Potomac River, MD & VA Steamer PRINCETON Accident, Mar 1844
EXPLOSION OF ONE OF THE LARGE CANNON ON BOARD THE U.S. STEAMER PRINCETON.
TWO MEMBERS OF THE CABINET INSTANTLY KILLED - ALSO COMMODORE KENNON, THE HON. VIRGIL MAXEY, COL. GARDINER, OF LONG ISLAND AND SEVERAL OTHER PERSONS.
Seldom indeed have we been called to record a more awful calamity than that which we are about to describe.
On Wednesday last, the U.S. Steamer Princeton, commanded by Capt. ROBERT F. STOCKTON made an excursion from Washington city down the Potomac, having on board a great number of persons, among whom were the President of the United States, the Secretaries of State, War, and Marine; Commodore BEVERLY KENNON, Chief of the Bureau of Naval Construction, Equipment and Repairs; the HON. VIRGIL MAXEY, late Minister to Belgium; COL. GARDINER of Southampton, L.I. who has been accustomed to spend his winters in this city or at Washington; several members of Congress, and many ladies.
The Princeton, as most of our readers know, carried two enormous heavy guns, beside several smaller ones, throwing balls of more than 200 lbs. weight, and requiring between 40 and 50 lbs. of powder for a charge. The more formidable of the two has been playfully called "The Peace Maker." But the event has proved that she might have been more fully termed,
"Destruction to her Friends."
The steamer made a pleasant run as far down as Mount Vernon, and was on her return, and within three or four miles of Alexandria - it being about sunset - when the disaster occurred. The big gun had already been discharged twice during the trip, and being again loaded, but not with ball as before - so says our correspondent - the match was applied, when awful to relate, the gun burst at the breech, and in an instant the deck was strewed with death and destruction. Among the persons killed, we are pained to say, were the:
HON. ABEL P. UPSHUR, Secretary of State.
HON. THOMAS W. GILMER, Secretary of the Navy.
HON. BEVERLY KENNON, Chief of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment and Repairs, Navy Dept.
HON. VIRGIL MAXEY, late Minister to Belgium.
COL. GARDINER, of Southampton, L.I.
A colored servant of the President, named ARMISTEAD, was also killed, and five men in charge of the cannon; making a total of eleven killed out-right, except that the President's servant lived about ten minutes.
Most of the bodies were shockingly mangled. Judge UPSHUR was nearly cut in two. Capt. STOCKTON was wounded, it is believed not dangerously, and Senator BENTON slightly.
From the Madisonian.
The same number of our paper which contains the unfortunate GILMER'S address to his constituents, bears them also the account of his death.
The last paragraph in the official notice respecting the Canadian prisoners, in the last number of our paper, was written by the lamented UPSHUR, just starting on the excursion, and are the last words he ever wrote.