managed. Had she not been here, there would have been a loss of life.
(Signed) Thos. B. King
A true copy, Pilot.
John S. Rhea, Collector.
Port of Point Isabel,
John S. Rhea, Esq., March 22nd, 1852.
Collector of Customs:
Sir, I am happy to inform you that the Life Boat under my charge and management had her qualities for living and handling in broken water severely tested yesterday afternoon, March 21st, 1852. Capt. John Thompson, of steamship Yacht, with five men, went down to look at the Bar, and sound it, if practicable; the ebb tide was running strong, and wind blowing fresh from the north, with a very heavy surf; his boat upset, and the current and tide set them along shore to the southward. On the alarm being given, I launched the Life Boat, with a crew of five, and crossed the Bar through a course of very heavy breakers, without shipping any; pulled down outside of the breakers to the southward; discovered the boat, bottom up, with three men holding on to her. I rounded to and dropped the Life Boat to them, by her oars, without difficulty, although, through the alarm or mismanagement of the man pulling the bow oar, his oar caught and broached her to on the first (which is always the heaviest) breaker, (in landing) ; the sea filled her, and would have washed the men out of her if I had not taken the precaution to lash every man to his thwart. After she was full of water she was more easily managed than when light, as the sea could not knock her about so much. I succeeded in reaching them, and laying hold of them without injuring them or the boat.
One poor fellow sunk to rise no more, three minutes before I reached them.
I consider this Life Boat safe in any sea which it is possible to get anything out against, and that all places where accidents are liable to occur ought to be provided with them.
Your obedt. servt.,
(Signed) Thos. B. King,
From Hon. W. A. Graham.
September 6th, 1851.
Sir, You will receive enclosed herewith a copy of the report of Capt. W. D. Salter, Commandant U. S. Navy Yard, New York, in reference to the Galvanised Iron Boats furnished the U. S. brig Dolphin, the frigate St. Lawrence and other vessels fitted at the Brooklyn Yard.
I am, respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Joseph Francis, Esq., William A. Graham.
Navy Yard, New York,
September 5th, 1851.
Sir, Agreeably to your order of the 1st inst., I have the honour to report that the Galvanised Iron Boat brought here by the brig Dolphin, had been in use on board that vessel for 39 months, the greater portion of which time the brig was cruising in the East Indies. The officers of the Dolphin informed me that their Iron Boat was used more during the cruise than all the other boats. When this boat was overhauled here, on the
return of the Dolphin from her late cruise she was found in such good condition,it was only deemed necessary to paint her and she is again one of the boats of that vessel. In respect to the same kind of boat furnished from this yard to the frigate St. Lawrence, about eight months since, I would respectfully report that she has been returned, so far as can be observed, in as good condition as when the St. Lawrence took her from here, new in February last. All the boats furnished to the different vessels fitted at this yard since I have been in command, to this date, have been favourably reported.
Your obedient servant, W. D. Salter,
Com. Chas. Wm. Skinner, Commandant
Chief of Bureau of Construction, &c., Washington.
From Capt. J.C. Long, U.S.N.
December 5th, 1851.
Sir,—In reply to your communication of the 2d inst, relative to the merits of Francis‘ Patent Metallic Life-boat on board the Mississippi during my last cruise of thirty months in the Mediterranean, I have respectfully to state that I made a general report on her merits, under date of 19th November, ultimo. (The report was not received.)
It now gives me pleasure to state more fully, that for naval purposes, as quarter boats, barges and dinghies, they are admirably adapted. In the first place they are tighter, being always tight after being suspended for a long time at the davits, and I am of opinion they will withstand the concussion of the guns. From the construction of their row-locks, etc., well adapted for cutting-out purposes, being buoyant, pulling easy without noise.
The performance of the copper boat l la had was not so fast as that of the quarter boat of wood, owing to being too sharp and too short on the floor, which made her too lively in the chop of a sea, but she sailed very fast.
The expense of repairs was nothing on the copper boat, only that of washboards and wood work, whereas the wooden boat kept the carpenters constantly employed. The paint on the Copper Life-boat would always look well and reflect credit on the ship by her neat appearance, and was the admiration of all who saw her. The boats referred to were alternately employed for the same purpose, they being the only quarter boats we had.
I take pleasure in saying that up to the first landing of the Life-boat at the Navy Yard, New York, she was in as good order as at any time during the cruise, and she was noticed by many persons at the time; but on my return from Washington, she looked to have been very much abused, she being the only boat that would float, no doubt, was used with less care by the crew, impatient for their discharge.
I am, Sir, respectfully, Your ob'nt. serv’t.,
(Signed) J. C. Long,
Comm. Chas. W. Skinner, Captain U.S.N.,
Chief of the Bureau of Construction, &c.,
Washington, D. C.
From Br. Col, H.A. Brown, U.SA.
