The iron steamer City of Columbus, of the Boston & Savannah Steamboat Company, Capt. S. E. Wright, sailed from Boston at 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon for Savannah, Ga., carrying 80 first-class and 22 steerage passengers, about one-third of whom were ladies and children, and a crew numbering 45 persons. Thursday night the wind blew a hurricane from the northwest, and a tremendous sea was running. At 3:45 a.m., Friday morning, with Gay Head Light bearing south half east, the vessel struck on the reef outside Devil’s Bridge buoy. She immediately filled and heeled over, the water breaking in and flooding the port side of the saloon. Nearly all of the passengers hurried to the deck, most of them wearing life preservers. But the majority of the passengers were at once swept into the sea and perished. The boats were swamped almost immediately. Seven passengers left the vessel on a life raft, and have not been heard from since. About 40 of the men took to the rigging where they remained until 10:30 a.m., when a lifeboat put off from Gay Head and took away seven passengers, one of whom died afterwards. Shortly after noon another lifeboat put off to the distressed vessel, and meanwhile revenue cutter Dexter came along and sent off two boats. Twenty-one men were taken from the wreck and placed aboard the Dexter, four of whom died afterwards. All the persons on the wreck having been taken off, the Dexter proceeded to New Bedford. The total number of persons saved was 23.
Captain Wright has made the following statement:
“We left Boston Thursday at 3:30 p.m. with a strong breeze from the westward and proceeded down the bay with fine weather. Passed Cross Rip lightship at 12 o’clock and continued by East and West Chop with a strong breeze, west southwest. Passed Nobska, and soon after, with course west southwest I stepped into my room to warm myself. It was very cold. Everything was working well. I went below a short time, and soon after I heard the second mate, who was in the pilot house with the mate, sing out to the quartermaster to “port.” I jumped out of my room, thinking we had come across a vessel bound down the Sound. I then cried out, “Hard a port!” not knowing but that it was a vessel, and in the moonlight saw a buoy on the Devil’s Bridge on the port, about two points forward of the beam and about 300 yards distant. She immediately struck. I ordered the engine reversed, and she backed about twice her length. The steamer immediately stopped and I ordered the jib hoisted, and endeavored to head her to the north, but she filled forward and listed over to port, so that the plankshire was about four feet under water. Went aft and told the passengers to keep cool and get life preservers. I next told the officers of the deck to get the boats ready. The steamer settled down aft and righted. It was blowing very hard and a heavy sea was running. Launched port boat No. 6, which was immediately capsized. The sea was breaking over the steamer’s deck and the stern being entirely under water, we were forced to go up on top of the houses. I stopped there a while, but we were finally obliged to take to the rigging. The mate, second mate, chief engineer and fourth engineer took to the raft. I think the steamer struck a lone rock. The accident occurred between 3 and 4 o’clock.”
U.S. revenue cutter Dexter left Newport at about 6 a.m. yesterday morning, and steamed to the south of Block Island, passing the lightship at noon. An officer of the vessel furnished the following statement to a Mercury reporter:
“At about 12:30 we sighted a vessel ashore on the reef near Gay Head. The wind was blowing a gale from the westward, and a terrible sea was running. As we approached we saw the vessel was a steamer, and the waves were breaking over her. We discovered men clinging to the rigging, and finally anchored on her starboard quarter, 200 or 300 yards away. The cutter was at once lowered, manned by five men in charge of Lieutenant Rhodes, who brought off seven men. A return trip was made and one man was brought to the vessel. Lieutenant Kennedy was then dispatched in the gig with four men and took off four or five men. Meanwhile the lifeboat transferred several men to the cutter and at length the rigging was clear. The vessel sank in about four fathoms of water and the railing at the bow was the only portion of the hull visible. We found the men in the fore and main top and rigging. It was impossible to row over the vessel, as the boats would have pounded in pieces. The men in the rigging were forced to jump into the sea, and we caught them as they arose to the surface and pulled them into the boats. Some of the men could not swim, but nearly everyone in the rigging was saved. One man, Eugene McGarry, jumped from the rigging. Lieutenant Rhodes reached for him but the boat was lifted 15 feet on a crest and it was necessary to give way to starboard to avoid being swamped. The poor man was not seen afterwards. And the same instant, nearly, McGarry’s brother was pulled into the boat. Captain Wright was among the last to leave the ship. Two men who were frozen so stiff that they were unable to relinquish their hold on the rigging, were at length the only persons remaining on the ill-fated vessel, excepting the captain. Lieutenant Rhodes asked him to jump, but the captain shouted back:
“Save those men first.”
