Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Steamer Arctic

The Sinking of the Steamship Arctic Cost Hundreds of Lives in 1854
Eighty Women and Children Aboard SS Arctic Perished

By Robert McNamara, Guide

The sinking of the steamship Arctic in 1854 stunned the public on both sides of the Atlantic, as the loss of 350 lives was staggering for the time. And what made the disaster a shocking outrage was that not a single woman or child aboard the ship survived.
Lurid tales of panic aboard the sinking ship were widely publicized in newspapers. Members of the crew had seized the lifeboats and saved themselves, leaving helpless passengers, including 80 women and children, to perish in the icy North Atlantic.

Background of the Steamship Arctic

The Arctic had been built in New York City, at a shipyard at the foot of 12th Street and the East River, and was launched in early 1850. It was one of four ships of the new Collins Line, an American steamship company determined to compete with the British steamship line run by Samuel Cunard.

The businessman behind the new company, Edward Knight Collins, had two wealthy backers, James and Stewart Brown of the Wall Street investment bank of Brown Brothers and Company. And Collins had managed to get a contract from the US government that would subsidize the new steamship line as it would carry the U.S. mails between New York and Britain. The ships of the Collins Line were designed for both speed and comfort. The Arctic was 284 feet long, a very large ship for its time, and its steam engines powered large paddle wheels on either side of its hull. Containing spacious dining rooms, saloons, and staterooms, the Arctic offered luxurious accommodations never before seen on a steamship.

The Collins Line Sets a New Standard

When the Collins Line began sailing its four new ships in 1850, it quickly gained a reputation as the most stylish way to cross the Atlantic. The Arctic, and her sister ships, Atlantic, Pacific and Baltic, were hailed for being plush as well as reliable.

The Arctic could steam along at about 13 knots, and in February 1852 the ship, under the command of Captain James Luce, set a record by steaming from New York to Liverpool in nine days and 17 hours. In an era when ships could take several weeks to cross the stormy North Atlantic, such speed was stunning.

The Arctic at the Mercy of the Weather

On September 13, 1854, the Arctic arrived in Liverpool after an uneventful trip from New York City. Passengers departed the ship, and a cargo of American cotton, destined for British mills, was offloaded.

On its return trip to New York the Arctic had on board 400 persons, about 185 of whom were first-class passengers, 75 second-class and 130 crew. She was carrying some important passengers, including relatives of its owners, members of both the Brown and Collins families. Also along on the voyage was Willie Luce, the sickly 11-year-old son of the ship’s captain, James Luce.

The Arctic sailed from Liverpool on September 20, and for a week it steamed across the Atlantic in its usual reliable manner. On the morning of September 27, the ship was off the Grand Banks, the area of the Atlantic off Canada where warm air from the Gulf Stream hits cold air from the north, creating thick walls of fog.

Captain Luce ordered lookouts to keep a close watch for other ships. Shortly after noon, lookouts sounded alarms. Another ship had suddenly emerged from the fog, and the two vessels were on a collision course.

The Vesta Slams Into the Arctic

The other ship was a French steamer, the Vesta, which was transporting French fishermen from Canada to France at the end of the summer's fishing season. The propeller-drive Vesta had been built with a steel hull.

The Vesta rammed the bow of the Arctic, and in the collision the steel bow of the Vesta acted like a battering ram, spearing the Arctic’s wooden hull before snapping off.

The crew and passengers of the Arctic, which was the larger of the two ships, believed the Vesta, with its bow torn away, was doomed. Yet the Vesta, because its steel hull was built with several interior compartments, was actually able to stay afloat.

The Arctic, with its engines still steaming away, sailed onward. But the damage to its hull allowed seawater to pour into the ship. The damage to its wooden hull was fatal.

Panic Aboard the Arctic

As the Arctic began to sink into the icy Atlantic, it became clear the great ship was doomed.
The Arctic only carried six lifeboats. Yet had they been carefully deployed and filled, they could have held approximately 180 people, or almost all the passengers, including all the women and children aboard.

Launched haphazardly, the lifeboats were barely filled and were generally taken over entirely by crew members. Passengers, left to fend for themselves, tried to fashion rafts or cling to pieces of wreckage. The frigid waters made survival nearly impossible.

The captain of the Arctic, James Luce, who had heroically tried to save the ship and get the panicking and rebellious crew under control, went down with the ship, standing atop one of the large wooden boxes housing a paddle wheel.

In a quirk of fate, the structure broke loose underwater, and quickly bobbed to the top, saving the captain's life. He clung to the wood and was rescued by a passing ship two days later. His young son Willie perished.

Mary Ann Collins, wife of the Collins Line’s founder, Edward Knight Collins, drowned, as did two of their children. And the daughter of his partner James Brown was also lost.

The most reliable estimate is that about 350 people died in the sinking of the Arctic, including every woman and child aboard. It is believed 24 male passengers and about 60 crew members survived.

Aftermath of the Sinking

Word of the shipwreck began to hum along telegraph wires in the days following the disaster. The Vesta reached a port in Canada and its captain told the story. And as survivors of the Arctic were located, their accounts began to fill newspapers.

Captain Luce was hailed as a hero, and when he traveled from Canada to New York City aboard a train, he was greeted at every stop. However, other crew members of the Arctic were disgraced, and some never returned to the United States.

The public outrage over the treatment of the women and children aboard the ship resonated for decades, and led to the familiar tradition of of saving "women and children first" being enforced in other maritime disasters.

