Steamship Pulaski disaster

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The Pulaski explodes.jpg
The Pulaski explodes; from page 170 of the book The Tragedy of the Seas; or, Sorrow on the ocean, lake, and river, from shipwreck, plague, fire and famine (1848) by Charles Elms
 United StatesUS
Name: Pulaski
Fate: Wrecked by explosion, 14 June 1838
Notes: Approx. 128 lost; 59 saved
General characteristics
Class and type: Steam packet

The Steamship Pulaski disaster was the term given to the June 14, 1838 explosion on board the American steam packet, which caused it to sink 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina with the loss of two-thirds of the passengers and crew. About 59 persons survived, and 128 were lost.[1] Its starboard boiler had exploded about 11 p.m., causing massive damage as the ship was traveling from Savannah, Georgia, to Baltimore, Maryland; it sank in 45 minutes.

Among the 128 persons lost in the sinking was former Congressman William B. Rochester from New York, and Jane (Cresswell) Lamar, wife of banker and shipper Gazaway Bugg Lamar of Savannah, five of their six children, and a niece. Her husband and their eldest son Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar were the only ones to survive of their immediate family.[1]

Description of the disaster[edit]

The steamer packet Pulaski, bound for Baltimore, Maryland, departed Charleston, South Carolina on June 14, 1838, under Captain DuBois, with a crew of 37 and 150-160 passengers on board. That night at about 11 p.m., when the ship was 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina, the starboard boiler exploded, destroying the middle of the ship. Some passengers were killed immediately. Knocked out by the explosion, the mate Mr. Hibberd assessed the small boats and put three in the water. Because two had been over exposed to sunlight, they were in poor condition, and one sank immediately. Ten persons got in one boat and eleven, including Hibberd in another. They started rowing away from the sinking ship, which went down in 45 minutes.


The Delaware Gazette newspaper later ran a story about the fortunes of two alleged survivors: Charles Ridge, left penniless after the shipwreck, became engaged to heiress Miss Onslow, whom he had saved from the shipwreck.[2] But neither of these persons was listed among the survivors in a June 27 North-Carolina Standard article published two weeks after the wreck.[1]


In January 2018 divers reported that they believed they had found wreckage of the Pulaski 40 miles off the North Carolina coast.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "Heart-rending Catastrophe", The North-Carolina Standard, 27 June 1838, from Office of the Wilmington Advertiser
  2. ^ Story "Courtship on a Fragment of the Pulaski" from "Daring Exploits and Perilous Adventures: Being a Record of Thrilling ..." .pp.267-269
  3. ^ "Wreckage of Pulaski Found", Charlotte Observer 19 January 2018

External links[edit]