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The Fulton Steam Boat Explosion


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Launching of Demologos, first steam warship.
Lithograph by Ostervald, Paris. Original work from 1814, reproduction by an agency of the US Federal Government

  
Name: Demologos or Fulton
Ordered: 1814
Builder: Robert Fulton
Laid down: 1814
Launched: 1815
Commissioned: 1816
Fate: Blown up, 4 June 1829
  • Class and type: Steam battery
  • Displacement: 1,450 tons
  • Length: 153 ft 2 in (46.69 m)
  • Beam: 58 ft (18 m)
  • Draft: 13 ft (4.0 m)
  • Propulsion: Steam, 1 cylinder 120 hp (89 kW)
  • Speed: 5.5 knots (10.2 km/h; 6.3 mph)
  • Armament:
  • 16 × 32-pounder guns
  • 100-pounder Columbiad able to fire underwater

On 9 March, 1814, Congress authorized the construction of a steam warship to be designed by Robert Fulton, a pioneer of commercial steamers in North America. The construction of the ship began on 20 June 1814, at the civilian yard of Adam and Noah Brown, and the ship was launched on 29 October. After sea trials she was delivered to the United States Navy in June 1816. The ship was never formally named; Fulton christened it Demologos or Demologus, though following his death in February 1815, the ship was named Fulton.

By the time she was completed, the war for which Demologos had been built had ended. She saw only one day of active service, when she carried President James Monroe on a tour of New York Harbor. A two-masted lateen rig was added by the orders of her first commander, Captain David Porter. In 1821 her armament and machinery were removed. The remainder of her career was spent laid up in reserve; after 1825 she served as the floating barracks for Brooklyn Navy Yard. She came to an end on 4 June 1829 in a gunpowder explosion. [source: Wikipedia]

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Newspaper Stories
Concerning the Fulton

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Explosion of the Steam Frigate Fulton

New York, June 5 (1829)
Dreadful Occurrence - Explosion of the Steam Frigate Fulton
Yesterday afternoon, about half past 2 o’clock, the Magazine of the steam frigate Fulton the First, which was lying on the flats about a cable’s length from the Navy Yard dock, exploded and dreadful to relate, killed and maimed nearly all on board, estimated from 70 to a hundred.
At half past 5 in the afternoon, 25 dead bodies had been brought on shore, and 25 to 30 of the wounded, many of whom are shockingly mangled. Others were yet missing. Among the dead were two women, wives or relatives of the marines and seamen. The magazine was directly under the sick bay and all the invalids there confined, supposed about 15 in number were killed. The officers on board were Lieut. Breckenridge, who was so badly wounded that it was feared he could not survive many hours. His lady, who was on board at the time, was slightly wounded.

Lieut. Platt, badly wounded.
Lieut. Mull, slightly wounded.
Sailing Master Clough, badly wounded.
Midshipmen - Eckford, leg broken in two places; Johnson, badly wounded; Hoban, slightly.

The accident is supposed to have occurred in consequence of the ignorance of a person named Williams who was employed yesterday to act as gunner, who it is said, went into the magazine with a light, mistaking the place for another apartment.
There was but a small quantity of powder in the magazine, caused no greater concussion than the firing of a 44 pounder; yet the three masts of the frigate were blown into the air to the height of 40 to 50 feet, both decks forward of the main mast blown up, the starboard side shattered to pieces and the ship rendered a complete wreck.
Com. Chauncy and Capt. Newton, the commander, with several other persons, left the ship a few minutes before the explosion. The band of musicians and the laborers employed were fortunately on shore at the time.
There were few persons on board than usual and the number we have stated above may be exaggerated. Some of the officers estimate the number at not more than sixty or seventy. About 60 marines left the vessel on Wednesday to proceed for Norfolk and a like number a day or two before.
The officers on board were at dinner when the explosion took place.
The Coroner of this city held inquest on the bodies of the following persons:
R. M. Peck, Wm. Peck, Alexander Cameron, Mrs. Nelson, Mrs. Williamson (colored woman), James Livingston, Thomas Walton, Harmon Vatel, Wm. Brown, Franklin Ely, Wm. Stockwell, Henry Lovan, Peter Gilen, John Brown, John M’Kennen, Jacob Boise, Chares Williamson, James C. Burgher, Otto E. Fergentine, Silvanus C. Hallaran, Henry Megrew, John Dilo Ravez, James Pierce, Lieutenant Breckenridge.
The inquest then adjourned and three dead bodies remaining to be examined - n ames not ascertained.
When we left the Navy Yard at 11 o’clock only five men were unaccounted for. These have doubtless perished either by drowning or by being crushed among the timbers. [Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, June 16, 1829 - Sub. by Nancy Piper]


NEW YORK -- We are happy to state that Captain John Clough, who was severely wounded on board the Steam Frigate Fulton is not dead as was reported but is doing well and likely to recover.
Lieut. Platt, it is supposed, is doing well.
The body of Johnson, a seaman, has been found near the wreck and interred with his unfortunate companions.
The leg of a female has also been found. There remains four persons missing.   N.Y. Gaz.
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Republican Compiler, Gettysburg, PA, June 23, 1829 - Sub. by Nancy Piper]

 


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