New Orleans, LA Area Steamboat GRAMPUS Explosion, Aug 1828


The Grampus was engaged in towing three brigs and a sloop up to New Orleans, and was about nine miles from that city, when the explosion took place. This accident was one of the most remarkable in the whole catalogue of steamboat disasters, on account of the extensive wreck which was made of the machinery. The boat had six boilers, all of which were blown to minute fragments. The same complete destruction was made of the flues, and various other parts of the steam apparatus; and the boat itself was, (as an eye witness reports,) "torn to pieces."

The Captain, (Morrison,) and Mr. Wederstrand, a passenger, were sitting by the wheel at the time of the explosion ; both were blown to a part of the forward deck fifty feet distant, where they were afterwards found, very much bruised, among a mass of ruins. The pilot at the wheel was precipitated into the water and drowned. Another pilot, who was walking the deck aft of the wheel, had a leg broken, and received other injuries, which caused his death. The brig in tow on the starboard side of the Grampus had both topmasts cut away by the fragments of the machinery, and her standing rigging was much damaged. A piece of the pipe felt across this brig's tiller, carried it away, and slightly injured the man at the helm. The brig on the other side of the steamer had her bottom perforated by a piece of the boiler. The other vessels, being astern, escaped without any damage.

The cause of this accident requires particular notice. It appears, from the statement of a passenger, that the chief engineer had "turned in," leaving his assistant in charge of the engine. This assistant, as it is supposed, went to sleep at his post, after partially shutting off the water. The consequence was a deficiency of water in the boilers ; and the assistant engineer, on waking, when he discovered that the boilers were nearly exhausted, ignorantly, or imprudently, put the' force-pumps in operation to furnish a supply. At this time the iron must have acquired a white heat, and the contact of the water produced such an excess of steam, that the explosion naturally followed.

KILLED, WOUNDED AND MISSING.--John Smith, a fireman, killed. George Brown, a Balise pilot, mortally wounded. One of the crew of the brig Anastasia, (name unknown,) killed. Another seaman, belonging to the same brig, badly wounded. William Taylor and John Harden, much injured. Joseph Dryden, second engineer of the Grampus, missing (so reported, but undoubtedly killed). Thomas Dodd, steersman, missing. Harry, Frank, Layden and George Mooney, all blacks, missing. Charles Craig, badly wounded. Nine were killed on the spot, or died soon afterwards, in consequence of their injuries. Four others were wounded.

Lloyd's Steamboat Disasters, pages 68-69