Bayou Goula, LA Steamboat BRILLIANT Explosion, Sept 1851


This accident, which caused a frightful loss of life, took place on the Mississippi river, at Bayou Goula, six miles below Plaquemine, on the 29th day of September, 1851. The Brilliant, Capt. Hunt commander, left New Orleans two days before the accident, and was on her way to Bayou Sara, and the intermediate landings. She had stopped at Dr. Stone's plantation, and was about recommencing her voyage, when her boiler bursted [sic], making a total wreck of the main cabin and state-rooms as far aft as the ladies' cabin, and sweeping away all the upper woodwork forward of the boilers. The boiler itself was projected forward among a crowd of the boat's crew and deck passengers, nearly all of whom were killed or wounded. The flues and parts of the machinery were thrown in the opposite direction, and made sad devastation among the cabin passengers.

As usual in the narratives of western steamboat calamities, the names of only a small number of the victims are recorded. Capt. Hunt stated that he had more than eighty deck hands and firemen on board at the time of the explosion. Of these, only twenty-five could be found after the accident. He could give no account of the number of deck passengers, but is certain that they were very numerous. There were thirty-five cabin passengers, ten of whom were ladies. Twenty-five of these were seen in the water after the explosion, three of whom were rescued by the steamer Natchez, and it is believed that the others all perished. The Natchez also conveyed to Plaquemine forty-two persons badly wounded who had been taken from the wreck. Of these, fifteen died within six hours. Fifteen others, badly wounded, were carried ashore in the yawl, and the steamer Princess took off three more in a similar condition. A majority of those wounded by this explosion did not recover.

Capt. Hunt furnished the names of a few of his boat's crew who were among the victims of this disaster, viz. : James Fullerton, mate ; J. A. Cotton, first clerk ; Robert Doyle, first engineer, was supposed to be mortally wounded ; Mr. Falls, second pilot, was badly scalded. Capt.. Hunt himself was in the wash-room when the boiler exploded, and he was uninjured. Mr. Lewison, editor of the Baton Rouge Advocate, was mortally wounded.

The accident is ascribed to the imprudent use of rosin among the fuel, in order to produce a more intense heat, and so to increase the speed of the boat. A wounded fireman stated that four barrels of rosin were burned at the landing, and the fifth was about to be consumed when the explosion took place.

Lloyd’s Steamboat Directory and Disasters on the Western Waters, James T. Lloyd & Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, 1856, page 221