Other Event Detail

New Orleans Ship Fires
New Orleans, LA

February 4, 1854

Between 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning on February 4, 1854, fire broke out on board the steamship Charles Belcher, at the steamship levee in the upper part of New Orleans, Louisiana. The ship had arrived overnight from Nashville, Tennessee. The fire was discovered aft on the lower deck, shortly after her arrival at the levee. It spread quickly to envelope the entire ship. The fire then spread to the Mohegan and Natchez, and from there to the Liah Tuna, the Crescent, and the Saxon, all of which were totally destroyed with their cargo by 5 o'clock a.m. Fire also reached the Sultana and a heavily laden barge, which she had in tow - the latter of which was destroyed along with the barge of C.E. Watkins, which arrived the day before in tow by the steamer David Gibson, carrying a large supply of western produce. The Sultana, having just arrived from Louisville, still had steam, and although she caught fire several times, was able to retreat out of reach of the flames, where she anchored and rendered assistance with saving life and property. All the destroyed ships, except the Natchez, sank. The Grand Turk which was next to the Saxon while she was burning, caught fire but received relatively little damage. After the fire, the levee was covered with half-burned cotton and provisions, but the wharf escaped damage. Thirty-seven people died in the fires. The Natchez, having only arrived the day before, only had 500 of her 3,000 bails of cotton unloaded. The Mohican had a large valuable cargo which was to have left for the Tennessee River later that morning. The Crescent and Liah Tuna had unloaded most of their cargo. The Saxon was loading for St. Louis and was about half loaded at the time of the fire. The total loss was estimated at more than half a million dollars.

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