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Should the Ocean Express be lost, the army would be so crippled as to be almost powerless for offensive operations, until new supplies could be sent. If such a great loss should come to the knowledge of the
enemy, it was easy to see what advantage might be taken of it. The act of loading all the stores of such an indispensable nature on a single ship, was one so strange as hardly to be credible of an old and experienced officer, and the condemnation of the mistake was as universal as was the feverish anxiety regarding the fate of the ship. This strange proceeding was, however, subsequently accounted for when, on a medical examination, held by request of his friends, the officer was pronounced insane.
The anxiety was less concerning the other vessels than perhaps it otherwise would have been, from the fact that, with one exception, they carried no men beside their own crews. On board the Governor, however, were Major John G. Reynold's battalion of marines, 340 men, all told.
The Peerless was an English steamer, of small size, and had on board 87 live beef-cattle, for the use of the army.
The Ethan Allen and Commodore Perry were two ferry-boats, formerly employed on the Williamsburg ferries, and were of the same pattern and size as those that ply on the East river. It is a matter for surprise that they were ever deemed adequate to weather Hatteras in a November gale. However, they were to attempt the passage, and were intended to be employed in landing troops, after the fleet had reached its destination.
The Belvidere had on board horses and commissary stores; and the Union had also a few head of cattle, and quartermasters' stores.
The fleet began to arrive in Port Royal harbor on Sunday night, but no one of the above missing vessels was seen until Thursday morning, when the Ocean Express came in, to the great relief of all.
Meanwhile, the most doleful accounts had reached us of the others. It was asserted that the Governor had gone down with 200 marines; this number, by degrees, came down to 20, at which point it remained till some of the rescued men arrived, to set the matter right. The other missing vessels were all believed to have
It was afterward ascertained, however, that the Union went ashore on the coast of North Carolina, and all her crew were saved, though 73 soldiers were made prisoners, there being a few in her. The Belvidere, after such a struggle with the storm as few ships ever live to tell of, came safely out. The two ferry-boats, the Ethan Allen and Commodore Perry, finding they could not weather the gale, put back for Fortress Monroe, which place they finally reached. The Pearless and Governor both went down, under the following circumstances :
The steamer Governor started from Fortress Monroe with the rest of the fleet, on Tuesday, October 29th, and proceeded pleasantly enough until she encountered the gale, which began on Thursday night, and which soon increased to a tempest.
On Friday she was struck by a number of heavy seas, which made crashing work with every thing on deck. Beyond carrying away the deck-load, and smashing up some of the lighter wood-work, no serious damage was done, until three, P. M., Friday; when seven or eight terrible seas, in quick succession, struck her, and broke her hog-braces.
In a few minutes another sea carried her smoke-stack overboard, thus, for the moment, adding the terrible danger of fire to the perils of the winds and waves. At eight, P. M., the steam-pipe burst; and at two, A. M., on Saturday, the packing of the cylinder blew out, thus completely disabling the engines.
At four, A. M., the rudder-chains broke, leaving her, for a time, totally unmanageable, The tiller was presently rigged, but in a few minutes the rudder-head broke short off, depriving the vessel of all her steering apparatus, and leaving her a helpless wreck on the water, in one of the hardest gales that ever blew on this coast.
After a few hours of agonizing suspense, during which, all on board made up their minds that death awaited them, speedy and certain, they spoke the gunboat Isaac Smith, which had been attracted by the Governor's signals of distress, and the bark Young Rover. Both promised to stay by her; but in the tremendous sea then running, neither could render the slightest assistance. The Rover, however, cheered their sinking hearts, by telling them that a large frigate was bearing down to their relief.
The men went into ecstacies of extravagant joy when the frigate hove in sight. She proved to be the Sabine, and Captain Ringgold promised to do every thing in his power for their aid—a promise he most nobly redeemed.
By order of Captain Ringgold, the two ships were fastened together by two powerful hawsers. The Sabine then veered out chain enough to bring her stern within thirty feet of that of the Governor. Two heavy spars were then rigged from the stern of the Sabine, in the direction of the sinking ship, and were there made securely fast.
The spars were projected nearly over the bows of the Governor, but they rose and fell with each tremendous swell, so that it would have been hopeless for any person to cross from one ship to the other by crawling along the spars; this, however, had not been intended, but a safer plan was adopted.
From the ends of the spars were lowered strong ropes, rigged to run easily through pulley-blocks; at the end of the rope which dropped on board the Governor a running loop was made, and the crew of the Sabine manned the other end. All things being ready, the loop was made fast under the arms of a man, the crew of the Sabine gave a quick run aft, and in less time than it takes to tell it, the man was raised in the air and swung on board the frigate.
Thirty men were thus saved when both hawsers broke and the ships separated. The Governor was then brought close under the quarter of the Sabine, and about forty more leapt to her deck, and the others, all, excepting a corporal and six men, were finally assisted on board. Of those lost, four were washed over, in trying to cross on the hawsers from ship to ship; one was crushed between the ships, and the other three slipped overboard and were drowned. They saved all their muskets but twenty; 10,000 cartridges and some clothing were lost.
The Peerlesss was a small steamer, chartered to be used in the shallow waters of the Southern rivers and creek. She had on board 87 beef cattle, was caught in in the gale, and made signal of distress, when the Star of the South ran down to her aid, and going too close, ran into the Peerless, doing her much damage. The captain then lightened the ship by throwing the cattle overboard; but the ship continuing to sink, he was obliged to leave her. The crew were all taken off by the Mohican. The captain was the last to leave her-she went down within an hour.
ROMANCE OF THE WAR-A GALLANT DEED AND CHIVAL
In a movement of Stoneman's cavalry, in May, 1863, the advance was led by Lieutenant Paine, of the 1st Maine cavalry. Being separated by a considerable distance from the main body, he unexpectedly encountered a superior force of Rebel cavalry, and his whole party were taken prisoners. They were hurried off as rapidly as possible to get them out of the way of our advancing force, and, in crossing a rapid deep stream, Lieutenant Henry, commanding the Rebel force, was swept off his horse.
As none of his men seemed to think or care anything about saving him, his prisoner, Lieutenant Paine, leaped off his horse, seized the drowning man by the collar, swam ashore with him, and saved his life, thus literally capturing his captor. He was sent to Richmond with the rest of the prisoners, and the facts being made known to General Fitzhugh Lee, he wrote a statement of them to General Winder, the Provost Marshal of