Daily Event for May 9


Irresponsible action by her captain caused the Mississippi River steamboat Ben Sherrod to burn off Louisville, Kentucky May 9, 1837.

Even though he was carrying a large number of passengers, the captain was engaged in a race with another steamboat. The crew were given generous portions of whiskey to encourage them to win, however the barrel of
whiskey was left open and near a pile of firewood.

The wood caught fire and ignited the whiskey and thus the ship began to burn out of control. The state of the crew, which must be considered dubious at best, surely added to the appalling death toll of 150 souls. The steamship Columbus stopped to help rescue survivors, but another ship, Alton, continued without stopping.

The childishness of her captain, a possibly drunken crew and a passing ship all added up to one hundred and
fifty needless deaths. For his actions the captain was censured.

© 2006 Michael W. Pocock
MaritimeQuest.com