Fort Adams, LA Steamer J. L. AVERY Sinks In Mississippi River, Mar 1854


A dispatch from Cincinnati more than confirms the worst reports relative to the loss of the steamer J. L. AVERY. It says that her officers arrived there yesterday, and gave full particulars of the disaster of that vessel. The boat sank in two minutes after striking a snag. The cabin parted from the hull, and the latter went down in sixteen feet of water. MR. GUTHRIE, the engineer, says the loss of life cannot be less than sixty or seventy persons, including eight cabin and nearly all the deck passengers. The boat has a large and valuable cargo on board -- all of which was lost. It was insured chiefly in Cincinnati.
The Natchez Daily Courier, of the 11th inst., reports the disaster as follows:
The steamer SULTANA, bound for Louisville, put off at this landing, on Thursday night, between thirty and forty of the surviving passengers from the wreck of the steamboat JOHN L. AVERY, which struck a snag, about ten miles above Fort Adams, on Thursday afternoon, the 9th inst., about 3 o'clocknd almost immediately there after sunk. Those of the passengers that arrived here were very generally in a state of great destitution, many of them being hardly clad, and evidencing their recent exposure and calamity. From conversation with several of them, we gather the following particulars:
The steamboat JOHN L. AVERY, RICHARD ROBINSON, master, left New-Orleans on Thursday evening, the 7th and a great number of passengers. On Wednesday and Thursday mornings, she took in an additional number. The passengers state to have been very heavily laden -- overloaded, in their opinion -- so much so that the water could easily come up on her guards. The number on board probably amounted to three hundred, nearly one hundred of whom were cabin passengers.
They further state that the AVERY had been striving all day to keep ahead of the SULTANA -- some of her officers freely offering to bet that they would beat the latter boat to louisville.
The boat was about 158 to 200 yards from the Louisiana shore when she struck a snag. The fore part appeared immediately to separate from the hind portion -- the chimneys going overboard, and the stern rapidly settling. As the stern settled the cabin careened, rolling overboard a large number who had gathered upon it for safety. The sinking was almost instantaneous: some of the passengers stating that it was hardly over two minutes, and others that no more than four of five minutes clasped at the tumost, before all was over, and the entire steamer was out of sight, except the top of the upper cabin, on which were congregated most of the passengers that were saved. Many were, however, afterwards rescued from the water. The wind at the time was very high, and the waves rolled with quite a swell.
The steamer SULTANA which was immediately behind, came alongside in the course of twenty minutes, and succeeded in rescuing those clinging to the wreck, and also several found floating in the river. A steamer, whose name we have not learned, was lying tied to the shore, near the scene of disaster; her steam, however, was not up. A yawl put out from her, and succeeded in rescuing several from the river. The rescued ones were most kindly treated on board of this boat, and also on board the SULTANA.
Of thirty-two hands belonging to the boat, they say only fifteen were known to be saved. One of our informants says, that of the cabin passengers, about twenty-five were ladies, of whom estimates at least ten were drowned, and that, in all probability, the loss of life among the cabin passengers amounted to thirty-five or forty. The captain, first and second clerks, and first mate were saved; the second mate and two pilots were drowned. The mate was drowned in getting the lifeboat overboard. Of fourteen negroes on board belonging to passengers, only one, a child of five months old, was saved. But few of the passengers saved their baggage; what was saved was cut out of the state-rooms from the upper deck. As an evidence of how sudden was this horrid catastrophe one of the firemen states that when the AVERY struck he was asleep on some sugar hogsheads, behind the engine, and was he jumped down he found himself up to his waist in water.
The SULTANA had on board probably from 150 to 170 of the survivors -- among them the second clerk, who proceeded up the river -- the captain and the first clerk remaining near the wreck.

The New York Times New York 1854-03-22