A link to The Strange Story of Henson G. Raines, a survivor of the General Lyon disaster.
DREADFUL FIRE AT SEA. FIVE HUNDRED LIVES LOST The U.S. Transport Steamer General Lyon Burned Off Cape Hatteras. Invalid Troops, Refugees, and Women and Children on Board. The steamer Gen. Sedgwick, which arrived at this port at noon yesterday, brought as passengers twenty-nine persons saved from the wreck of the transport steamer Gen. Lyon, which took fire off Cape Hatteras on the morning of Friday last, and was totally destroyed. The Gen. Lyon had on board from five hundred and fifty to six hundred souls. The twenty-nine who arrived here yesterday are be- lieved to be all that was saved. It appears from the statements of these men that the Gen. Lyon, a screw steamer which had formerly been used as a blockade-runner, sailed from Wil- mington for Fortress Monroe, on the morning of Wednesday last, with nearly six hundred persons on board, including the crew. Her passengers consisted of discharged and paroled soldiers, escaped prisoners and refugees, among whom were about thirty women and twenty-five small children. Two negroes were also among the refugees. The weather was fair on leaving Wil- mington, but the steamer put into the port of Smith- field for the night and resumed her voyage on the following morning. Soon after leaving Smithfield the wind, which was blowing from the southwest, increased in violence, and the vessel, which was a very slow one, made but little progress. At ten o'clock on Friday morning she was off Cape Hat- teras, the wind having increased to a hurricane and the sea running very high. It is believed that the vessel was about sixty miles from land when an alarm of fire was given, and in a few minutes after- ward the flames broke out at the rear of the pilot- house and nearly in the centre of the vessel. Sev- eral of the crew were in the rigging, and there were very few persons on deck at the time, many of the passengers being confined to their berths by sickness. The first mate, JAMES GIBBS, and the other offi- cers of the vessel immediately got the fire pumps to work,, with which, and the requisite quantity of hose, the vessel was well provided. But the flames steadily gained headway, and although the pumps were working with unflinching perseverence, the fire soon spread over the centre portion of the deck, driv- ing the crew and those who were assisting them to the stern and bow of the vessel. The hatches had been closed in consequence of the decks being so con- stantly under water, but those below, alarmed by the smoke which was spreading through the cabins, rushed on deck only to be driven back by the flames. The frightful shrieks of the women and children, and their piteous supplications for help were drowned by the roaring of the storm. Several of the paroled sol- diers were sick and confined to their berths. SOme of them managed to crawl on deck, and clung there until washed overboard by the waves. In about half an hour after the fire broke out, the engines partially stopped, and the vessel immediately swung round with her broadside to the wind, the flames then spreading across her decks. It had now become quite evident that the ship could not be saved. The first officer acted with great courage, and only abandoned the vessel when all hopes of saving her were gone. The fire pumps were still kept at work, and the flames were fought back with great determination. many of those below were doubtless already suffocated. The shrieks and moans of the dying came up to those on deck, but they could do nothing to help them. Just at this time a steamer, which proved to be the United States transport Gen. Sedgwick, Capt. STARKEY, and a small schooner hove in sight. But neither of them could render any assistance, owing to the violence of the storm, and the fact that the burning steamer had drifted in toward the breakers. The flames were now spreading with fearful rapidity. The boats were launched, although there appeared to be little hope of their living in such a sea. Into the first boat ten men lowered themselves, including the Captain of the General Lyon. It is affirmed by several of those who escaped that the Captain had lost all con- trol of himself, and was evidently crazed with fear. Hardly had this boat been loosed from the vessel's side than she drifted under her stern, was struck by the screw, and