Natchez, MS Area Steamboat TECHE Explosion & Fire, May 1825
EXPLOSION AND BURNING OF THE STEAMBOAT TECHE ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER, MAY 5TH, 1825.
The S. B. Teethe left Natchez on the evening of May 4th, 1825, heavily laden with cotton, and carrying about seventy passengers, many of whom came on board at the moment of departure, and were unknown to each other. Her course was down the river, and she proceeded about ten miles, when the night became so excessively dark and busy that her commander, Captain Campbell, deemed it unsafe to proceed further, and concluded to come to anchor. At two o'clock on the following morning, May 5th, the anchor was weighed, and the steam having previously been raised, the boat had just begun to pursue her voyage, when the passengers, many of whom had been sleeping in their berths, were startled by a shock which seemed sufficient to separate every plank and timber in the vessel, accompanied by a report which sounded like the discharge of a whole broadside of the heaviest artillery.
Every light on board was immediately extinguished, either by the escape of steam or the concussion of the air, As the day had not yet dawned, an impenetrable darkness now hung over the scene of the disaster, the extent of which could only be imagined by the affrighted and horrified crowd collected on the deck ; but at that moment of appalling danger, and still more dreadful uncertainty, was heard a cry that the boat was on fire ! Then followed a scene of indescribable confusion ; the passengers, in the very insanity of terror, were rushing hither and thither, through the dense and ominous gloom, and many anticipated their doom in their erring endeavor to avoid it, Mr. Miller, of Kentucky, one of the surviving passengers, who afterwards published in a New Orleans paper a narrative of the events of this fearful night, states that when the alarm of fine was given, he attempted to go towards the bow, from whence the cry proceeded, but before he had advanced ten paces, he was precipitated down the hatchway, (the hatches had been blown off by the explosion,) and after falling, fortunately on his feet, to the bottom of the hold, he found himself knee-deep in scalding water, which had been discharged from the fractured boiler. He would soon have perished in the suffocating vapor which filled the place, had not his cries for assistance been heard by some humane person on deck, who threw him the end of a rope, and thus enabled him to escape from his agonizing and perilous situation.