February 21st, 1852.
Sir, I have delayed answering your letter until after I should have had the barge some time in use, and have seen her in rough as well as smooth waters. Both of which having now seen, I, with great pleasure, express my entire satisfaction with her performance. She appears to be every thing I expected, and I have no doubt but that in the roughest weather we ever shall have in this harbour, she will live. She rows easy, and is buoyant and dry, riding the waves like a duck, and although I have not yet tried her speed with my other boats, yet I find she makes quite as good time in crossing to and from the city as they do. I have no doubt of the great superiority of your metallic boats over the wooden ones, and hope that they may, as I doubt not they will, soon be generally introduced in the service.
I am, sir, very respectfully, Your obdt. servt.,
H. Amey Brown,
Mr. Joseph Francls. Br. Col. Commanding.
It is well known, that for some time past Prof. Maillefert has been engaged in removing the immense rocks of Hurlgate, in the East River, which have for so many years been a barrier to the safe navigation of the Long Island Sound. This work has been carried on by the munificence of our merchants who have advanced the moneys for the progress of the work. Conspicuous in the prosecution of this great achievement has stood Mr. E. Meriam, who, by his untiring industry and perseverance, without pay; it may be truly said, the work has been brought within reach of a speedy and satisfactory conclusion. To Prof. Maillefert are the public indebted for his scientific and skilful prosecution of the enterprise, the most enlightened countries of the world accorded to he name, distinguished honour, for the success of his hitherto deemed impracticable experiments. His mode of procedure is simply the firing of large charges of powder, some 100 to 150 pounds each, laying under water and upon the surface of the rock. The powder is enclosed in a tin canister, to which is connected wires, and to the other ends a galvanic battery, laying in a boat ready to be fired. At each discharge the rocks are split, and a repetition of them, have so far succeeded, as to admit of any of our naval vessels passing through the channel without difficulty. A few months since, by some unaccountable mistake, the wires attached to the canisters of powder submerged, became deranged with those attached to another canister which lay in one of the boats, and Prof. Maillefert proceeded to touch off the discharge by the galvanic battery—proving however the wire—which was connected with the canister laying in the boat. Of course the wooden boat was shattered to ten thousand atoms, and the two men in her dreadfully mangled and killed. Prof. Maillefert and his brother-in-law, who were in the Metallic Life-boat, were thrown with the boat, by the force of the explosion, more than one hundred and fifty feet. The air chambers in the boat nearest the explosion were torn out, and the end of the boat bent up, thus forming a shield as it were, protecting the persons in her from the force of the explosion. Reference to the above engraving will give the reader some idea of the explosion, while the letters annexed will confirm the evidence already offered to show the strength and ability of the Metallic Lifeboat to withstand the most
From B. Maillefert.
Pot Cove, Astoria, L. I.,
10th Feb’y, 1852.
Dear Sir, You state in your letter of yesterday, that Mr. Joseph Francis wishes to have the two Life-boats, which he has generously lent us for our operations at the Gate, sent to him to be properly overhauled and repaired, after the long and severe trial they have undergone during these last seven months. I should be extremely sorry if I was compelled to part with these excellent Metallic Life-boats, even for one single day, as no wooden boats would be able to stand more than a few days the severe service at the Gate, without having their planks fairly drawn out of their places, and thereby getting so leaky, that nothing but constant pumping or bailing can prevent them from sinking. Although these two boats have been subjected to constant and extreme rough usage, having been knocked about amongst sand, ice and rocks, and more or less severely shaken by every one of the powerful concussions produced by the numerous explosions of my great charges of 125 pounds of powder each, which have been fired at Hurlgate as well as on Diamond Reef, and the effects of which they fully endured, being placed at a distance of some thirty or forty feet only from the explosion. They are still in perfect order, and as sound and safe as ever; not a rivet is out of its place, and if they were only painted afresh, it would, in fact, be impossible to distinguish them from new ones.
Tho saving of time and expenses for repairs, which wooden boats would have required, is of no small importance, and besides this, my men profess such unbounded confidence in the safety of these boats, that in one of them they will fearlessly stand by me, should it be even directly over the explosion, as was the case on the 12th of November, 1851.
I cannot cannot praise boats too much, and I confidently trust that Mr. Joseph Francis will let me use them until my operations are ended.
I remain, dear sir,
Your very obdt. servt,
E. Meriam, Esq. (Signed) B. Maillefert.
Astoria, April 19th, 1852.
Joseph Francis, Esq,
My Dear Sir, Up to this day I have been prevented from returning you my very heartfelt thanks for the truly wonderful double preservation from death of my humble self. God in his endless mercy pointed you out to be, through your sublime invention, the Life-boat, the means of saving me, first, from being horribly mutilated by the late explosion at Hurlgate, then again from being drowned afterwards. And to you, sir, do I return my everlasting gratitude; truly you may feel proud of the hundreds of poor wretches you have already rescued from a watery grave, with these same Metallic Life-boats.
