The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Chronicle & Gazette (Kingston, ON), May 26, 1838

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p.2 His Excellency Sir George Arthur arrives on Commodore Barrie and inspects the Garrison.

For the Chronicle & Gazette


Mr. Editor,

On Wednesday the 16th instant, the Sir Robert Peel arrived from Prescott fully prepared for a trial of speed with the Britain; the Peel started at 8, instead of half-past 9, her usual hour, without giving any notice of the alteration; the Britain was preparing for half-past 9, her hour of departure, neither seeking nor shunning a contest. Captain Whitney, already annoyed by some unhandsome advantages attempted to be taken of her by the Peel, determined to start, unprepared as he was, with but just steam enough to give his boat steerage way, and using only the ordinary description of fire wood with a few coals; while the Peel used turpentine and other dangerous combustibles, by which she was set on fire, and so imminent was the danger that her Commander had given directions to all hands to look out for their own safety; and had not the Britain come to her assistance, there is no telling what the consequence would have been. The Britain, notwithstanding all the disadvantages she laboured under, arrived first at Oswego.

On Wednesday last Captain W. was prepared at an early hour; he had her steam fully up, when the Peel arrived from Prescott; finding this to be the case, they made many excuses, and declined running on anything like fair terms. The Britain waited at Nine Mile Point until the Peel was a long way ahead, then passed her and arrived half an hour before her at Oswego. I am not a little surprised at the want of judgement of the managers of the Peel in thinking that an unseemly smoke box like her, could by any probability cope, with the Queen of the Waters. It is thought by many good judges that the Britain can run round the Peel twice between this and Oswego, and arrive before her.


We, the undersigned, Officers of H.M.S. Inconstant, having been on board the Sir Robert Peel on the 16th inst. when she unfortunately caught fire, and having seen in the papers a statement which was both incorrect and unjust, and which if left uncontradicted would tend to injure the character of both the Captain and ship, we beg to say that the fire was purely accidental, was completely extinguished in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour from its commencement, and that we were highly satisfied with the anxiety and attention displayed by Captain Armstrong throughout the whole passage, and that but one gentleman appeared to be at all alarmed, who in throwing his portmanteau on board the Great Britain, had the misfortune to lose it overboard.

We were very much delighted with the Sir Robert Peel, who in the short run from Kingston to Oswego had decidedly the advantage, and completely distanced the Great Britain. Given on board the Sir Robert Peel on the 21st May, 1838, during our 2nd trip in her.

Alex. L. Montgomery, Lieut.

Benjamin Sharp, Mate.

C. Tailor.

Charles Tonge, Lieut.

J.H. Kerr.

Henry B. Hankey.

The above is a copy of a letter signed by six passengers who were on board of the Peel, when the last race took place with the Great Britain, and who voluntarily presented it to Captain Armstrong before they left the Boat, with a request that he would, if he saw fit, give it publicity, as they had noticed a statement in the last Kingston Chronicle, wholly at variance with truth, and calculated materially to injure the credit of Capt. Armstrong, as well as give the public generally an unfavourable impression of the boat. It will be observed that the individuals who signed the letter are Officers in the British Service, men of respectability and worth, wholly disinterested, but anxious that a correct version of the whole affair should appear before the public, as they were convinced a most unwarranted attempt had been made, without the shadow of a foundation, to destroy the credit of one of the finest steamers upon the Lake. The signers of the letter came out in her Majesty's Frigate Inconstant, have made since their arrival two trips in the Peel, as appears by their own statement, and were highly pleased with the manner in which the boat was managed, as also with the general conduct of those on board, but particularly with the attention and urbanity of the Captain, who upon all occasions showed the greatest solicitude to please, and render every passenger comfortable. We do not by any means approve of steam boat racing - it is always attended with more or less danger; but when there is a warm and spirited opposition between two boats, and both leave on the same day, as in the present instance, the natural consequence is, that each boat will exert itself to the utmost to obtain the advantage of the other, to carry away the palm, and acquire the name of being the swiftest boat.

It must be obvious to a discerning public, notwithstanding what may be said by Kingstonians and a few monopolists, that the Peel has by incontrovertible evidence proved herself to be the swifter vessel, and a most desirable conveyance for passengers, notwithstanding the undue advantage that has been taken in endeavouring to lower her in the estimation of the community, on account of a trifling accident that occurred, through the negligence of one of the firemen.

The correspondent of the Chronicle stated that the Peel set off five minutes before her competitor, that being better prepared she held her own by the aid of Turpentine, (forgetting to state that the Britain used some two or three barrels of tallow,) and then goes on to say that at the time of the accident the Britain was only a length behind! and that she would have passed the Peel long before their arrival at Oswego, which he says was five miles distant, also that the Britain took off all her passengers. Not one of these assertions is, as we are informed, correct; there was not two minutes difference in starting; the Britain was about a mile and a half behind when the fire took place; the distance to Oswego was but little over two miles; and only two, out of some fifteen or twenty cabin passengers, went on board of the Britain.

The Kingston Chronicle will do an act of justice to the parties concerned, by publishing the foregoing letter, with the signatures thereto annexed. [Prescott Sentinel]

p.3 Notice - ...that he has leased the large and commodious Wharf and Warehouses at foot of Store Street, lately occupied by Messrs. Truax and Phillips, and known by the name of the Commercial Wharf, where he tenders his services to those who may be pleased to employ him in the Forwarding and Commission Business. The extent of the premises enabled him to let one half of the Wharf and Store Houses to the well known Firm of Messrs. Hooker & Henderson of Prescott, who are to carry on a branch of their forwarding businesss in this place...

H. Calder. Kingston, 21st May, 1838.

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May 26, 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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Chronicle & Gazette (Kingston, ON), May 26, 1838