The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Kingston Spectator (Kingston, ON), Dec. 14, 1838

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[Buffalo Commercial Advertiser]

Among the perilous scenes of the heavy gale which caused such wide spread disaster to our lake shipping, a fortnight since, one has come to our knowledge equalling in interest the most highly rought tale of fiction. In that fearful night the steam boat Constitution, Capt. Appleby, was out amidst the terrors of the gale. By the glimpses caught at intervals when the fitful storms for a moment broke away, the anxious and watchful commander was made aware of the critical situation of his boat, which was rapidly drifting in - under the hurricane power of the gale, which blew almost directly across the lake - toward a dangerous reef, from which escape would have been impossible. He went directly to the engineer, and ordered on "more steam." The reply of the engineer was that there was already as much on as the boilers would safely bear. Again did the captain seek the deck, to see if his laboring was making headway, and again returned to the engine room. He explained to the engineer their hazardous situation, and told him that all hope was lost, if no more headway could be gained, but left the engineer to act his discretion in the crisis. A moment of reflection, and his decision was made. Life or death hung on the issue. Certain destruction awaited the boat and her devoted crew, in a few brief minutes, if she did not gain upon the driving storm. This might be averted, if the boilers - already crowded to a fearful pressure - could yet bear a heavier strain, and that he determined to try. True, the awful horrors of an explosion were vividly before him - the mangled limbs, the scorched and lifeless bodies, the death shrieks and the groans of the hapless victims, were before his eyes and on his ear - the alternative was a fearful one, yet it must be resorted to. He cooly directed the heads of two barrels of oil to be broken in, and the furnaces were rapidly fed with wood dipped in the highly inflammable liquid, while two men with ladles dashed the oil into the flames. The intense heat which these combustibles created, generated steam with the rapidity of lightning, and soon the resistless vapor forced up the safety valve, and issued forth with tremendous violence; its sharp hissing heard above the wild uproar of the waters and the storm. With a desperate and determined courage, which equalled the most daring heroism that the page of history has ever recorded, the engineer sat down upon the lever of the safety valve, to confine and raise the steam to the necessary power required to propel the boat against the drifting waves. In this awful situation he calmly remained, until the prodigious efforts of the engine had forced the Constitution sufficiently off shore to be beyond the threatened danger.

This intrepid act was not a rash and vain glorious attempt to gain the applause of a multitude by a fool hardy exposure of life, in some racing excursion - it was not the deed of some a drunken and reckless man, wickedly heedless of the safety of those whose lives were periled - but it was the self-possessed and determined courage of one whose firmness is worthy of all admiration. We give it as it was told to us, as one of those frequent scenes of real life, whose actual realities are indeed "stranger than fiction."

Pirate Movements in the West - steamboat Constitution, Capt. Appleby mentioned; General Brady of U.S. Army scuttled a pirate schooner. [Sandwich Herald, 27th Nov.]

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Dec. 14, 1838
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Kingston Spectator (Kingston, ON), Dec. 14, 1838