Vallejo, CA Mare Island Navy Yard Terrible Explosion, June 1892





FIrst an Awful Roar, Then Clouds of Dust and Skyward Flew Human Flesh and Bones -- Little Left of the Magazine -- Affecting Scenes.

San Francisco, June 14 -- The residents of Vallejo were startled yesterday by a report which shook the town like a sharp shock of earthquake and immediately the fire bells at the navy yard were rung and the conclusion reached was that there was a fire on Mare Island. But down at the magazine there belched forth into the sky an immense cloud of smoke and for half an hour report after report was heard as the shells exploded. Immediately the entire navy yard force rushed for the magazine and a horrible scene presented itself. The burned and charred bodies of two apprentice seamen were found on the beach, 200 yards from the scene of the explosion. In the midst of the ruins and all around on the side hills were found bodies and pieces of bodies scattered here and there. The bodies were taken out as fast as possible and when all were put alongside of each other they counted twelve, with GUNNER HITTINGER, of the Boston, at the head. Some were cut in two, others were minus a leg or arm or head. Twelve men were killed outright and three were taken to the hospital, wounded but dying. Two of the latter were apprentices and were picked up on the beach. The explosion had thrown them into the bay and a boat from a merchantman opposite rescued them and then went to the some and ruins for others. The ______ of almost the entire bodies of these two as well as their clothes, were blown off, and yet they were conscious and able to move, but they cannot recover.
How It All Happened.
A working party of fifteen men from the United States steamer Boston was preparing ammunition and filling shells for the ship. All were at work in the filling room of the magazine under the charge of GUNNER HITTINGER. It is supposed that one of the party dropped a shell and that the concussion caused an explosion. One of the first to go to the scene was DR. LEWIS of the naval hospital. Norwithstanding now and then an explosion of a shell, he braved the danger and went into the midst of it to save life if possible, but the explosion had finished its work. There were three magazine watchmen named COLLINS, BURNS and DAMSTEDT on duty in other parts of the grounds, although severely injured, they will live. Watchman COLLINS had a narrow escape. A piece of shell glanced from the top of his head and left an ugly contusion. It came from the second explosion. The first one had shaken him almost senseless and after he was struck he walked for an hour about the ruins. The body of HITTINGER was found on the roof of shell house No. 1, having been blown through the roof of shell house No. 2, which was afterward destroyed by fire. MRS. McDOUGAL of the light house, with her daughters, MISSES BESSIE and CARRIE, were early in giving assistance to the wounded, bringing bandages and doing much that was necessary at the moment. MAGRUGER, CRANE, PAGE, MOORE and MEWIS, all of the navy, were on the scene, but there was not much for them to do. The work of identifying the dead has not yet begun, as the energies of all have been devoted to getting the remains together and quenching the fire. ALmost the entire crew of the Boston, to which ship the dead and wounded belonged, worked hard in the ruins under the direction of Lieutenants BLAZE, ROBINSON and HUGHES.
Affecting Scenes.
The identified are the unfortunate gunner and Seamen KELVILLE, JOHNSON, JOOS and HAECKLE. A visit to the naval hospital fournd DR. LEWIS fat work on three men whose lives are despaired of. One is a German and his cries of pain are frightful. The doctor had just taken a piece of wood six inches long and an inch thick out of his right side. One of the apprentices was thrown into the water and when taken on the beach pitifully asked of the surgeons, "Do you think we will get over this?" and then he requested to be laid down. He will never again get up. His companion's condition is equally as bad. HITTINGER was appointed from Pennsylvania Oct. 28, 1890, and was detailed to the Boston on Feb. 2, 1891.

The Salem Daily News Ohio 1892-06-14