THE PACKET SHIP DANIEL WEBSTER AND THE BRITISH SHIP UNICORN. — Our readers will remember that during the last passage of the Daniel Webster from this port to Liverpool, she fell in with the ship Unicorn in a sinking state, and rescued 174 souls from her. The brig Harrier, of Portland, at the same time rescued about ninety, including the officers and crew, and carried them to new York. Captain Howard, of the Daniel Webster, upon his arrival in Liverpool, published a letter in the papers, describing the heartless manner in which the crew of the Unicorn served the passengers, throwing some of them into the boats and severely injuring them, causing the death of one or two. To Capt. Howard's well authenticated statements, a person who was on board, no doubt, either the Captain or some one of his mates, has replied, denying in toto the charges made by Capt. Howard. It will be seen by the following letter from Capt. Howard, that not only was heartless cruelty inflicted on the passengers, but that some of the crew were not in a very good state of discipline.
To THE EDITORS OF THE BOSTON ATLAS:
Gentlemen -- Having seen in the Liverpool Courier of Jan. 28th, a letter from a passenger of the English ship Unicorn, in which he contradicts my statement of the treatment of the emigrants saved from that ship, I beg leave through your paper to reiterate my former statement, affirmed by Mr. George F. Train, who was passenger with me, by Dr. Smith, my surgeon, and also by all my officers. In the letter above, alluded to, the passenger (Mr. Riches) says: "every precaution was taken to avoid accident, and allay their dears; under such circumstances, in fact, nothing more could have been done for their safe transmission." Now when my life boat went alongside the Unicorn, one old woman was hanging over the side, by a rope under her arms, which was fast on deck, and at every roll of the ship was either plunged into the water, or came alongside with great violence. My first officer, Mr. Leverett, who had charge of the boat, remonstrated with the people of the ship for leaving her in that situation, and had her immediately taken into his boat. When she was brought to the Daniel Webster she fell like a bundle of rags on the deck; both of her thighs were broken and she died the next day. A child of about 10 years of age was thrown into the boat, and had its right leg broken above the knee; it was set by my surgeon, and the child recovered. A man was thrown overboard, but came up the other side of the boat and was saved; and a number of the passengers were badly bruised, but recovered, with the exception of one woman, who died after being landed at Liverpool. After my first officer reached the Unicorn, he went into the cabin and found several of the sailors there, with some women, throwing "tumblers, cups and saucers, at each other," and apparently enjoying themselves very mush. So much for the great care taken to get the emigrants safely over the side. The passenger goes on to say: "It is no easy matter to pass each numbers of helpless creatures over a ship's side in a heavy sea, a vessel rolling as the 'Unicorn' did on that day; the boats frequently landed on the gunwale, and could with difficulty be prevented from upsetting." The sea was not heavy, as there was then not much wind, (we having our topgallant sails and flying jib set,) and from the fact that 174 people were taken on board the Daniel Webster is not short a time; and at 4 o'clock in the afternoon it was nearly calm; and as for the boats landing on the gunwale, I can only say there was more poetry than truth in it. Further he says: "The brig (the Harriet) lay, the whole time, with a quarter a mile of the Unicorn, in fact, had a warp fast, and saw nothing like inhumanity or harshness, while the Daniel Webster, which at no time was within a mile, and seldom so near, declares he saw the passengers, as he describes."
The Daniel Webster was not at any time a half a mile from the wreck, and most of the time within hail of both vessels, while the boats were passing, and we could distinctly see men, women and children thrown into the boats, like bundles of baggage. The "passenger" concluded with "wondering how all the wounded got on board the ship, while none were on board the brig." But it is no more surprising than that the Daniel Webster could be carrying double reefed topsails, while another ship should be dismasted, the latter having, however, the advantage of some twenty casks of brandy and gin, being stowed where it could be conveniently got at; or that the Captain, officers, and crew, refused to go back to Liverpool in a large ship, but preferred to go on to the American coast, in winter, in a small brig, with a short allowance of provisions and water. I should have taken no notice of this miserable apology for bad, not to say inhuman conduct, on board the Unicorn, if the writer had kept decently near the truth; but he has not, and every word I have asserted can be proved by my cabin passengers and officers, and also that I cut up new sails for the emigrants to sleep on -- supplied them with the spare bedding and provisions from the cabin, and used every extertion to make them comfortable.
Herewith I hand you a testimonial from the emigrants, which has been published in the English papers, and signed by the passengers, and also my letter, referred to by the passenger. respectfully yours,
Master ship Daniel Webster.
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius.
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Copyright © 1997 Lars Bruzelius.