The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Peshtigo Homicide
Chicago Times (Chicago, IL), 20 Jul 1866

Full Text
Fatal Affray on Board the Bark Peshtigo
One Man Killed an Another Mortally Wounded
Full Details of the Horrible Tragedy

A terrible and fearful affray, a deadly conflict, such a one as seldom happens, and it is to be hoped may never again happen, occurred about 8 o'clock last evening on the bark Pestigo when about three miles southeast of the harbor. The result of the conflict was fatal -- one man killed, struck through the heart with a knife, and his slayer in a condition so fearful as to render his recovery almost impossible.

About half past 9 o'clock last evening the tug Ben. Butler came into port, after towing out the bark Peshtigo. On board of her was a man fearfully wounded, the upper portion of his body being one mass of gashes. Clotted blood dripped from his clothes. He looked ghastly, and hopes of his recovery were not entertained. The police of the third precinct were immediately sent for and informed that a bloody meeting had taken place upon the bark Peshtigo, while lying between two and three miles from port.

Capt. Wells Sherman, with nine men, immediately proceeded to the tug, and, boarding her, started for the vessel on which the bloody conflict had occurred. Accompanying the policemen to the vessel was a man claiming to have been a passenger on board the bark. This man it was who had detailed what little was known of the tragic deed. The account he gave of it was that the crew had mutinied against their officers; that in the ensuing conflict the 1st mate had taken an active part; and that the general affray had resolved itself into a desperate hand-to-hand flight between the 1st mate, and one of the sailors who had been taken on the vessel but that afternoon. For a few moments, he said, the conflict had waged equally, when suddenly the seaman drawing back his knife struck it into the breast of the 1st mate, who immediately fell dead. Upn this he had hailed the crew of the tug Butler, which had towed the vessel out, and but just let go of her. Upon being hailed the tug quickly returned to the vessel; when the passenger sprang upon the deck and related what had occurred to the captain. In the meanwhile the crew of the Peshtigo, or a portion of them, brought to the side of the vessel the wounded sailor, William Moore, who was in an insensible condition and apparently, dying requesting the commander of the tug to take him on shore that his wounds might be properly dressed and cared for. This request was, of course, complied with. Those who made this request, however, said nothing of the man, the first mate, P. McCambridge, who lay weltering in his blood on board the vessel, dead, stricken down by the man whom they had so tenderly passed over the side of the vessel into the tug. Such was the story that the passenger told the police. Evidently terrified and confused by what had happened, he seemed incapable of relating exactly what had occurred, or whether more than two had been wounded.

About a quarter to 11 o'clock the tug, with the policeman on board, reached the side of the Peshtigo. All was apparently still. No evidence of strife, no sign that a murder had been committed on her decks a few hours before, could be discovered. The vessel lay at anchor with her sails furled; no attempt having been made, it would seem, by the men to escape from the spot, the vessel lying almost exactly where the tug had left her before takin the wounded man on shore.

The captain of the vessel, with one man, came to her side upon the tug touching her, and threw a rope to the man on the latter. Soon the two vessels were fastened closely together, and Capt. Sherman, first warning his men not to be too hasty, or to use their revolvers unless necessity required, ordered them to board the vessel. This was soon done. But the decks were found deserted; the crew being below.

For fear that they might meet with unexpected resistance which might prove disastrous to the boarding party, the utmost caution was preserved by the body of men under Capt. Sherman. The commander of the vessel, however, soon relieved them from any fear of an immediate attack, and gave his account of the affray, which was substantially as follows:

Immediately after the tug had left the vessel after towing her out between two and three miles from the harbor, and while the crew were engaged in working the windlass, a dispute arose between the first mate, P. McCambridge, and the sailor Moore. The angry words were quickly followed by angry blows, and in a few minutes, almost at the same moment, they both drew out their knives, such as sailors use and wear in their belt, protected by sheaths. A fearful hand-to-hand conflict then ensued; the combatant being apparently seized with the most implacable hatred for the other, and evidencing a determination to kill one another. For four or five minutes they thus fought; both retaining their feet; both fighting with the utmost ferocity and neither showing any wish to give in. Like two gladiators of old they both fought as if the life of one could be saved only by the sacrifice of the other. In the meanwhile no attempt was made to separate them.

No inquiries on the part of the policemen could elicit anything further about the terrible conflict. They knew nothing further of it, or if they knew refused to tell it. No cause could be given for the hatred which the two combatants had expressed for each other. It was not even known that the two had even met before that day, or that the quarrel was other than one of the moment, caused by an insult on the part of the mate, resented by the man.

It had been the intention of Capt. Sherman when he went out in the tug to have brought to vessel into port and placed the whole crew under arrest. But to this plan the commander of the vessel was opposed. His vessel was a large one, the harbor poor, its entrance at night accompanied with great danger -- for these reasons, he said, he wished to be allowed to remain at anchor, where he was till morning; at the same time assuring Capt. Sherman that the only guilty part was on shore, and was the man who had been so fearfully cut up and had been taken on shore. Expressing a willingness to allow a portion of the men to be taken on shore and there held as witnesses, though at the same time asking that enough policemen should be left on board to make him a full crew. Capt. Sherman finally consented to this arrangement. So four of the crew and the commander and four policemen were left on board, and the remainder of the crew, five in number, taken on shore and conveyed to the Armory, where they are now held in confinement. The body of the murdered man was also left on board of the vessel, where an inquest will be held upon it in the course of the day.

The alleged murderer is now lying in the North market hall, a most pitiable and horrible object to look at. It seems scarcely possible that he can recover. From his left shoulder down his back is completely hacked up, there being no less than 14 fearful wounds upon this portion of the body. His right arm is also terribly cut up; while his breast and stomach are pierced in many places, presenting a most sickening sight. Altogether there can not be less than 40 dangerous wounds upon various portions of his body. It is thought that he may possibly recover, though the chances are doubtful.

The murdered man is a resident of this city, and leaves a wife and two children to mourn his untimely end. He was of intemperate habits, though it does not appear that either he or Moore, was under the influence of liquor while engaged in their deadly conflict.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Date of Publication:
20 Jul 1866
Personal Name(s):
McCambridge, Patrick ; Moore, William
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Illinois, United States
    Latitude: 41.8970686601731 Longitude: -87.5086010253906
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Peshtigo Homicide