Newburgh, NY Steamer EMPIRE and Schooner NOAH BROWN Wreck, May 1849


From the New York papers we gather the details of a most melancholy occurrence, which took place on the Hudson river, between West Point and Newburg. About 10 o'clock P. M., the Empire on her way up the river, with about four hundred persons on board was run into by the schooner Noah Brown, of 180 tons under the following circumstances:
The wind was blowing fresh and the schooner under rapid way, when danger and collision was first apparent. The pilot of the Empire, MR. LEVI SMITH, called out to the schooner to ____ but no attention was paid to him. The Steamer at the same time backed, and was under a slight stern way, it is reported, when the schooner struck her near the forward gangway. She was not brought up until the schooner's bow entered the steamer's side.
The passengers on the Empire being in bed, the confusion that ensued was awful, and was of itself doubtless the cause of death and wounds that under other circumstances might have been avoided.
Great numbers were seen to jump into the river at the time of and subsequent to the collision, but it was hoped that by far the greater portion of these were picked up by the boats which came to their assistance from the shore. Her cabins are still supposed to contain dead bodies, that had not yet been reached at half-past one o'clock yesterday afternoon.
The steamer Rip Van Winkle was a short distance astern of the Empire, and in a few minutes was alongside, and the passengers who had assembled on the prominade deck, were transferred aboard, and the sinking boat taken in tow and carried to the flats, where she was still lying, partially out of water, at 7 o'clock yesterday morning.
There is reason to fear, says the Post, that over a hundred lives have been lost. The Rip Van Winkle only took 70 or 80. We are assured, by W. HUBBARD, the pilot of the Roger Williams, which arrived from Newburg this morning, up to 7 A. M., only fifteen or twenty were rescued by the boats. Assuming that one hundred were thus saved, all the rest who did not escape by swimming must have perished.
The boat was a quarter of a mile from the shore when she sank, and none but expert swimmers could have saved themselves, unless they received aid from the boats; and those thus rescued are included in our list.
Immediately after the alarm was given a great number threw themselves madly into the water. A lady, who had evidently just left her berth, rushed out, crying for some one to save her, and was about to leap on to the schooner but was seized by a gentleman who prevented her from falling into the water, which would have occurred if she had attempted so long a leap. He tried to calm her, but without success. She rushed from him wildly, and was not seen by him again.
The screaming of the victims was herd[sic] with frightful distinctness on the top of the hill in the rear of Newburg, and spread terror throughout the village. Several boats put out at once to the relief of the sufferers, but none arrived probably until she had sunk to the hurricane deck in which condition she was found by MR. HUBBARD when he arrived. Scarcely five minutes elapsed between the collision and the sinking.
Loud cries were made immediately for axes to cut open the upper deck to relieve the occupants of the ladies cabin, whose screams were heart rending. A hole was finally effected, and one female, who was sitting under it in her berth was taken from it unharmed. Attracted by cries under another part of the deck, the men made a hole as soon as possible, but before they were successful, the object of their labors had disappeared.
Two bodies were brought ashore just before the Roger Williams left, in the ferry boat, but they were not recognized.
The child of MRS. LAFAYETTE SMITH, of this city is said to have perished, and her mother, to be nearly distracted.
A company of twelve persons, on their way to take up a permanent residence in Illinois, will be obliged to proceed on their journey, leaving four of their number behind them – four brothers. The names we have not learned.

The Erie Observer Pennsylvania 1849-05-26