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Text for Page 159 [01-07-1863]

              145
                The Disaster at Galveston.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
his own vessel.  It is asserted�whether with truth
I cannot pretend to decide�that he was advised to
this course by Capt. Law.
                   TRANSFER OF CREW.
  The scene that ensued consequent on the knowl-
edge of Commodore Renshaw�s resolution on board
both vessels was one scarcely to be paralleled in the
experience of a life-time.  It might have been 9 �
o�clock, hence very little time remained for the
transfer of men and baggage�the Commodore, in-
deed, proposed to allow but fifteen minutes.  Instant-
ly, then, all was animation.  The Westfield lay at
about 500 feet from the Mary A. Boardman, with all 
her portholes open and her guns run out, everybody
on board being promiscuously engaged in endeavor-
ing to secure whatever came uppermost.  Ham-
mocks, officers� trunks, seamen�s chests, cutlasses,
swords, rifles, fowling-pieces, blankets, articles of 
clothing, even looking-glasses, were thrown pell-
mell into the boats, hurriedly stowed away and
rowed each with its due proportion of men, to the
Boardman, where all hands labored unceasingly to
receive them.
  The three boats of the Westfield, the first and sec-
ond cutter and gig, plied to and fro incessantly.  In
from fifteen to twenty minutes, 130 men were trans-
ferred from one vessel to the other, Capt. Weir su-
perintending matters forward on the Mary A. Board-
man, and Major Burt doing the same aft.  To the
admirable coolness and presence of mind exhibited
by the former gentleman, the latter attributes the
successful rescue of the crew, nor has the writer any
doubt whatever that the praise might be honestly
shared.
                         THE EXPLOSION.
  At length, only one cutter remained alongside the
Westfield, the gig; another, loaded almost to the
water�s edge, was at a little distance, and about to
putt off to the Mary A. Boardman.  The cutter
awaited but its living freight, in the shape of the
Commodore and two others; that obtained, a slow
match was to be ignited and the steamer blown to
air.  She had two magazines, on board, and was al-
most literally full of powder, shells, and ammuni-
tion.  In another ten�in five�minutes all might
have been secure, and Commodore Renshaw and
those accidentally hurried into eternity with him
living men at this hour.  That was not to be.  Those
who saw them last in this world report as follows:
   Commodore Renshaw stood quietly on the fore
part of the vessel above one of the open powder
magazines.  Near him, a barrel of turpentine, with
its head stove in, had been lowered down the hatch
way into the forecastle.  But two oarsmen were in
the cutter, with some eight or ten passengers.  To
them descended the chief engineer, Mr. W. K.
Green, followed by the first lieutenant, Charles W.
Zimmerman.  Both gentlemen seated themselves in 
the boat.  All now had quitted the doomed vessel
except the Commodore.
  He was seen to step down the stairway, to enter
the cutter, when the match, premature fired (ti is
said by a drunkard) must have communicated with
the turpentine.  Instantly a heavy roll of black
smoke surged upwards, followed by a bright, ex-
plosive flame, full ten feet high.  No alarm followed
this, not a word was spoken; the Commodore turned
round and looked back, the heavy boat was along-
side with her crowd of passengers, the crew of the
Mary A. Boardman and her recent acquisitions were
gazing curiously at the bright flame or the tall, thin
form of their first officer, when�

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
  A white puff of smoke broke through the hatch-
way as from the muzzle of a cannon.  It was fol-
lowed by an explosion so tremendous as to move
air, water, everything within its scope, jarring the
Mary A. Boardman as though she were shaken by
an earthquake; and, shooting up in the shape of a
monstrous fan, like the eruption of a volcano, soared a
reversed cone of fire, while spreading equally in every
direction�for there was not wind enough in the
calm January morning to disturb them�rolled and
villowed the heavy volumes of smoke.  High up,
too, over head, adding infinitely to the horror and
beauty of the occasion, exploded innumerable shells,
a hundred of which had been piled up on the deck,
perhaps in anticipation of their destiny.  One of the
powder magazines had exploded, utterly destroying
the forward half of the Westfield, and leaving the
remaining portion a shattered and blasted ruin.  The
two boats and all within them had disappeared!
                                 AFTER.
  Before the shocked and startled spectators on the
Mary A. Boardman had recovered from the concus-
sion of air (as great as might have been occasioned
by the near discharge of a whole park of artillery),
the heavier fragments of the exploded steamer fell
with sullen plunges into the water, followed by the
lighter, producing a rain-like patter over the surface,
in a circle of at least five hundred feet about the cen-
ter of ruin.  To this extend the troubled water was
literally blackened, as though tar had been poured
over it.  But not more so than the shattered half of
the unfortunate Westfield yet afloat, whose smoke-
stack and walking beam were still standing, and
over whose bows still waved the American flag.
Although her safety-valve had been chained down,
her steam got up to the highest point, her toilers
had not exploded.  The sharp singing of her vapor
was distinctly audible on the Mary A. Boardman in
the ghastly silence that now prevailed; and�no-
ticeable in it�the Captain�s gig came slowly drift-
ing down from beneath the bows of the wreck, her
gunwale just above the water.
               THE BURNING OF THE WRECK.
  The Westfield remained thus for from five to eight
minutes, when she burst into sudden blaze near her
smoke stack.  Soon the conflagration had spread
throughout the entire rain; the flag-hip was one en-
tire sheet of flame.  With more shells exploding and
cannon going off one by one, as they were accident-
tally ignited, she was but a dangerous neighbor.
The Mary A. Boardman did not wait to witness
another explosion by the aft magazine.
                      FLIGHT OF THE FLEET.
  The Rebel ram and gunboats were now coming 
down the bay, and the batteries had reopened upon 
the Owasco, Clifton, and Sachem; in addition to
which the artillery used in slaughtering the 22d Mas-
sachusetts had been conveyed by mules to below the
town, where they began firing upon our steamers.
There seemed nothing for it but flight, and flee they
did accordingly, leaving the Harriet Lane in pos-
session of the enemy, and the Westfield a mere chi-
mera of fire and smoke, to burn herself to the wa-
ter�s edge in Galveston Harbor.  Their last expe-
rience was comprised in the Clifton�s throwing a
shell in the huge Mississippi steamer, which fol-
lowed them over the bar, and compelling her to
retire.
  There is now no Union vessel, save the captured
Harriet Lane, in Galveston, Texas.		T. B. G.
		      �����������               
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