Bayou Sara, LA Steamer CLIPPER NO. 1 Explosion, Sept 1843


This explosion, of which a very vague account has been preserved, took place on Wednesday, September 19th, 1843, at about a quarter past twelve o'clock, M. One of the passengers, who lived to relate the story, and who appears to have powers of description peculiar to himself, states that the Clipper " blew up with a report that shook earth, air, and heaven, as though the walls of the world were tumbling to pieces about our ears. All the boilers bursted simultaneously ; vast fragments of the machinery, huge beams of timber, articles of furniture, and human bodies, were shot up perpendicularly, as it seemed, hundreds of fathoms in the air, and fell like the jets of a fountain in various directions ; some dropping on the neighboring shore, some on the roofs of the houses, some into the river, and some on the deck of the boat. Some large fragments of the boilers, &o., were blown at least two hundred and fifty yards from the scene of destruction. The hapless victims were scalded, crushed, torn, mangled, and scattered in every possible direction ; some were thrown into the streets of the neighboring town, (Bayou Sara.) some on the other side of the bayou, three hundred yards distant, and some into the river. Several of these unfortunates were torn in pieces by coming in contact with pickets or posts, and I myself, (says the same credible witness,) saw pieces of human bodies which had been shot like cannon balls through the solid walls of houses at a considerable distance from the boat."

Every object in front of the wheel-house was swept away as if by a whirlwind. A gentleman who visited the place where the killed and wounded had been deposited, at Bayou Sara, says, " The scene was such as we never hope to look upon again. The floors of the two large ware-rooms were literally strewn with the wounded and dying, and others were pouring in as fast as it was possible to convey them to the spot. The sufferers were praying, groaning, and writhing in every contortion of physical agony.

KILLED.—Mr. Berry, chief clerk; second clerk, name not mentioned; William Sumpter, second engineer ; (he was thrown more than one hundred and fifty yards, through the roof and gable end of a house, into the back yard against a fence ; his body being completely dismembered, and crushed out of all resemblance to the human form ;) William Nelson, third engineer ; Arnault J. Laraud, pilot ; William Wall, second pilot ; the watchman ; Gabriel Pool, carpenter ; two colored cooks, the cabin boy and eight firemen, four deck hands and others, names not remembered.

WOUNDED.—John Tyson, chief engineer ; John Peterson, mate ; and a number of deck passengers, names unknown.
The watchman mentioned in the list of the killed, was thrown one hundred yards from the boat, through the solid walls of Bacon's hotel, and into a bed. He retained his senses perfectly, but expired within half an hour after the explosion. The cabin boy was thrown two hundred yards, through the roof of a shed ; he was taken up dead and frightfully mangled.

Lloyd’s Steamboat Directory and Disasters on the Western Waters, James T. Lloyd & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, 1856, pages 213-215

Read another article about the explosion of the steamer Clipper near Bayou Sara, Louisiana on Sept 19, 1843. (below)