Skip to comments.The #rd Artillery and the SS San Francisco Disaster
Posted on 02/01/2014 2:42:01 PM PST by robowombat
In October, 1848, M, under Lieut. Geo. P. Andrews, sailed for California around the Horn, to join F. The movement of the regiment, though contemplated, was deferred. But our recently conquered subjects were restless, and had to be kept in order. With this object in view, B and L were sent early in April, 1853, to Texas, where they remained until early in 1854. This was for them a most fortunate circumstance, as they thus missed one of the direst calamities that has ever befallen our army on the seas.
How this was, we will now proceed to state. Pursuant to General Orders No. 2, H. Q. Army, September 26, 1853, Headquarters and the ban d with A, D, G, H, I, K, and large detachments of recruits for B and L. embarked December 21st, that year, for California, via Cape Horn, in the commodious steamer San Francisco. The vessel was new, its machinery excellent, and it was believed to be seaworthy. There were about 600 souls on board, including 500 belonging to or connected with the regiment. On the 22d the vessel was at sea. The 23d ended with a fresh breeze and, cloudy weather. By that time the weather was very threatening. An ominous calm prevailed. At 9 P. M. that night the wind came up with terrific force out of the northwest. The sea rolled mountains high. The ship, spite of all efforts of her skillful and devoted crew, soon became unmanageable. By 1.30 A. M. of the 24th she was entirely at the mercy of the waves, her machinery being disabled, and sails blown away. At 9 A. M., 24th, a huge wave struck her, stripping everything from the upper deck, including the saloon, in which, in addition to the regular passengers, a large number of soldiers had taken refuge. It was estimated that 175 souls perished at this time, including about 150 soldiers and Major Washington, Captain Francis Taylor, Captain Field and Lieutenant Smith, together with Mrs. Taylor and Colonel Gates' son. Nothing could exceed the terror of the situation. Fortunately there were men on board who were fit to command. The officers of the vessel, and of the army, and Lieut. F. K. Murray of the Navy, set an example of heroism. The men, except a few dastardly souls, nobly seconded their efforts. To add to the horrors of the storm a leak was sprung, and only by intelligent, systematic, incessant and prolonged exertions was the vessel kept afloat. On the 25th the brig Napoleon was spoken but sailed away. The arrival of this vessel at Boston gave the authorities their first knowledge of the disaster. On the 26th, in latitude 38�20', longitude 69�, another vessel was sighted, but lost in the night. The men now began to die from exposure and exhaustion. On the 28th the bark Kilby of Boston stood by the wreck, and, the weather moderating on the 29th somewhat, ran a hawser and took off 108 passengers. That night the storm freshened, the haw-
ser parted, the San Francisco drifted out of sight, and the Kilby, after a vain search for 2� days, sailed for New York. At 9.30 A. M., December 31st, the British ship Three Bells of Glasgow was spoken and lay to. The storm, however, was unabated. No communication, except by signals, could be had. On January 3, 1854, the Three Bells was joined by the Antarctic of Liverpool. On the 4th and 5th all survivors were tranferred to these two vessels. The Antarctic carried hers�42�to Liverpool. The Three Bells hers to New York. On January 12th the Kilby transferred most of her passengers to the Packet Lucy Thompson, bound to New York, making, herself, for Boston. Thus ended this appalling event. The ship was never seen or heard of more.
A Court of Inquiry, of which General Scott was President, was instituted to examine into the circumstances of this wreck, and as a result, whether justly or unjustly, Colonel Gates was relieved from command of the regiment which he did not resume until November, 1861.
Nothing daunted, the Third was soon again en route, this time by the Isthmus. April 5, 1854, headquarters with B and L, embarked at New York on the steamer Illinois, arriving, L at the Presidio, and B and headquarters at Benicia, California, May 5th following. The band, with D, G, I, K, were not so fortunate. They embarked on the steamer Falcon, and very nearly repeated the experience of the San Francisco. The vessel, though disabled in a storm, managed to make Hampton Roads, where the troops landed at Fortress Monroe. In May, 1854, the steamer Illinois picked them up, and they finally, after many tribulations, reached the California stations. H and A marched overland, via Salt Lake, Utah, where they wintered 1854-55, arriving, July 25, 1855, at Benicia.
From 1854 to 1861 the Third was actively employed in marching and scouting over the Pacific Coast throughout its length and breadth. There was not an Indian tribe from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean whom they did not visit. They became veritable foot-cavalry, In this school some of the best soldiers of the War of the Rebellion were developed.
Correction 3RD Artillery Regiment
Interesting story. I knew that the 3d Artillery had been involved in a shipwreck, but did not know the details. Thanks.
That would be my definition of hell what those guys went through, wow. That cape horn was dreaded by a lot of sailors if I remember my history well.
You recall your history well enough about Cape Horns reputation to be feared by sailors and it continues unabated. Cape Horn is actually an island and not the tip of the South American mainland. I believe it is the Chilean Navy that maintains the automated lighthouse on Cape Horn.