“They are frozen,” was the lieutenant’s answer. The captain then jumped, and, although he could not swim a stroke, he was rescued by Lieutenant Kennedy. I did not see any bodies floating, although the sea was strewn with wreckage. We left the wreck at 6 p.m. for this city.”
The heroic bearing of the officers of the Dexter was extremely commendable.
The trip to the wreck in the small boats in the heavy sea was a most hazardous undertaking, and required unflinching courage. Lieutenant Rhodes performed a heroic act which must elicit the most hearty admiration. Two men hung in the rigging unable to move from exhaustion. The officer determined to save the men at the peril of his life, and upon returning to the cutter asked Captain Gabrielson to give him a man to steer, that he might swim to the wreck and rescue the unfortunate men. Captain Gabrielson granted the request and Lieutenant Roath was placed in the boat. But on nearing the steamer it was found to be folly to attempt to go alongside. Lieutenant Rhodes refused to abandon the attempt and sang out to the men in the lifeboat to take him to the wreck. Lieutenant Rhodes boarded the lifeboat and tying a rope about him waited until he was within about 30 feet of the vessel, when he sprang into the sea. He battled with the waves and had nearly reached the vessel when he was struck on the leg and sank. He was pulled aboard the boat and taken aboard the cutter. His leg was found to be cut but after changing his clothing, as the sea was smoother, he determined to make another attempt. He again set out for the wreck, and this time the men were reached. One was hanging with his feet and arms through the ratlines, and his head was hanging. Lieutenant Rhodes put a bowline about him, when he murmured:
“For God’s sake, don’t touch me!”
The man, who was afterwards found to be Mr. Richardson, was placed in the boat, but died before reaching the cutter. The second man, who was the last person removed from the wreck, was in the ratlines in the weather rigging and, although breathing when placed in the boat, he also expired before reaching the Dexter.
Horatio N. Pease, keeper of the lighthouse at Gay Head, says in relation to the catastrophe and the operations from the shore:
“The Devil’s Bridge is three quarters of a mile square, and at low tide rocks can be seen within 50 rods of where the Columbus now lies. It is one of the most dangerous points on the coast. The distance from Gay Head to Cuttyhunk is seven miles, and two-thirds of the vessels passing through the Sound hug the opposite shore. At 1 o’clock Friday morning I left the light in charge of an assistant keeper, Frederick Pool. [That is how the name Poole is spelled in the story.] At 5 o’clock Mr. Pool saw a white light on the Bridge and noticed that it did not move. At 6 o’clock I was called, and an hour later, after talking over the matter, we called the neighbors. The light we saw on the wreck burned until 5 o’clock Friday afternoon. I took the watch and sent Pool to alarm the neighbors for the lifeboat. He started a few minutes before 7 for the nearest house, which is 150 rods away. The neighborhood was aroused and at daybreak I took the sheet with which I cover the light and held it up as a signal. I wanted the sufferers to know we saw them, and I afterwards learned it put new courage in the men. I then went down and assisted in launching the lifeboat. The first crew was composed of the following volunteers, in charge of Joseph Peters, who is an experienced sailor: Samuel Haskins, Samuel Anthony, James Cooper, Moses Cooper, John P. Vanderhoop. The crew were natives without exception. The wind was blowing fresh from the southwest and there was a heavy swell. It was 30 minutes before the boat reached the wreck. It was inexpedient to go too near on account of the drift, and seven people were picked up to leeward. The crew had been pulling for two hours and were so fatigued on returning that they did not go out again.
“A second crew volunteered, of which Jas. Mosher was placed in command. It was composed as follows: Leonard Vanderhoop, Thos. C. Jeffers, Patrick L. Devine, Charles Grimes and Peter Johnson. They reached the wreck at the same time with cutter Dexter, and rescued 13 men, which were transferred to the cutter. The second crew was provided with life belts. This crew left the wreck for shore at about 4 oÕclock in the afternoon, leaving two men in the rigging, who were subsequently rescued by Lieutenant Rhodes. Before the first boat left I saw something floating down the Sound, and thought it was either a boat or raft. Later a whaleboat belonging to William James was launched; but it swamped in the breakers and was smashed in splinters. The crew reached shore in safety.
“A team was sent four miles to Squibnocket for the lifeboat there. The boat was brought, a crew volunteered and it went out, but there was nothing remaining to be done.”
