Associated Press Newspaper Report on the Aug. 13, 1862 Sinking of the Steamer "West Point" with 6 Roundheads Lost
Transcribed for the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteers Website by Alan Pinkerton, Lateral Descendant of Pvt. Ebenezer Pinkerton, who Lost his Life in this Disaster
Dreadful Disaster on the Potomac
A Steamer with Sick and Wounded Soldiers on Board Run Into and Sunk
SEVENTY-THREE LIVES LOST !
Correspondence of the Associated Press. Acquia Creek, Va., Thursday, Aug. 14. 
A collision occurred on the Potomac River, last night, off Ragged Point, between the steamers Peabody and West Point, involving the loss of seventy-three lives. The West Point was bound to this place from Newport News, with convalescent troops of Gen. Burnside's army. The Peabody brought the rescued soldiers and passengers to this point, and from Lieut. Col. Charles Scott of the Sixth New Hampshire, who was on board of the ill-fated vessel, and in charge of the troops, I have obtained the following account of the affair:
"We left Newport's News on Tuesday, the 11th, with 254 soldiers, four officers, three ladies, and one child. At Fortress Monroe we took on 17 men, making in all 279 souls. On Wednesday evening, the 13th, about 9 o'clock, off ragged point, on the Potomac, we were startled by a shock, and soon discovered that a collision had taken place between our steamer and another, named the George Peabody, bound down the river. The West Point began to leak very fast, and it was ascertained that she would sink in less than ten minutes. The Peabody, which had been partially disabled, could render no assistance, except with small boats."
From other sources I learn valuable assistance was rendered by Capts. Biggs and Hall, and their assistant quartermasters, of Gen. Burnside's Army, who were passing in the steamer John Farren at the time, and by Acting-Master Joslyn of the gunboat Reliance. An unknown bark also rendered valuable assistance, and, by the combined efforts of all, two hundred and three persons were rescued. The West Point went down in four fathoms of water, about one and a half miles from the Maryland shore, and nothing can now be seen of her but her smoke stack, masts, and some wrenched up planks on her decks. All of her crew were saved except one fireman, named John Russell.
The brief period during which the West Point remained afloat after striking, and the consternation which prevailed, prevented the efforts to save all from being as successful as could be desired. Capt. Doyle and Lieut. Col. Scott were the last to leave the vessel. Without attributing blame to either party, I give you the statements on both sides.
The following is the statement of Wm. F. Kervin, Pilot of the Peabody. It is corroborated by Capt. Travers, who was on deck at the time of the collision.
"The steamship George Peabody left Acquia Creek, Aug. 13, for Fortress Monroe, at 4 1-2 o'clock p.m. and steering east by south, made an unknown steamer, which was the West Point, on our port bow. I gave him blow of our steam-whistle, which was answered in return by the steamer West Point. When the steamer neared I ported our wheel, the Pilot, or whoever had charge of the steamer West Point starboarded his wheel, and struck our bows on the port side, forward of our wheel, at five minutes past 8 o'clock p.m."
The following is the statement of Capt. Doyle, of the West Point:
"J.E.G. Doyle, master of the steamer West Point, certifies that between 8 and 9 o'clock p.m. of August 13, steering from Ragged Point to get sandbags, about five miles above Lower Machodie, about west by south across the channel, heard a whistle blow once two points on the starboard bow. I immediately answered it, which signal means, "keep to the right", our lights all burning at the time, our green light being the only one that could be seen from the other steamer, with which the collision occurred. I saw the boat coming down on us, immediately stopped the engine and backed the boat; the other boat apparently going full speed, her port guard and paddle box took our bow and stove it in, taking away about ten feet, leaving us in a sinking condition. I immediately hailed him to stay by, as we were in distress. He passed us, and I advised the pilot to beach the boat immediately, which he proceeded with. My steamer headed up the Maryland shore, and sank in about four fathoms water. I did everything to avoid the collision, and used my utmost exertions to save all I could."
Through the kindness of Capt. Bland, and Post Quartermaster West of this place, who kindly afforded me facilities for visiting the Peabody, I am enabled to send you the following partial list of the missing. The entire number missing is seventy-three, of whom a portion may be saved, as a number were picked up by small boats and schooners in the vicinity.
[sic] Dr. Newell. Corporal Josiah C. Golden, Co. B, One Hundredth Pennsylvania. Privates in the One-Hundredth Pennsylvania Regiment - Thomas McKeever, Co. A; Thomas N. Armstrong, Co. B; Ebenezer F. Pinkerton, Co. B; Samuel L. Witherow, Co. F.
List of missing has been edited to reflect only those associated with the One-Hundredth Pennsylvania Regiment.
Dr. Newel entered the service with a Massachusetts regiment, but was connected with a Pennsylvania regiment (probably the Roundheads) at the time of his death on the steamer West Point.
The bodies of those missing were found in the early part of September on the Virginia shoreline, where they were initially buried. At least some of the bodies were disinterred, and then reburied in their hometowns.
Back to History Page