A Collision at Sea

From the St. John's Public Ledger, 3rd October, 1854
Steamer Vesta
The French merchant screw-steamer Vesta, from St. Peter's, bound for Granville, arrived here on Saturday morning last, with loss of foretopmast, and bows completely shattered to pieces, having been in collision with the Collins paddle steamer Arctic, from Liverpool, for New York, about 54 miles south-east of Cape Race.
It appears that the Vesta left St. Peter's on Tuesday last, and on the following day, at noon, in the neighbourhood of the Virgin Rocks in an exceedingly dense fog, steaming eight knots, came into collision with a large steamer, which was recognised as the Arctic, of New York, whose speed is stated to have not been less than twelve knots. The Vesta appeared to be sinking, but immediately rose again; but no hope was entertained of her ultimate safety, the passengers and crew looking upon the Arctic as their only chance of saying their lives. One man was killed, and others severely wounded. Two boats were put over the side, the first of which was sunk, and the second was immediately boarded by two of the crew and several of the passengers, who, not heeding the order of the captain to return on board, abandoned the vessel. The fog continuing very thick, they lost sight of the Arctic altogether, still hoping, however, that she would not desert them. A cry of distress was now heard, which was attributed to some men of the Vesta, who, it appears, had jumped overboard to get on board the Arctic. Providentially the bulkhead in the forecastle was not started, which the captain (Duchesne) noticed as affording a chance of safety. He immediately, with the utmost promptitude, gave orders for lightening the vessel by the head, which was as readily obeyed by throwing overboard all the fish, cargo; luggage of the passengers, &c., which was in the fore part of the vessel, and which raised her bows considerably. This elevation, with the firmness of the bulkhead, contributed much to stop the heavy rush of water. About one hundred and fifty mattresses, palliasses and other effects of the crew and passengers were now placed abaft the safety partition, over which were thrown sails, backed by boards and planks, the whole being secured by cables well and firmly wrapped round all.
The foremast, which had received some damage, was cut away, and contributed considerably to raise the head still more. This occupied two days. They then ran under small steam for the nearest port (St. John's), which they entered on Saturday lastmost providentially before the rising of a severe gale which blew on that day. Upon mustering the hands, thirteen were missed. The Vesta had onboard 147 passengers and a crew of fifty men.
The conduct of Captain Duchesne is much applauded, and the condition of the vessel, as she now appears, elicits the admiration of all who visit her. Indeed, nothing but the most indomitable energy, unwavering perseverance, and superior seamanship could have succeeded in bringing the vessel into port. The unfortunate men have been taken into the hospitable keeping of M. Toissaint (through whose kindness we have been enabled to gather the foregoing account), who spares no pains to provide for their comfort.
Nothing further was known of the Arctic until the evening of Saturday, when news reached town that she had suffered considerably from the shock, and had been abandoned by the passengers and crew. On Sunday some of those who had taken to the boats arrived here from Renews. From one of the passengers we have gathered the following information respecting the collision.
It seems that on Wednesday last, about noon, as the passengers were at lunch in the cabin, a violent shock was felt, and upon rushing on deck, a steamer was very indistinctly seen, through a dense fog, broad off the starboard bow, which turns out to be the Vesta, above mentioned. At first no danger was apprehended on board the Arctic, and the chief officer was sent with a boat to the rescue of the crew of the Vesta. It was soon discovered, however, that there was little hope of saving the Arctic, and the wife, daughter, and son of Mr. E. K. Collins, with several ladies, were put on board a boat, in the act of lowering which one of the tackles gave way, and all, except one lady, who clung to a sailor, holding fast to the boat, were precipitated into the sea, and lost.
Another party of ladies and a few gentlemen were put on board another boat, with some provisions, but, not having been manned by sailors, there is little chance of their speedily reaching the land. The ship could not be stopped to lower the boats, the pumps being attached to the engine for the purpose of keeping the vessel clear of the water which was rushing furiously into her from an injury done on the fore side of the starboard wheel. She was then headed for Cape Race, but after having gone some fifteen miles, the water had so far gained as to extinguish the fires, and the wheels consequently ceased to work, at which time the boats saved left the ship. Captain Luce had no hope of saving the vessel or his own life, and on someone wishing to take his little son into the boat, he declined. A large boat, capable of containing 50 persons, was on deck, but there not being sufficient hands on board and being very heavy to launch, it is supposed she would be filled with persons, in the hope that she might float off when the ship sunk. It is conjectured that three life-boats are yet floating, which would be likely to live out the gale of Saturday.
The purser, Mr. Geib, it appears, chartered a small craft at Renews to visit the scene of the disaster, and ascertain, if possible, whether there are any more boats out; so that we may shortly learn of the safety or otherwise of other parties.
The Arctic had on board 400 persons, about 185 of whom were first-class passengers, 75 second-class, and 130 crew. The general impression of those saved is that the steamer soon went down.
The following letter from the purser of the Arctic to the American Consul here was published in the Newfoundlander of yesterday, together with some other particulars which have been embodied in the above statement :
Ferryland, September 29.
Dear Sir,
Enclosed I send you an important telegraphic communication for Messrs. E. K. Collins and Co., New York, informing them of the loss of the steamer Arctic, which I will thank you to have forwarded to Halifax, for transmission by the earliest opportunity from St. John's. I am now on my way to your place with fourteen passengers and thirty-one of the crew of the ill-fated steamer, who were saved in two small boats belonging to the ship, after spending two days and two nights on the deep.
We arrived at four o'clock this morning, at a place called Broad Cove, and are waiting for a fair wind to take us to St. John's.
JOHN GEIB, Purser, steamer Arctic
Mr. W. H. Newman, American Consul
On Wednesday, the 27th instant, at () the Arctic came into collision with a screw steamer (name unknown) in a dense fog, 55 miles south-east of Cape Race. In an hour and a half from the time of collision the engines of the Arctic ceased working, on account of the fires being extinguished, and the passengers and crew took to the boats, as far as able. The number of persons that arrived here is safety in two boats, one of which I had charge of, was 45 - 14 passengers and 31 crew. A number of persons were lost by the swamping of one of the boats, in which it is painful for me to say were the wife, son, and daughter of Mr. E. K. Collins. We landed at a place called Renews, in Newfoundland, and are now on our way to St. John's distant about fifty miles, whence I send this communication by express to the American Consul to forward to Halifax. I have chartered a schooner, which sailed this morning with a fair wind, under command of Mr. Bashlam ; the second officer, which will probably arrive at the scene of the disaster at to-night (29th) in search of the other boats out.
Annexed I send a list of the passengers and crew saved in the two boats with me.
JOHN L. GEIB, Purser
Messrs. E. K. Collins and Company, New York
Passengers saved --
Messrs. C. De Paissiur,
W. A. Young,
W. W. Gilbert,
J. Bogart,
E. F. Mitchell,
E. M. Tuss,
W. Rathbone,
J. Hennessy,
H. Moore,
De Meyer,
W. Gihon, jun.,
J. M'Math,
George Dobbs,
and the servant of the Duke de Grammont.

