Cape Girardeau, MO Steamboat TALISMAN Sinking, Nov 1847

Sinking of the Talisman Nov 1847


Before daylight on the morning of November 19th, 1847, the steamboats Talisman and Tempest came in collision on the Mississippi river, half a mile below Cape Girardeau. The Talisman was struck forward of the boilers, and sunk within ten minutes. The Tempest, which was but slightly damaged, rounded to, and came to the relief of the Talisman's crew and passengers. The officers and crews of both steamers exerted themselves to save life and property ; but to the disgrace of human nature, it is related that a number of heartless and conscienceless scoundrels came in small boats to the scene of the disaster, and totally regardless of the supplications of the drowning passengers who implored their aid, they betook themselves to plunder, sexing on the floating baggage, and every other article of value which came within their reach. One of the villains engaged in these nefarious operations was a resident of Cincinnati, and bore the name of Barnes. His Christian name, (if he ever had any,) is not mentioned, or gladly would we give it to the public ; still more gladly would we " Place to every honest hand a whip To lash the rascal naked through the world.*

Several of the crew and many of the deck passengers were drowned. Two or three families of German emigrants, numbering about twenty-five persons, were among the passengers. Ten persons, all of one family, were lost. An effort was made to rescue the bodies of the persons drowned by means of the diving bell. A young German, who was unable to speak a word of English, continued to wander about the deck of the Tempest, wringing his hands and making exclamations of distress ; his eyes were fixed upon the river, as if he expected the deep waters to give up the wife and children they had taken from him. The fate of Mr. Butler, the engineer, was particularly distressing. He was on watch, and although he saw at once and was told repeatedly that the boat was sinking, be refused to leave his post until the water was up to his waist. It was then too late to save himself, and, being unable to withstand the rush of water, he was borne back among the machinery, and drowned. An interesting young married couple, whose names were unknown to the people of the boat and to their fellow passengers, were among the victims of this calamity. The young gentleman was a good swimmer and might have saved himself; but perished in a vain attempt to save the life of his bride. These two were the only cabin passengers lost ; all the rest of the drowned were deck passengers, or persons belonging to the boat. Fifty-one persons, men, women and children, are known to have been drowned by this accident, and probably as many more, who are not designated in the annexed list.