almost instantly went down. IRAH LEWIS,a private in the Eighty-ninth New-York Regi- ment, who was in the boat at the time, states that he saw the Captain sink. LEWIS and two others alone escaped. A second boat was launched, and in this twenty-seven persons, including the First Mate, JOHN HAYDON, lowered themselves and succeeded in reaching the General Sedgwick, which was about a mile and a half distant. As the boat touched the steamer's side a wave dashed her violently against it, and she filled and went down. Of the twenty-seven persons in the boat, seven only were saved. Among these were the Mate, JAMES GIBBS, BARNEY LOSEY, of the Fifth Virginia Regiment, and JOHN FITZGERALD, of the Fifty-sixth Illinois. In the meantime a number of the men had thrown themselves overboard, trust- ing to a spar for support. One man, ISIAH C. COLBY, of the Fifth Ohio Cavalry, after working at the fire pumps until he was almost exhausted, seized one of the doors of the galley and sprang overboard. He was in the water three hours before he was picked up. Others were also in the water for several hours, and many, doubtless, sank before assistance could be rendered. It is supposed that the schooner did not succeed in rescuing any of them. So far as known, the following are the only persons saved out of a total from 550 to 600: Barney Losey, Co. G, Fifth Virginia ; M. H. Ar- ment, Co. E, Fifty-sixth Illinois ; John Kreusen, Co. F, Third Pennsylvania H.A.; Irah Lewis, Co. A, Eighty-nine New-York; Michael S. Brocket, Co. F, Fifty-sixth Illinois; Robt. Simpson, corporal, Co. 8, Fifty-fourth Ohio; Thos. Farrar, refugee, Wilmington, N.C.; Jas. Edwards, sergeant, Ninety- ninth New-York; Silas Galloway, Fifty-sixth New- York; Clarence Dunn, refugee; Geo. Murphy, Co. A, Sixth New-York H.A.; Geo. Goole, Co. F, One Hundred and Forty-fourth New-York; C.M. Dod- son, Third Pennsylvania H.A.; Jos. Fitzgerald, Co. K, Fifty-second Illinois; Jas. Dempsey, fireman, steamer General Lyon; Stephen Russell, refugee; Thomas Cooney, sailor, General Lyon; Nicholas Brown, sailor, steamer General Lyon; Geo. W. Wil- liams, Co. G, Fifty-sixth Illinois; Pat. Bryan, coal- passer, steamer General Lyon; Richard Clarke, Co. F, Second Illinois L.A.; John Peoples, oiler, steamer General Lyon; Isaiah Cleolly, Co. K, Fifth Ohio Cav.; Cyrus P. Williams, Co. F, Third Penn- sylvania Art.; James Gibbs, first officer, steamer General Lyon; Wm. Cranston, chief engineer, Saml. Pressey, first cook (colored,) steamer General Lyon; Chas. A. Brady, refugee. When the General Sedgwick left, being unable to render further assistance, the ill-fated steamer was drifting in toward the frightful breakers off Cape Hatteras. She was then burned down to the water's edge, and every soul on board had doubtless per- ished. In regard to the origin of the fire, it was stated by the First Mate, while on board the General Sedgwick, that there were several barrels of Kerosene oil in the engine-room, and these being shaken down by the rolling of the vessel fell on the boiler, and of course were quickly ignited. A barrel of oil was also kept in the same room, and this served to feed the flames. A list of the passengers has not yet come to hand, but the following ofifcers of the Fifty-sixth Illinois Regiment were known to be on board: Major Files, Lieut. Rankin, Co. A; Capt. Tan- query, Co. B; Lieut. McKenzie, Co. B; Lieut. Lewis, Co. C; Capt. Weber, Co. E; Lieut. Jofrer, Co. F; Lieut. Dunlap, Co. F; Lieut. Goudy, Co. G; Lieut. Holbeck, Co. H. There were also 200 men of this regiment on board, only five of whom are recorded as among the saved. Of the soldiers saved eight or ten are at the New- York State Soldier's Depot, Nos. 50 and 52 Howard- street, of which Col. VINCENT COLYER is Superintend- ent. They had of course lost their all, and were supplied with the necessary colothing by the Superin- tendent. Several of them are sick and confined to their beds. They will remain at the depot, where every comfort is afforded them free of all cost until forwarded to their respective destinations. The following among the officers and crew of the General Lyon did not sail with her, being left sick in hospital at Wilmington: John Haydon, First Officer; Philip Smith, First Assistant Engineer; Geo. Gilespie, Second do.; Owen Dagard, oiler; Richard Dazie, coal passer; Wm. Brown, second cook; Alino Dee, waiter.