Sunday, 8 January 2012

10. Steamship S.S. Republic, 1865

Main Facts

Date of Ship Wreck:
The Steam Ship SS Republic’s wreck dates back to October, 1865.

  • Place of Wreck: The ship wrecked about 100 miles off the Georgia coast.
  • Goods carried: The Ship carried with it the some expensive goods usually silver and gold.
  • Cause of Wreck: The Wreck was caused due to the violent gale off the Georgia Coast
  • Loss of Human Life: Luckily the passengers and crew managed to leave the ship successfully, resulting in zero percent life loss.
  • Economic Loss: The ship was filled with tons of silver, gold coins and ingots which was supposed to be transported West Coast to help rebuild the war-ravaged south. The wreck provided the country a serious setback making a huge loss and economical crisis.
  • Salvage: The efforts for the recovery of SS republic proved to be one of the largest and richest find in the history of salvaging success. The recovery yielded with over 51,000 U.S. gold and silver coins with nearly 14,000 artifacts.

    Historical Overview

1853: Launched in Fells Point, Baltimore as the Tennessee August 31
1853: In commercial service transporting passengers and cargo
1855: First transatlantic passage by a steamer from Baltimore
1856: Inaugurated steamer service between U.S and South America
1856-57: Sailed the Nicaragua route with adventurers: Gold Rush "Californios" and soldiers of fortune following William Walker
1857: In commercial service transporting passengers and cargo from New York to New Orleans, and also from New Orleans to Vera Cruz, Mexico
1861: At the outbreak of the Civil War in April, Tennessee was trapped in harbor at New Orleans. Early the next year she was purchased for service in the Confederate navy
1862: April 29 - Captured by Union forces in New Orleans and pressed into service
1862-64: Notable Civil War naval service included participation in the Mississippi River campaign, the Gulf Coast Blockade, the Battle of Mobile Bay, and service off and on as the flagship of Admiral David Farragut.
1864: Name changed to USS Mobile after the Union’s Victory at the Battle of Mobile Bay to avoid confusion with the captured confederate ironclad also named Tennessee  
1865: Bought at auction by Russell Sturgis and investment group; repaired and refitted, then renamed the SS Republic and returned to a New York-New Orleans run in May

The Last Voyage of SS Republic:

October 18, 1865:
The SS Republic leaves its New York pier bound for New Orleans loaded with a reported "$400,000 in specie."

October 23 1865:
In the morning, the SS Republic encounters a gale which turns into a “perfect hurricane” before night, when the steamer was possibly off Carolina.

October 24, 1865:
The paddlewheels stall and can't carry the engine past dead center. The SS Republic is left powerless, drifting and at the mercy of the elements. Steam is raised on the donkey boiler to start the pumps.

October 25, 1865:
At 9am, the "donkey boiler" fails and water pours into the hold. The crew begins work on a makeshift raft and prepares the lifeboats. At 1:30 pm the lifeboats and raft begin launching. At 4:00 pm, when all but 21 people were in the boats, the SS Republic sank suddenly. All passengers and crewmen safely make it into a lifeboat or raft except for two men who are last seen trying to swim through the ship's floating debris. Captain Young is pulled down with the sinking ship, but he narrowly escapes and swims to the safety of a lifeboat.

October 26, 1865:
Lifeboat #1, under the command of the Republic's captain, is rescued by the brig John W. Lovitt.

October 27, 1865:
Lifeboat #2 is rescued in the afternoon by the schooner Willie Dill. Lifeboat #3 is spotted and rescued late on the 27th by the barkentine Horace Beals.

October 29, 1865:
Lifeboat #4 rescued after four nights at sea by the schooner Harper.
November 2, 1865:
The raft, which departed with 14 to 18 people aboard, is spotted off Cape Hatteras by the U.S. Navy steamship, USS Tioga. Only two people remained on the raft to be rescued. The others disoriented by thirst and heat, leaped into the sea and drowned swimming toward what they falsely envisioned to have been land.