Crew saved --
Mr. Geib, purser;
Mr. Bashlam, second officer;
Mark Graham, fourth officer;
and 28 seamen.

We are glad to be enabled to state that every exertion is being made to procure vessels to be despatched in search of the Arctic or her boat, by the American Consul and passengers, who have succeeded in obtaining the brig Ann Eliza, belonging to Messrs. Warren Brothers, which sailed last evening, and will cruise three days in the vicinity of the catastrophe, free of charge The Right Rev. Dr. Field promptly offered the use of his yacht, the Hawk, for the same service, which will be despatched as soon as a master and crew can be had for her. The Telegraph Company's steamer Victoria, would, in all probability, be also sent off this morning and the mail steamer, immediately upon her arrival, will also be dispatched for the same purpose. The steamer Cleopatra, now in port had not been forgotten, but we believe she cannot possibly be had. No expense has been spared in the search, and the exertions of Mr. Newman, the American Consul, are worthy of all praise. We sincerely trust their endeavours will be well rewarded.

We are sorry to find from subsequent reports in the times of the 18th October, 1854 that many small vessels which were immediately undertaken in search of the steamer or any of her boats, had returned from unsuccessful cruises, and that very little hope is entertained for the safety of any, except those enumerated in the letters of the purser.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Passenger & Crew List

The New York Times ~ Oct 12th 1854

The following is a correct list of the passengers on board the Artic. It was received by the Canada, recently arrived from Liverpool ~ TOTAL 250

Mr. DuPassin and friend*
E. Bucch
F. Henry
Mr. Grant, Lady and Child
T. B. Jones
J. G. Smith
Miss Jane Murton
Miss Smith
W. B. Brown and Lady
Miss Mary Brown* (Name corrected 12/28/2015. See her story.)
N. Babcock and Lady
Mr. Babcock Jr.
T. C. Mitchell*
Mr. De Maryen*
J. B. Cooke
A. Banche
W. P. Rathbone*
Mr. Guynots, 2 Children and Nurse
George H. Burns*
Mr. M. Day, Mrs. Day and Daughter
Mr. Delgrade, Friend and Servant
Mrs. G. McCracken
Mrs. Scott
Mr. Moriss
Mrs. Edward K. Collins of New York
Miss M. A. Collins, New York
C. Collins, New York
Mr. North
Mr. D. Yoasi
A. Benedict and Lady
C. Fabricotti
J. B. Hoag
Mr. Dawson and Lady
Miss Benjamin
Mrs. Ropes and Son
Mrs. Childs and Daughter
Miss Revel
Miss Bronson
Mrs. Howland and Son
F. W. Gale, Lady and Svt.
Mr. W. Gihon*
J. Lynch and Lady
Mr. Adams
Mr. Brady
F. Catherwood
J. J. Barrill
Mr. Hilger and Friend
Mr. Hollub
Mr. Niven
C. St. John
Henderson Moore*
W. W. Comstock
Mr. Perkins
J. Smith and Lady
Mr. McGlyvin
R. Madison
Henry Jenkins*
Mr. Schmidt
Mr. Waring
Captain D. Pratt and Lady
H. P. Stuart
Duc de Grammont and Servant*
Mr. Major, Mrs. Major, Inf. and Child
Miss Brun
Mrs. Drew
J. Holbrook
Miss Jones
J. Muirhead
James Smith
Mr. Bedford and Friend
G. Brown
Mr. Meayer
H. Cook
C. Christians and Friend
Capt. Paul F. Gram*
T. Robson
George Dodds*
Mr. Pasive and Four Friends
Mr. Wiberg and Friend
M. Mayer
Mr. A. Stone, Mrs. and Miss Stone
Mr. Scheibler
H. Thomas
Mrs. J. Lindsey
Miss Mansay
P. Johnson
G. Moakes, Jr.
C. Petrie and Lady
Mrs. Perrin
Edward Sandford, Esp. of New York
B. C. Wood
J. Zollogi
Mr. Milville
S. Jeffords
G. B. Pearson
G. F. Allen, Lady, Infant and Nurse
W. B. Browne, Infant and Nurse
R. S. Williams and Lady
D. Cannon
W. Bowen
Mr. Berney
H. LeRoy Newbould
Miss Steward
Miss Hasard
W. Barber
Mr. Christie
W. W. Gilbert* and Servt.
H. H. Koon
H. Reed
C. C. Springer
Mr. Eggers
G. Guynet, Lady and Child
Mr. Hirsch, Lady and Serv.
Mr. Hewett and Lady
Mr. Hinde and Friend
Mr. Wallace
Mr. Waterman
Miss Major, Friend and Ch'd.
Mr. Ravenscroft
S. M. Woodruff
W. A. Young*
Mr. Barber
James Thompson*
Mrs. Bryan
T. Luchmiranet
Mr. Pratt
Mr. Sheldon
Mrs. M. Hodgson and Fr'd.
Miss Ford
J. Fryer
T. Sherburner
T. Schuster, Lady and Two Daughters
Mr. Winterburn (Matthew Winterburn)
S. Culner (Stephen Culmer)
Mr. Guilliam
Miss Mitchell
Miss Hay
H. Arbuckle
F. Coop
W. Ferguson
Mr. Lenoire, Friend, Two Ladies and Three Children
E. Hilbroner
A. Garcia
Miss A. Lais
T. Newman and Son
Mr. McDougal
H. Musterd
Mr. Hatcher and Friend
James McMath*
Mrs. Ridge and Friend
Mr. Geiger and Lady
Wm. Nicolls*
J. W. Fuss* and Friend
Edgecombe and Infant
Mr. Frank
F. Rhine
Mr. Culman
Mr. Bush and Son
William J. Hennessy*
Mr. Patterson
Mrs. Craig