There is more or less diversity of opinion as to where the responsibility for the disaster should be placed, but the opinion of Capt. Frank M. Howes of the Baltimore line, who came up Sunday morning over the course sailed by the City of Columbus, seems to be the one most generally adopted. In an interview with a Boston Globe reporter Captain Howes says concerning the practice of captains remaining on deck at night:
“The custom is, if everything is clear, the night a good one, and the captain has been through the dangerous part of the course, for him to go below for a short while. I see that Captain Wright did go below, but didn't take off his clothing and turn in. If there had been apparent danger he would have remained on deck and in charge, but the night was clear, and what he did was in accordance with the general custom. Officers are there on deck for that purpose, to stand watch except in dangerous times. The first and second mates are first-class pilots, and have to be licensed by the government, and must get their licenses renewed every year. And when the captain is not on deck either of the mates is competent to have charge of the steamer. With regard to the course that Captain Wright says he gave his officer, that is the regular course. One report I read said ‘southwest-by-west,’ but I don’t think so, because we have met those ships in that line and they go about the same as we do. I don’t suppose we vary half a mile from each other. West southwest is the course and considered a perfectly safe course. It means two points of the compass south of west. If they steered southwest by west that would carry them 11 degrees farther towards these rocks, but even that course, southwest by west, would carry them clear of that ledge, a mile and a half in clear weather if held to properly. When a captain gives a course to an officer it is the officer’s duty to see that the ship shall make that course, and when she varies - goes off to the left, we will say - he must bring her back and have her go to the right of it just as much, because if she is continually varying on one side only, she is not making the course the officer has been given. We don’t tell a man he shall not vary from it, because it is impossible to steer a steamer exactly on a line; but, unquestionably, this officer on the deck of the City of Columbus did not watch his course, and the wind being a little on his starboard bow and the ship being light, and her propeller racing as it was bound to do in the rough sea they must have had, and she not having much speed, it continually kept knocking her about off to the south, or to the left of the ledge. And when she would come up to her course again they did probably steady at west southwest, then the wind would knock her off again, keep knocking her off on that side, and so, instead of making a west southwest average course, she was probably making a southwest quarter west or southwest half west perhaps, and the tide also being on her starboard bow helped her to go to the south Ñ an eastern tide, I saw it was by the almanac. There is no other way to account for it because if there had been a local error in the compass caused by the cargo, Captain Wright would have discovered it in his other courses in the Sound because heading westerly or easterly, local errors of the compass are always greater than when heading north or south. He therefore had a chance to discover any local errors of his compass which, if he had, he would have allowed for, the same as everybody does in steering any course.”
“I see,” continued Captain Howes, “that Captain Wright says that there must have been a rock outside of the buoy, and I think he is right. About four years ago the steamer William Crane of our line passed in by there just after a fog, having fallen in to the south’ard, going within two ship lengths of that buoy, and struck something very hard, which caused her to careen over considerably, but she passed along, and, as she didn’t leak, she was not taken into dock for examination at that time. When she came to be hauled out to clean and paint they discovered a long scratch made by some hard substance, evidently a rock, which had dented in her plates for a distance of 20 or 30 feet. They put a patch on, as a sort of safeguard, of some 15 feet in length in the worst place. So I think that Captain Wright’s statement that he struck a rock there is true. Now, the William Crane at this time was going at the rate of probably 11 knots an hour, drawing about 15 and one-half to 16 feet of water, and her great speed caused her to pass over it; the water being smooth at the time it did not punch a hole in her. The City of Columbus probably was not going more than four knots an hour, and so she stopped on it, and I can imagine just how she was thrown off that rock, and before he could get her around she went on the main ledge, and those tremendous seas took her up and threw her on before it could be avoided. I see by one statement that she was a quarter of a mile in there in 15 or 20 minutes, with the wind and sea helping her. I notice it is said that Captain Wright found he could not work her off, so he started his engines to go ahead; but it is very reasonable that she should have been thrown a distance of 200, 300 or 400 feet before he could do anything, and finally wedged in there solidly. I think Captain Wright’s judgment about it is superior to anybody’s else. I don’t doubt in the least that he made that buoy on his port side, from the fact of the William Crane’s experience four years ago.”
“Have you ever noticed this tendency to drift on to this rock?” inquired the reporter.
