Waukegan, IL (Off shore) Steamer SEA BIRD Burning, Apr 1868
I repeat his exact words above, because to me they now have a strange significance.
I then returned to my state-room, where my wife was still abed. A few moments later I heard the alarm of fire, and, rushing out to ascertain the cause of the alarm, I discovered the after part of the boat in flames, and rapidly involving the cabin which I had just left. I then made an attempt to reach my wife's room, but the intense heat compelled me to withdraw. I called out to my wife to get out. I got no response. The rapidity with which the fire extended drove the passengers forward. The scene at the time was of the most harrowing character. Women in night-dresses and frightened men rushed frantically about seeking agencies of escape. Some jumped overboard with plands, others with chairs, and no sooner had they touched the water, then their agonizing shrieks told of their inability to keep above the treacherous element. When the heat compelled me, I too jumped in the water in the direction of a plank which was floating around. By vigorous swimming I reached it, and, fortunately, I soon clambered on a part of the paddle wheel box with which the waves brought me in contact. The piece was just large enough to sustain me, and for about twelve hours I was heaved and tossed about. I prayed for relief, but none came, not a sail could I see anywhere. From my position I could hardly discern the shore and for hours I knew not, whither I was going. I was chilled almost to death, and the wind blew with it piercing severity. My hands were numb, and I could hardly sustain myself. i saw about 25 persons jump into the water. Most of them sank immediately. I think therer were about ten women on board. When the excitement was at its height, we attempted to launch the small boats, but the flames compelled us to desist.
Up to this time (Monday Evening), no bodies have been recovered.
Waukesha Plaindealer Wisconsin 1868-04-14