We have obtained from Messrs. POOLE, PENTZ & GOIN, No. 39 Burling-slip, by whom the crew of the Arctic were shipped, the following complete list of her Officers and Crew:
  • Capt. James E. Luce, Commander
  • Robert J. Gourlie, 1st Officer
  • William Baalham, 2nd Officer*
  • Francis Dorian, 3rd Officer*
  • Mark Graham, 4th Officer*
  • Thomas Wilde, Boatswain
  • David Reed, Boatswain's Mate*
  • J. W. Rogers, Chief Engineer
  • John Degnon and George F. Brown, 1st Ass't Engineers*
  • Robert A. Walker and Michael Kelly, 2nd Ass't Engineers
  • James Willett and James Timpson, 3rd Ass't Engineers
  • Thomas Wilson and Thomas Brennan*, Oilers
  • John L. Geib*, Purser
  • George Bailey, Carpenter*
  • Henry Jones*, William Ryan, John Davis* and Henry McGee*, Wheelmen
  • Edward Church, Storekeeper
  • Thomas Whitworth, Ass't Storekeeper
  • William Atkinson, Engineers' Storekeeper
  • Theodore Randall, Steward
  • Robert Wilkinson, 2nd Steward
  • Thomas Stimson, Officers' Steward*
  • Joseph Cunningham, 2nd Cabin Steward
  • Samuel Hobert, Ass't 2nd Cabin Steward
  • Anna Downer and Maria Barber, Stewardesses
  • John Connelley, Engineers' Mess Boy*
  • James Garland, Firemens' Mess Boy
  • Michael Kelt, Stokers' Mess Boy
  • David Lloyd, Oilers' Mess Boy
  • Benjamin Van Orden, Boatswains' Mess Boy
  • Abraham Boydell, Captain's Man
  • Sion Andrea, Victor Mantier, Theodore Florentine and Michael Halstead, Saloon Clerks
  • James Abeny, Ship's Cook
  • Joh Main, 2nd Cook
  • Francis Miller, Pastry Cook
  • Henry Nicholas, Baker*
  • Benjamin Van Norden, Butcher
  • Nicholas Pocidus, Henry Olney and Jeremiah Waddington*, Pantry Men
  • James Carnegan, Porter*
  • John Jobin, 2nd Porter
  • Charles Simms, Scullion
  • William Hardwick, Head Waiter
WAITERS ~ James Mercer*, Barnard Johnson, Robert Bryan, Arthur Ogle, Andrew Cabrey, Henry Barker, Michael Bennett, James Gannon, Michael Meehan, Charles McCuen, James Farley, Frederick Linton, Erastus Miller, Luke Carnegan, David Barry, Frank Lovett, Robert Christy, James Davenport, John Troy and John Whalen

SEAMEN ~ Thomas Danvers, Richard Smith, Wm. Cummings, John Mack*, Martin Blake, John Mock, James Paige*, Geo. Flemming*, Peter Montague, John Humphrey*, Archibald Ray, Henry Hunt, James Allen*, John Linn, Henrich Aicks, Wm. Lee, Henry Green, James Holland, Wm. Lupper, John Frost and Thomas Jaques*

FIREMEN ~ John Adams, John Garland, Patrick Noland, Thomas Garland*, Patrick Tobin*, John Keht, John Moran, Edward Bryant*, John Pitterson, Patrick Aiken*, Patrick Mann, Peter Sloan, Alexander Grant, Dobbin Carnahan*, Peter Connover, Patrick Casey*, Dominick Connelley, Edward Halferty, Luke McCarty, Daniel Connor, Robert Don, Joseph Connelly, Richard McKim and Christie Moran

STOKERS ~ Jno. Coyle, Bryan Dolan, Jas. Fry, Michael Russell, Jas. Biglan, Jno. Flannagan, Jno. Drury, Jas. Riley, Robert Bell, Jas. Geddy, Patrick Macauley, James Connor, Wm. Flannagan, Michael Connor, Thos. Conroy, Francis Cowen, Patrick McDrury, Jno. Reymolds, Jas. Macloney, Patrick McMahan*, Jno. Larkins and Alexander Walbin

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mary "Aunt Molly" Brown-Thompson


Mary "Aunt Molly" (Brown) Thompson, a young English woman, was the only female survivor of the Steamer Arctic that shipwrecked near Cape Race, Newfoundland, Canada on 27 September 1854. 