My sight is yet very weak, and I am prevented from writing to you on this subject according to the present state of my feelings; but, my dear sir, believe me, I shall pray the Almighty to preserve your valuable life for a long period of years to be the means of saving others. May your country reward you according to your merit; and I conclude by saying, that as long as breath is left me, I shall remember that I owe my life to you, and that you shall make all the use you can of it, as humble as it is, is the greatest wish of
Your ever grateful, and most obdt. servt,
(Signed) B. Maillefert.
P. S. I have also to state, that what I have said above, is fully appreciated and felt by my brother-in-law, who was at the other end of the Life-boat, and who consequently owes his life also to you.
(Signed) B. Maillefert.
Letter to E. Meriam, Esq. Astoria, April 19th, 1852.
Dear Sir, Since the fatal accident that tool: place at Hurl Gate, on the 20th ult, this is the first time that I am able to use my sight, so providentially recovered, and I cannot make a more appropriate use of it than by stating to you the following fact:
In the beginning of February last, you wrote me that Mr. Joseph Francis, the inventor of the Metallic Life-boat, wished to have the life-boat used by me sent to him, for the purpose of repairing it, but I wrote you in reply that I could not spare the boat even for a single day, fully appreciating its value and great superiority over wooden boats, and moreover, it did not want any repairs, notwithstanding the rough usage to which it had been subjected for seven months past; it was quite providential that I insisted in keeping it, as scarcely a month after, this same boat saved my life in two distinct ways.
First, in protecting me from the immediate effect of the explosion, as the end of the boat, instead of flying into small fragments in every direction, as did my wooden boat, it only bent up and acted as a shield, behind which I was protected to a certain extent. Secondly, It saved me from drowning, in the manner following: When the charge exploded, which was only three feet distant from the stern of the life-boat, and about seven feet from myself, the boat, together with me and my brother-in-law, were sent to a distance of 185 feet, and I sunk to the bottom, where I remained senseless for three or four minutes, according to the statements of all the bystanders; on recovering, and after incredible struggles, having only the use of one arm, I came to the surface, and was greatly relieved to perceive some twelve yards off my faithful life-boat floating, with my brother-in-law supported by it. After sinking and rising once more, I succeeded in getting hold of the boat, which floated so light that ten or twelve persons could have been supported by it; no other object was seen floating in any direction but very small fragments of the wooden boat, too small to be of any service as life-buoys.
It is a fact truly worthy of public notice, that the boat was not supplied with any extra buoyant power, such as corks, India rubber buoys, &c., but was purely and simply supported by its own metallic air chamber. This goes far to show to what hardships these admirable boats can be subjected.
They may be knocked about upon rocks, or twisted out of shape, or bent up by superhuman power, yet in despite of all, they will float and be the means of saving lives, as in my case.
In conclusion, I have to state that my firm conviction is, that had my poor unfortunate men been in one of these Metallic Boats, instead of a wooden one, some of them would have been saved, as they were mutilated by the fragments of wood; for instance, Capt. Southard, who stood no closer to the exploding charge than myself, was struck in the side by a fragment of his wooden boat, while I was protected by the iron sides of the lifeboat.
I remain, my dear Sir, Your obedient servant,
(Signed) B. Maillefert.
Hon. John A. Dix,
Port Chester, September 16th, 1852.
I have had two of Francis's Metallic Life-boats in use for several years, and I consider them in all respects preferable to wooden boats. The largest of my boats is schooner rigged; she has been afloat and in constant use, in summer and autumn, for five years, and I have not expended five dollars on her hull, except for painting. She has been driven ashore twice, in gales, without sustaining any injury, except in her rigging. For safety, durability, convenience and economy, I consider her far superior to a wooden boat.
John A. Dix.
Capt. R.F. Loper.
September 7th, 1852.
Joseph Francis, Esq,
Sir, Enclosed please find order for a suit of Metallic Boats for my new steamer. I believe I was one of the first to patronise this successful invention, and I have purchased many boats for the use of my steamers, which have been in use some five years without having had any repairs. I deem its matter of justice to you to give you my experience and opinion as to the comparative merits of metal and wooden boats.
The Metallic Boat is always tight and ready for use in cases of emergency; their buoyant power being confined in metallic air chambers, gives great security; they need no repairs, and cannot become water-soaked or worm-eaten, whilst on the other hand, the wooden boat can never be relied upon for tightness, and would be broken or stove by striking a wreck or rocks, which could have no such effect upon a metal boat. For safety or spare boats, they are invaluable, and being Fire-proof, no other boats could compare with them, combining, as they do, all the qualities of durability, lightness and safety. I give them a decided preference.
Very respectfully yours, &c.
(Signed) R.F. Loper.