Arkansas River, AR Steamer MIAMI Explosion, Jan 1866


(From the Cincinnati Commercial, Jan. 31.)
We record another terrible disaster -- the explosion, burning, and sinking of the stern wheel steamer MIAMI, Capt. LEVI, in Arkansas river, six miles above the mouth, while she was bound from Memphis to Little Rock, involving the loss of one hundred and thirty lives.
The MIAMI was built in Cincinnati, and in her third season. She was owned by her commander, Capt. LEVI, and others, in Memphis, and valued at $35,000. In addition to the sad loss of life, the loss of her cargo will be very heavy.

Memphis, January 30. -- The steamer MIAMI, which left this port on Saturday night, heavily loaded with freight and crowded with passengers, in addition to ninety-one soldiers of Co. B, 3d United States Regulars, on the hurricane roof, exploded on Sunday night.
The accident occurred about miles above Napoleon, on the Arkansas river, at 7 o'clock in the evening, just as the pasengers had taken supper. Consequently both passengers and officers were assembled in conversation around the stoves in the hall. The explosion was of such terrible force as to rend the cabin floor asunder, and let every living soul in the front part of the cabin down into the dreadful mass of fire and steam below. The boat took fire immediately. The passengers were frantic with fear. They snatched doors, life preservers, and every thing light enough to float, and plunged, with deafening, unearthly, and piteous screams of woe, into the river, in their attempts to escape the devouring flames as they rapidly destroyed the boat. Capt. LEVI immortalized himself by his daring and heroic deeds, coolly walking about, trying to keep the people from jumping overboard, as the boat was fast drifting toward the north shore, where it touched a few moments after the disaster. But now, to those in the back part of the cabin, it was as bad as being in the middle of the river, as the boat was a vast flame in the middle, and all in the back part were compelled to perish in the flames, or bury themselves in the raging flood below. MR. JOHN LUSK, second clerk of the boat, along with CHARLES J. JOHNSON, his assistant, who were sitting in the hall, were either killed by the explosion, or burned or scalded to death. MR. LUSK'S wife and child, his sister-in-law, and a German lady just from her native land, were in the ladies' cabin. The former three were lost and the latter saved. MR. J. E. RANKIN last saw her with her child on a state room door, which he had given her. Over thirty of the soldiers were lost. Two had been tied up for disorderly conduct, and in the agonizing excitement of the trying ordeal, they were forgotten, and there left to burn to death. Two men were seen to blow out their brains with revolvers.
After the survivors got ashore, the negro women and soldiers came to their assistance, the nego women stripping themselves of their under clothes and rending them in shreds for bandages to soothe the keen pain of the wounded and dying. The negro soldiers were likewise noble and generous, they sharing their coats and pants with those who had none. Capt. THOS. L. CRAWFORD, of the steamer Henry Ames, having heard of the accident at Napoleon, repaired with haste to the scene of the terrible disaster, and arrived at the place about 4 o'clock in the morning, greatly rejoicing the hearts of the sufferers and the survivors. MR. RANKIN greatly extols the noble, self sacrificing spirit of Capt. CRAWFORD, for cancelling his insurance, losing time and money, besides going altogether fourteen miles out of the way to render help and comfort to the passengers on shore.

Fort Wayne Daily Gazette Indiana 1866-02-02