She died in January 1919 in Orange County, NY.

Republican Watchman / Monticello, NY
December 22, 1916


"Aunt Molly" Thompson, the grand old lady of Forestburgh, returned to her home at St. Joseph's on Tuesday, after spending several days visit with her friend, Mrs. M. (Minnie) McNeely, on Oakley Avenue. Mrs. Thompson was deeply grieved when she heard of the Merriewold Park tragedy*, which occurred Sunday, for her home is close to the entrance to the park and she knew the unfortunate victims long and well. She has resided in the house where she now lives for over a half century. (*An Explosion)

Crew & Passengers Who Were Saved

After its collision with the Vesta, the Arctic left the scene, her captain thinking it would be safer to steam toward land. The bows of the Vesta were heavily damaged but her forward bulkhead was not breached, and after her crew had shored it up she was able to proceed cautiously. When the French vessel reached land, the captain was told that the Arctic did not make it back.

Casualties included 92 of her 153 officers and men, and all her women and children passengers, including the wife, the only daughter, and the youngest son of Collins Line manager Edward Knight Collins. The total lost was near 400. The tragedy hit the public quite hard in 1854 due to stories of cowardice by crew members, who took over some of the life boats. The fact that no women or children survived did not sit well with the American public.

In a search for heroes in the disaster the Americans noted the bravery of young Stewart Holland, who stood on the sinking ship's deck firing (at intervals) the distress cannon, until the ship went under water. Holland did not survive. The ship's Captain, James C. Luce, survived the disaster with another man clinging to one of the ship's paddlewheel boxes, but Luce's son died in the wreck. At one point nearly 30 people were floating on a raft from the ship's deck, but due to waves and exhaustion only two were alive the following morning to be rescued. Yet one gentleman, from Mississippi, managed to make his own small raft, and was rescued the next day.

In "The History of Smith & Wellstood Ltd. Ironfounders" it is recorded that James Smith, the company's founder, was on board the Arctic. James found a raft shortly after entering the water and managed to drag himself on it. The raft was tiny and with every wave James felt his chances of survival diminish. It was at this time he saw a basket that had been used for storing plate. He paddled over towards it and managed to hoist the basket onto the raft. He squeezed inside the basket for protection against the elements. Eventually he was resucued by the barque, Cambria, outward bound from Greenock. James had a cooking stoves and ranges tinware factory on State Street, Jackson, Mississippi and was on his way back to America to hand this business over to his brother.

At the time of the disaster the U.S. Merchant Marine, with its fleets of clipper ships and the Collins' Liners (then the fastest and most luxurious afloat) controlled the Atlantic trade. But Edward Collins depended on U.S. government subsidies based on carrying the mails to and from Europe. The Arctic was one of a fleet of ships, and had been one of the prides of the line, but its destruction was the first serious blow to Collins' reputation. It would be followed in two years by the disappearance of the SS Pacific in 1856. The ending of the Crimean War released the energies of Collins' English rival, Samuel Cunard, to fight for English predominance in the Atlantic Trade. Cunard won this by the end of the decade.

The last living survivor, Thomas Baker (born 5 Mar 1838) was 16 at the time of the sinking and survived by clinging to wreckage. He died on 7 Feb 1911 at the age of 73 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Names of Persons Known To Be in the Ship's Boats

  • Mr. Gurley, 1st Officer
  • Thomas Wilde, Boatswain
  • Mr. Baalam, 2nd Officer*
  • Mr. Graham, 4th Officer*
  • Mr. Moore, New York, Passenger
  • Mr. Brown, 1st Assistant
  • Mr. Walker, 2nd Assistant
  • Mr. Willett, 3rd Assistant
  • Daniel Connelly, Fireman
  • John Moran, Fireman
  • John Flanagan and Patrick McCauley, Firemen
  • Mr. Degnon*, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Timpson, Engineers
And a young man named Robinson, under instructions in the Engineer's department, besides sailors and quartermasters.

Among those whom George H. Burns last saw on the quarterdeck, while fastening life-preservers on the females:
  • Capt. Luce* and Son
  • Mrs. E. K. Collins, Master C. Collins and Miss Collins
  • Mr. Brown and Family (connection of the senior of the firm of Brown, Shipley & Co., Liverpool)
  • Mr. Thomas, Importer of Hosiery, New York
  • Mr. Adams, Brooklyn
  • Mr. Bowen and C. Springer, of Cincinnati
  • Mr. J. Muirhead, Jr., Petersburg, VA
  • Mr. Hewitt, Mrs. Hewitt and Daughter of Fredericksburg, VA
  • Mr. Wood, New York
  • Mr. Ysaki, Mr. Schmidt and Miss Murton of Falmouth, England
  • A Nephew of Mr. Bloodgood, Hotel Keeper, Philadelphia
  • The Duke de Grammont of the French Embassy
  • Thomas Wilkinson, 2d Steward, Wife and Child
  • Anna Downer and Maria Barber, Stewardesses
  • Miss Jones, Mr. Petrie and Lady and Steward Hollin of Washington, DC
  • J. Cook, Opelousas, LA
With many more whose name he did not know but whose features were indelibly imprinted in his memory. A Mr. Comstock, brother to the commander of the Baltic, was drowned by the capsizing of a boat while being lowered.