“Yes, I have. On my trip before last, bound out, we had a heavy gale, blowing from about west southwest. I got the ship out about to Tarpaulin Cove and turned her over to my second officer. I went to my room, giving him the course of west southwest, our usual course out of the Sound. As we were right off Gay Head he reported to me that the ship would not come up to her course, it being very rough, the wind on my starboard bow about a point or two, and fearful of being drifted over to that shoal, I immediately hard-a-starboard and wore ship to get her round up to the wind, thus making a complete circuit. If my second mate had not reported to me this fact, the Berkshire might have gone ashore in the same place that the City of Columbus did. The rule is aboard all ships - and I have no doubt it was the rule on Captain Wright’s vessel - that the officer of the deck is to report to the captain when the ship is not making her course, and it is one of the most important duties that an officer can be entrusted with.”
On the other hand Captain Warrington, of the steamer Panther, says he passed Gay Head at 3 o’clock on Friday morning. About 15 or 20 minutes later he sighted the lights of the steamer City of Columbus, and watched her till she was off the Panther’s beam. The Panther was in midchannel, while the City of Columbus was about two miles to starboard, close to the Vineyard shore. The City of Columbus should have been in midchannel, as was the Panther, as the route eastward and westward is the same, the opening being too narrow to admit of any great leeway with safety.
The handling of the Mass. Humane Society’s lifeboat by the Gay Head crews has elicited the warmest commendation from all who witnessed their performance. The officers of the cutter and the survivors of the wreck unite in declaring that never was boat managed in such masterly manner under such adverse circumstances. By the official figures it appears that 20 of the 26 rescued were taken in by the lifeboat, and either immediately landed or transferred to the cutter.
Mr. H.N. Pease is the keeper, not only of the Gay Head Light, but also of the lifeboat stationed there; and although it does not so appear in his published statement, he made all the arrangements for launching the boat, selecting the crews, manning the whale boat, dispatching a messenger for the Squibnocket boat and attending to a thousand and one other details which there is not space to mention.
While seeking information along the North River piers in New York a reporter overheard a discussion of the City of Columbus disaster among a number of deck hands. Said one of them, with the assent of four or five others: “They talk grand about their courses, their west southwest and so forth, do these captains and pilots; but none of them tells it right out, what’s true, that all the outbound steamers run right in closest to Gay Head. I’ve been on ‘em myself, lots of times, and they always do it. There may be a regular course out in the Sound somewhere, but they never run it. It saves coal and time to nip in close.”

Twenty-six persons were saved, including 10 passengers and 16 seamen, and 34 dead bodies have been recovered.

The steamer City of Columbus, which struck a rock at Devil’s Bridge near Gay Head last Friday morning, created not a little excitement here. As soon as the news came nearly all the inhabitants of the western part of the town, as well as other, repaired to the place with all possible speed to render assistance. Squibnocket Life Boat was taken overland in a hurry, by Messrs. Edward Mayhew & Sons’ team to the Gay Head shore, and launched in charge of Mr. Edy C. Flanders assisted by Messrs. Benj. F. Mayhew, E. Elliott Mayhew, Wm. Mayhew and Cyrus C. Look. Although this boat and the men went with all possible speed, yet the distance being so great, considerable time necessarily elapsed before the scene of action was reached, and nearly all upon the wreck had been rescued before their arrival. As the boat approached the steamer only two men were visible on board and they were in the rigging, only one being able to move. He not being able to free himself and leap for the boat as the others, who had been rescued, had done, could not be saved. Too much cannot be said in praise of all these men who endangered their own lives to save the sufferers. During the night of the day of the accident, and the next morning about a hundred men were at the north shore picking up articles from the wreck which had drifted down Sound. Trunks, a large number of boxes of shoes, mattresses, the capstan of the steamer, and many other articles were picked up. 
The disaster of last Friday has stirred our Island community to a degree seldom experienced in respect of tragedies, however harrowing, in which the people had no personal interest. But this horror occurred at our very doors, its victims and survivors Ñ some of them Ñ found temporary resting places within our borders, and every distressing circumstances and detail has been brought home with a sharpness of realization which never attaches to occurrences more remote.
As to the responsibility for the shipwreck, there is the widest divergence of opinion. The only agreement seems to be in narrowing the accountability down to one of two men Ñ the captain or his second mate Ñ the latter of whom is dead and cannot answer, and the former of whom is represented as entirely crushed under the mountain of woe which is the outcome of somebodyÕs mistake, and who, culpable or no, will be haunted to his grave by the despairing shrieks of his perishing company and all the horrors of that dreadful night.
-Editorial, S. Keniston