Summer Reading: The Easton's Honeymoon (7)

Adeline Mills Easton must have recounted her horror story a thousand times, and at this critical point in the tale, the Burlingame grande dame must have paused for dramatic effect.

Captain Burt of the brig Marine welcomed the women and children abord, said Adeline, but “he afterwards told me he feared we’d left one stinking ship for another.”

By 6 p.m. all the women and children had found safety aboard the Marine, its destination Norfolk, but their eyes searched the horizon in the failing light for the mortally wounded Central America.

Under dark and ominous skies Ansel Easton stood with Captain Herndon on the wheelhouse of the Central America. It’s safe to say that awaiting doom, they were still troubled by the action of chief engineer Ashby, who had been seen fleeing the stricken vessel in one of the rescue boats reserved for the women and children–a despicable act that would cause great anger and controversy.

Ansel had alrady formed a negative opinion of the chief engineer. Earlier, when the steam engines stopped operating, Adeline had asked, “What does this mean, Ansel?”

“It means, I fear, that the engineer has not done his duty,” he replied, referry to Ashby’s negligence in allowing the pumps to become inoperable.”

To many, the popular Captain Herndon had been heroic. During the last attempts to save the ship, Herndon was ever present, bringing blankets and tools, chores he should have delegated to men under his command. But in those final hours the crew worried only about its own survival, failing to construct a large raft that some say could have saved many lives.

At 8 p.m. aboard the Central America there was an eerie silence, and waves had stopped breaking over the deck. The vessel’s fate was certain and her end near.

(Next Part 8)

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About June Morrall

1947 - 2010
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