Those saved in the Sixth Boat and Taken to Quebec by the Huron.
  • James Adry, Ship's Cook
  • Firemen, Luke McCarthy, Joseph Connelly, Richard Makan, Thomas Conroy, James Connor, John Drury, Christian Moran, James Ward, Christopher Callaher 
  • Thomas Wilson, Assistant Engineer
  • Waiters, Robert Bryan, David Barry, Erastus Miller
Persons Brought to New York by the Lebanon
The following is a list of persons taken on board the bark Huron, Sept. 29, lat. 46, lon. 52, by the ship Lebanon, arrived at this port yesterday morning, belonging to the Arctic:

Wm. Nicholls of England
Henry Jenkins, California
James Thompson, N. Orl's
Capt. Paul F. Gram, NY
Geo. H. Burns, Phildel'a

Francis Dorian, 3d officer
Peter McCabe, New York
Mich'l McLaughin, do.
James Carnagan, do.
Thomas Stimson, do.
John Connelly, do.
Edward Bryant, do
Patrich McMahon, do
Thomas Garland, do
Patrick Casey, do
Patrick Tobin, do
Dobbin Carnagan, do
Thomas Brennan, do

Survivors who arrived in New York from the Europa
The fllowing comprises a list of those arrived in New York:

W. W. Gilbert, New York, first cabin
Henderson Moore, New York, first cabin
E. F. Mitchell, South Carolina, first cabin
W. Gihon, Bellymanna, Ireland, first cabin
W. A. Young, Bellymanna, Ireland, first cabin
Mr. deMaryen, Mexico, first cabin
Mr. C. DePaissiur, Havre, France, first cabin
John W. Fuss, Belgium, first cabin
James McMath, England, first cabin
George Dodds, England, first cabin
William J. Hennessy, Ireland, first cabin
Servant to Duc DeGrammont

William Ballham, 2nd Officer
Mark Graham, 4th Officer
Joh Dignon, 1st Ass't Engineer
David Reed, Boatswain's Mate

CREW ~ 19
William Hardwick, Head Waiter
James Mercer, Waiter
Henry Nicholas, Baker
George W. Bailey, Carpenter
Jeremiah Waddington, Pantry Man
Henry Jones, Wheelman
Henry McGee, Wheelman
John Davis, Wheelman
Peter Conner, Fireman
Patrick McMahon, Fireman
Patrick Aiken, Fireman
John Larkin, Fireman
George Flemming, Seaman
Eric Weeks, Seaman
John Humphrey, Seaman
James Paige, Seaman
John Mack, Seaman
Thomas Jacques, Seaman
James Allen, Seaman


Reprints from The New York Times

New York Times ~ Oct 13th 1854
Total loss of the steamer Arctic, Fearful sacrifice of life

The Canadian steamer Cleopatra, Capt Salt, arrived here this morning from Quebec having put into St John’s Newfoundland for coal, making the passage from St John’s in 7 days.

By her we have received St John’s newspapers for the 3rd inst giving the melancholy details of the total loss of the American steamer Arctic, Capt Luce, with a fearful sacrifice of life, off Cape Race. The ARCTIC was on a passage from this port to New York, having left here on the 20th ult.

St John’s Public Ledger, 3rd inst

The French merchant screw steamer Vesta from St Peters bound to Granville, arrived here Saturday morning last, with loss of foremast and bows completely shattered, having been in collision with the Collin’s paddle-steamer Arctic, from Liverpool to New York about 54 miles S.E of Cape Race.

The Vesta left St Peters on Tuesday last, and at the following day in the neighbourhood of Virgin Rocks, in a dense fog, steaming 8 knots came into collision with the ARCTIC whose speed having been not less than 12 knots.

The Vesta appeared to be sinking but rose up again, but no hope was entertained of her ultimate safety and the passengers and crew looked upon the Arctic as their only chance of safety.

One man was killed and others severely injured, two boats were put over the side, one immediately sank, the second was boarded by two crew and several passengers, who not heeding the cries of the Captain to return on board, abandoned the vessel.

The fog continued very thick and they lost sight of the Arctic, still hoping, however, that she would not desert them. Cries of distress were heard and was attributed to some men of the Vesta who had jumped overboard to get on the Arctic. The bulkhead in the forecastle was not started, which Capt Duchesne noticed was affording a chance of safety. He immediately with the utmost promptitude, gave orders for lightening the vessel, which was readily obeyed by the throwing overboard all, the fish, cargo, luggage of the passengers etc. This elevation with the firmness of the bulkhead contributed much to stop the heavy rush of water.

150 mattresses, palliasses and other effects were now placed abaft in the safety partition, over which were thrown sails, backed by boards and planks, the whole thing secured by cables. The damaged foremast was cut away and contributed to raising the head still more. This occupied 2 days, they then ran under small steam to the nearest port, St Johns.

Upon mustering the hands, 13 were missed.

The Vesta had on board 147 passengers and a crew of 50. Nothing but the most superior seamanship could have brought the vessel to port, Capt Duchesne is much applauded.
Nothing further was heard of the Arctic until Saturday evening when news reached town that she had suffered considerably from the shock and had been abandoned by the passengers and crew. On Sunday some of those who had taken to the boats arrived here from Renews.
Information from one of the passengers.

On Wednesday last at , as the passengers were at lunch in the cabin, a violent shock was felt, and upon rushing on deck, a steamer was very indistinctly seen, through the dense fog, broad of the starboard bow, which turned out to be the Vesta.

