Waukegan, IL (Off shore) Steamer SEA BIRD Burning, Apr 1868

SEA BIRD woodcutting of the disaster 1868.jpg

THE SEA BIRD DISASTER.

FURTHER PARTICULARS OF THE TERRIBLE CALAMITY ON LAKE MICHIGAN.

ARRIVAL OF ANOTHER OF THE SURVIVORS AT CHICAGO -- HIS STATEMENT OF THE OCCURRENCE -- THE LOSS OF LIFE OVERESTIMATED.

Chicago, Friday, April 10.
JAS. H. LEONARD, the third survivor so far from the disaster to the steamer SEA BIRD, makes a statement, of which the following is the substance:
"At about 7 o'clock yesterday morning I went up on deck and conversed with the first mate of the steamer in regard to the distance to Chicago; learned that is was about twenty miles; then went to my wife's stateroom, and soon afterward beard the alarm of fire; went out to ascertain the cause and found the boat on fire, and the flames bursting out near the stern, and close to the stateroom I had just left; I immediately rusehd in to rescue my wife, but was prevented from doing so by the flames, which cut off communication with the stateroom; did not see or hear of my wife after I left the stateroom when the alarm was given."
MR. LEONARD agrees with the statement of MR. CHAMBERLAIN as a general description of the catastrophe, but thinks there were not more than thirty passengers on board; a large number got off at Milwaukee -- much larger, he thinks, than the number that embarked at that port. Finding it too hot to stay on the boat, and realizing the fact that her destruction was inevitable, he sprang into the water, and, being a vigorous swimmer, soon got hold of a board, and soon afterward climbed on a piece of the paddle-box floating near; he clung to this, and drifted with the waves to the southwest, landing three miles north of Evanston, between 7 and 8 o'clock last night, after having been upon a fragment of the wreck twelve hours, drenched to the skin, his clothing frozen, and himself more dead than alive, after his perilous ride of not far from fifteen miles.
MR. LEONARD saw about twenty passengers jump into the water. Some swam around for some time, and others seemed to sink almost immediately. He saw no woman jump overboard, and did not see any women in the water. He believes that there were about ten women on board, all of whom must have perished in the flames.
An attempt was made to launch the steamer's boats, but the rapidity with which the flames spread rendered it impossible to accomplish that object. The sea was not very high, and the boats could have easily weathered it, if they could have been launched.
From the best evidence which Capt. GOODRICH, of the SEA BIRD, has been able to obtain, no effort was made to stop the engine until circumstances prevented its further motion. The result was that the helm having been put aport the boat began to describe a circle of nearly a mile in diameter. The belief of those who ought to know is, that had the progress of the steamer been stopped at the first alarm the boats might have been gotten out and all on board saved.

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