Accounts of Captain W.W. Hudson of S.S. Golden Gate Sinking
From the San Francisco Daily Alta California Aug. 7, 1862 after the return of the steamer St. Louis to the city. The report was written by Hudson immediately after his rescue by the St. Louis on the 30th:
To the agents of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company:
GENTLEMEN: I have to report to you the total loss of the Golden Gate, by fire, which occurred on the afternoon of the 27th inst., 15 miles to the westward of Manzanilla. At 5 o'clock in the afternoon, when at dinner, the ship was reported to be on fire. I immediately arose from the table, requesting the passengers to remain quiet, and proceeded to the spar deck, when I found a dense volume of smoke coming up from the engine-room hatchway. All the fire hose of the ship were immediately put in requisition and worked with all possible energy.
The ship was now about 3 or 4 miles from the land. I saw at a glance the impossibility of subduing the flames, and immediately put the helm up to run the ship ashore. Men, women and childrenwere now ordered forward, and probably 100 had reached the forecastle, when the flames spread with such rapidity as to cut off all communication with the after part of the ship. I ordered Mr. Waddell, the chief engineer, to keep the engine moving as long as possible. All regular communication with the engine-room was cut off in a few minutes by the flames. Several of the firemen and engineers were still below. The feed valves of the boilers and furnace doors were opened wide, and all precautions used to prevent explosion.
So rapid was the spread of the flames, however, that the engineers and their men barely escaped with their lives, by forcing a passing through the after freight room bulkhead. At 5 1/2 o'clock we were grounded, about 300 yards from the beach, where there was a heavy surf breaking. Before reaching the shore, the after boats were lowered away and filled with passengers, under charge of my chief officer, Mr. Nolan, who remained by the ship, rendering all possible aid in saving life. In the meantime, life-preservers, spars and everything of a buoyant nature, were furnhished to the passengers -- thrown overboard after she struck.
The flames spread with such rapidity that the hurricane deck, from the foremast aft, fell with a tremendous crash before reaching the shore, and soon afterwards the foremast went by the board. The heat had now become so intense as to compel all who remained to leave the burning wreck, by lowering themselves in the water with lines furnished for thatpurpose; and many had thrown themselves into the water from various parts of the ship. After all had left, Capt. Pearson and myself dropped from the bowsprit, and succeeded, with great difficulty, in reaching the beach. I found about 80 had reached the shore with life.
All that remained visible of the ship at 8 p.m. was her engines, boilers and wheel frames. At daylight on the following morning, the 28th inst., we found and buried 16 bodies, and at 8 a.m. we started for Manzanilla, and at noon we reached the terminus of the beach, about 5 miles from the wreck, and found the roads impassable from the density of the chapparel or brushwood. At 3 p.m. a boat hove in sight, with which we communicated and sent to Manzanilla for relief. On the morning of the 28th two of our boats reached us and reported that they had saved 64 passengers.
The St. Louis, touching at Manzanilla early the same morning, and hearing of our disaster, came to our assistance and rescued those who had remained with me on the beach. We had, on leaving San Francisco, 242 passengers and 96 crew. There now remain 72 passengers and 62 crew, making our lost and missing, some of whom may yet be found, 204. Capt. Lapidge will remain at this port until tomorrow evening, the 30th inst., for the purpose of searching still further for missing passengers.
From the shelving beach and heavy surf where the ship is lying, there remains little or no probability, in my opinion, of saving the treasure. I shall remain, however, as agent of the underwriters, with a portion of my crew and officers, for its protection, and with the hope, also of being able to save additional life. Orders from you will reach me through the hosue of Oetling & Co., of Manzanillo. I cannot say too much of the efficiency and coolness of my officers and crew, under the trying circumstances through which they have passed.