At first no danger was apprehended on board the ARCTIC, and the Chief Officer was sent with a boat to rescue the crew of the Vesta. It was soon discovered. However, there was little hope of saving the Arctic, and the Lady, daughter and son of Mr E. K. Collins and several ladies were put on board a boat, in the act of lowering one of the tackles gave way, and all, except one lady who clung to a sailor holding fast of the boat, were precipitated into the sea and lost.

Another party of ladies and some gentlemen were put on board another boat and some provisions, but not having been manned by sailors there is little chance of their speedily reaching land.

The ship could not be stopped to lower the boats, the pumps being attached to the engine for the purpose of keeping the vessel clear of water, which was rushing into her, from an injury on the fore side of the starboard wheel.

She was then headed for Cape Race, but after 15 miles the water had gained to extinguish the fires, and the wheels consequently ceased to work, at which time the boats saved left the ship.
Capt Luce had no hope of saving the vessel, or his own life, and on someone wishing to take his little son into the boat declined. A large boat capable of taking 50 persons was on deck, but there was not sufficient hands on board, it being difficult to launch, it is supposed she would be filled with persons, in the hope that she might float when the vessel sunk. It is conjecture three lifeboats might still be floating, which will be likely to live out the gale of Saturday.

The purser Mr Geib chartered a small craft at Renews to visit the scene of the disaster, and ascertain whether there are more boats out, and learn of the safety or otherwise of the parties.
The ARCTIC had on board 400 persons, 185 1st class passenger, 75 2nd class passengers and 130 crew.

Ferryland 28th Sept 1854
W. H. NEWMAN Esq, American Consul

Dear Sir - Enclosed I send you an important telegraphic communications from Messers E. K. Collins and Co, New York, informing them of the loss of the steamer Arctic, which I will thank you to have forwarded to Halifax for transmission by the earliest opportunity to St Johns. I am now on my way to your place with 14 passengers and 31 crew of the ill fated steamer who were saved in two small boats belonging to the ship, after spending 2 days and 2 nights on the deep.
We arrived at 4 this morning at a place called Broad Cove, and are waiting for fair wind to take us to St Johns

John Geib, Purser, Steamer Arctic
The 2nd Officer, Mr Baahlam also made a statement

Public Ledger, Oct 3rd 1854

In brief: On Wednesday at noon, Cape Race, bearings S.W by W, 65 miles distant, while running in a thick fog, were struck in the starboard bow, about 60ft abaft the cutwater by an iron steamer, which made three large holes in the ship, two below water, one of which was 51/2 ft long, and one 11/2 ft deep.

The wheel was put hard to starboard, the engine stopped and we backed at full speed, until clear of the other steamer. The French steamer seemed to be sinking bow first, Capt Luce immediately gave orders to clear away the quarter-boats and Mr Gourley, Chief Officer left the ship in charge of the starboard boat. On informing the captain of the damage he ordered the ship’s head to be kept for land, which bore N.W by W. By this time we had lost sight of the Chief Officer’s boat and the other steamer, which we supposed had sunk.

We had not been out more than 5mins, when we ran into a boat belonging to the other vessel, the passengers all of whom perished except one, who caught hold of a rope hanging over the bow.

Orders were given to stop the engine, which the Chief Officer said could not be done. In about 30mins all the lower fires were out, there was at least 6ft of water in the ship, fore and aft. In 45mins the water in the level of the lower deck beams and the captain had no hope of saving her and told me to save the boats.

The boats on the portside were completely filled with men and women. I went to the starboard and ordered the guard-boat be lowered, I asked the captain what his intentions were and he replied, that the ship’s fate would be his. I then asked would he not allow his son to go with me and he answered that he should share his fate.

I then jumped into the boat and was ordered by the captain to cut away, about 20 people jumped overboard, of these 17/18 were picked up. We fell in with another boat which had been lowered from the other side and lightened her of part of her compliment, leaving 19 in her and 26 in my boat.

The last sight of the Arctic, her yards were level with the water, the surface of the sea was strewn with human beings, of whom, it was impossible to render any assistance.
I was put in complete command of both boats, we were 60miles S.E of Cape Race. It was my duty to all to take the nearest course, after pulling for 42hrs with nothing to guide but the run of the sea, which I took to be heaving from southward, and in a thick fog, we reached Broad Cave, some 12miles N. of Cape Race.

We then proceeded by land to Renews, which we reached on Friday last. I there obtained a small schooner, hired by the purser and myself and immediately went in search of the wreck or boats. We cruised around until yesterday and found no sign of the wreck or boats.

I sent word to Capt Leitch of the Philadelphia, who I am informed sent out two vessels and Mr Alan Goodridge of Renews also sent out a vessel on Saturday.

I regret to report there is no trace of the Arctic or her boats, there were many vessels in the area where the disaster occurred, it is not at all improbable that many lives may have been saved. No doubt, however, is left in my mind as to the loss of the steamer Arctic.
Copy of a letter from Mr C. T. Mitchell, of Charleston, passenger on the Arctic.

St Johns Newfoundland, 0ct 3rd 1854
Messers Glen and Anderson

Dear Sir - This advises you that the Arctic, in a dense fog off Cape Race, came into collision with an iron steamer and sank in 4 hrs. I took to the boat and after 42 hrs of intense agony of mind and body was saved. I saved nothing but the clothes I stood in, will leave this from Friday for Halifax, and from thence proceed to Boston, with as much despatch as possible. I sprained my ankle, which is the only injury I sustained. Please give this information to Mr Edward Moon and other friends, and oblige, yours truly.

