All day yesterday the River continued to rise, and at six o'clock last evening the ice broke up in the river below the city, between the Upper Landing and Charlotte. For half an hour it moved on toward Lake Ontario, in a dense and irresistible mass, sweeping all before it. The men on the docks at Charlotte had been watching the movements of the water, and were on the look out to protect the vessels moored there, but when the ice started it came quickly, and there was no time or means to avert the catastrophe which followed. The steamer MAPLE LEAF and the schooners COL. COOK and MINNESOTA, were swept into the Lake.
There are five large steamers and four schooners tied up on the west shore of the river along the docks and two sail craft on the east side. The ice when it went down pressed most upon the west shore and there did the mischief.
On the west side the vessels were moored in the following order: Steamers ONTARIO, NIAGARA and CATARACT, schooner Geo. J. Whitney, steamer MAPLE LEAF, schooner COL. COOK, schooner MINNESOTA, schooner COMMERCE, steamer BAY STATE.
The ONTARIO broke loose last fall and extra chains and cables were put upon her. When the ice struck her, though her chains were strained, they held, and she covered the two steamers below her, though the wheel of the CATARACT was injured. After the ice had passed the schooner GEO. J. WHITNEY, it gathered in near Holden's Elevator about the bows of the MAPLE LEAF and tore her loose, carrying her back upon the schr. COL. COOK, the jib boom of which ran into her upper saloon at the stern, tearing it away and making an extensive breach, but all in the Upper works. As the MAPLE LEAF and Cook passed down with the ice the MINNESOTA was swept away and all passed along together toward the Lake. The schooner COMMERCE was injured somewhat and the BAY STATE steamer parted a chain but others held her fast.
When the MAPLE LEAF was about to part her chains, Capt. Schofield, and some of his men were on the dock endeavoring to secure the vessel and Palmer Wescott of Charlotte was on board. As the steamer broke loose Wescott was hailed and told that the steamer was going. He declined to jump ashore as he might and went into the lake the sole occupant of the vessel. There was no person on board either of the sail craft when they went out.
As the steamer was running out with the ice Mr. Wescott was heard overhauling the chain, evidently preparing to throw over an anchor somewhere. Just as the steamer drifted out of the jaws of the piers, he let go the small anchor but this was not sufficient to hold her and he was not strong enough to get the large anchor over. Dragging the small anchor, the MAPLE LEAF drifted a mile or more to the eastward in the lake and there remained all night.
The weather was fair and no sea was running on the lake. Measures were taken at once to go to the rescue of the vessels. The two government life boats were manned by about thirty men, including Capt. Schofield of the MAPLE LEAF, his mate Mr. Henderson, and engineer Mr. Hunter. Finding it impossible to get through the ice which choked the mouth of the harbor, they drew the life boats over the wet pier and launched them from the beach and so got outside of the ice, to some extent, and reached the MAPLE LEAF about half past eight last night. Some of the party then went to the schooner Cook, half a mile further east and threw her anchors over making her fast. The MINNESOTA meanwhile went ashore two miles east of the piers.
Capt. Schofield and his men worked all night on the MAPLE LEAF to get her engine in order, and at ten this morning steam was up in one boiler, and the engine was in motion. Fortunately there was plenty of fuel on board. The main deck of the steamer was being relaid, and she was in anything but a favorable condition to stand a storm upon the beach. Her hull was not injured, and doubtless ere this she has come into the harbor. Capt. Schofield intended to tow in the COL. COOK and take the MINNESOTA off the beach, but had not undertaken either job at 11 this forenoon.
The weather is delightful and nothing can prevent the vessels from all being safely moved in the harbor to night.
The MAPLE LEAF was being repaired preparatory to commencing her spring trips next week. The injury to her saloon will require a few days to repair, and she cannot be ready for business before the 1st of April.
Mr. Wescott is entitled to great credit for his coolness in the situation in which he was placed. He is an engineer, a sailor and a ship carpenter. He was formerly employed as an engineer on the Northerner, one of the best transports in the Burnside Expedition. He has lately been engaged in repairing the schooner MINNESOTA.
The schooner COL. COOK is owned by Geo. W. Bissell, of Detroit. She came in here from Liverpool late in the fall, on her way to the Upper Lakes, and laid up for the winter. She has on board 96 tons of Liverpool salt. None of her officers or crew are here, the vessel being in charge of a ship keeper.
The MINNESOTA is a vessel of capacity for 10,000 bushels of wheat, owned by Capt. Blackman, of Chicago. She has on board a small quantity of salt. As she went ashore easy when there was no wind or sea, she will probably be taken off without delay or damage. A telegram was sent to Oswego for a tug last night, but ere that arrives we presume the MAPLE LEAF will have both sail craft in port.
The ice has all left the harbor now and no further damage is apprehended.
The schooner COL. FAIRCHILD, owned by Capt. Rogers, was lying at the dock on the east side of the river when the ice went out, but held fast and sustained no damage.
The schooner PETREL was drawn into the creek on the east side and was there more secure than any of the fleet.
LATER. Since the above was written our reporter has arrived from Charlotte and states that the MAPLE LEAF has got in and is fast at her dock. She could only make steam with one boiler and had not power, owing to the condition of her machinery, to tow the schooners in. A tug will leave Oswego at 4 this P.M. and bring up the schooners.
Rochester Daily Union and Advertiser
March 18, 1862