The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Buffalo (Steamboat), collision, 26 Apr 1838

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STEAM-BOAT COLLISION. -- The new, splendid boat BUFFALO, Capt. Allen, on her first trip up, came into port last evening in rather a sorry plight; her bowsprit, figurehead and cut-water having been carried away the night before by unfortunately running into the steamboat COMMODORE PERRY, Capt.Wilkinson, some ten or fifteen miles this side of Erie. The following are the chief particulars, furnished us by a respectable passenger on board the BUFFALO.
      The BUFFALO left the harbor of Erie at about 8 o'clock on the evening of the 26th. inst.,and about a quarter after nine approached the PERRY, passing down the Lake. The Pilot of the BUFFALO, thinking the course of the PERRY an unusual one, bore off to pass her, as is usual with upbound boats, on the larboard, but on nearing the PERRY discovered that she was taking the starboard side, and that the BUFFALO was in danger of running her down. The engine was stopped, but such was the impetus of the boats that the bow of the BUFFALO struck the PERRY just forward of the starboard wheel house at an angle of about 45 degrees with a tremendous crash, carrying away the wheel house and shaft, and crushing a portion of her hull. The boats swung apart, and signals of distress were immediately made by the PERRY, but owing to the high sea running at the time, and the unmanageable condition of the BUFFALO, (one of her anchors, and bowsprit having fallen into the water), considerable time elapsed before she could render any assistance, though the utmost exertion was made by Capt. Allen and his crew. The scene is described as one of alarming fearfulness. The frightened passengers on the BUFFALO, numbering about 300, rushed to the deck, expecting that the noble craft to which they had trusted for security, had foundered on some hidden rock. From the PERRY, the thrilling cry of "we are sinking - we are sinking" - was heard above the roar of the waters, and until the BUFFALO was able to come alongside and take her in tow, the most intense anxiety for the fate of that unfortunate craft and her inmates prevailed. She was towed back to Erie, and immediately sunk at the wharf.
Three of the passengers on the PERRY were badly hurt, one of whom was so shockingly bruised that when the BUFFALO left Erie it was not expected he could survive. Names of those injured, not learned. About 40 passengers on board. No one was seriously hurt on board the BUFFALO. The damage sustained by the PERRY is estimated at from $3,000 to $5,000. The injury to the BUFFALO at $500.
We are informed that the passengers and hands on both the BUFFALO and PERRY acquit the officers of the BUFFALO of all blame, and that the accident is one of those unfortunate collisions that sometimes happen, no one can hardly tell how. Carelessness certainly must attach somewhere, as there is plenty of sea-room on broad Erie for boats to pass without running foul of each other, if carefully managed.
      Cleveland Daily Herald & Gazette
      Saturday, April 28, 1838

      . . . . .

      Unfortunate Collision -The steamboat THOS. JEFFERSON, just in, brings news of a disastrous collision of the steamboats BUFFALO and COMMODORE PERRY, twelve miles above Erie, last night, between 9 and 10 o'clock. The BUFFALO was on her way up when she met the PERRY and in the extreme darkness, one of the boats took the wrong side, when they came in contact, the boom of the BUFFALO carrying away one of the guards, and wheelhouse of the PERRY, breaking her shaft, and injuring two men, one very severely, who had his thigh dislocated. Another is also reported to have been hurt.
      Immediately after the shock, the BUFFALO lay to, and took off the passengers of the PERRY, with most of her crew, and then towed her into Erie harbor, where she sunk in about 9 feet water. The BUFFALO lost her figure head, and cutwater, and had her bulwarks broken in. She left Erie again, on her way up, this morning.
      Buffalo Commercial Advertiser
      Friday, April 27, 1838

      The BUFFALO ran aboard the CON. PERRY, 15 miles from Erie, Thursday night. The PERRY was towed into the harbor and sunk in 8 feet water. One man had his thigh broken, and another his shoulder dislocated. Where was the blame.
      Daily Buffalonian
      April 28, 1838
      . . . . .

The COM. PERRY was towed in yesterday morning by the UNITED STATES. She is in what Mr. Hume would term a dilapidated condition. The BUFFALO arrived at 1 A. M. Her bowsprit is broken short off. The other damage, trifling.
      Daily Buffalonian
      May 2, 1838


STEAMBOAT ACCIDENT. -- On Thursday night last, about nine o'clock, the new steamer BUFFALO ran into the steamer COMMODORE PERRY, carrying away one wheel, breaking the shaft to pieces, stove in the hull, and otherwise seriously injuring the PERRY. The BUFFALO was not much injured, -- had her bowsprit, cutwater and figurehead carried away. We learn that one man had his leg broken in the collision. Such accidents we think are the result of sheer carelessness. We have not learned which was the faulty one this time, but from the position in which the boats struck, it is very evident the PERRY was running across the path of the BUFFALO. The accident occured in the open lake, ten to fifteen miles west of this harbor.
      The PERRY was towed into this harbor by the BUFFALO, where she now lies in about eight feet of water, within the canal basin. -- She will probably be repaired in a short time. ----- Observer.
      Erie Gazette
      May 3, 1838

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: collision
Lives: nil
Hull damage: $500
Freight: passengers &c.
Remarks: Damaged
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Pennsylvania, United States
    Latitude: 42.12922 Longitude: -80.08506
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Buffalo (Steamboat), collision, 26 Apr 1838