C. T. Mitchell.

Extract from a letter St Johns
Oct 8th 1854

The steamer which ran into the Arctic was the Vesta, 800 tons, bound for St Peters to Granville with cod fish. 11am she struck, it was very foggy. She struck the Arctic forward of the paddle boxes. The French steamer arrived here last Sunday in a terrible state, the crew had thrown all the fish overboard to lighten the vessel. 14 crew thinking she was sinking left her in one of the boats which was ran down by the Arctic and all were lost. The Vesta had 140 souls on board - conscripts to supply the places of those who had died in the Baltic of Cholera in the French Navy. This small city is full of wrecked crews and passengers.

It is an awful thing the loss of the Arctic, the Captain [brave fellow] would not leave this ship and when last seen by the survivors he was with the ship sinking fast. Mr Collins, his wife, daughter and son were lost when lowering the boat which was swamped alongside. I have just come from the French steamer it is a miracle she was saved. The bow is turned completely at right angles with the side, in the starboard bow is a great crack, extending to within 6ins of the keel. All her coal and cargo is thrown overboard. Her water tight compartments saved her. “The CITY OF PHILADELPHIA has broken to pieces.”

The Loss of the Arctic, Further Particulars

By the America we have received further particulars touching the loss of the Arctic, and we are glad to learn that 36 lives have been saved.

Received New York 11th inst

Four of the five lifeboats have believed to have been well provided, containing the engineers, sailors and a few passengers, and all the officers, except the Captain and the 3rd mate left the ship at an early stage.

A majority of the passengers were working at the pumps and firing signal guns, and others launching spars under the direction of Capt Luce and Mr Dorian, 3rd mate, to form a raft.

A panic suddenly seized all on board, a rush was made for the raft and a large number got on it and into a boat. The sea was flush with the deadlights, in a few minutes she sunk, and all on board perished.

At 5 pm on the 28th, the survivors of the boat espied a sail and raised a handkerchief to alert attention and found the vessel to be the barque Huron of St Andrews, N.B., Capt A. Wall, bound to Quebec.

The raft was seen in the distance with one poor man still clinging to it, he was rescued and said that, after the steamship sank the raft had 72 men and 4 women on it, he was the only one now alive.

During the night of the 28th, Capt Wall hung out extra lights, fired rockets and kept a horn blowing , hoping to fall in with the remainder of the boats, but his endeavours were fruitless.

On the evening of the 28th he spoke to Capt Story on the ship Lebanon, for New York, by whom, 18 of the number rescued were taken off the Huron, and the Lebanon afterwards transferred the survivors to Pilot Boat Christian Berg No 16, by which they reached the city.

The fate of the propeller and the other 5 boats of the Arctic is not known, the propeller is supposed to have been the Cleopatra from Montreal for Liverpool.

Oct 31st 1854 ~ Arrival of the Canadian

The screw steamer Canadian, Capt McMaster, which left Quebec on the 16th inst, arrived in the  Mersey at 9 am yesterday, and we have received Quebec papers to the day of her departure. A statement of the safety of Capt Luce received by the last steamer from New York is confirmed.

The following is a letter to Mr E. K. Collins, received from Capt Luce. In brief:

Dear Sir,

It has become my painful duty to inform you of the loss of the steamship Arctic under my command with many valuable lives, I fear among whom must be included your wife, son and daughter, with whom I took a last leave the moment the ship was going down, without myself expecting to see the light of another day.

In an instant the ship went down carrying every soul on board with her, I soon found myself on the surface of the water after a brief struggling with my own helpless child, Willie, in my arms, when I again found myself impelled downwards to a great depth, and before I reached the surface a second time, had nearly perished and lost the hold of my child.

On the surface of the water, a most awful heart-rendering scene presented itself to my view, over  200, men, women and children struggling together amongst pieced of wreck, calling each other for help and imploring Almighty God to help them.

I was in the act of saving my child, when a portion of the paddle box came rushing towards us edgewise, grazing my head, and falling its whole weight upon the head of my darling child. in another moment I beheld him lying lifeless in the water.

I succeeded in getting on top of the paddle box with 11 others and we passed the dreary night, everyhone of us expecting every hour to be our last, morning came, dreary, cold and with a dense fog, not a living soul to be seen but our party - only seven now being left.

About noon Mr S. M. Woodruff of New York was relieved by death, all those left were suffering from the need of water except myself and Mr. George F. A. Allen.

Night came on thick and dreary, three more of our party were relieved by death, leaving Mr. ALLEN, a young German, and myself.

About an hour before daylight on Friday the 29th we saw a vessels light near us and exerted ourselves hailing till we were exhausted, the light faded into the distance and disappeared.

Soon after daylight a barque hove in sight to N.W. the fog now lighted, she was steering toward us but changed her course, again we were doomed to disappointment.

Shortly afterwards a ship was discovered to the east, steering directly for us, we watched her intensely, they picked up the man on the raft who informed the Captain there were others on pieces of wreck, and by the Captain going aloft we were found and three others. We were safely taken on board at 3 pm, those saved after us were Mr. James Smith of Mississippi, 2nd class passenger and five of our firemen.

The ship proved to be the Cambria, of and from Glasgow bound to Montreal, Capt John Russell, who commanded the barque Jesse Stevens and was rescued by Capt Nye of the Pacific.

Of Capt Russell, it is impossible to praise enough for his kind treatment and the Rev Mr. Walker and Lady and Mr Sutherland passengers on the Cambria, unceasing in their efforts to promote our comfort. On Saturday at 11 am we arrived at Quebec

Quebec, 14th OCT 1854, James C. Luce
New York Times ~ Oct 23rd 1854