2009-07-24 / Letters

Remembering The General Slocum

Dear Editor,

Oldtimers, The Wave and its readers, and local historians should recall or remember the saga of the old time steamer excursion boat—General Slocum. The vessel caught fire on June 15, 1904 while passing through the hellgate section of the East River, and raced to North Brother Island where the boat was run aground. This move by the captain, plus many despicable facts and findings about the tragedy, told the story of how over a thousand women and children on holiday lost their lives… needlessly! Almost the entire old German neighborhood in Manhattan was wiped out as a result. Many fathers had lost their entire families! This was the greatest maritime disaster ever in New York City. There was absolute horror onboard that fateful day! Those who are unknowing of this disaster should read all about it in their local and online libraries.

Sometime after the onboard destructive fire, the General Slocum was salvaged and converted into a barge named The Maryland.

Despite all this, crowds of people would gather at the barge's dock, singing and praying, following the tragic loss of life on that vessel.

Finally, while The Maryland was hauling a load of coke coal, it sprung a leak off Atlantic City, New Jersey, and sank! The date was December 4, 1911. The old Slocum has lain there in the mud ever since, and at this time historical site status is being sought by Mr. Ron Sinn, who is a marine safety advocate in New Jersey. Sinn states that the remains should not be disturbed by dredge operations to nourish the New Jersey beaches. Good luck to him!

In nautical circles, the General Slocum is known as the "Poor Man's Titanic!" The captain, William H. Van Schaick, was sent to prison at Sing Sing, New York… and was pardoned by President William Howard Taft in 1912. Shortly thereafter, the real Titanic went down with another great loss of life. The cause was ice, not fire, but the reasons were similar.

EMIL LUCEV

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